Reality Blind - Vol. 1

We can measure energy exactly and have derived the rules by which it propagates, changes form, and moves matter around on scales from the microscopic to the near infinite. We’re pretty good at describing what it does and how it acts, and indeed have built an impressive civilization around that knowledge. Yet as you’ll come to see, we make some big conceptual mistakes when we get beyond the mere basics. “Energy” is, thus, just our way of describing a fundamental quality of the universe, like time or gravity, which is so much unlike anything else, that it can’t be usefully described by metaphor. Like time and gravity, we can measure and predict its large- and small-scale effects exactly in relation to other systems, and we can construct narratives describing it. For instance: Energy is the ability of one system to change another system. Energy is the ability to move matter around. Energy is the ability to do work, etc. That “ability” is the thing. But not all energy is equal in that regard. There is the same amount of “energy” in a gallon of gasoline as there is in the combustion products plus heat aft er it has burned, but the ability to “do stuff” with that energy has irreversibly deteriorated. It’s “ability to do work” has leaked away, despite all the energy still being there in the altered system. What we call “concentrated potential energy” is a lot more useful than diffuse thermal energy, which is “kinetic.” So just like time, gravity, the universe’s dimensionality, etc., we won’t be defining the nature of energy for the simple reason that we don’t precisely know what it is - just a lot about how it works in the situations relevant to us. And that story is incredibly important to your/our futures. TaaL: It’s beyond my purview in this book to offer any non -human energy insights, though I’ll note that (a) everything my race does technologically is based on a biophysical understanding on par with that of most human scientists, and (b) you already know more than enough about energy to make prudent energy decisions; you just aren’t doing that yet. Then again, never before has all the information contained in Reality101 been considered simultaneously by large groups of humans, so perhaps emergent results will emerge and result. Thinking about energy is always interesting. You’ve heard that E=mc 2 , the equivalence relation between matter and energy, which for SOME esoteric reason is based on the speed of light squared, whatever THAT means in the physical world. But you have no real notion of what it means that matter and energy are apparently different forms of the same stuff (if they even are), or that most of the mass of your own bodies is due to the binding energy holding your subatomic particles together, with pretty much no


Powered by