Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 20.djvu/691

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.

that he has sent something out of his body into the ball which hurtles through the air past the goal, and the game is won. In all these illustrations something is done which results in fatigue, work is performed and energy is lost; in fact, work done means energy applied, and energy applied means work done. As mental energy is our capacity for learning lessons, for going through examinations, and that kind of thing, so the energy of the kind I speak of is the capacity for doing absolute physical work. The generality of this energy is immense. It is a difficult thing to grasp the fact that there is something in existence that we can not feel, that we can not touch, and that we can not see, but which gives us all the force and all the power we possess. The earth as it moves around the sun and the earth as it daily rotates upon its own axis are instances of the existence of this energy; in fact, every kind of change produced in the condition of matter, whether it be in its physical state or in its position with reference to fixed objects, means energy gained or energy lost. The energy gained or lost is the quantity of work done on a body, or done by that body; so I want you to grasp, if you possibly can, the fact that every case of motion on this earth—even the sound of my voice, as I now speak to you—is due to the exercise of this particular energy. Lecturing, for instance, is a considerable exercise of energy. A man can lecture pretty well for an hour; he can lecture not quite so well for two hours, but the best lecturer in the world can scarcely keep at it for three hours without losing all his energy, and, like the crew in the boat, being thoroughly pumped out. This energy—or work done, as I have said—is measurable. The gardener who moves his ton of gravel three feet high has done an amount of work that any boy can calculate who will reduce one ton to pounds, and multiply that sum by three. He will then have obtained 6,720 what we call foot-pounds. One pound raised one foot high is the common and ordinary unit of work; 33,000 pounds moved one foot high is called a horse-power, and the horsepower is the mode by which the power of steam-engines is measured. One steam-engine is known from another by its being able to exercise ten, twenty, or fifty horse-power; and so, whether it is merely the lifting of gravel—or a small tube, such as I have here—throwing a cricket-ball, moving a boat, or working a steam-engine, it can all be measured by this simple unit of foot-pounds. Two other terms are necessary in order to make you comprehend what energy is. Energy is found in two conditions—called "potential" from its position, and "kinetic" from its motion. The potential form of energy is that which exists in the form of a wound-up watch-spring: you wind up the spring of your watch, and by doing so you pass something from your body into it—you transfer energy from your own body into the watch, the spring is wound up, and the watch thereby can be kept going for twenty-four hours or more from the storage of energy imparted to it. A clock, again, will go for eight or fourteen days by your wind-