Teacher resources and professional development across the curriculum

Teacher professional development and classroom resources across the curriculum

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Workshop 2

5. Common vs. Scientific Usage

scientist speaks

Like the words "energy," "work," and "force," "power" has a specific scientific definition that is not exactly the same as our common usage.





Word Everyday Meanings Scientific Meaning
"Power" , often used interchangeably with "force," can refer to the ability to influence things or to decisively create an effect.


  • "As a corporate executive, she has the power to make important decisions."
  • "That powerful odor is making me ill!"
  • "The powerful monarch decreed that all the peasants must pay tax on their farms."

Power is the rate at which energy is transmitted from one system to another or converted from one form to another — it is the rate of doing work. Power equals work divided by time.


  • "That truck's engine can produce much more power than the engine in my moped."
  • "Running two 100 watt bulbs for one hour, requires the same amount of power as running one 200 watt bulb for an hour."
  • "Your leg muscles exert more power when you run, than when you walk."


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