The Parable of Energy


“Yes, and that explosion is the release of energy” said the professor satisfied.

The student was equally incredulous, “Come off it. You’ve come up with the thing ‘energy’ because you need some sort of invisible power to believe in. You don’t have the answers for what really happens so you cook up this ‘energy’ which very conveniently fills in the gaps. Don’t have an answer? ‘Oh, it was all down to ‘energy’. We can’t see it and it takes many different forms… When I ask for evidence you come up with some cock eyed theory about how it is invisible but it you know it is there. How can you conclude that there is such a thing as energy when I cannot see it or touch it or feel it or taste it? Where are the laboratory experiments that absolutely prove that energy exists? Where is this energy? Do you have it in a test tube some where? What is it? How does it work? Where is it? How do you know it exists? Where’s the evidence?”

“See here!” said the Professor. “Experts have been working on this for hundreds of years. Scientists know what they’re talking about. They’ve built up a whole body of knowledge about this. Libraries are full of studies about energy! Human experience from the first cave man to build a fire to the rockets that went to the moon are all powered by energy.”

“Sure. Sure. It sounds to me like a fairy story.” said the boy. “It’s all invisible sky wizards and magic wands and puffs of smoke and zaps of lightning! You don’t mean to tell me you believe all that mad scientist, wacky wizard stuff do you? I went on the internet and searched for ‘energy’ and all they had was lots of unbelievable scientific gibberish with a picture of lightning bolts.”

“Don’t be foolish” said the Professor, “This is a serious discipline with very smart people working on this question. Why, millions and millions of intelligent and educated people accept the existence of energy without a question.”

“More fool them.” said the boy. “Just because millions of people believe in the energy wizard who waves a magic wand and zaps things into being doesn’t make it true.”

“Where did you get such a preposterous idea of this sky wizard? That’s not what I believe in!” said the Professor.

“You started it with all your talk about the invisible power that cannot be created or destroyed that holds everything together and makes everything work. You believe in an invisible energy wizard who goes around zapping things with lightning bolts. Don’t you know that went out of date with Thor?”

“Look.” said the professor, “Let’s talk sense. We know that energy exists because we understand how it works. Matter is made up of molecules which are made up of very small particles called atoms, and atoms are composed of sub atomic particles called electrons, neutrons and protons. We perceive these forms of energy as particles…”

“Why can’t you see them if they’re there, and you say they are particle. Other people say they’re waves. So which are they? It seems scientists contradict each other. None of you have the answers. You can’t agree.  What are these ‘forms of energy; you’re talking about? Waves or particles? Huh?”

“We believe they are both at the same time.”

“Oh. I see. That’s really logical. I like that. When you don’t have an answer you come up with a nonsense answer. Any further explanations on that one? Or is it just a ‘mystery’?”

“Yes, it is something we cannot yet explain. However, let’s put that to one side and discuss atoms and sub atomic particles as they are easier to understand.”

“Hold on. Where can I see an atom? Can you show me electrons, neutrons and protons?”

“Well, not exactly. They are invisible to the human eye, but we can show their action and effect. We bounce photons off them so we know they are there.”

“So they’re invisible too…but they might not be particles at all. They might be waves. They change their shape do they? Like magic? It seems to me that you not only believe in the invisible sky wizard, but the energy wizard has little invisible friends– energy fairies that zoom around inside everything and are busy holding everything together. How exactly are these “electrons, protons and neutrons” different from Flora, Fauna and Merryweather in the Sleeping Beauty movie?”

“We know these particles exist as we know radio waves exist. We can’t see them, but we see their effect.”

“Now you’re bringing in another invisible wizard! How many of them do you have? Now it’s the radio sky wizard who zooms through the air sending messages to people in secret codes. That sounds more like an angel to me. So you believe in the radio wave angel who swoops through the sky invisibly to talk to people! Next thing you know you’re going to make me take a test saying that I believe in all this stuff and you’re going to force your crazy beliefs on me! I’m outta here!”