Energy and the 21st Century Term Paper

Pages: 5 (1565 words)  ·  Style: MLA  ·  Bibliography Sources: 3  ·  Level: College Sophomore  ·  Topic: Energy  ·  Buy This Paper

¶ … energy" is hard to define, because the concept of energy is embedded in the infrastructure of our daily lives. In the natural sciences, energy can be loosely defined as the capacity of a system to do work. In this case, work is the result of application of a force through distance. Since there exists many different types of forces that operate within this world, there are many different methods in which energy forms. The specific focus of this analysis will look at mechanical, chemical, atomic and nuclear energies. All of these energy types can be further grouped into two broad general categories, kinetic energy or the energy of motion, and potential energy or the energy of position.

To answer the question of the "origin of energy" can be very difficult, precisely because energy is a conserved quantity. Energy in its purest form cannot be created or destroyed, merely converted between shifting forms. Therefore the total energy within the universe remains constant. This immutable principle is referred to as the "law of conservation of energy." This law is derived from the works of many of our most famous scientists, chief among them Isaac Newton, who first law of thermodynamics has created the foundation for the law of conservation of energy. Newton's theory explained that the total inflow of energy into a given system must in turn be equivalent to the total outflow of energy form the system added to the change in the energy contained within the system. The law of conservation of energy is the most fundamental principle of science. Its application in physics has become especially fruitful resulting in both actual real world discoveries as well as dynamic theoretical frameworks.

From this broad framework and understanding of energy, it is now necessary to specifically examine some of the forms of energy and how they affect our everyday lives. Electrical energy is one of the most common forms of energy that we observe and use on a daily basis. Electrical energy is energy that is stored in an electric field or transported by electric currents. Electrical energy is especially important within our daily lives, because it is nature's energy source to control the environment. Electrical energy is constantly stored in the Earth's atmosphere, and it is the conductive force that allows the atmosphere to move and change. The natural release of lightning is nature's most visible display of its electrical energy charge. The energy that we use on a commercial basis such as the energy stored within the coils of electrical generators are all examples of electrical energy. Electricity is the driving force within modern day energy usage and consumption, therefore understanding the dynamics of electrical energy is especially important.

Mechanical energy on the other hand is both more observable yet more complex in its concept. Mechanical energy refers to the potential and kinetic energy present in the components of a mechanical system. Thus mechanical energy includes the kinetic energy of particles as well as the energy that is stored within them as a natural part of their physical arrangement. In real application, mechanical energy is the fundamental theorem force that Newton highlights in these immutable laws. When a boulder is pushed up a hill, the repulsion of gravity and other electromagnetic forces creates potential energy; this is a representation of mechanical energy. Another example is when compressed gas exerts pressure within a contained environment as the independent particles of the gas bounce of the walls of their container. Mechanical energy is applied on a daily basis in every movement we make, because it goes to the fundamental core of the transference of energy from potential to kinetic and vice versa.

Chemical energy is a more specific type of energy; it is a form of potential energy that is related to how the structural arrangements of atoms and molecules affect energy transference. Chemical energy depends no the arrangement of chemical bonds within molecules, and can be transformed to other forms of energy such as mechanical through chemical reactions. A common example is that when gasoline is burned it turns from chemical energy into heat energy.

Atomic energy and its cousin, nuclear energy is two very closely related terms. At a broader level atomic energy originates the from the concept of derived power from splitting the atom. There are many different forms of atomic energy, ranging from radioactive substances, in which unstable atomic nuclei will emit subatomic particles. Chief among modern studies into atomic energy however is nuclear energy. Nuclear energy can be broadly defined as the energy released from the atomic nucleus. Nuclear energy, though only a century ago, makes of 16.9% of the world's total electrical energy. The use of nuclear energy through fusion and fission has led to a new science and discipline to examine the uses of nuclear energy as both a form of social utility and for military purposes. Nuclear energy has become especially incendiary in the wake of many different crisis of the past half century. It has also become notorious as a weapon of mass destruction in the wake of World War II.

Since energy is at the core the motive power of the world, it is natural that all weapons are developed using the core energy sources described above. Modern development of weapons has focused on three specific areas, chemical, atomic and nuclear energy. Chemical weapons are a very lethal use of specific chemical bonds that use chemical reactions to cause massive destruction. The United States in addition with the UN has strictly enforced a policy against the use and development of chemical weapons since the Cold War, although weapons of this nature are still being manufactured by rogue states. Atomic and nuclear energy are the most prolific uses of energy in the design of modern weapons. The use of an atomic bomb during WWII on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, led to the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people. These two energy sources can cause massive destruction utilizing the principle of nuclear fission. However, in the wake of World War II, no other uses of atomic weapons have occurred, part of the reason being that the world uses it as a global stability campaign. Safety consequences are a strong concern however, since the access and protection of such technology is increasingly difficult.

The use of modern energy sources to supplement traditional energy supplies such as coal and oil have naturally turned to nuclear energy. In theory, nuclear energy is the most sustainable method of energy production available to our society. However, the implicit risk of a power plant meltdown and possibility of both nuclear explosion or radiation leakage prevents nuclear energy from becoming extremely mainstream. This is evidenced by the Chernobyl accident, in which hundreds of thousands of Russian civilians suffered and died at the hands of the worst nuclear accident in world history. The impact of Chernobyl is that it has caused a massive social stigma to be attached with the use and development of nuclear energy. Although it is currently still not as popular as traditional forms of energy, the eventual scarcity of resources will increase the popularity of nuclear power as a clear alternative.

Energy itself is present in everyday phenomena's of nature. In the strike of one lightning bolt, enough electrical energy is released to power Los Angeles for a day. Volcanic energy for instance has become a hot bed issue in the past decade as a possible contained energy source. It is estimated the release of energy from a volcanic eruption could power a spacecraft to Mars. The ability to harness such an energy source, already being conducted through South America, could be one of the next stages of harnessing renewable energy sources. Another almost mystical energy source that is observable through nature is tsunamis. Tsunamis… [END OF PREVIEW]

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