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Is it technically correct to say matter is made of energy

  1. Oct 6, 2009 #1
    is this analogy or actually true(refering to the title question)?
    does that mean fermions themselves are energy, or do they have energy?

    is matter and energy 2 forms of the same thing? or is matter simply energy, and only appears to be different then energy to us?
    Last edited: Oct 6, 2009
  2. jcsd
  3. Oct 6, 2009 #2


    Staff: Mentor

    I think it is a rather semantic question. However, I would note that fermions have other propertier besides just energy, so if you want to use "is" inseted of "has" for energy then you will need to do the same for charge etc.
  4. Oct 6, 2009 #3


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    Energy is an abstract concept. A property of something, not a material it is made of. You wouldn't say that matter is made of mass? Or that a ruler is made of length?
  5. Oct 6, 2009 #4
    short answer: yes.

    Lightning looks real enough to me! matter is an "abstract" concept too. so are time and space......Matter is also a property of something.....whatever drags in a Higgs field....More semantics.....

    It's appropriate to note that, for example, experiments have shown the energy of gluons which constitute protons and neutrons, constibutes a significant fraction of these particles total mass. You can also consider that the Higgs force gives mass to some fundamental particles, but not photons, and that when these combine to form composite particles other sources of mass come into play. On the awkward side of explanations is the fact that there is no fundamental explanation for the precise manner different particles interact with the Higgs ocean (field).* In other words nobody knows quite how/where mass originates. There is as far I know no experimental confirmation the the Higgs field (via a Higgs boson) even exists...it's purely theoretical.

    * Brian Greene, Fabric of the Cosmos, pages 262-264

    Another way to look at the issue is that we apparently had a "bang"...big or otherwise..symmetry breaking occurred and instead of a single unstable high energy composite of 'everything' at one moment we transitioned to today's more stable universe of space, time, forms of energy and forms of mass...so they are likely all related but nobody knows precisly how...
    Last edited: Oct 6, 2009
  6. Oct 6, 2009 #5


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    Not in the same sense as energy is. Matter is a category of observable things. Energy is a physical quantity, basically just a number. Numbers are not observable things, they are just an idea.

    Do you think that a ruler is made out of length?
  7. Oct 6, 2009 #6
    ok getting a little conflicting information i guess
    did i mess this up by putting the question as relating to relativity? is it relativity or string theory that says this? perhaps im confusing mass with matter.

    I asked because i here people saying matter is only energy, but they give no explanation of why this is. i though perhaps this may be misinterpreting info, like when people say you only use 10% of your brain.

    so Naty says there two forms of the same thing, they are similar to ice(water) and steam. it is erroneous to say steam makes up ice, but you can view ice as made of the same particles steam is, they just have different properties. true?
    if so does this particle have a name, such as the in the example i gave has the name H20?

    i will wait for more a consensus before judging what i think is the right theory. as i have the two opinions in conflict my self.
  8. Oct 6, 2009 #7
    The formula E = mc2 depicts the relationship between matter and energy. Technically matter is not made of energy. Technically matter can be changed into energy. They are both made of the same "undefined" stuff.

    To use your analogy - matter / ice - energy/ steam - they are both made of the same stuff - water. As of yet there is no name for the watery stuff in physics.

    They are working on it hard though. That's what is going on with those particle accelerators that you might have read about in the papers. They are busting stuff up to try and figure out what they are made of.

    Drink more water,

  9. Oct 7, 2009 #8


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    No, it depicts the relationship between mass and energy. Mass is a property of matter, not the same as matter.
    Energy and mass are not some stuff from which something is made. They are just numbers which you can assign to stuff.
  10. Oct 7, 2009 #9

    Leaving the numbers out of it for a moment, you can convert matter into energy quite happily and vice versa.
  11. Oct 7, 2009 #10


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    What you mean is converting matter into radiation. Energy is just a property of matter and radiation.

    The term "energy" may be used differently than that, in colloquial language and "layman physics". But technically there is a distinction between observable physical phenomena and abstract mathematical concepts used to describe them.
    Last edited: Oct 7, 2009
  12. Oct 7, 2009 #11
    get used to it! (LOL) ...expect more....that's exactly why I posted as I did...Dalespam's comment about "semantics" was one reason I did so....and I actually did not like AT's first reply....a bit too "doctrinaire" for my liking......but that view has good supporting logic and ideas....

    there are many fundamental questions in physics that have more interpretations than scientists....mathematicians may see things from one general perspective, particle physicists another and relativity theorists yet another....and even strongly disagree among each dscipline. Shortly after Einstein produced his GR theory the Schwarszchild solution for black holes was found...professionals argued for nearly 50 years about whether black holes were "real" or "theoretical"...and some doubt to this day they "really" exist...

    This forum is something like quanutm mechanics:the question you ask (and the forum you choose) determines the answers you get....but its fine to ask your question here. HOWEVER, if you ask the same question in relation to string theory you will likely get a different set of responses. And if you ask in a quantum mechanics forum yet another.....That's basically because we have a lot of different theories and nobody knows exactly how to tie them all together. Maybe it's like you describing an object from the front and me from the back....who is "right'? (relativity has some answers on that issue)

    I think it was AT who posted above about mass as a property of matter....that's a good viewpoint to keep in mind...but accept it as a piece of a much larger puzzle perhaps subject to change as we learn more....for example, just what are gravitational and inertial mass? and are they the "same" thing?....check out 'equivalence principle' in wikipedia to read more if you like.

    Via string theory, for example, everything is based on different energy vibrational patterns...one vibration pattern has electron characteristics, for example, another those of a photon and a third perhaps the graviton....

    "matter is energy" is why I posted above:
    What I was trying to say there is everything seems to have been in the form of energy at one point, but now appears as many different, separate entities now.....
    so "what something is" or appears to be depends on the environment/ energy...like ice,water,steam....

    Thats an ok way to look at it as far as I'm concerned...hydrogen and oxygen and their constituent electrons, for example, appear very different at different energies (temperatures, like a big bang) and at high enough pressures (say in a black hole) lose ALL characteristics as the "matter" you and I think about around us...so what you observe depends on the question you ask....that's the basis of quantum mechanics, yet another theory.

    good idea...but do not hold your breath.....it may take a long time....such interpretational problems have always been a part of physics....and it's the NEW viewpoint that leads to changes and improvements in understanding not what anybody else claims is "true"....

    (Just to annoy friends tell them: "Matter is just gravity". and let them argue about that for a while.....It's true inside a black hole! ...I only mention this because such extremes are often useful ways to understand things from a different perspective.....and black holes are REALLY different. )

    I'd summarize the above mess by noting that if anyone could actually answer your question along with a firm theoretical foundation, they'd be one of the most famous scientists of all time....and definitely a Nobel prize recipient....
    If you are lucky somebody will post about how "wrong" my thoughts are..and provide you new ways to think...that's really important...
    Last edited: Oct 7, 2009
  13. Oct 7, 2009 #12
    I don't really mean that. Radiation is just one form of energy, a wave type form. Presumably, matter is another form.
  14. Oct 7, 2009 #13


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    You may use the term "energy" like that. But for me energy is just a property of radiation or matter. I like to keep physics and math apart. :smile:
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