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Re: heat is not a noun

On Thu, 1 Feb 2001, John Barrer wrote:

I agree with Larry. Furthermore, I'd add that "work"
should not be used as a noun, but rather as "workING"
- a macroscopic process by which the internal energy
of a system changes due to the action of an external

To be consistant, we then should not use "light" or "sound" as nouns
either. (Maybe this is what people actually wish?)

For example, if my laser fusion YAG amplifier chain emits a kilojoule
pulse of light that's a few meters in length, everyone should complain
that I've said "kilojoule pulse of light." Or if my stereo system is
turned up so loud that the rug on the floor becomes warm, I should not say
that "sound" is flowing into the rug and being absorbed.

"Sound" flows out of loudspeakers, "light" flows out of light bulbs,
"heat" flows out of electric stove elements, and "work" flows along a
system of drive belts. If we reject some of these statements while
accepting others, then something is screwy.

Maybe the real controversy is elsewhere?

I think that focusing on system internal energy
and the processes by which it can be changed makes
teaching and understanding thermodynamic processes
VASTLY easier and clearer for students.

Yet this artificially avoids discussing HOW that energy was transported
into the system. Suppose we say that the internal energy of system A is
decreasing, and the internal energy of system B is increasing by exactly
the same amount, and that there is a energy-communicating link between
them. Must we be forbidden from saying that "energy is flowing between
them?" Or are we only forbidden from saying that "light is flowing
between them?" (or "sound" or "heat" or "work", depending on the


I've met people who fiercely insist that energy cannot flow. When a
battery powers a light bulb, they refuse to admit that "energy" is flowing
along the connecting wires.

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