What is Energy?

Blog 20110223 Bill Howell and Glenn Borchardt

Hello again Dr. Borchardt-

When I read your TTAOS and TSW books I was able to quickly comprehend and accept all but one of the 10 Assumptions.  This ease of understanding wasn’t because they were consupponible (a word I’d never heard before and which still doesn’t appear in Wikipedia’s or Merriam-Webster’s online dictionaries by the way :-), but because they were not inconsistent with my own thinking and experience.  The one Assumption that caused me to contemplate was Assumption No. 4- Inseparability, which posits (from Hegel) that ‘Just as there is no motion without matter, so there is no matter without motion’.  I’ve finally worked thru what was puzzling me about this Assumption and it stemmed from my associating motion with energy. 

As you write in TSW (beginning on page 53), this association has been confused and confounded for quite some time because matter has been viewed (and defined by Einstein) as equivalent to energy.  I think your argument is epitomized by your statements- ‘Running is what legs do; motion is what matter does’; and, ‘Legs are not motion and running is not matter’.  After cogitating on this, I realized that while your Assumption is correct, and even complete with respect to matter, it seems implicitly incomplete because it doesn’t address what ‘energy’ is.  I do understand that the Assumption of Inseparability is not dealing with what energy is, but it seems (to me) that it either needs to, or that you need to add another assumption to the list.  Energy is something.  It’s a force or field (or some other word you prefer), but it is something- it’s what the motion of matter is conveying- it’s what makes the matter move and propagate.  Let me try to clarify what I mean.

I can’t find the reference but I seem to recall you once writing in a blog that the term ‘energy’ could be substituted with the phrase ‘matter in motion’.  Assuming this is a correct reflection of your views, then how do you explain the phenomenon revealed by Cymatics?  If you’re not familiar with it, a short but good example is at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Uu6Ox5LrhJg&feature=related.  Yes, the sound waves are moving the particles, but I’m talking about the patterns that the particles reveal at different frequencies.  These patterns appear to be an emergent property of ‘energy’ and not simply of matter in motion.  To me, these patterns seem like 2-D analogues of electron orbitals.  Perhaps I’m still being confused by the paradigm of associating motion with energy.  If so, I hope you can show me how (as you have so many other times).  Thanks.


Thanks again for the question.  It all comes down to what is “energy”?  You seem to agree with inseparability (Just as there is no motion without matter, so there is no matter without motion), which is only common sense.  It implies, however, that the universe presents us with only two basic phenomena: matter and the motion of matter.  “Energy” is one of the many matter-motion terms we use in physics to describe matter in motion.  Each of these terms is the result of a calculation in which we multiply a measurement for matter times a measurement for motion.  The most common matter-motion terms are: momentum (P=mv), force (F=ma), and energy (E=mc2).  None of these is either matter or motion.  That is what is so difficult for people to comprehend.  They tend to think of energy as matter in one instance and as motion in another.  BTW: If I ever wrote that energy is matter in motion or that energy is the motion of matter, please tell me where it was so I can correct it in future editions.

The indeterministic claim that matter and energy are the same didn’t help anything (see my recent paper on “The Physical Meaning of E=mc2”:   http://scientificphilosophy.com/Downloads/The%20Physical%20Meaning%20of%20E%20=%20mc2.pdf  ).  I have often said that a “modern physicist” is one who does not know what “time” is.  Now I can add that a “modern physicist” is one who does not know what “energy” is.  That is because these terms are part of the eternal philosophical struggle between determinism and indeterminism.  Ever since the invention of the concept of energy, it seems that indeterminism has been winning.  Nonetheless, matter exists; motions occur.  Matter has xyz dimensions and location with respect to other matter.  So, legs exist and running occurs.  I can put matter in my back pocket, put I cannot do so with motion.  Energy neither exists nor occurs.  We often say that we are “saving energy,” as if it were a thing that we could stockpile.  We can save fossil fuels, but not the energy inside them.  If energy exists inside them, could you please take some energy out and give it to me for future use?  We often say that fast dancers are more energetic than slow dancers, as if energy and motion were equivalent.  These common uses add to the confusion involving matter-motion terms.  We have used them so much as shorthand terms that we have forgotten that they are mere calculations, neither things, nor motions.

I like your video demonstration of matter in motion.  It clearly shows how grains of salt can be pushed around by vibratory motion.  The patterns created depend on the frequency of the vibrations and the interactions produced by constructive and destructive interference.  In general, notice that the low frequency, long period waves produce larger patterns than the high frequency, short period waves.  The development of each of the patterns appears, at first, to be somewhat magical.  That may be why you thought about them as “an emergent property of ‘energy’ and not simply of matter in motion.” Of course that is all they are: matter (salt) and motion (vibrations). The patterns are emergent alright, but they are properties of matter, which you can see, rather than of “energy,” which you can only calculate. I imagine that mathematicians have already figured out the equations of motion for each of the patterns, although, like all motions they are infinitely complex.  This demo was especially interesting to me at this time, because I am currently writing a book with Steve Puetz on universal cycle theory (see http://www.worldsci.org/php/index.php?tab0=Abstracts&tab1=Display&id=5229&tab=2).  We will explain why so many motions occur as waves or cycles and how they contribute to infinite universe theory.


billkhowell said...

Thanks for pointing out that constructive & destructive wave interference can explain what’s seen in Cymatics. It’s such a simple and obvious explanation I’m thinking my confusion is an illustration of how one’s paradigm can limit one’s perceptions and conceptions. I grew up with the duality of matter and energy. You’re not just pointing out that energy, as defined by its units, is simply a semantic and mathematical construct, but that the entire concept of energy I’ve grown up with doesn’t even exist.

So now I have to ask some follow-up questions. What is the thing or phenomenon that I (and most people) call ‘energy’? Is it simply, and only, matter in motion? If so, would it be accurate to substitute the phrase ‘the motion of matter’ whenever I encounter the word ’energy’? I need some more help here in shifting my paradigm :-).

Glenn Borchardt said...

Bill, you are not alone. It takes much work to overcome what indeterminism has wrought (ask Steve Puetz). The answer is this:
Energy neither exists, nor occurs. It is neither matter, nor motion. Thus, it is incorrect to substitute the phrase “motion of matter” for the term “energy.” Energy is a calculation used to describe matter in motion. It is like the picture of a running dog. The picture is not a dog and the picture is not running. The misuse of the term “energy” began shortly after it was invented over a century ago. The popular and sloppy usage of energy is part of the determinism-indeterminism philosophical struggle. In UD, we normally use matter and motion to describe portions of the universe. Thus, the “conservation of energy” becomes the “conservation of matter and motion” in the Fifth Assumption of Science. The important point is to always think of matter (things) as xyz portions of the universe and events as the changes in the locations of those things with respect to other things in the universe. Much of the clarity of TSW involves this device, while much of the confusion of modern physics involves terms such as energy.

billkhowell said...

Thanks for the response. I understand what you are saying re: energy being a calculation, and your analogy that energy is like a picture. And if I understand correctly, then you are saying that I could substitute the phrase- “the calculation used to describe matter in motion” when I encounter the word ‘energy’. While this might clear up the confusion caused by the semantic definition of the word ‘energy’ (theoretically that it is, cuz realistically it would only confuse people more :-), it begs for you to create a new word that more accurately describes the concept or connotation of the word ‘energy’. More importantly, tho, it begs the question I’m asking. It doesn’t tell me what the phenomenon is that I (and others) have been using the word ‘energy to represent, it only redefines it. The connotation of the word ‘energy’ refers to that phenomenon (or force) which causes particles to create the patterns and interaction that we observe. Let me be more specific.

I’ll use the example of an explosion to see if I understand you correctly. I presume that you would state that the force of percussion from the explosion propagates thru the medium in the form of a wave that moves particles of matter (presumably in a circular motion like a water wave) which in turn interact with other particles such that, over time and distance, the waveform decreases/dampens due to the interaction between the particles (i.e. friction). In the case of light (and with the medium being aether), the friction that results from transferring this waveform thru the particles manifests itself in what we call red-shifting. In a sense, this process can be linked to the process you explained for Cymatics. I’m assuming you consider this at least a fairly correct depiction (and pls correct me if I’m wrong), so I’m not going to use that example.

Instead, let me use the example of a static field, specifically, a bar magnet. If iron filings are sprinkled around the magnet, the filings orient themselves into a pattern that appears to reveal what is called a field. This pattern has even been called a force-field of energy. There is (apparently) no percussion force involved, such as with Cymatics, to create constructive and destructive interference patterns, so what is your explanation for these patterns? A related question might be (I say ‘might’ cuz I’m not sure if really is related) that if one tries to put the same ‘poles’ of a magnet together, one can empirically feel the resistance, as if there is a ‘force-field’ involved. The word ‘energy’ has been attributed to this ‘force-field’ in describing it. What is your explanation for the resistance that is felt (and can be measured) in a static object like this? That explanation would be what I am looking for to replace my use of the word ‘energy’.

(Personally, I’m partial to thinking that iron filings might actually represent constructive and destructive interference patterns. I can’t extend that to the repulsive effect that’s observed, but maybe these two phenomenon are not related questions after all. I’m feeling a bit like Alice going down the rabbit hole. Things I hadn’t really questioned before are beginning to seem curiouser and curiouser :-).

Glenn Borchardt said...

Bill, energy is a perfectly good matter-motion word and the E=mc2 calculation is likewise perfectly good. Like other matter-motion terms, such as force (F=ma) it is a description or calculation of matter in motion. What you need to ask yourself is: What is the thing that is moving? In the infinite universe, the motion of each thing is a result of its having been hit by some other thing. Thus, when we use the word “energy,” we imply that motion was transferred from one thing to another (e.g., the falling water hits the mill wheel, transferring some of its motion to the wheel).

In Einstein’s relativity, the “field” you speak of is considered “immaterial.” That is, it contains nothing at all that would collide with the filings to cause the pattern observed. In UD, however, there are indeed trillions of unseen particles that provide the motions that produce the effect.
Again, indeterminists (or positivists) such as Einstein use “energy” to describe motions that appear to be magical and for which they have no matter to do the pushing. They are satisfied with the magic and dissatisfied with the obvious necessity for hypothesizing particles they cannot see or detect.

You are correct that the magnetic effects you describe are related. The same pushers no doubt are involved in each case. Remember the best advice to come out of the Watergate scandal that brought Nixon down? It was: “Follow the money.” In this case, it is: “What is doing what to what?” If you always insist on that, you will never go wrong.

billkhowell said...

Thanks for the response. OK- let me try ‘following the money’ (i.e. asking ‘what is doing what to what’), using the example of a ‘static magnetic field’ around a bar magnet, and see how far I can get.

I will reject immaterialism and accept that there is a medium called aether which is composed of particles of infinite size such that a disturbance propagates thru the medium by the transference of motion between particles (versus what’s apparently called the fluid or liquid-aether concept). ‘Tests’ of iron filings around the bar magnet produce a pattern around the magnet. An interpretation I’d like to explore is that these patterns are similar to a waveform, which would mean that constructive and destructive interference is producing the pattern. That interpretation would then suggest a number of concepts. One interpretation is that, since the bar-magnet is ‘stationary’, the waveform pattern is the result of aether moving past the bar as a result of the earth’s motion with respect to space. Another interpretation (and one I find more interesting to contemplate) is that waveforms of ‘energy’ (in the form we call a magnetic field) are constantly being generated by the properties of the iron atoms which make the bar ferro-magnetic. Either interpretation involves the concept of standing waves being produced by some method which results in the production of a constructive and destructive interference pattern. The production of a standing wave implies that a boundary condition exists which I’ll presume to be due to the interaction of the micro environment of the iron atoms & molecules encountering the macro-environment of the medium that lies outside the surface of the bar (in keeping with Univironmental principles).

So, the question for you Dr. Borchardt is- where did I get off-track? :-).

Glenn Borchardt said...


Good analysis, except for the part about Earth’s motion respect to space, which I also don’t think is much of a factor here. You are right that Einstein’s “immaterial field” must actually contain unseen aether particles (or whatever you like to call such tiny microcosms). These are so small, and iron atoms so large, that they pass right through the iron bar, which, as you know, is over 99% “empty space.” We assume that aether particles are in constant motion, probably at velocities greater than c. Thus you also are right in surmising that it is the UD interaction between iron molecules and aether particles that causes magnetism and produces the constructive and destructive interference observed in the resulting patterns for iron filings. Permanent magnets are produced by attempting to orient all the iron atoms in parallel. So, in tune with UD, the magnet does not “pull” the iron filings toward it. Instead, they are pushed by the aether particles that exist everywhere in the macrocosm. This is a good lesson in systems philosophy, the conventional scientific world view, which tends to overemphasize the microcosm and neglect the macrocosm. The positivists that support that view can never know the cause of magnetism, because they think of “empty space” as being truly empty. They are unable to reconcile Newton’s magnificent three laws (which have no “pulls”) with the obvious theoretical need for the unseen aether.

Bill, you are definitely on track!

billkhowell said...

Thanks for the response. Since you think I’m ‘on track’, I’ll travel down the road a bit more and see if I can find that pot-hole in my understanding (I’m sure is down there somewhere :-). We appear to agree that: 1) the patterns reflected by iron filing ‘tests’ indicate the presence of a medium, and that 2) the interaction between the microcosm and the macrocosm produces a pattern of constructive and destructive interference pattern which is indicative of wave motion occurring in the medium.

With that as a base, I’m calling this area of microcosm and the macrocosm interaction a ‘field’. I’m intrigued by the concept that ‘fields’ are the manifestation of waveforms of different frequencies interacting within an aether medium which produces standing spherical waves, which in turn, create constructive and destructive interference patterns. One implication is that stable harmonic positions only occur at nodal points (creating the locations of constructive interference). If so, then our conceptual model of electron orbital’s in atoms would represent different harmonics (analogous to what’s seen in Cymatics). These harmonics are dependent on the different frequencies (and subharmonic frequencies) involved; and that ‘light quanta’ jumping between the various electron shells (as seen in atomic absorption and emission lines) are the result of the transference of energy between constructive-interference nodes. These harmonic nodes (or zones of constructive interference) would also explain chemical bonds. Going into the macro world, the concept of constructive and destructive interference patterns also suggest to me that Bode’s Rule is not simply a coincidence. Another implication is that particles and what we call matter might actually be dense spherical waveforms.

I may have not provided enough description for make the concept clear, but if so, I’d enjoy hearing where the pot-hole is. And in the event that I’ve driven completely off the road such that my idea is “…not even wrong”, so that you can’t comment on it, I’ll understand :-).

(As an aside, I noticed that you didn’t use the word ‘field’ and am wondering if you have a different perspective about this term like you do with ‘energy’ and ‘force’, and if so, I’d like to hear about what it is). (As another aside, you wrote that aether particles are probably moving at velocities greater than c. Does that mean that you don’t accept Einstein’s limit on matter traveling at speeds greater than c or that you mean that particles are not matter, or else is not the type of matter that is subject to this limit?)

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