What is Energy?


Energy has different meanings to different people, but in physics, it can be defined as the capacity to do work. Okay, that doesn’t help much either for the layman. What does it really mean? Energy can exist as thermal (heat), mechanical, chemical, electrical, nuclear or other forms. For example, humans eat food for energy – chemical. Computers use electrical energy – electricity. Power plants may split atoms to generate energy – nuclear. These are many examples of different forms of energy being used.

The different forms of energy can be described at a higher level in one of two forms:

  • Potential Energy – stored energy
  • Kinetic Energy – energy of an object that it possesses due to motion

Heat, for example, is a form of kinetic energy. It is the energy of atoms and molecules vibrating. Atoms have potential energy that is eventually tapped as nuclear energy when the atomic nucleus changes. All forms of energy can be ultimately derived to be potential or kinetic energy as evident in Einstein’s energy-momentum equation.

Kinetic and Potential Energy

Credit: TexasGateway.org




Energy can transfer from one form to another and it will always be conserved. An atom can be split to generate heat energy, to spin a turbine (mechanical energy), to generate electricity (electrical energy). This simple clue means that all energy derives from a single source. But what is the source?

An analogy will help to understand energy. Imagine a pool of water which is flat and motionless. There is no energy in the pool. Put a beach ball on the surface and it will remain in the same position.

pool no energy


Next, imagine that an earthquake strikes and shakes the pool. The water will be in motion, moving water molecules back-and-forth as they collide into each other. How do they move? In the form of waves. The pool is now considered to have energy. Energy is the motion of water in the pool. It now has the capacity to do work. The beach ball on the surface will move from its position on the surface of the pool and it will move to a region in the pool with lower energy – which is the region with lower wave amplitude.

pool with energy

The energy of the universe can be described the same way…

“Energy is the motion of the universe (aether) which travels as waves.”


Calculating Energy

The energy of waves can be defined by four properties: a speed, a wavelength and a wave amplitude in a medium with a known density. All of these are fundamental constants that have been calculated in energy wave theory. These properties allow equations to be built to calculate the energy in a defined volume of space, as shown in the equations of the theory.

four properties of waves


Forms of Energy

The forms of energy can be traced back to different forms of waves. Since energy is the motion of the aether traveling as waves, this is the common source. Wave energy. But it can transition from two forms: longitudinal and transverse. Longitudinal waves vibrate in the same direction as the wave moves; transverse waves vibrate at a right angle in the direction that the wave moves. This is demonstrated in energy wave theory to be the difference between particles and photons.

In addition, the motion of waves can be traveling or standing. A traveling wave is in motion with the medium moving in the direction of wave propagation. A standing wave is a stationary wave, caused by two waves moving in opposite directions with the same frequency. The two basic forms of energy can be described from this motion:

  • Potential Energy – Standing waves are stored energy. Particles are formed from longitudinal, standing waves. It has the potential for energy if standing waves collapse and become traveling waves, such as particle annihilation.*
  • Kinetic Energy – Traveling waves may apply a force on a particle which will move to the position of minimal wave amplitude. Particles have kinetic energy when in motion.

* There are other forms of potential energy that are based on traveling waves, such as electrons in an atom, or gravity. These potential energy forms are based on multiple forces acting on an object, and when one force is removed, it releases the potential energy as the object moves to seek minimal wave amplitude.



Video – What is Energy?

The What is Energy video below provides an explanation of waves in the universe and how it may explain the forms of energy.