A few decades ago, Richard Feynman, a well respected physicist, described energy as a calculated number that did not change after nature had done her tricks. Energy, he said, did not describe a mechanism, was not anything concrete and did not provide a reason for the various formulae used. He concluded by saying that physics had no knowledge of the reality of energy.
His remarks annoy many current physicists who tell us energy is well understood, that they know how to measure it, how to calculate it and know that when they use their formulae in a closed system with no or little external influences and make changes within that system the total they calculate will not change. However that total will not be the same for other observers.
A simple definition of energy says it is “the capacity to do work”. The public regard it as stuff that delivers action. But scientists cannot regard it as the stuff of reality when its total is observer dependent and so they say it is a property of stuff. They further say that energy has no simple definition because it has so many different forms and equations that describe changes between those forms.
I see energy as the stuff of our universe and as being conserved. I see the scientific treatment of it as a mathematical construct. I consequently think Feynman was right to say what he did.
There is no kinetic energy of motion
In my blog Life is in Everything I described how history assigned energy it later called kinetic energy to motion. It did so before it knew about particulate mass and about photons and their interactions with atomic particles and the structures they form. As I explained in that blog there is no “on board” motion energy store. Kinetic energy is the interacting photon space energy that results in object and particle mass energies changing speed.
Remove all thoughts of kinetic energy as a motion energy store and we remove the nonsense that says an object on a bus seen by someone on the bus has no kinetic motion energy store yet has one when seen by someone in an overtaking car or on the pavement. Truth is an object at steady speed has energy near identical to that it has at rest.
Calculations of kinetic energy and of momentum are only meaningful when objects are interacting with one another. Objects actually decide to move away from other engaging objects because they don’t want their energies adding to. When we accelerate a hand upward a ball in the hand similarly accelerates upward because the ball particles don’t want their established energy arrangement distorted by the interacting hand energies.
Living and non living structures
The cell based structures of living things are fundamentally of neutron, proton and electron particles that take up less than 0.00001% of the space their structures occupy. They evolved over a few billion years and are thought to have originally come from chemical molecules. The desires that caused such evolutionary change must surely reside in atomic particles for what else is there and that being so, desires must reside in what we regard as non living particle structures.
Stuff on earth we regard as dead and inanimate is proactively processing photons from the sun and from their surround and emitting photons into space that register with our senses as the shapes, colours and textures that identify them.
Particles and particle structures undoubtedly respond to their environment but the question is do they do so because they are forced to or because they want to? I say it is the latter; every structure in our universe exists to serve the proactive desires that reside within its particle constituents. Actions are the result of local internal particle desires; they are not the work of light speed force carrying particles or of force fields.
What we regard as non living solid, liquid and gaseous structures are all the result of particle desires. All of the structures in this scene have desires resident in their particles.
We are wrong to think of particles as being pulled and pushed around. We should instead think of them as living, proactive entities.
So what is energy?
The standard particle model recognises matter particles and force carrying particles. The former it sees as having mass, charge and energy, the latter as massless yet having momentum and energy. The former can become the latter and the latter can become the former, yet, as I have explained above the force carrying particles do not carry forces
Universal stuff is useless without the desire resident in it. Such desire is different for different particles and for the different structures they cooperate in. Desire is the cause of actions that involve the changing of or moving of stuff and its “in built” desire.
Energy is any combination of the stuff of our universe and the desire that resides in it. The stuff is what is conserved. It’s never created or destroyed just moving or changing its form to better satisfy its desires. Many formulae describe change because the desire that drives it varies with energy’s composition and with the energy conditions in its local environment.
I know not why energy structures desire the energy of their surround. I can only suggest that they want surround information for some purpose. But by recognising the living nature of stuff we could provide better explanations to students and deliver an energy view closer to that of the public.