What is energy?


In physics, energy (Ancient Greek: ἐνέργεια energeia "activity, operation") is an indirectly observed quantity that is often understood as the ability of a physical system to do work on other physical systems. However, this must be understood as an overly simplified definition, as the laws of thermodynamics demonstrate that not all energy can perform work. Depending on the boundaries of the physical system in question, energy as understood in the above definition may sometimes be better described by concepts such as exergy, emergy and thermodynamic free energy. Therefore, in the words of Richard Feynman, "It is important to realize that in physics today, we have no knowledge what energy is. We do not have a picture that energy comes in little blobs of a definite amount." However, it is clear that energy is always an indispensable prerequisite for performing work, and the concept has great importance in natural science.

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Famous quotes containing the word energy:

    Long before Einstein told us that matter is energy, Machiavelli and Hobbes and other modern political philosophers defined man as a lump of matter whose most politically relevant attribute is a form of energy called “self-interestedness.” This was not a portrait of man “warts and all.” It was all wart.
    George F. Will (b. 1941)

    Since the beginning of time, three-quarters of the mental energy and of the lies inspired by vanity have been expended for their inferiors by people who are only abased by such expenditure. And Swann, who was easygoing and unaffected with a duchess, trembled at the thought of being scorned and put on airs when he was with a housemaid.
    Marcel Proust (1871–1922)

    Just as we are learning to value and conserve the air we breathe, the water we drink, the energy we use, we must learn to value and conserve our capacity for nurture. Otherwise, in the name of human potential we will slowly but surely erode the source of our humanity.
    Elaine Heffner (20th century)