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Energy: fundamental or emergent?

  1. Nov 11, 2011 #1
    what i'd like to know is simply put this way:
    is energy fundamental or emergent?

    but more importantly, this is a fact or fiction question seeing as they (fundamental and emergent) are oposites, so can we all agree on one answer?

    what i mean is whatever your "opinion" at the end of the day it will either be right or wrong.

    in my opinion in order to grow new theories and further ourselves in terms of our research of anything, we need to be able to agree on the facts we have. i am sure most people would agree with me.
    there is no use to anyone of creating a brilliant theory on something that "is" fictional.

    so what is the fact??????
    is energy fundamental?
    is energy emergant?

    thanks in advance to all :)
  2. jcsd
  3. Nov 11, 2011 #2


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    Homework Helper

    Energy is a conserved quantity which arises due to invariance of the system with respect to translation in time.

    Whether that means it is 'emergent' or 'fundamental', I'll let you decide. The answer to your question is not clear-cut. For starters, we would need a strict definition of what these two things mean. Secondly, why would they be mutually exclusive anyway?

    I'm trying to say that we should start with the theory, and anything further from that is open for debate.
  4. Nov 11, 2011 #3


    Staff: Mentor

    Do you have any mainstream scientific source which defines these terms?
  5. Nov 11, 2011 #4
    as far as im aware there is only the definition from the dictionary :)
    put simply,
    fundamental meaning "of the foundation"
    and emergent meaning "occuring as a consequence"

    for example if we take a brick house, the bricks would fundamental and the house would be the consequence of that foundation.

    thats what id like to know, is energy the house or the bricks???

    i hope that clears it up a bit :)
  6. Nov 11, 2011 #5


    Staff: Mentor

    What is "the foundation" refered to here? And as a consequence of what?
  7. Nov 11, 2011 #6
    the foundation would be the bricks.
    basicly the idea behind fundamentals and emergents is a branching out on the idea of cause and effect.

    so we could say (keeping to the picture i gave) the bricks could exist without the house, whereas the house could not exist without the bricks.

    in this example we would conclude that the bricks are the fundamental, and the house is the emergent.

    so would energy be a fundamental or emergent?

    sorry if ive made anything confusing :/ im more than happy to clarify anything else if it will help in answering my question :)
  8. Nov 11, 2011 #7


    Staff: Mentor

    I am asking what you want to consider to be the foundation/bricks? In other words, what theory or interpertation are you interested in? Different theories and interpretations differ in what they consider postulates or axioms and what they consider derived from those postulates, and it is generally possible to re-axiomatize any theory into a different logically equivalent theory with a different categorization of postulates and consequences.

    Cause and effect seem to be different concepts than fundamental and emergent.
  9. Nov 11, 2011 #8
    true, cause and effect relate to process more than anything but the idea of fundamentals and emergents follow the same train of thought, being; fundamental is the cause and emergent the effect. the emergent cannot exist without the fundamental, the effect cannot exist without the cause.

    so im asking, in the simplist sense, is energy, weither it be chemial or kinetic or thermo etc, is energy the cause or the effect? can energy exist without a 'body' to inhabit? can it exist on its own or is it the result of another thing existing?

    i hope this clears things up a little more :)
  10. Nov 11, 2011 #9


    Staff: Mentor

    So, which theory or interpretation of physics do you want to use to answer the question and what things in that theory do you wish to consider the "bodies"?

    I wish you would stop coming up with more useless analogies and just answer the question. You have to pick your theory because different theories/interpretations will disagree.
  11. Nov 11, 2011 #10
    all of them :) i simply want to know if energy exists alone in any form other than when it inhabbits a physical body? sorry that my analogies seem so useless, it was just to explain what i mentby fundamental and emergent. thanks
  12. Nov 11, 2011 #11


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    Staff: Mentor

    No. Energy is a property of an object or a system, not an independent entity. "Pure energy" exists only in science fiction.
  13. Nov 11, 2011 #12
    sweet deal, i think so too. so we can agree that it matter would be the 'fundamental' here. in the sense that energy could not exist without it....... im kinda leading up to a new question, but this one needed to be answered before hand. so according to my illustration, like the house, energy cannot exist without matter. so onto my next question, can any type of matter exist without energy???
  14. Nov 11, 2011 #13
    This has already veered off into wordplays and jibberish. Maybe it started there.
  15. Nov 12, 2011 #14
    im sorry, did i convey something wrongly? i do not profess to know much so any explanation as to why ive gone wrong would be most welcomed :)
  16. Nov 12, 2011 #15
    energy is also stored in fields.
    for example: light.
  17. Nov 12, 2011 #16


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    This veering too much into philosophy. But before this gets locked and the discussion will be requested to be moved to that forum, here's something that needs to be addressed:

    Is "fundamental" and "emergent" mutually exclusive?

    I would say that it is not. For example, how do we measure some of our "fundamental constants"? Look up CODATA and see how the values for "e" and "h" were determined. You will see that they were obtained, with the highest and reproducible accuracy, from experiments that made used of emergent properties! Measurements using superconductivity properties are, by definition, emergent! Something that is emergent does not exclude it from being fundamental. The Higgs field, if it exists, is both fundamental AND emergent. The fractional charge in quarks and in fractional quantum hall effect experiments are both fundamental AND emergent!

    So original premise that some must either be fundamental OR emergent is a faulty premise to start with.

  18. Nov 12, 2011 #17


    Staff: Mentor

    I don't know if I can do all of them, but I will do the ones that come to mind
    Newtonian mechanics: masses and forces are fundamental
    Lagrangian mechanics: energy is fundamental
    Quantum mechanics: states and observations are fundamental
    Quantum field theories: symmetry is fundamental
    Relativity: geometry and stress-energy tensor are fundamental

    There isn't anything that exists alone. You can't have energy without a physical body (field) and you can't have a physical body without energy. If that is your criterion then everything is emergent.

    You really don't seem to know what you want to ask. This is like the third time that you have changed your question, not even counting the useless analogies. Why don't you spend some time and actually learn some physics first.
    Last edited: Nov 12, 2011
  19. Nov 12, 2011 #18
    teh fundamental and indivisible element of reality is 'events'.

    but this is more philosophical than physics.
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