Matter and energy

We live in a truly majestic and beautiful Universe. Its space is seemingly endless and ever expanding, its energy is awesome in its destructive and creative power. Its matter is diverse and often elusive in its many forms.

Definition of matter

All that exists around you is made of matter, including yourself. The common understanding of matter is that it is any substance that has a mass and exists in a given space. Maybe you have heard somewhere that Earth and all living things are made of stardust. It is actually true. Chemistry, as one of the sciences about matter transformation, will help you understand some of the underlying processes that made our existence possible.

Definition of energy

Universe without the energy wouldn’t be fun at all. It would be a completely dark place where nothing would ever move. The matter would exist in as primitive form as possible. The energy is a transferable property of matter which is required to perform a work on an object and/or heat it. The ability of energy to be transferred is inherent, since energy cannot be destroyed, it can only be transferred from one form to another.

As a real world example, imagine a ball repeatedly bouncing perpendicularly off a solid surface. As the time passes, the ball bounces less and less due to friction of a ball surface against the surrounding air as well as due to friction within ball itself (regardless of ball material). Friction causes the air around the ball, as well as the ball itself, to get slightly warmer, thus the energy converts from movement (kinetic energy) to heat energy which finds ways to convert and dissipate even further.

Connection between mass and energy

It is somewhat complicated to draw a strict line between energy and matter. For instance, some elementary particles of matter have a very miniscule mass, while they have a pretty substantial energy (often kinetic) and they are mostly considered as energy. However there is a pretty famous equation that unifies mass of a matter with energy.

E = mc2

This is perhaps the most iconic and recognisable formula ever. The great genius of Albert Einstein figured out that the total energy of any body or substance (expressed in Joules) equals to mass (in kilograms) of the body or substance multiplied by square speed of light, expressed in metres per second.

My 7 gram pencil eraser has an energy of:

0,007 * 299 792 458 * 299 792 458 = 629128625115772.348 J =  629 TJ (TeraJoules)

This kind of energy is comparable to the energy released during nuclear bomb explosion. As you can see, even a relatively small thing can have a lot of energy and physics predicts some circumstances when this kind of energy could be released. In chemistry though, the magnitude of energies is way smaller, although underestimating it can be extremely dangerous.

What the matter wants to do in space

It is very important to understand that energy wants to escape from a body, or rather any body wants to have as less energy as possible. In simple words, nothing really wants to work, everything in existence wants to stay at as much rest as possible. This is one of the most fundamental factors that shape the Universe.

We will not be looking into such arcane subjects like antimatter, dark energy, dark matter or even more exotic concepts like negative energy and negative mass. But we will do our best to tease you enough to want to explore beyond this book.

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