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Energy Explained


Farsight
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Energy is generally misunderstood. Our schoolroom textbooks tell us that energy is the capacity to do work, and work is the transfer of energy. They go round in circles without getting to the heart of it, and some children grow into adults with no clear concept of what energy is.

 

Let’s start by saying that energy is the property of a thing. It is not a thing in its own right. To illustrate this, I can talk about a red bus, or a red red ruby. All these things have the property that we call red. A thing can be red, but you cannot remove this red and hold it in your hand. You can remove the paint or the dye and hold that in the palm of your hand, but you are still holding a thing that is red. You cannot remove the red from the dye to hold the red in the palm of your hand. Even when you imagine red, the image in your mind’s eye is a thing. You always need a thing to be red. There is no such thing as “raw red”. In similar vein there is no such thing as “raw energy”.

 

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Another illustration is money. You can spend money just like you can expend energy. But the money doesn’t disappear, just as the energy doesn’t disappear. Somebody else now has your money, just as some other thing now has your energy. Think about an old house, nestled in the countryside. It’s picturesque, worth a lot of money, and it’s built out of cob. Way back when, some guy put some energy into shifting earth and straw to make the walls of this house. He did the same thing with the wood, which grew out of the earth because the trees put energy into shifting water and CO2. The guy made money out of that house. What they were paid for was the energy he put into it, through the work he did moving stuff. That’s why money and energy are similar. They get things moving, they get work done. One makes the world go round, and the other one makes the world go round too.

 

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But money isn’t what energy is, and nor is motion. You need mass and motion before you can talk about energy. Consider a 10 kilogram cannonball, in space, travelling at 1000 metres per second. Not that you can see it.

 

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We talk about how much kinetic energy this cannonball has. We talk about

 

KE = ½ MV2

 

and we do the maths and get five million Joules. But what has the cannonball really got? Its mass seems real enough, I hefted it into my spaceship this morning before I took off. And its motion seems real enough too, because one false move and it’ll be smashing through my viewscreen taking my head off. To find out more I take a spacewalk to place a thousand sheets of cardboard in the path of my cannonball. Each sheet of cardboard exerts a small braking force, slowing the cannonball to an eventual halt. This takes two seconds. We know that the cannonball will punch through more cardboard in the first second than in the second second, because it’s slowing down. So we deduce that a cannonball travelling at 1000m/s has more than twice the kinetic energy of one travelling at 500m/s. We can do the arithmetic for each second, then slice the seconds up finer and finer, and we end up realising that the ½V2 is the integral of all the velocities between V and 0. But what we don’t realise is that kinetic energy is a way of describing the stopping distance for a given force applied to a given mass moving at a given velocity. You can flip it around to think about force times distance to get something moving. Or you can think in terms of damage. But basically that cannonball has “got” kinetic energy like it has “got” stopping distance.

 

It’s similar with momentum. That’s a different way of looking at the mass and the motion, based on force and time instead of distance or damage. We look back to our cannonball and cardboard, and we know by definition that in the first second the same amount of time elapsed as in the second second. So we realise that a cannonball travelling at 1000m/s has twice the momentum of one travelling at 500m/s. But what we don’t realise is that momentum is a way of describing the stopping time for a given force applied to a given mass moving at a given velocity. A cannonball has “got” momentum like it has “got” stopping time.

 

But wait a minute. I didn’t fire the cannonball at 1000 metres a second. I dropped it off at a handy spot out near a GPS satellite, then zipped off in my spaceship in a big loop.

 

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It’s me doing 1000m/s, not the cannonball. The cannonball is just sitting there in space. It hasn’t got any kinetic energy at all. I’ve got it. But I don’t feel supercharged with five million Joules of energy coursing though my veins. So where is it? Where’s the kinetic energy gone? It isn’t anywhere really, because all that cannonball has got, is its mass, and its motion. And that motion is relative to me. Kinetic energy is not a thing. It’s just a relative property.

 

There are other forms of energy. There’s the potential energy of mass and gravity, potential energy in springs, there’s electrical energy related to current and voltage, there’s chemical energy related to electron bonds, nuclear energy, all sorts.

 

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They all deserve more explanation than I can give in this short essay. So I have to take a shortcut: how do you make something move? Easy. Hit it with something else that moves. And how did you make that something else move? Where did it all start? I pitch you a cannonball, you whack it with a baseball bat, and it tumbles away at one metre per second. You made that cannonball move. Now, where did the energy come from to make it move? From your muscles: “The release of ADP and inorganic phosphate causes the myosin head to turn, causing a ratchet movement. Myosin is now bound to actin in the strong binding state. This will pull the Z-bands towards each other. It also shortens the sarcomere...”

 

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It gets complicated, and I want to make it simple. Maybe too simple. Sorry. But basically some plant somewhere caught the momentum of a sunbeam and stored that kinetic energy by making starch. Think of starch as a chemical spring. You eat the spring. You release it in your muscles, and boing and whack, you shift that cannonball. The kinetic energy of the cannonball came from a sunbeam that came from the sun. And the sun gets its energy from nuclear fusion. Squeeze a couple of hydrogen atoms together and you make helium. But when you do, ping, something breaks, and things spring out between your fingers, things like photons.

 

4 1H + 2 e --> 4He + 2 neutrinos + 6 photons

 

What is a photon? Particle physics comes with mental baggage that says it’s a speck, a point, a particle. But it’s more like the slink in a slinky spring. Only the slinky spring here is all of space, with its permittivity and permeability. A photon is a like a ripple on an electromagnetic oceanic “field” between the stars. A boat on the ocean can ride the ripple and the ripple passes on by. But tie that boat to the sea bed with a rubber rope, and you can capture the energy of the ripple, and save it in starch, or coal, or oil. You can use it to build your house, and whack that cannonball.

 

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It all started at the beginning of the universe. Visualize yourself in a dark cylindrical room. The walls are banded and helical. You feel a tremble, and you realise with horror that the room is the biggest baddest spring you’ve ever seen. It’s the “prime mover”, and it is exerting an incredible pressure, but is bound by thick steel cables called “symmetry”. The cables are under impossible tension, and you can hear ping ping ping as individual cable wires snap. Symmetry is about to break, and you know your prime mover will disintegrate into a fireball of nuclear and electromagnetic springs that will go bouncing out to fill the night and make the world what it is.

 

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It’s all analogy of course. Analogies are based on the things we experience, and these are not the things of the subatomic world. So analogies can be dangerous, like too much butter. But it’s enough to give you a grasp of what energy is. Enough to tell you that energy is to do with tension, which is negative pressure, which is the same as stress. Stress is force per unit area, and energy is force times distance, so energy is pressure times volume. So here’s the beginnings of a new definition:

 

Energy is the capacity to do work, and is also a volume of negative tension…

 

You know you can’t hold tension in the palm of your hand, and a volume of it doesn’t help. That’s why you can’t hold energy in the palm of your hand. There is no such thing as “pure energy”, just as there is no such thing as “pure pressure”. Things aren’t made out of energy. Things have energy. And how much they have, is relative to how much other things have. Yes, I know mass and motion doesn’t sound like volume and pressure. But to explain more, I’ll have to explain other things. Things like time and space, and mass and gravity.

 

Later.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Farsight,

 

I like the way you go to lengths to explain things in a reasonable manner.

 

Having said that I have a severe problem with how I determine energy for my logic based solution and how you describe it here. Basically I am happy with you reflecting theory and the definitions used by those theories for energy along with mass and matter, for a logic based solution it is different and the definitions are different.

 

You seem to want as much clarity as possible while conforming to the theory but from a logic based beginning the definitions have to be absolute.

 

Because I do not have to conform to theory, due to the fact I start from scratch before big bang where there was no theory, then so too are my definitions from scratch so at least when I talk about such things as mass and matter and energy everyone is clear it is definitions provided for the solution alone.

 

As a matter of interest here are the definitions:

 

Anything that exists is mass

 

All mass contains matter

 

All matter is created from energy.

 

 

This again is not contradicting theoretical definitions but are provided as clarification for my solution alone.

 

I do not see how anyone could confuse my meanings as much as the problems caused by theoretical definitions but that is my personal view.

 

As you can see I have all matter created from energy, this is absolute for I see no other basic substance that could create anything at all.

 

It is all well and good considering certain properties of mass and matter as energy but that defers from the absolute question that dictates all matter is created from energy and nothing else.

 

It is fundamental, take away all the energy from the universe and nothing is left except empty space.

 

Composite particles at the atomic level are energy particles, take away the energy and there is no particle. To speculate that mass and matter are substance and energy is not requires all the energy be removed from mass and matter and a clear definition of the substance that is left is shown to be that mass or matter less the energy.

 

I would add at this time that I have the single fundamental particle that is the building block for the standard model particles as an energy particle.

 

So it is with some interest that I have read your posting here, I do not have a problem with how it is presented and accept it is mainstream theory that it follows.

 

My problem is that energy particles can only be created using energy and only a single energy particle can be fundamental as to be required by default.

 

The reason for that is without even a single fundamental energy particle nothing would exist as a multitude os standard model particles require a multitude of origins that defies explanation.

 

best wishes,

john

jck

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It's good to talk jck. I'll be writing MASS EXPLAINED next, which you should find interesting. Can I say your definitions are axioms. They are postulates, assumptions, things you take for granted, and they act as blockers. To demonstrate this, I'd like to ask you a question. Read MONEY EXPLAINED and you will see some parallels between money and energy. Now answer me this:

 

Can you build a house out of money?

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Farsight,

 

I am a lateral thinker so have no problem understanding your posts, I do not take them out of context.

 

My definitions relate to my personal solution Certainty, this is simply to give clarity to the meaning so that no further explanation is required as far as the solution is concerned.

 

When I look at your thread on mass I will grasp your definition without any trouble but will compare your findings with the results my solution give me.

 

The only reason for money at all is to make sure a small minority get a lot more than the majority. Anything that humans invent and bring to the universe is superflous to requirements.

 

Rest assured not only will I understand what you say but I will also understand what you don`t say. It is your post and your context and that is how I will read it.

 

Naturally anyone reading you out of context will confuse the issue.

 

john

jck

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I have energy as absolute. No energy means no universe apart from empty space.

 

The question is simple, take away the energy from any particle and there is no particle so someone must put forward the substance that is left that is not energy based that can be anything else.

 

Electrons are energy, quarks are energy and energy is energy.

 

Different states of energy does not create substance that is not created from energy.

 

It is not difficult to work out what matter is created from and no one needs a peer review to get permission to make the obvious deduction.

 

 

As no matter means no mass then it is resolved.

 

john

jck

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jck: my view is that energy is like tension. You need something to have tension. So I'll say matter is made out of space and is built via work that costs energy. Like a house is made out of bricks, built via work that costs money.

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Farsight,

 

Then it is you that has to explain exactly what is in the empty space that gives it the means to create anything at all.

 

There is a problem here in as much as there is space everywhere but without the energy there is no mass so mass being the empty space does not constitute any substance for the mass.

 

I do not have a problem with the energy containing empty space being mass, but with so much empty space the universe would be a solid block of mass if the space itself was mass.

 

john

jck

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Farsight,

 

This house thing, the bricks are energy so take away the bricks and do as much work as you like you will not have a house.

 

I say that mass is like the word "house" in the example where it is impossible to call something a house when the bricks are taken away. It may well require work to get the bricks together for the house and work to take the bricks away again but all the work in the world will not be a house without the bricks.

 

Work is energy, it is not free energy.

 

 

No bricks-no house

 

No energy-no mass

 

john

jck

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It is a tricky one jck.

 

If I ask you what a photon is made out of, you'd say energy. If I asked you what a wave in the surf is made out of, you'd say energy again. But there's got to be some moving water to have the energy. Like there has to be something to the space so that it can have the energy of the photon.

 

Maybe space can only be considered to exist if it has energy. I could go with that.

 

Hmmmn. Ouroborus.

 

180px-Ouroboros.png

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I have not read all the replies here by a longshot, but some physics:

 

Firstly, names something that is not "just an attribute" of something, mass certainly is.

 

It is a tricky one jck.

 

If I ask you what a photon is made out of, you'd say energy.

 

I wouldn't, I'd tell you it is a bootstraping disturbance of both the electric and magnetic fields.

 

Also note that to "define" something theoretically, i.e. mass, you need some maths.

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Klaynos: I'm trying explain rather than define, trying to give the grasp and understanding that maths just doesn't offer to the layman. Do take the trouble to read this thread along with TIME EXPLAINED and MONEY EXPLAINED. I hope to post MASS EXPLAINED sometime this week.

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Klaynos,

 

The electric and magnetic fields are energy fields, apart from the energy what is the substance these fields are created from?

 

It is the same for water, made from atoms which are made from particles which are simply energy particles. No energy, no particles then no atoms then no water. No energy no electric field and no magnetic field.

 

The logic is to use empty space in the first instance and then consider the substance in the empty space, I have energy and no other substance to any particle or field.

 

However something Farsight said previously did make me consider the mass problem further, mass is the empty space contained by the energy source.

 

So an electron would be the energy and the empty space it contains, nothing else.

 

Energy and empty space is all I have, no one has specified any other substance for anything else.

 

So far it is energy based properties that have been given as examples.

 

 

Either you work from nothing at all, which gives nothing at all for all time, or you work from empty space that is nothing with the possibility for something to exist in that empty space.

 

All matter and properties derive from energy, there is nothing else except the empty space.

 

If anyone has anything that is not energy based that is not energy then name that substance as something that exists seperately from energy.

 

Properties of anything that depend on energy are energy based.

 

john

jck

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  • 1 month later...

LOL, it doesn't explain it at all. If you think it does, tell me in one sentence: What is Energy?

 

See if you can match this:

 

Energy is basically stress. Strictly speaking, stress is the same as pressure, being force per unit area, so you need a volume of stress to get the units right for energy. You can't hold pure energy in the palm of your hand, because energy is the property of a thing - you need a volume of something, and you need to stress it. You can however hold energy in your hand by squeezing a fist. Your fist has a volume, and if you touch the end of your thumb you can feel the pressure in it. Interestingly, space can be stressed, so we're getting fairly close to pure energy when we talk about light.

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That statement is really irritatingly incorrect, it sounds so sensible but it is so clearly wrong. ARGH!

 

I know what you mean...it's like saying you can't hold an electron in your hand, well no surprises there. In a sense you do hold energy in your hand...due to black body radiation, your hand is constantly emitting and absorbing radiation, and retains (approximately) a constant temperature...but obviously you can't physically hold something that behaves in such a way. So it's just a daft statement.

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I know what you mean...it's like saying you can't hold an electron in your hand, well no surprises there. In a sense you do hold energy in your hand...due to black body radiation, your hand is constantly emitting and absorbing radiation, and retains (approximately) a constant temperature...but obviously you can't physically hold something that behaves in such a way. So it's just a daft statement.
Actually I was thinking on a much more simpler level (matter being a manifestation of energy), but yes, that too.
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That statement is really irritatingly incorrect, it sounds so sensible but it is so clearly wrong. ARGH!

 

Don't blame me. People talk about "pure energy" when they don't have any real notion of what it is. Can you explain what energy is in a sentence or two? Can you give something better than the capacity to do work because, see essay, that's a circular definition that doesn't get to the heart of it. If you can't put it down succinctly, then whatever you might think, you don't actually understand it.

 

I feel that I do understand energy, and judging from some of the responses on this thread, I rather feel that people who don't understand it, don't want to. With the exception of jck I haven't seen any constructive input or any correction or alternative.

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If you don't like capacity to do work, then energy is a potential ability to cause change.

 

Being unable to define something in a sentence or two doesn't mean you don't understand it: I'm sure Steven Hawking would have a hard time defining quantum mechanics accurately in less than fifty words.

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If you don't like capacity to do work, then energy is a potential ability to cause change.

 

Being unable to define something in a sentence or two doesn't mean you don't understand it: I'm sure Steven Hawking would have a hard time defining quantum mechanics accurately in less than fifty words.

 

I'm sorry, but I don't like potential ability to cause change. It doesn't say what energy is. It tries to say what energy does, but I can cause change, and I'm not energy.

 

You don't have to be able to define it, or define it accurately. Nor do you have to stick to fifty words. But you ought to be able to describe what it is rather than what it does, and give the gist of it at least. If you can't, then you have to appreciate that actually, despite what you think, you don't really understand it after all.

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