Energy - Key terms





CONSERVATION OF ENERGY:

A law of physics which holds that within a system isolated from all other outside factors, the total amount of energy remains the same, though transformations of energy from one form to another take place.

COSINE:

For an acute (less than 90°) in a right triangle, the cosine (abbreviated cos) is the ratio between the adjacent legand the hypotenuse. Regardless of the size of the triangle, this figure is a constant for any particular angle.

ENERGY:

The ability of an object (or in some cases a non-object, such as a magnetic force field) to accomplish work.

FRICTION:

The force that resists motion when the surface of one object comes into contact with the surface of another.

HORSEPOWER:

The British unit of power, equal to 550 foot-pounds per second.

HYPOTENUSE:

In a right triangle, the side opposite the right angle.

JOULE:

The SI measure of work. One joule (1 J) is equal to the work required to accelerate 1 kilogram of mass by 1 meter per second squared (1 m/s 2 ) over a distance of 1 meter. Due to the small size of the joule, however, it is often replaced by the kilowatt-hour, equal to 3.6 million(3.6 · 106) J.

KINETIC ENERGY:

The energy that an object possesses by virtue of its motion.

MATTER:

Physical substance that occupies space, has mass, is composed of atoms (or in the case of subatomic particles, is part of an atom), and is convertible into energy.

MECHANICAL ENERGY:

The sum of potential energy and kinetic energy within a system.

POTENTIAL ENERGY:

The energy that an object possesses by virtue of its position.

POWER:

The rate at which work is accomplished over time, a figure rendered mathematically as work divided by time. The SI unit of power is the watt, while the British unit is the foot-pound per second. The latter, because it is small, is usually reckoned in terms of horsepower.

REST ENERGY:

The energy an object possesses by virtue of its mass.

RIGHT TRIANGLE:

A triangle that includes a right (90°) angle. The other two angles are, by definition, acute or less than 90°.

SCALAR:

A quantity that possesses only magnitude, with no specific direction.

SI:

An abbreviation of the French Système International d'Unités, which means "International System of Units." This is the term within the scientific community for the entire metric system, as applied to a wide variety of quantities ranging from length, weight and volume to work and power, as well as electromagnetic units.

SYSTEM:

In discussions of energy, the term "system" refers to a closed set of interactions free from interference by outside factors. An example is the baseball dropped from a height to illustrate potential energy and kinetic energy the ball, the space through which it falls, and the ground below together form a system.

VECTOR:

A quantity that possesses both magnitude and direction.

WATT:

The metric unit of power, equal to 1 joule per second. Because this is such a small unit, scientists and engineers typically speak in terms of kilowatts, or units of 1,000 watts.

WORK:

The exertion of force over a given distance. Work is the product of force and distance, where force and distance are exerted in the same direction. Hence the actual formula for work is F · cos θ · s, where F = force, s = distance, and cos θ is equal to the cosine of the angle θ (the Greek letter theta) between F and s. In the metric or SI system, work is measured by the joule (J), and in the British system by the foot-pound.