5. Energy – potential & kinetic

In my earlier blogs I have tried to persuade you that everything in this universe of ours is either space or energy. The concept of energy took a leap forward in science a few hundred years ago when scientists were trying to explain the association between a body’s loss of speed and its friction heat release. The heat released was found to be proportional to the mass of the object and to its lost velocity squared. It gave rise to the idea that a body in motion has an energy store that it gives up as the body slows down.

I think my first learning about energy was at school about 65 years ago when I learnt of potential and kinetic energy and how they could be equated.  It seemed the energy of an object was either related to its height above the ground, and called potential energy, or related to its speed of motion and called kinetic energy. My calculations of equating the two were good but my understanding poor.  

When helping my granddaughter prepare for GCSE I found her course book saying “anything moving has energy in its kinetic energy store” and describing a gravitational potential energy store as “anything that has mass and is in a gravitational field”.  I then found a Faraday Lecturer and numerous science articles all saying much the same thing. As I had at this stage been giving a little thought to the nature of energy I asked of myself the question:-

Is science right in its thinking that structures have energy stores related to their speed of motion and to their height in a gravity field?

Does it make sense that a book on the top shelf (or at top shelf level) has more energy than the same book when on a bottom shelf? When we are running do we really believe our body cells and their particles have some energy store that they don’t have when we are stood still? Truth is objects don’t have either a potential energy store or a motion energy store. Our calculations may work but our energy model is badly wrong.

The energy thrusts between a car engine’s pistons and its cylinder head are delivered by the burning of fuel in its cylinders. Every bit of the energy released from the fuel is accounted for as in the diagram. The part of the fuel energy that propels the car forward warms the air as the car engages with it and warms the road as the tyres engage with it. Nowhere on our diagram do we see a car motion or kinetic energy store. If we want to slow the car rapidly we provide an energy interaction (the brakes) to reduce the car’s speed.

Kinetic energy is the interacting energy that delivers relative motion or removes relative motion. It is not a motion energy store.

At school we learn to calculate kinetic energy using 1/2 mv2. On the right I show how that is derived and you will see it is the energy to steadily accelerate an object of mass m from rest up to a speed of v. The maths confirms what I have typed in bold above – that kinetic energy is the energy that accelerates or decelerates an object, not an energy store.

An object thrust upward from the earth gains in motion relative to the earth. Some of the photon thrust energy may add to the agitation of the object particles and increase its internal photon thermal energy but that will soon be released to its surround; in no way is it motion energy. The speeding object’s particles are still looking to absorb energy from their surround and are aware of and desire the photon energies emitted by earth’s particles. That desire is the gravity attraction that acts to decelerate the object. Consequently the height an object reaches above the earth is related to the energy that set its particle structure in motion and the strength of its particle desires for earth energy. It is why we are able to equate the supposed potential energy of object height to the supposed energy of motion.

If a car hits a tree at 5 miles per hour the interacting energy that brings it to a halt in the earth environment is related to 5 squared = 25. If our 5 m.p.h. car collides head on with a 95 m.p.h. train the energy that brings it to a halt in the train environment is related to 100 squared = 10,000. The car doesn’t suddenly have a kinetic energy store 400 times as big because it is encountering the train.

A thermometer placed in a gas is said to measure the average kinetic energy of its molecules. Yes there is added energy within the molecules of a gas. It is a part of the very nature of being a gas. But it isn’t energy on account of the molecular motions as the thermometer is not measuring energy within the gas molecules because it is not able to enter into a molecule. The thermometer is responding to the interacting energies between the molecules which are again a part of the energy accommodating state of matter that is a gas.

The theory of relativity and the energies of particles as calculated in the Large Hadron Collider experiments view kinetic energy as a motion energy store but are wrong to do so. The associated mathematics works but the concept is wrong and leads to differences of opinions on what mass is as I will try to explain.

The energy output from particles in high speed collisions as applied to the 1/2 mv2 calculation had particle velocities in excess of the speed of light which could not be. The 1/2mv2 was just a good approximation for energies with object speeds less than half light speed.

Kinetic energy became ( ϒ -1) mc2 with ϒ, the Lorenz factor = 1/ sq rt (1- v2/c2) and rising toward infinity as relative particle speed v approach that of light speed c. Such massive particle energy increases begged the question where is all this energy stored and two schools of thought arose. One decided energy and mass as determined by E = mc2 were only the same thing for bodies at rest. It meant photons with no mass and additional energies were on account of speed and not part of mass. The second school of thought was that energy and mass are always the same and that total energy E = ϒ mc2 (rest energy + kinetic energy). It meant particles with a mass that varied with speed (relativistic mass) equal to ϒm and assigned mass to photons.

My view is that there is no motion energy. Mass is variable but always equal to energy because structures are made up of particle mass energies and their photon exchange mass energies. We can only measure this supposed motion energy store when the structure in motion interacts with some other structure. What we measure are the interaction energies and we wrongly assign it to a supposed gained motion energy store. What we are seeing is the living mass energies of the particles in approaching structures all using their “on board” energies in a directional way to more normalise their relative motions. Kinetic energies are not energies of motion; they are the photon energies that act between structure energies to bring about motion changes and most dissipate into space.

It makes sense that we can never push objects to light speed relative to a pushing source because the push of that source is light speed photons. It does not make sense that the energy of an object changes according to its speed relative to an observer. A pushed object may take on added mass due to the push but it does not have a motion energy store.

I hope I have convinced you there is no kinetic energy of motion store and that we should stop teaching children that there is. I wonder if there are any scientists who will accept that this is a serious flaw in science thinking. Would it not be simpler to view high speed structures in near unhindered motion as having the same total energy as in what we regard as a rest state but which in universal terms isn’t.

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