There is no such 'thing' as energy.

Discussion in 'General Philosophy' started by ColinT, May 29, 2018.

  1. ColinT Registered Member

    "There is no such thing as matter. Everything is energy." Statements such as this are found in most modern physics textbooks; but is energy a 'thing'?

    The material objects around us are manifest realities that have mass; but what do we mean by 'mass'? In general, it means that all objects near the Earth's surface possess weight, and also that they possess inertia. Mass is commonly defined as 'the amount of matter in a body', more accurately as 'the property of matter that measures its resistance to acceleration'. We can say that 'mass' is the quantification of matter that finds manifestation in weight and inertia. Both of these are observables: they can be detected, sensed, and measured; that is, quantified. They are qualities or properties of material objects that can be given a value on a scale of measurement.

    Similar statements are true of motion. Generally speaking, all objects around us are either stationary or in motion relative to us, as determined by observation. Motion is also a manifest reality that can be quantified. If we know the mass and motion of an object, we can make statements and deductions about it. A tennis ball rolling along level ground will slow down and stop, whereas on a slope it will continue to move. In either case, appropriate measurements allow us to calculate the ball's motion to any desired degree of accuracy using well-established mathematical statements, and to calculate much else besides: velocity, acceleration, force of impact and so on. These properties can be called parameters of the object from the Greek para meaning beside and metron meaning measure.

    Thus matter demonstrates mass, whilst radiation demonstrates motion; yet matter can also move, and radiation has an effective mass: both are fundamental components of Physical Reality.

    A most useful parameter of a material object is its momentum: the product of mass and velocity: p = mv. Although derived from mass and motion, momentum is not an observable, but a concept: a calculated parameter. Neither is it a manifest reality as are mass and motion. If an object's momentum changes, it is NOT the case that momentum has been added to or subtracted from it: rather has its mass or its motion changed, and the calculated value of its momentum changes accordingly.

    A similar parameter is kinetic energy. This, too, is a concept: a mathematical term naming the product of mass and the square of velocity: E = 1/2mv^2. What applies to momentum applies equally to kinetic energy, and to energy in general. It is a calculated quantity, neither an observable, nor a manifest reality. Energy cannot be added to or taken from an object; rather does it change in accord with mass, motion, position and composition. All calculation of energy requires the inclusion of a value for mass. If mass is unknown, energy cannot be calculated.

    Recall now the first statement of this post, "There is no such thing as matter. Everything is energy." To claim that matter and radiation are both energy is to replace manifest realities with a mathematical parameter, and this surely is absurd.

    It is true that all substance - sc. matter - is ultimately vibration, a contained, stationary resonance rather than the propagating vibrations of radiation; but vibration is not energy, even though it can be assigned an energetic value. In the case of electromagnetism, Planck's constant substitutes for the mechanical aspects of mass and motion: E = hf.

    In spite of the foregoing, energy has proved to be one of the most valuable concepts in modern science, which is undoubtedly why it has been reified: that is, turned into a 'thing'. For more than a century, scientists have treated it as an actual physical reality instead of as a useful concept. What is needed is a new conceptual understanding of mass and motion, rather than the claim that both are composed of concepts.

    For more see:
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  3. exchemist Valued Senior Member

    So let me get this straight. You say we need to replace the claim that mass and motion are composed of concepts with.....a new, er, concept.

    How exactly do you think this moves things forward?
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  5. origin In a democracy you deserve the leaders you elect. Valued Senior Member

    Your concept of what is 'observable' or a 'manifest reality' seems arbitrary to me. Clearly kinetic energy is observable. If I stand 3 meters from you and toss a baseball underhand into your chest and then wind up and throw the the ball as hard as I can into your chest, you would have no trouble identifying which case had the higher ke.
    Are you saying observation is only about sight? But that can't be right because you can't see mass and you claim that is 'observable' or a 'manifest reality'.
    Are you saying that 'observable' or a 'manifest reality' is a noncalculated quantity? But that can't be right either because motion is a calculated quantity (distance/time).

    Could you give a clearer definition of what you think 'observable' or a 'manifest reality' is?
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  7. arfa brane call me arf Valued Senior Member

    Whatever energy is--an explanation, a concept, a real physical thing (in which case it can be measured)--we know it's quantized. We know mass is something fundamental particles "have", so they also have an intrinsic energy, it's called rest energy (equivalent to rest mass). Particles are said to have a relativistic energy, too.

    On the other hand, can energy be measured? Is energy just some kind of information we "make up" about physical interactions? Which is to say, we encode this energy stuff whatever it really is, because we can't do more than that?

    Mathematically speaking we write down some real numbers and label them with physical units. But measurements are all necessarily spatial displacements of something physical, and so all measurements are necessarily of time and space. We simply can't measure anything more than that, the kilogram is something we made up to explain certain measurements.
    Last edited: May 29, 2018
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  8. Michael 345 New year. PRESENT is 70 years old Valued Senior Member

    Energy - the ability to perform work

    In physics, energy is the quantitative property that must be transferred to an object in order to perform work on, or to heat, the object

    Work - the ability to alter matter by the application of energy

    Work transfers energy from one place to another, or one form to another

    The SI unit of work is the joule (J)

    Since energy can be used and measured it exist

    Perhaps ColinT is being Humpty Dumpty????

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  9. NotEinstein Valued Senior Member

    Can you name any of these textbooks? Because that statement is obviously not what mainstream science says about the matter. (pun intended!)
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  10. arfa brane call me arf Valued Senior Member

    I'm curious, do you know of anything, any kind of measuring device, that measures work or energy? I know you can 'track' the use of energy (it's why I get a power bill from the electric company, but I also know they don't charge me for kW of energy, but kWh); how do we measure it?
  11. Michael 345 New year. PRESENT is 70 years old Valued Senior Member

    Because energy is defined via work, the SI unit for energy is the same as the unit of work – the joule (J), named in honor of James Prescott Joule and his experiments on the mechanical equivalent of heat. In slightly more fundamental terms, 1 joule is equal to 1 newton metre and, in terms of SI base units

    You can measure kinetic energy (energy of motion) with a thermometer. Measuring potential (stored) energy can be a difficult task.

    My highlight of thermometer

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    Last edited: May 31, 2018
  12. arfa brane call me arf Valued Senior Member

    Surely not? Are you saying degrees of temperature correspond to kinetic energy? What about pressure, is that also a measurement of kinetic energy?

    I think it's more likely that energy has to be associated with something else, and then it's possible to claim energy is being measured, although it has to be an indirect measurement. Temperature is defined as average energy per particle. Voltage is the average energy per Coulomb of charge, etc. Energy by itself can't be measured, it just doesn't make any physical sense.
  13. Michael 345 New year. PRESENT is 70 years old Valued Senior Member

    You appear to be playing at being Humpty Dumpty

    Please read link

    Explains your - What about pressure, is that also a measurement of kinetic energy? - much better than i can

    If you have a problem with the link explanation please take it up with them

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  14. RainbowSingularity Valued Senior Member

    fusion.(how suns are formed and how they work)
    is gravity required ? yes ?
    so the gravity must contain a certain amount of energy for it to then produce energy outward...
    balancing its self while also maintaining gravitational pull while also expelling energy/radiation/photons/mass...
  15. James R Just this guy, you know? Staff Member

    I generally follow what Richard Feynman had to say on the topic of energy. He pointed out that it is, essentially, just an accounting system. Add up some numbers at the start of a physical process. Add numbers up at the end. If you're using the right kinds of numbers (energy numbers) then the numbers at the start and end will be the same.

    I agree that energy is commonly reified. It's very easy to slip into thinking of it as a kind of substance that can be transferred from one thing to another. This can actually lead to mistakes in thinking. A common one that I regularly come across, even in textbooks, is treating the potential energy of a system like the energy is associated with only one of the objects in the system. For example, if you hold a mass at height h above the ground, it's technically wrong to say "The mass has gravitational potential energy mgh." More correctly, the mass/Earth system has an associated potential energy of mgh. Where is that energy located? Nowhere. You can't localise it to the mass, or to the Earth.
  16. exchemist Valued Senior Member

    I don't think it is just Humpty Dumpty. I too struggle to think of a means of measuring energy directly. You can calculate the mean kinetic energy of molecules from a measurement of either pressure or temperature. You can calculate the electrical potential energy in a charged capacitor, from measuring the charged voltage and the coulombs of charge that have passed into it while charging it up. But I think he has a point that all these are indirect measures at best. Even a wattmeter measures not energy but power.

    I'm with James in treating energy as a property of a physical system, not a "substance". It is meaningless to talk, as scifi stories so often do, of "pure energy". Energy is always the energy of something, even if that something is just an electromagnetic wave.

    (But I confess I do not know what the hypothesised - but yet to be demonstrated - "dark energy" is the energy of. It must be the energy of some system too, but I have never read what system that might be.

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  17. Michael 345 New year. PRESENT is 70 years old Valued Senior Member


    But the The SI unit of energy is the joule

    Measurements of energy are defined as how many joules you need to transfer, via work performed, into another form

    Generally realistically there not 100% transfer. Friction converts some of the energy into heat

    Following heat conversation, again realistically, heat runs down warming cooler matter up. Part of the death of the Universe is thought to be when everything is the same temperature and nothing is left to convert to heat and no further work can occur

    My personal view is expansion of what matter is left will continue (inertia with nothing to slow the remaining matter down - distance between remaining matter makes gravity ineffective) due to matter being so rarefied no other interaction can take place

    Further the more and more rarefied matter becomes even the force (energy) holding atoms together will fail

    How energy will survive?

    My answer

    ???????????????? No idea

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    Last edited: Jun 2, 2018
  18. exchemist Valued Senior Member

    All of this is uncontentious, and illustrates what a useful concept energy is, but I'm not sure what issue in this thread it illuminates.
  19. Michael 345 New year. PRESENT is 70 years old Valued Senior Member

    Energy exist and can be measured

    Not like supernatural non existent ghost spirits, life force etc etc etc

    So there such a thing as ENERGY

    Answer:- resounding YES

    No energy, no atoms, no matter, no mass, no work

    CollinT might think about removing energy from the Universe and consider what remains?

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  20. C C Consular Corps - "the backbone of diplomacy" Valued Senior Member

    As far as the latter paragraph goes: Technical nomenclature is mutable and open to adjustments -- whether or not members of a profession desire, need, want to make such or conceive their affairs differently is for the future to settle.

    As for the former issue: By their very nature or meaning, general ideas and measurements have had any original empirical content they were derived from stripped away. Abstract placeholders become more functionally "real" when they're applied (something concrete / specific is finally plugged into them for practical use). The rest of the time when they're symbolic expressions resting on paper or in Plato-land (merely "taught"), then of course they seem vulnerable to the disparagement of nominalism. A very young and unusually skeptical child might deem "justice" to be impotent concept or generalized fiction until sensorially exposed to palpable law, court, penal edifices and human activities.

    "Real" in other contexts than immediate, public, phenomenal objects is a rather fickle, haughty, despotic, stepchild of metaphysics and ivory tower of a basket to placing one's eggs in to begin with. One should perhaps get hung-up on reliability, regularities, coherence, "what outruns personal control and wishes", revisable consensus of society or of experts / establishment, and other practical furniture instead.

  21. exchemist Valued Senior Member

    I'm not sure that you are being wholly consistent. You said in post 14 you agreed energy was a property of a physical system. How then can it be a "thing"? Is the colour "green" a thing? Surely it is a qualifier, describing one of the attributes of the "thing" that is green: a leaf, or a beam of light.

    I recall in data analysis it used to be common to distinguish between "entities" and "attributes". I believe James and I are saying energy is an attribute, not an entity.

    I agree energy can always be ascribed to any physical system, if we have sufficient information about it. So it seems to me energy "exists" only in the sense that colour "exists". Is that fair?
  22. Michael 345 New year. PRESENT is 70 years old Valued Senior Member

    I guess my interpretation of "energy being a property" of a physical system is

    The system contains energy, which we measure, during the performance of work or it takes X amount of energy to produce Z amount of work

    Again in contrast to Woo Woo - ghost - spirits etc etc etc which have no measurement and no affect on the physical world

    Energy exist and again currently (maybe always) is expanding becoming more "dilute"

    How it became concentrated, as has been thought, just prior to the Big Bang???

    No idea

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    PS - green is a brain interpretation of a wavelength. While the wavelength exist the interpretation is subjective and as such non existent
  23. exchemist Valued Senior Member

    Well, yes and no. As Arfa says, you don't in fact measure energy. You measure other properties, from which you deduce the value of this very useful conceptual quantity we call energy.

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