Saturday, February 26, 2011

Think About This: Energy

In undergrad I had a very interesting professor for Thermodynamics. He used to ask frequently "What is energy?" To which he would then ponder "Is it green? Is it goopy? What does it look like?" Of course all of us would look around and shrug our shoulders. We were just budding physicists. No one had ever question us what energy truly was. He then told us to relax and explained "I don't know. In fact, no one does." And then he would begin the lesson on temperature flow and thermodynamics.

Last week I had lunch with a friend of mine, John and he asked the same question. I told him the story above and we both wondered what pure energy looks like. Of course, energy has many forms. It exists as heat, as light, as mass, but I wonder if there is a basic fundamental form of energy. One that perhaps can only exist under the right conditions, like the beginning or end of the universe. 

Energy is typically used to explain that there is something needed for one object or system to do something to another object or system. But what is energy really? What does it mean to have energy? And what does it look like? Those are the things that I want you to think about today.

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