The History of Energy
Though the term energy derives from the ancient Greek, its modern understanding dates only to the mid-19th century. People had recognized energetic powers about them, such as the crackle of static electricity or the billowing gusts of wind that could fill a sail and propel a boat. Each such exercise of energy was considered in its own realm. There was no overarching idea of energy taking different forms.
In 1797, English physicist Benjamin Thompson showed that a seemingly infinite amount of heat could be generated from a finite amount of material. This demonstration of kinetics demolished the prevailing caloric theory of the time, which considered heat an ethereal fluid that flowed from hot to cold bodies, and that there was a finite amount of caloric heat energy to be had in any object.
Thompson’s work was instrumental in establishing modern thermodynamics, which ushered in the conception of energy as a manifold phenomenon.
The 1st law of thermodynamics is the conservation of energy, which declares energy to be finite: neither able to be created nor destroyed. It is an ironic conclusion considering Thompson’s experiment showed instead energy to be existentially infinite. But incessant experience of material limits leaves an indelible impression.
Nothing comes from nothing. ~ Greek philosopher Parmenides
Following Parmenides, French chemist Antoine Laurent Lavoisier theorized the conservation of mass in 1774; the matter equivalent to the conservation-of-energy law.
The universe does not violate the conservation of energy; rather it lies outside that law’s jurisdiction. ~ Australian astrophysicist Tamara Davis
Conservation laws supposedly apply to the observable universe, which has long been presumed a closed system. That the manifest universe is not a closed system is not generally accepted, as it violates modern science’s most basic tenet of faith: that existence must be entirely empirical.
Moreover, physicists are reluctant to pitch longstanding ‘laws’ which work well in proximity for an unbounded and ultimately unknowable existence; even as modern physics, with its virtual particles created by ghost fields, and paradoxically energetic ground state, indicate that the cosmos, from the quantum scale on up, is merely a simulated venue. For instance, virtual particles have been shown to exist, but quantum physicists still consider ghost fields merely mathematical, even though virtual particles are generated by ghost fields. The very idea of an energetic ground state is oxymoronic. Conceptual inconsistencies in quantum field theory abound.
In 1821, English physicist and chemist Michael Faraday discovered a magnetic field about a wire conducting electrical current. Electricity and magnetism had long been thought distinct forces. In discovering electromagnetism, Faraday showed otherwise. Faraday later demonstrated that magnetism affects light.
Faraday took the first step toward the idea of energy being unified yet exhibiting distinct phenomena. Einstein exponentially extended that idea to all of existence.
Mass and energy are both but different manifestations of the same thing. ~ Albert Einstein, who never said what that “same thing” was
With the advent of quantum theory in the early 20th century, energy has been increasingly treated as a unity with different manifestations. Modern physics now considers classical mechanics as proximate laws within a larger actuality bounded by quantum mechanics and relativity. As physics still retains many unanswered questions, it is clear that modern theories are, at best, incomplete. The bounds of actuality, let alone reality, are beyond the reach of science.