Kinetic energy

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The kinetic energy of an object is the energy which it possesses due to its motion.[1] It is defined as the work needed to accelerate a body of a given mass from rest to its stated velocity. Having gained this energy during its acceleration, the body maintains this kinetic energy unless its speed changes. The same amount of work is done by the body in decelerating from its current speed to a state of rest.

The speed, and thus the kinetic energy of a single object is frame-dependent (relative): it can take any non-negative value, by choosing a suitable inertial frame of reference. For example, a bullet passing an observer has kinetic energy in the reference frame of this observer, but the same bullet is stationary, and so has zero kinetic energy, from the point of view of an observer moving with the same velocity as the bullet.[2] By contrast, the total kinetic energy of a system of objects cannot be reduced to zero by a suitable choice of the inertial reference frame, unless all the objects have the same velocity. In any other case the total kinetic energy has a non-zero minimum, as no inertial reference frame can be chosen in which all the objects are stationary. This minimum kinetic energy contributes to the system's invariant mass, which is independent of the reference frame.

In classical mechanics, the kinetic energy of a non-rotating object of mass m traveling at a speed v is mv2/2. In relativistic mechanics, this is only a good approximation when v is much less than the speed of light.


History and etymology

The adjective kinetic has its roots in the Greek word κίνησις (kinesis) meaning motion, which is the same root as in the word cinema, referring to motion pictures.

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