Priority to Energy
The basic laws governing the world we live in are surprisingly simple. They could be separated into three categories.
- Laws of nature: some things just happen by the law of nature. Let's just throw in the box Newton's laws of motion, photosynthesis, Δ=b²-4ac, and so on.
- Law school law: these are the laws issued by governments or even groups of countries. A couple of hundred years ago this would have been religious laws, but I think those are no longer worth mentioning.
- Unwritten laws: the name speaks for itself. You won't find them in a book. You'll discover them as you grow up and get spanked for misbehavior by mommy or daddy. These are also called cultural norms and values, which is a step in the process of socialization theorized by French sociologist Pierre Bourdieu.
For the basic understanding of this post, it is essential for me to start with the definition of a key word: kinetic energy.
Kinetic energy is what accumulates in a body once it enters a state of motion. It is calculated by 1/2 m x v² where m is the mass in kilograms and v is the velocity (speed) in meters per second (m/s). The unit is a joule where one joule = 1 kg / m² / s².
Now let's consider a bike commute. You hop on your bike that weighs 15 kg. Your laptop and backpack make up for 5 kg. It's the end of winter and you've put on some fat, you come in at 80 kg. That's a 100 all together. Obviously, entering a state of motion requires energy and that energy has to come from somewhere. That'll be your leg muscles. Unless you are in a hurry your muscles will function on glycogen and oxygen. Glycogen was processed through your body from the food you ate. The food needed energy too. It got it mainly from sunlight, carbon dioxide in the air and water. The loop goes on but for the sake of keeping this simple, let's end it here.
Back to you. You push on those pedals and start to load yourself up with kinetic energy. You reach 18 km/h on flat terrain and on a windless day. That's 5 m/s. You have stored 1250 joules mainly in your body and the wheels. Now if you don't think that is much, when a bullet comes flying out of the muzzle of a 9 mm pistol, it has around 500 joules of energy. It is only because it is small and rather light (though heavy for its size) that it has such a destructive potential. Now you know that a cyclist actually has accumulated a considerable amount of energy. That energy is constantly dispersing through friction with the road, the mechanical parts of the bike and the wind, which is why as soon as you stop peddling, you begin to slow down. If you break, that energy is massively dispersed into heat. It is lost forever.
Now imagine a car, which burns fossil fuels to get into motion. A bus. A truck.
Back to you, when you are walking in the street and feel entitled to cross in front of a car. Depending on all the variables, you have stored anywhere between 50 and 200 joules whilst walking. Not more. An average sized car driving at 50 kph has around 100,000 joules. It takes a lot of power to reach such an amount of energy. That's why accelerating is a gas-guzzling process. Once you have that energy stored, maintaining it is quite easy.
Some laws are unavoidable, some laws keep the bad guys in cages, and some laws are outright stupid.
Perhaps next time you cross the street, you will consider letting the car pass, if not for the driver's sake, for the sake of humanity.