Court of Energy

On a cold day, have you ever rubbed your hands together really fast to make them warm? That warmth is from the friction that results from the back-and-forth movement. The faster you move your hands and the more pressure you apply, the warmer they become. Energy of motion, kinetic energy, is transformed into thermal energy, or heat, as you rub your hands together. All forms of energy – kinetic, potential, electrical, thermal, and nuclear – can be changed from one form to another, but cannot be created or destroyed.

For most of human existence, people have lived in equilibrium with nature. Humans and other living things lived and died on earth with their component ingredients recycled and reused time and time again. We learned to use energy as it presented itself, and later, through fire, out of that naturally stored around us as wood and coal. We baked bricks and dried fish in the sun, and used the wind to sail boats and pump water.

Through fire, we learned to smelt metals and later to harness steam. The balance continued, ingredients combining to make this or recombining to make that. Later still – some say in this century, others say before – newly discovered ways of using stored energy let us make things faster than nature could take them apart. We also realized that the conventional, naturally stored energy we were using was finite in quantity – and that we were in danger of using it up. Nature’s balance was upset and our children’s lives, if not our own, have become threatened. Our challenge now is to know our environment better, so that we can better use energy as it is presented to us, and find a balance between consumption and production.

The Court of Energy exhibits are designed to enhance the participant’s awareness of the need for balance in nature, and how we can use renewable energy to do work. Of special interest are exhibits showcasing wind and solar energy.