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Potential Energies

Explain in everyday English and using formulas, the difference between 'electric potential' and 'electric potential energy'. Also explain, in the practical sense, why it matters that there is a difference. In other words, when will I ever see it? Also, explain why sometimes 'electrical' is interchanged with 'electrostatic' for these two phrases and does it matter?

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Perhaps it may be proper to start from your last question, and also say a few words before it.

Potential energy of a test particle is such energy that depends ONLY ON THE POSITION of the particle but NOT on the TRAJECTORY of the particle on the way of its travel to where it is now.

In fact it is more correct to speak of potential energy DIFFERENCE between two points in space, which is the work needed to be done on the particle to move it from rest at the starting point to rest at the end point. The force field that causes us to do this work is called POTENTIAL field if and only if this work does not depend on the trajectory along which the test particle moved from start to end.

Not every field has this property. In particular, when there is a VARIABLE electric field, the work ...

Solution Summary

Explain in everyday English and using formulas, the difference between 'electric potential' and 'electric potential energy'. Also explain, in the practical sense, why it matters that there is a difference. In other words, when will I ever see it? Also, explain why sometimes 'electrical' is interchanged with 'electrostatic' for these two phrases and does it matter?

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