Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Kinetics Wasted

All of life is about the capture and utilization of energy.  We are beings of energy. 

Einstein formulated that mass and energy are equivalent.  More specifically, that Energy = mass x the square of the speed of light in a vacuum.  It is the formula that depicts the conversion of matter into energy.

From this concept we can deduce as we look at our surroundings that everything we can see, touch or otherwise experience with our senses is captured energy or is energy in transition.  This makes sense when we think about what makes up matter.  Those my age were taught that the atom is the smallest unit of matter.  We have since learned that there are many particles much smaller than the atom.  Many, if not all of them exhibit some state of motion.  However, they have been captured and bound together to form a higher unit of matter which we call the atom.  Atoms form molecules which then bind with other molecules to create substances that we can experience through our senses.

Kinetic energy is the energy of motion.  It is energy that must be expended in order to accelerate or decelerate an object.

When we think about our daily activities and how they relate to energy we soon realize that everything we do is focused on the capture and use of energy.  Perhaps an example would be the easiest way to explain this idea.  Let's consider a cattle rancher.

A rancher grows grass which is essentially an organic machine for capturing the energy from sunlight.  Since grass is something that isn't desirable in itself for human consumption, it must be converted to a different form of captured energy.  This is done by another organic machine called a cow which consumes the grass and converts it to meat.  She also replicates herself in the form of a calf which she raises.  The calf is then grown to a sufficient size for consumption by humans or to replace aging machines (cows) for converting grass to meat.  The energy of the sun was captured by the rancher in the form of grass and then converted to a form that humans like to consume -- beef.

The rancher derives benefit from capturing and converting the sun's energy to a utilizable form.  He stores that benefit in the form of money which he uses for additional resources for expanding his operation or he saves it in the bank or perhaps spends it on items for his own enjoyment.  He also hires workers who use their paycheck to purchase items that they desire.  The demand for those items creates more jobs and results in what we call an economy.

Similar examples can be made from other industries.  Petroleum is captured energy.  Wind turbines are machines for capturing energy.

The more efficiently we capture and convert energy, the greater the benefit that is derived from the process.  That is why the emphasis on efficiency of processes in any type of work is essential.  Work is another term from physics.  It is the expenditure of energy required to move an object.  Once it is moving at a particular velocity, the amount of energy expended by the work required to accelerate it to that specific velocity is called the kinetic energy -- or the energy of its motion.

At this point you should recognize that all I have written is merely a layman's understanding of some basic physical principles related to energy.  I am certain that there are mistakes based on my misperceptions of some of the concepts.  But, I'm not particularly concerned about it because very few will even read this brief post.  Perhaps that is the ultimate example of what the title of this piece describes -- wasted motion.  No, it didn't take a lot of energy or time to write this, but, I suspect the message will go unnoticed.

So much for the letter "K."  Tomorrow we will see what develops for "L."


No comments: