Conceptual Understanding in Introductory Physics XXII: Energy in Multiparticle Systems

This question was prompted by the treatment of energy concepts in traditional introductory textbooks. Most such treatments tend to share an error in reasoning when it comes to applying energy principles to systems consisting of more than one particle. I may need to come back and edit the question so that it more accurately articulates what I’m trying to get across. So here it is.

Consider the system consisting of a macroscopic object acted on by a single force. If the system is reduced to a point particle, we can speak of its translational kinetic energy. However, if we treat the system as a multiparticle system, we can speak of other manifestations of energy. Within the context of this specific example, explain one way this can happen. 

(This questions need refining.)


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