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What does energy mean?

by briandunning
Tags: energy
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briandunning
#1
Apr4-05, 12:01 PM
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I understand energy when the type is understood by its context: kinetic energy, potential energy. But I confess I have no idea what type of energy is referred to when people just discuss "energy" with no clear context. Is there such a thing as "energy" all by itself?
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chroot
#2
Apr4-05, 01:10 PM
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"Energy" is the ability to do work. (Work meaning something like lifting a mass, compressing a gas, producing heat, sound, light, etc.)

- Warren
briandunning
#3
Apr4-05, 01:18 PM
P: 4
I understand the dictionary definition, but I guess I didn't ask my question very well.

I should explain that this subject came up in a debate I was having with a New Age friend, who said he believes that there are other dimensions full of energy, and that's where ghosts & spirits come from, etc. My response was that he can't make that argument without further characterizing that "energy." You can't just say "spiritual energy," you have to describe it: is it electromagnetic? Is it potential energy stored in a chemical battery? There's no such thing as "energy" that simply exists by itself.

But I realized that I didn't really have any idea what I was talking about either. You hear terms like "zero point energy" and I realized that I should have a better handle on what the word "energy" can mean. Was my response to my New Age friend appropriate?

chroot
#4
Apr4-05, 01:27 PM
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What does energy mean?

Well, there's really no better definition of the word "energy" than that I already gave you. Energy is just a number we assign to a specific configuration of a system; by allowing the number to decrease, we can make something happen; i.e., we can do work.

Since energy is the ability to do work, and your friend claims there are other dimensions full of spiritual energy (a claim with belies gross ignorance of what "dimension" and "energy" mean in physical terms), ask him to show you how ghosts do work. Can the ghost lift a bowling ball? Can a ghost press on a piston and compress a gas?

The unfortunate end of this argument is already pre-ordained, however. Your friend is not bound to the physical definitions of words like energy or dimension, so you will not be able to convince him of anything with words. Your friend is using the words in a haphazard way, with no rigorous definition, and he probably has no real respect for such rigorous definitions (particularly if he does not really understand them). If you press him, you'll probably find that he'll just change the definition of his words to suit any current purpose.

- Warren
briandunning
#5
Apr4-05, 01:37 PM
P: 4
Well, I think you hit the nail on the head. It is a hopeless debate. He's trying to bolster faith-based arguments by finding rational explanations, which negates the whole faith aspect. I will spend my time elsewhere. Thanks Warren!

PS - I was shocked to find Shermer's book "Why Smart People Believe Weird Things" on my friend's shelf. He explained he wanted to "better understand the opposition." I think he has a long way to go. :)
marcus
#6
Apr4-05, 02:45 PM
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the thread is complete, warren said all that was needed, but I had an afterthought: Richard Feynman had an essay about the meaning of "energy" which was colorful and funny and at the same time philos. deep I think you could say. it was online somewhere. I have forgotten where the link is.
If someone comes in and asks "what is energy" (but the context is PHYSICS not newage mouth-music) then it shd be possible to get that person a link to Feynman's entertaining essay about it. (maybe the gist is in his Lectures somewhere but where is it online?)
chroot
#7
Apr4-05, 02:56 PM
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The one about the bathwater and the childrens' blocks, marcus? I think it's in one of the first few chapters of Volume I of his lectures, and also in Six Easy Pieces. I don't think it's out of copyright, though, or I'd post it. I have pdfs of the lectures. I think perhaps fair-use rights apply here?

- Warren
turbo
#8
Apr4-05, 04:52 PM
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Here is the Dennis the Menace Blocks lecture. Gotta love Feynman!

http://home.hockaday.org/HockadayNet...h/FeynEng.html
marcus
#9
Apr4-05, 07:01 PM
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Quote Quote by turbo-1
Here is the Dennis the Menace Blocks lecture. Gotta love Feynman!

http://home.hockaday.org/HockadayNet...h/FeynEng.html
Warren and turbo, thanks to you both for identifying that great essay I'd lost tabs on!
Chronos
#10
Apr5-05, 12:49 AM
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All excellent replies. I can only add that energy can only be measured in terms of the effect it has on matter. There are no energy-energy interactions that are observable so far as I know.
TheAntiRelative
#11
Apr5-05, 04:00 PM
P: 121
Not saying I believe blind faith to be a good thing but I'm going to play devil's advocate for a moment.

Not too long ago in human history there was energy all around us that we were completely ignorant of, and could not measure. Most of the Electromagnetic spectrum...

That energy had the ability to do work then and does now. Simply because we do not know about it and cannot currently measure it does not, in fact, mean that it does not exist.

Show someone a running TV 500 years ago and you'd be burned at the stake for witchcraft. To believe that at least a few people of the tens of thousands of reports might have possibly experienced something beyond our current understanding is not so damnable of an offence. To believe we have successfully and fully quantified the entire universe is...

I'm not saying it's okay to blindly believe anything but I am saying that it is most assuredly wrong to discourage and ridicule the pursuit of knowledge if it is conducted in a logical and systematic fashion. The pursuit of seemingly extremely unlikely knowledge is all the more venerable because of the risk of failure involved. Today's society has decided to punish and discourage adventurers and explorers with ridicule.

Ask yourself what the end result would be if every human being succumbed to the pressure to conform. Arrogance breeding ignorance. Progress would slow to snails pace.

My point is to try to have patience with ignorance and accept the possibility that it is you who is ignorant.

"You idiot! Don't you know man can't fly?"
"You idiot! Don't you know that the sound barrier can't be broken?"
These things were said and similar things are being said now about something. Do you want to be the one saying them?

/soapbox
TheAntiRelative
#12
Apr5-05, 04:08 PM
P: 121
anticipating the arguments to come...

Yes it seems likely that he's just going on faith based garbage but I always find condescention unbecoming regardless of the situation.

Okay, I'll go back to the lounge... heh
chroot
#13
Apr5-05, 04:17 PM
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TheAntiRelative,

You're missing the point. The point is that the original poster's friend was talking about ghosts using "spiritual energy" from "other dimensions." That's not a logical or systematic analysis, so we can dismiss it immediately with no regrets of stifling potentially valuable thought.

If something follows the scientific method, it's probably worth examining. If something does not use the scientific method, it may still be worth examining, but it's most likely just crap. This is such crap.

- Warren
TheAntiRelative
#14
Apr5-05, 04:51 PM
P: 121
Quote Quote by chroot
TheAntiRelative,

You're missing the point. The point is that the original poster's friend was talking about ghosts using "spiritual energy" from "other dimensions." That's not a logical or systematic analysis, so we can dismiss it immediately with no regrets of stifling potentially valuable thought.

If something follows the scientific method, it's probably worth examining. If something does not use the scientific method, it may still be worth examining, but it's most likely just crap. This is such crap.

- Warren
I know what you mean and I know your reasoning and agree with you on a level. However, you don't know what methodology he might have used and don't know how he might be using his terminology or even what experimentation he might have participated in.

There are 10k people all waiting in line to stomp on irrational religious zealotry, I just happen to be one of the few willing to throw myself under the bus to stomp on irrational anti-religious zealotry or any other pro-mainstream zealotry.

Sorry to sound like I'm picking at you, I'm really not, (this is more of a guerilla attack) but the fervor and condescention that has become stock and trade of the intellectial community is far to "religious" for my liking. There's a fine line between impatience and pure arrogance and I think the community as a whole crossed the line long ago and nobody(as in large group) has pointed out the wrongness of it. It is a cause without a champion.

Sorry if I chime in and play devil's advocate on seemingly rediculous topics. It's just part of my own personal mission to point out the philisophical portion of science. The human element that can turn the pursuit of truth into the pursuit of memorization and pride.
chroot
#15
Apr5-05, 04:53 PM
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TheAntiRelative,

No one really cares, and this is certainly not the appropriate place to rant.

- Warren
TheAntiRelative
#16
Apr5-05, 04:54 PM
P: 121
lol, point duly noted
juju
#17
Apr6-05, 08:07 PM
P: 294
Hi,

I would say that energy is something that you can transform into something else.

juju
Telos
#18
Apr7-05, 10:41 PM
P: 147
Warren, I'd like to come back to your definition. I share your loathing for the New Age interpretation of "energy," especially because it only serves to hurt the New Agers themselves by alienating them from society - it is quite sad.

But let's forget about that for a bit and go back to a critical examination of energy - the ability to do work. What, then, is work?

"Physical or mental effort or activity directed toward the production or accomplishment of something."

Effort towards accomplishment of something. That's just one definition out of many but it is the simplest and foremost.

Are there things that we can do without effort, which are therefore things than can be accomplished by not doing work? If so, how are we able to do these things without energy, since energy is the ability to do work? Is there some other "kind" of energy involved, that allows to do these other kinds of accomplishments that don't require effort and are therefore not work?

Some examples, although not universal in themselves, may include - sleep, fun, and concentration. Of course, all of these things may be described biologically with the exchange of chemicals and electronic pulses, but those descriptions are incomplete. They do not yet capture the fullness of the experience, namely the importance of effortlessness in these skills. Something happens in the apex of all these where we stop trying in order to achieve them.

It seems like people relate this absence of effort to God taking things over for them. So we must "accept God into our hearts," and all that. In New Age religions where the concept of God is ambiguous, it is "energy," some sort of natural force, that allows this to happen. But if it's not energy, and if it's not God, and it's not us (because we are not applying the effort), what is it?

So there is importance in trying to include these experiences into our concept of accomplishment through work and energy, is there not?

[Edit: Oh, wait a minute, if it is natural forces that allow these happen, and they are nature's "work," than it is "energy," by the very definition of the word. Hmm.. guess I answered my own question lol. So maybe we shouldn't chastise the New Agers for misusing the word energy to describe their experiences, since energy applies to all natural experience (and all experience is natural)?]


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