What happens to the energy that binds the molecules together? Where does it go; what does it become?
Organic matter is broken down by fungi and bacteria, which feed on the decaying material. Soil is the remains of dead plants and animals. If the body is buried, while bacteria are breaking down the tissue, salts/minerals may react with the consituents, and a fossil will form. Petroleum products consist of decayed animal and plant material.
What happens to the forces that had previously held the organism's various molecules and components together?
astronuc already explained it. Are you asking for more detailed information on decay?
I think that's what I'm probably asking. Sorry to be so vague on this. I was reading this earlier http://www.answers.com/topic/binding-energy", and began to have questions in regards to what I asked concerning organisms. How's this for further interpretation of what Astronuc said. The energy that's bound in the cells of organisms that are consumed by other organisms (such as bacteria, fungi, larger animals, etc.) becomes available to the consumers for their use. Some however, may be lost to the environment in the form of heat (anything else?). Is this close?
I moved your thread to biology so you can get some detailed answers. I'd say you're on the right track.
Never say "decay" in a physics forum, when you mean...
In short, what happens to the chemical energy of your body?... it becomes the fuel for bacteria, maggots, and so forth. There are purely chemical effects apart from life, but generally speaking you are eaten by bugs both large and small, and that energy is then excreted as urine, feces, and heat.
There is no sudden dissipation of forces, as in radioactive decay or an explosion... your cells starve, some undergo apoptosis, enzymes digest you, and the rest is food as mentioned above. Not romantic, but that's the food chain for you.
LOL, I stand corrected.
It is worth pointing out (in case you thought otherwise) that what happens to previously-living material is the same as what happens to not-previously-living material. They're all just chemical actions, albeit living ones can be extremely complex.
But there is no energy associated with "life" beyond the known chemical energies.
Sorry, I didn't mean that to be scolding, just found the notion funny! Imagine if we underwent radioactive decay upon death... six feet under would be just the start. Beam me up the lead-lined casket Scotty. ;)
Decomposition is perhaps a better term, or even reconsititution. Dead bodies become food for other organisms, e.g., as carnivores or ominvores feed on the dead bodies of other animals. Chemical processes breakdown cellulose/surgars, fat and protein and reform those components in the body of whatever organism partakes of that tissue. Digestion is a series of chemical processes.
Yes - along the way, some energy is dissipated to the environment.
Bear in mind the difference between atomic/electron binding energy and nuclear binding energy. The energy levels are considerably different, as are the reactants.
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