Register to reply 
Was Feynman right about energy? 
Share this thread: 
#1
Mar2311, 10:11 AM

P: 4

Pardon me if this is the wrong section for this question, but "energy" seemed like a topic that could fit in almost any category on this site.
Either way, I'm sure many people on here have seen this quote by Feynman: 


#2
Mar2311, 10:38 AM

P: 193




#3
Mar2311, 10:42 AM

P: 4




#4
Mar2311, 11:10 AM

Sci Advisor
HW Helper
P: 6,654

Was Feynman right about energy?
Energy is not that mysterious at the macroscopic level. Energy is a defined quantity. It is defined that way because it is useful. It is useful, generally, because it is a quantity that is conserved in interactions (at least those involving gravitational and electromagnetic forces). As such, it helps us to analyse interactions. Energy is the ability to do work. Work is done by applying a force over a distance. I don't think Feynman had any difficulty with macroscopic energy but perhaps he did. In a fundamental sense, we don't really understand what inertia is. If we don't understand inertia, then we don't really understand force. If we don't understand force, we don't understand energy in that sense. Things are very different at very small distances, however. That is where energy becomes mysterious. This appears to be what Feynman is referring to. The quantity that we define as energy is not continuous at the very small level. We don't really understand why that is. It just is the way things are. We can calculate permitted energies of various particles or configurations of particles. We can do the math. We just lack a fundamental understanding of "why". AM 


#5
Mar2311, 11:13 AM

P: 193




#6
Mar2311, 11:54 AM

P: 4




#7
Mar2311, 01:12 PM

Sci Advisor
HW Helper
P: 6,654

But energy is not an entirely abstract quantity either (such as entropy). It is somewhat tangible. The amount of damage a bullet does, for example, is proportional to its energy. Same with a car collision: the damage is proportional to the masses of the colliding cars and to the square of their relative speed. We also associate "energy" with heat. The amount of heat we feel (mass x temperature change) is proportional to the amount of energy expended in creating that increase in heat. The mystery is not so much in why energy is conserved or what it is signifies physically at the macroscopic level (although, since it is based on inertia, it is still somewhat mysterious). The real mystery is why it behaves the way it does at the quantum level. Feynman begs the question: what does it mean to understand something? Understanding is always incomplete. Understanding is the result of reducing phenomena to fewer and fewer things that we don't understand  ie to fewer a priori principles or facts that we simply have to accept. If we can create a macroscopic model, we may say we "understand" something. But it just means that we understand it in terms of macroscopic phenomena that we simply accept. No macroscopic model works for quantum mechanics. It is just too weird. So we have to base predictions on a set of abstract mathematical rules rather than tangible (macroscopic) phenomena. So whether Feynman was saying we don't understand quantum mechanics because we don't have a macroscopic model for it or whether he was saying that quantum mechanics is based on a set of rules that do not seem to have a simpler way of being expressed, he was quite right. There is no simpler model for quantum mechanics  at the present time. If the rules were to become simpler, it would not mean that we would completely understand the quantum world. It would just mean that we would understand it better. I think that is about all you can take from Feynman's quote. AM 


#8
Mar2311, 04:39 PM

P: 451

Energy is slippery it has so many forms and can move from one form to another. From kinetic to potential. From macroscopic kinetic to microscopic kinetic. From particle antiparticle annihilation to ? to different particle antiparticle. From photon and ground state atom to excited state atom.



#9
Mar2311, 08:20 PM

P: 757




#10
Mar2311, 09:01 PM

P: 193




Register to reply 
Related Discussions  
Feynman's perspective on negative energy states and pair creation  Quantum Physics  0  
QED Feynman  Quantum Physics  7  
What did Feynman mean?  General Physics  3 