# I'm having trouble understanding exactly what energy is.

• cdot
In summary: This is an excellent summary. In summary, energy is the capacity to do work, and the conservation of energy law states that there is a certain quantity of energy that does not change when something happens.
cdot
I know the definition of energy mathematically and how to work simple physics problems using energy considerations.However, I'm trying to look at energy from an intuitive standpoint.So far, this is what I have...Energy is essentially the ability to make things move.Saying that something has energy is saying that it possesses some trait or characteristic that gives it the ability to alter the physical condition of something else. So saying that something has kinetic energy is saying is just saying that because this object is moving, it has the ability to make other objects move.But I'm not sure if this intuitive definition directly translates to the formal definition of the capacity to do work.If energy is the ability to be a force acting through some displacement then when a moving billiard ball collides with a stationary ball and makes it move is it correct to say that the moving ball did work on the stationary ball to get it to move?Since energy is transferred from the moving ball to the stationary ball work must have been done on the stationary ball right?The part where I'm confused is all the examples of work and energy transfers in my textbook involve some constant force pushing or pulling on something over a distance and all the examples that involve the transfer of motion by collision deal with momentum and not work?But that moving ball colliding with the stationary ball is a force which is doing work on the stationary ball right?so why is only momentum talked about for these examples and not energy?

You can look at problems like that either through conservation of momentum or conservation of energy, if you want accurate results you usually have to model problems with both.

Your understanding of energy is pretty good, yes in situations like a billiard ball collision, even though you usually talk about momentum there, you are right in saying one ball is doing work to the other.

Energy is fundamentally a mysterious concept. Energy is closely related to changes in time. E = hf is one example. How fast a quantum wave oscillates (frequency) is proportional to how much energy it has.

Another example is E = mc^2 from relativity. When a particle is stationary, it's still moving through the time dimension. The "velocity" it moves at is c, the speed of light.

Your understanding of energy is quite good.
Energy like you said is defined as the measure of capacity to do work.(or to put in simpler terms to change physicak conditions around it )

The reason we usually talk of momentum in cases like billiards balls is because it makes problem solving easy.During the collision the momentum remains conserved .
However, in terms of energy some energy maybe converted into sound waves and it is very difficult to account how much useful energy was lost in this process.
Thats why we use momentum as in momentum conservation no such problem occurs.

I think this is a good description:
Richard Feynman said:
There is a fact, or if you wish, a law governing all natural phenomena that are known to date. There is no known exception to this law – it is exact so far as we know. The law is called the conservation of energy.

It states that there is a certain quantity, which we call “energy,” that does not change in the manifold changes that nature undergoes. That is a most abstract idea, because it is a mathematical principle; it says there is a numerical quantity which does not change when something happens.

It is not a description of a mechanism, or anything concrete; it is a strange fact that when we calculate some number and when we finish watching nature go through her tricks and calculate the number again, it is the same.

It is important to realize that in physics today, we have no knowledge of what energy “is.” We do not have a picture that energy comes in little blobs of a definite amount. It is not that way. It is an abstract thing in that it does not tell us the mechanism or the reason for the various formulas.

Fantastic post A.T.

Till now the only plausible explanation of conservation of energy and momentum has been attributed to symmetry of space time.

To be precise energy conservation law is based on tenporal symmetry.

An experiment perfomed today should yield exactly the same result as an experiment performed a day later.

## 1. What is the definition of energy?

Energy is the ability to do work or cause change. It can exist in various forms such as kinetic energy, potential energy, thermal energy, and electromagnetic energy.

## 2. How is energy measured?

Energy is measured in joules (J) or watts (W). It can also be measured in different units depending on the type of energy being measured, such as calories for thermal energy or electron volts for electromagnetic energy.

## 3. What are the different forms of energy?

The main forms of energy are kinetic energy (energy of motion), potential energy (energy stored in an object), thermal energy (energy from heat), chemical energy (energy stored in bonds between atoms), and electromagnetic energy (energy from light and other electromagnetic waves).

## 4. How is energy transferred?

Energy can be transferred from one object to another through various processes such as conduction, convection, and radiation. It can also be converted from one form to another, such as when potential energy is converted to kinetic energy.

## 5. What is the law of conservation of energy?

The law of conservation of energy states that energy cannot be created or destroyed, it can only be transferred or converted from one form to another. This means that the total amount of energy in a closed system will remain constant over time.

Replies
2
Views
1K
Replies
15
Views
1K
Replies
1
Views
2K
Replies
24
Views
3K
Replies
1
Views
1K
Replies
2
Views
1K
Replies
17
Views
2K
Replies
24
Views
563
Replies
1
Views
1K
Replies
23
Views
2K