Richard de Grijs
2017 Flame Challenge Finalist
Professor of Astrophysics at Peking University from Beijing, China
Get to know Richard
“I am passionate about communicating the beauty of science to a general audience, particularly to young children who still have to make their career choices. I wanted to show that while some concepts in physics may be complex, with a little effort they can be made understandable to anyone.”
“This process actually helped me to get a better (clearer) understanding of the concept of energy myself, and it was an enjoyable pursuit of knowledge!”
"You need it to pay attention at school all day. Your parents use it when driving the car to the supermarket. You need it to kick a ball or play tennis. The fireworks on New Year’s Eve release a lot of it in one go. Making something move requires energy. Since almost everything you do requires some kind of movement, you use a lot of energy every day.
Fortunately, energy comes in lots of different forms. Your body is very good at making your muscles move using the energy stored in the food you just ate, so that you can be active all day. Almost all food contains sugar. Sugar is a form of fuel, just like the gas in your parents’ car. The energy you use to run around, to drive your parents’ car, and even that causing fireworks to explode is called “chemical” energy. Using it generates a lot of heat: that’s why you get hot when playing sports!
But there are other types of energy too. Anything that moves has “kinetic” energy. Energy can be changed from one form into another. What would happen if all of a sudden a hole opened up under your feet? You would fall because of the Earth’s attraction. Your “potential” energy, which you have simply by standing on the ground, would be turned into “kinetic” energy when falling. Complicated processes in the Sun’s center release “nuclear” energy, making you feel its warmth. Some power plants also use nuclear energy to generate electricity and heat. Heat is a type of “thermal” energy.
Energy is everywhere, and it is needed to perform even the simplest tasks. We call this “doing work,” but it really means transferring energy, not what your parents do all day.
Energy can be transferred, but it cannot be destroyed."