Starting in the right frame of mind

Plausibility and intelligibility - and energy?

The image of energy is just a little tarnished. We've drifted away from the style and interests the pragmatic thermodynamicists who created the idea of energy (too much "this is definitely right"; "how could you suggest that"). I think we need to recapture some of their intent by considering first to what uses we might put a completed description in terms of energy. In working towards that, there is a kind of choice tree:

First off, that energy is a calculated quantity remains a touchstone. Tripwires laid around to deflect from a journey heading towards that idea should be avoided. But it's not the only calculated quantity, so what's so special about the idea?

Mechanism and narrative stories are comforting, and a standard explanatory structure. However, energy is a constraint on what's possible, so stands aside from this narrative structure. However, the lived-in world is, the world of scientific reasoning that we're trying to account for is in this part, not made from or built of this kind of explanatory structure. (Energy descriptions are not of the form: 'First this, then that', as a causal consequence). The teaching of energy should respect that reality: energy is not the 'go of things'. Energy is instead the ultimate 'limiting factor', determining what is and is not possible, so we should show it as such.

"How?" unpacks to three questions:

The first question is about energy, and so about augmenting and depleting a stored quantity (find energy in stores). The second is about power, therefore a quantity that's defined when a process is happening(find power in pathways). Both these questions require calculated quantities, so depend on a clear description of a physical change or process.