How Everything Works
How Everything Works How Everything Works

Question 69

Why is it that we can use energy without doing work? Where does this energy go? For example, you could push on a wall until your arms fell off, but you wouldn't have done any work.
When you are pushing on something without doing any work, your energy is being converted directly into thermal energy inside your body. Your muscles are inefficient and they convert food energy into thermal energy whenever they are under tension. It's like a car, which uses gasoline even when it's stopped at the light. The engine keeps running but it does no work. Similarly, if you simply burned your cereal in your breakfast bowl, you would turn its energy directly into thermal energy without doing any useful work. Your body is also able to burn up that food energy and create thermal energy, albeit a little less visibly.

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