When any form of energy is converted into another form, what exactly is happening?
Energy can only be converted.
This is a famous statement that every student learns about in his/her life. It goes as follows: Energy can neither be created nor destroyed. It can only be converted from one form into another.
Then we learn about many examples. Most used examples are those of kinetic energy of some object converting into sound energy. The potential energy of a raised ball converting into kinetic energy when we release the ball. The kinetic energy of ball converting into heat and sound energy when it strikes the ground or wall. The potential energy of water in a dam converting into electrical energy that you and I use for powering our computers and mobile phones and other devices. Electrical energy into mechanical energy of a ceiling fan. Light energy of the sun converting into chemical energy in plants. Chemical energy in plants or wood converting into heat energy when burnt.
We are not talking about conversion of mass into energy here. That is a whole different concept that deserves its own deep study. Thank Einstein for that. We are just considering regular one form of energy changing into another form. Whether humans change it or if it happens naturally, doesn’t matter.
What is happening when one form of energy changes into another?
Can you visualise what is happening when energy is converted? That is what we are wondering. Visualising correctly about something helps us understand it more.
If you go down to atomic scale and are looking at an atom, can you pinpoint exactly what happens when one form of energy of that atom like kinetic energy converts into another form like heat? Or is it something else? Is it just an abstract human concept that we devised in our quest to understand our universe or is there something that is real energy?
Imagine a stone sitting on the ground. The stone is not moving respect to you and thus you can say that it doesn’t have any kinetic energy. But for someone in space in the International Space Station, the earth is moving and rotating. So the stone is definitely moving and has some speed with respect to the astronaut. Hence, from the astronaut’s perspective, the stone has some kinetic energy. So who is right? Does the stone have the kinetic energy or not? Or is it something else?
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