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Workshop 2

5. Common vs. Scientific Usage

 

scientist speaks

The meaning of a word can vary quite a lot, depending on how and where we use it. Many of the words that scientists use when discussing energy—including the word energy itself—also appear in our daily speech. One can say "If it takes all my energy, I'm going to force that kid to work on cleaning his room!" Or "When we work together we can feel the healing energy flow through the group." Or "She has worked on the police force ever since the energy crisis forced her to move to the city."

In these sentences the words "energy," "work," and "force" are used in non-scientific ways. Their meanings are clear and valid, but not scientific. Many words have no real meanings other than their scientific ones. There are no everyday meanings for "deoxyribose nucleic acid" or for "chemosynthesis." But for words that have both scientific and non-scientific meanings it is important to know how the scientific definition differs from the everyday use. This chart is a guide to the meanings of some words used in "Focus on Science: Energy."
Word Everyday Meanings Scientific Meaning
Energy
"Energy" can refer to a feeling or an impression of vigor. Even an inert object, such as a poem or a painting, can have this kind of energy. Energy can refer to the industry that provides fuel. A kind of "psychic energy" is said to come from meditation.

Examples:

  • "She has more energy than all three of her brothers put together!"
  • "We had an energy crisis until the pipeline was repaired."
  • "His music is full of energy but not much style."
While there are many forms and sources of energy, the scientific use of the word is often limited to a simple declaration: "Energy is the ability to do work."

Examples:
  • "It takes twice as much energy to lift a weight twice as high."
  • "The fire roared as the energy in the wood was released by burning."
  • "The bowling ball transferred some of its kinetic energy to the pins."
Work
"Work" can refer generally to many kinds of activity, function, or results of activity. Commonly, our work is what we get paid to do. There are more everyday meanings than we can include here.

Examples:
  • "She loves her work but would like to be paid more."
  • "He owns a set of the complete works of Charles Dickens."
Work is a way to use energy, by applying a force. Specifically, the work done on an object is calculated by multiplying the force applied by the distance the object moves under the force's influence. No work is done if no movement takes place, even if the force is strong. Likewise, no work is done if no force is applied, even if an object is moving.

Examples:
  • "This engine can do as much work—lift as much—as 100 men."
  • "She did work on the car by pushing it out of the driveway."
Force
"Force" can refer to any strong influence or to the act of influencing.
Examples:
  • "If you force the key into the lock you could break it."
  • "Anger is a force to be reckoned with."
  • "Al joined the Air Force."
Force is sometimes described as a "push or a pull." A force can cause a change in the movement of an object or in its structure.
Examples:
  • "The brick exerts a downward force as it sits on the table."
  • "No movement takes place when the forces acting on an object are equal and opposite."
  • "The force applied by the elephant's foot squashed the watermelon."
Power
Need examples:
Power is the rate at which work is done or energy is emitted or transferred. Need examples:

 

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