From the big bang theory to the balloon sticking to your hair after your brother rubbed it on your head, energy is all around and comes in many different forms. Defined simply as the ability to do work, energy can be divided into two separate groups, potential and kinetic.
On the potential side resides all of the stored energy, including: chemical, mechanical, nuclear and gravitational. For example the energy released as you shoot a rubber band across the room is potential mechanical energy which is caused in the tension in the band. While the force pulling you faster and faster down the hill on your bicycle is due to gravitational energy, caused by your height and the mass of you plus your bike.
Kinetic energy on the other hand is all about motion, including: radiant energy, thermal energy, motion energy, electrical energy and sound. For example visible light, like that emitted from the sun is radiant energy caused by electromagnetic energy that travels in transverse waves (a wave vibrating at right angles to the direction of its origin). Or the wind, which is an example of motion energy in that that the faster it moves or blows, the more energy is stored. This energy is released when the object is slowed down, like a wind turbine capturing the energy of a strong wind so it can be stored and transferred into usable clean energy.
Transfer and change is a big part of this, it's how we make energy do work for as seen in wind turbines. Conservation of energy is the key to this idea. In science conservation of energy is not the art of saving it, but the fact that energy is neither created nor destroyed, there is always the same amount of energy in the universe at all times, it all just depends on how efficient we are at changing it into usable energy for us! Take the human body for example. We feed our bodies food to get energy, and out of all the calories we feed ourselves, we only use 25% of it while exercising due to the fact that heat (aka energy) is always escaping from our bodies. While batteries that require a chemical to electrical transfer to produce power are around 90% efficient because the change can be contained, leading to more energy.
All these facts are good to know, but the real fun comes in testing them out! One of my favorite experiments is transferring a "ball of energy" from person to person. To do this, stand in a circle with a group of friends. Then have one person rub their hands together quickly enough to generate some heat, then cup their hands together like there is a ball between them. Once the ball of energy is formed just pass the ball from person to person around the circle making sure everyone cups their hands around the ball the same way and see how far the energy goes! The best part is, is that you can actually feel the energy all the way around the circle.
Another fun energy activity is the always exciting static electricity experiment. I'm sure you all have had experience with this in every day life, especially after walking across a carpeted floor and touching a metal door knob... zap! The balloon idea mentioned above is also a fun (well fun for some) way to learn about this crazy phenomenon. Just rub an inflated balloon against a static generating surface, like a carpet, your shirt or friends head and watch it stick!
Energy is everywhere, so remember, it's all in the transfer!
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*Last time in Nature: Rivers