What is Hooke’s Law?

by Tega Jessa on February 10, 2010

Hooke's Law

Hooke’s Law is a law that shows the relationship between the forces applied to a spring and its elasticity. The relationship is best explained by the equation F=-kx. F is force applied to the spring this can be either the strain or stress that acts upon the spring. X is the displacement of the spring with negative value demonstrating that the displacement of the spring when it is stretched. When the spring is compressed the the x value is positive. K is the spring constant and details how stiff the spring is. This law gets its name from the Robert Hooke the 17th century physicist who discovered it in 1660 and published a work that included a description of it in 1678.

The law had many important practical applications with one being the creation of a balance spring that made the creation of a portable timepiece possible. Hooke’s law is the first classical example of an explanation of elasticity. So you can thank Hooke’s law for the wristwatch that you wear or the alarm clock next to your bed.

Another interesting thing about Hooke’s law is that it is a a perfect example of the First Law of Thermodynamics. Any spring when compressed or extended almost perfectly conserved the energy applied to it. The only energy lost is due to natural friction.

Like most classical mechanics Hooke’s Law only works in a limited frame of reference. In this case, it is that the law is only most effective for relatively small deformations in the spring. Anything greater would need another method to be explained mathematically.Hooke’s law is just the basic understanding of elasticity. There are other principles that explain this for other substances.

Another interesting characteristic of Hooke’s law is that it has a wave like periodic function. A spring released from a deformed position will return to its original position with proportional force repeatedly in a periodic function. The wavelength and frequency of the motion can also be observed and calculated.

If you enjoyed this article there are several others that you will enjoy on Universe Today. There is an interesting article about classical mechanics. There is also an interesting article about gravity.

There are also some great resources online. There is an interesting lecture on Hooke’s Law you can watch on academicearth.org. There is also a great explanation of elasticity on howstuffworks.com.

You can also listen to Astronomy Cast. You should try listening to Episode 138, Quantum Mechanics.

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