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what about the 1/2's? don't they cancel?

Hi maizer01, thanks for the question. Are you referring to the 1/2 in front of each kinetic energy term in part b)? They don't cancel since 1/2 is not a common factor of all terms. There is a potential energy term which is not multiplied by 1/2, which means 1/2 is not a common factor.
All the best,
Mr. Dychko