“How do you define energy?” is a question that would stump me. High school physics does not give satisfactory answer; it just gives the formula straight away. We know that it has to be of certain unit; and it fits the physics equations like such and such. Today I learned the more rigorous definition from Sabine Hossenfelder’s explainer video, but nagging me still, what is it, epistemologically?
I remember the first time I came to a similar reckoning was in chemistry lessons about electron orbitals. I was like “Huh these things are so weird how come they are like that?” and our chemistry teacher Mr A, who has philosophical penchant, just shrugged with an enigmatic smile, “That’s just what we observe them to be. These mathematical functions fit the observation.” Insert brain expansion meme here.
I have since seen many baffling things alike, especially in biology. We scientists keep pounding away at the what, what, what questions. Do we ask how and why enough? Should we? Should we not, because they are too difficult?