From Citizendium, the Citizens' Compendium
Jump to: navigation, search
This disambiguation page lists articles associated with the same or a similar title.

We use "work" in everyday speech and very often in a way that is reminiscent of the physicist's definition of work; that is, to proceed along a path through an activity, as "the politician worked her way through the crowd," "the professor worked the problem on the chalkboard," or "the host was working on his second martini when the guests arrived" (one hopes that the path in the latter case was a short one).

Like work, force and energy have well-defined meanings in physics, and they have their counterparts in everyday life. For example, force is that which produces or prevents motion, or imposes a change of velocity on something (a police force can do any of those, depending on the orders given). When a force acts to move an object in physics, we say that work is done on the object by the force (the police officers are not exactly taking it easy when they push back a crowd of fans trying to rush the latest pop singing star: they are doing work). And energy in physics, as in everyday life, is the capacity of a physical system to perform work. When you are "too pooped to pop," you have no energy.

Force is the agent of change, and work is a measure of the change.

In the physical world, work done on a body is accomplished not only by a displacement of the body as a whole from one place to another (like crowd control) but also, for example, by compressing a gas, rotating a shaft, and even directing small particles along a magnetic field.