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What is work?

  1. Aug 31, 2016 #1
    Could work be defined as: "The price we make electrons pay for redistributing themselves uniformly"? (Even though, we may have rigged the game initially, by configuring them unevenly)

    I'm trying to learn about electricity and toying with definitions that help. Incidentally, I do love: "The electron is the salmon of electricity swimming upstream in a ghostly river of conventional current".
  2. jcsd
  3. Aug 31, 2016 #2


    Staff: Mentor

    The term "work" is already defined:
    $$W = \int \vec{F} \cdot \vec{ds}$$
    where ##\vec{F}## is force, and ds is an increment of distance an object is moved.

  4. Aug 31, 2016 #3

    Vanadium 50

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    I don't think this a good definition of "work". It's already defined, and it's not clear that your definition agrees quantitatively with the existing one.
  5. Aug 31, 2016 #4
    Let me try that again.
    I'm assuming that electrons are predisposed to moving across an electric potential, i.e. there is a voltage. I want to describe to myself the movement of those electrons as they move. Can I say that we harness the energy they possess as they move? Can I say we use that energy to make things move, glow, heat up? Can I say, the movement of the electrons has benefited us?
  6. Aug 31, 2016 #5
    How would you define work? Please try avoid using mathematical formulas as we'll only end up going round in circles. I appreciate your consideration and help.
  7. Aug 31, 2016 #6


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    Wrong forum.
  8. Aug 31, 2016 #7
    Sorry and thanks for moving it.
  9. Aug 31, 2016 #8


    Staff: Mentor

    The movement of electrons through a conductor is called an electric current., and is defined as the time rate of change of charge, another term that is well-defined.

    Of course we can harness this entergy, in the ways you have listed below and a lot more, such as in computers, radar, and on and on.
    I can't tell if this is a serious question...
  10. Aug 31, 2016 #9


    Staff: Mentor

  11. Aug 31, 2016 #10
    Maybe you overlooked the line in my original post, "I'm trying to learn about electricity". So, yes, this is a perfectly valid question if you're wading through the thickets of terminology as I am. I do appreciate your help. Thanks.
  12. Aug 31, 2016 #11
  13. Aug 31, 2016 #12


    Staff: Mentor

    No, I didn't overlook that line, but I thought it would be obvious to the most casual observer that we harness the energy of moving electrons. Since you are a teacher, as you stated in another thread, I assumed that you would have at least an inkling of how electricity works.
  14. Aug 31, 2016 #13


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    Because the water can be lifted up in 2 seconds, or 2 hours, and the work done, by definition, is the same. The power, which is time rate of work done, is different. But the work done is the same.

    You really ought to learn the physics first before attempting to make some sort of conceptual understanding of this. Otherwise, you're making up your own erroneous ideas as you go along. Is this what you want to do?

  15. Aug 31, 2016 #14


    Staff: Mentor

    Not for work, but time is involved in the definition of power. In other words, the same amount work is done if you lift 50 gal. of water 25 feet, whether it takes you a minute or 8 hours.
  16. Aug 31, 2016 #15
    Ah yes, Mark, I am a teacher. However, I am not a teacher of Math, or Physics, or Chemistry. I am a teacher of English language/literature and basic arithmetic.I'm currently studying, purely for pleasure, AP Physics and Chemistry, mainly using Khan Academy. Struggling a bit, but loving it. "Just keep swimming".
    Love the PF already. Bought a great book on logic yesterday as a result of another thread on PF. Thanks for your patience and understanding.
  17. Aug 31, 2016 #16
    • Poster has been reminded to be civil in posts here on the PF.
    I'm really sorry to have upset you. You see, it's been a really busy morning here at CERN. Thanks for taking the time to share your brilliance. Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to get back to fixing the flux capacitor.
  18. Aug 31, 2016 #17


    Staff: Mentor

    I'm sure you didn't upset Zapper, but you really should take his recommendation to heart. Without an understanding of the definitions of the basic terms, such as work and power, trying to come up with a conceptual understanding of things is an exercise in futility.

    In any case, we know you aren't working at CERN -- if you were, you wouldn't be asking the questions you're asking. And snide comments are not welcome here.

    I should add this: Before starting a thread like this one, "What is work," show us that you have done a bit of research, such as looking up the definition of this term.
  19. Aug 31, 2016 #18
    You used this fiction line about CERN before, haven't you? :smile:
  20. Aug 31, 2016 #19
    "You're making up your own erroneous ideas as you go along. Is this what you want to do"? Now, is that really helpful as a remark?
  21. Aug 31, 2016 #20
    It looks more like a question.
    But I am not an English teacher. :smile:
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