As with many concepts in physics, energy—along with the related ideas of work and power—has a meaning much more specific, and in some ways quite different, from its everyday connotation. According to the language of physics, a person who strains without success to pull a rock out of the ground has done no work, whereas a child playing on a playground produces a great deal of work. Energy, which may be defined as the ability of an object to do work, is neither created nor destroyed; it simply changes form, a concept that can be illustrated by the behavior of a bouncing ball.

In fact, it might actually be more precise to say that energy is the ability of "a thing" or "something" to do work. Not only tangible objects (whether they be organic, mechanical, or electromagnetic) but also non-objects may possess energy. At the subatomic level, a particle with no mass may have energy. The same can be said of a magnetic force field.

One cannot touch a force field; hence, it is not an object—but obviously, it exists. All one has to do to prove its existence is to place a natural magnet, such as an iron nail, within the magnetic field. Assuming the force field is strong enough, the nail will move through space toward it—and thus the force field will have performed work on the nail.

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