Teacher resources and professional development across the curriculum

Teacher professional development and classroom resources across the curriculum

Monthly Update sign up
Mailing List signup
Science in Focus: EnergySupport MaterialsChannel-TalkEnergy
About the Workshop
Broadcast Schedule
Graduate Credit
HomeSite Map
Energy Explanations
Energy Resources
Energy Discoveries
Tracing the Path
Individual Workshops
Workshop 1
Workshop 2
Workshop 3
Workshop 4
Workshop 5
Workshop 6
Workshop 7
Workshop 8

Workshop 1

1. Everyday Words/Scientific Meanings

scientist speaks
The meaning of a word can vary quite a lot, depending on how and where we use it. Many of the words that scientists use when discussing energy — including the word energy itself — also appear in our daily speech. For example, one might say "If it takes all my energy, I'm going to force that kid to work on cleaning his room!" Or, "When we work together we can feel the healing energy flow through the group." Or, "She has worked on the police force ever since the energy crisis forced her to move to the city."

In these sentences the words "energy," "work," and "force" are used in non-scientific ways. Many words have no real meanings other than their scientific ones. There are no everyday meanings for "deoxyribose nucleic acid" or for "chemosynthesis." But for words that have both scientific and non-scientific meanings it is important to know how the scientific definition differs from the everyday use. This chart is a guide to the meanings of some words used in Science in Focus: Energy.
Word Everyday Meanings Scientific Meaning
  • "She has more energy than all three of her brothers put together!"
  • "We had an energy crisis until the pipeline was repaired."
  • "His music is full of energy but not much style."
While there are many forms and sources of energy, the scientific use of the word is often limited to a simple declaration: "Energy is the ability to do work."

  • "It takes twice as much energy to lift a weight twice as high."
  • "The fire roared as the energy in the wood was released by burning."
  • "The bowling ball transferred some of its kinetic energy to the pins."
  • "She loves her work but would like to be paid more."
  • "He owns a set of the complete works of Charles Dickens."
Work is a way to use energy by applying a force. Specifically, the work done on an object is calculated by multiplying the force applied by the distance the object moves under the force's influence. No work is done if no movement takes place, even if the force is strong. Likewise, no work is done if no force is applied, even if an object is moving.

  • "This engine can do as much work — lift as much — as 100 men."
  • "She did work on the car by pushing it out of the driveway."


  • "If you force the key into the lock you could break it."
  • "Anger is a force to be reckoned with."
  • "Al joined the Air Force."

Force is sometimes described as a "push or a pull." A force can cause a change in the movement of an object or in its structure.


  • "The brick exerts a downward force as it sits on the table."
  • "No movement takes place when the forces acting on an object are equal and opposite."
  • "The force applied by the elephant's foot squashed the watermelon."

workshop Back to Workshop 1          next Next Explanation




© Annenberg Foundation 2017. All rights reserved. Legal Policy