My antigravity research has stumbled on a damning question that I’m, having great difficulty answering:

What does “work” weigh?


Sure, it’s an odd question for a Monday morning to bandy about. But nevertheless it’s a fascinating one when you get into it a ways.

The question came up as I started to clean up the shop this weekend. A number of paint cans were on benches; stains, spar varnish, and such.

While moving them back to their shelves I got to thinking about how much “work” weighs.

Conventional wisdom tends to lead us to thinking of “work” as units of fuel. To move 10-yards of gravel 100 yards horizontally and 10 yards up vertically would equate to perhaps a gallon of diesel fuel; simple enough so far.

But suppose instead if we were using a battery – or worse, A.C. Mains power for he job. An electric tractor, for example.

Now we have a problem.

You see the diesel weighs (just for round numbers) about 7 pounds to the gallon.

But what does electricity weigh?

Last time I checked, it doesn’t hardly weigh anything at all. If it did, the Universe would be vastly different.

When you discharge a battery, like a deep-cycle trolling motor battery on a bass boat, it doesn’t weigh any less when completely discharged than it does while totally full.  Full of work that can be let out.

Yet in the “full state” it has a LOT of potential to do work. Not in the “empty” state however.

Been charging and discharging batteries, lately. 

We know that at high enough voltages (as Thomas Townsend Brown’s research proved) you can beat gravity.  But who has a gazillion-volt pocket generator handy that weighs so little as to be practicable?

High voltage will work against gravity, but how do we distill out work from the equation?  And, when we do, would we have to build something like the Ark of the Covenant to keep it in?

Put another way (which we do a lot of around here), maybe we are looking at the antigravity problem ALL WRONG.  Maybe we should be trying to find a “useful distillation of Work.”

Science teaches us that electrons weigh something. But how much?

Well, turns out their weight is nigh-on infinitesimal.

As one college Intro to Chemistry explains, the Proton has a charge of +1 and weighs one AMU – atomic mass unit. The Neutron has a zero charge but also weighs, we are told, one AMU as well.

But the hapless electron?

“Electrons are the smallest and the lightest of the three particles.  Compared to the protons and neutrons they have practically no mass and so contribute essentially nothing to the mass of the atom.  An electron actually weighs about 0.00054 amu.  This is so much less than the mass of a proton or a neutron that the mass of the electrons is ignored in determining the mass of an atom.”

I can’t speak for you, but I know whenever “science” says something is “ignored” it’s really because we don’t understand it clearly, which gets us back to the problem of how much “work” weighs.

Back to my pile of gravel problem, how much would the electrons weigh to do the moving work as described?

Let me quote another “science” site because it’s exactly on track:

“Therefore, a vacuum cleaner with a 3.5-amp motor uses 3.5 coulomb per second multiplied by 6.25×10^18 electrons/coulomb, or 21.875×10^18 electrons per second. That is 21,875,000,000,000,000,000 electrons every second!

This equivalency can also be used to determine the number of electrons required to do a given amount of work. Given that 1 volt equals 1 joule/coulomb, a circuit producing 18 joules of work off of a 9-volt power source would require 2 coulombs worth of charge, or 12.5×10^18 electrons.”

Oh-oh – big number of electrons there – 12.5 followed by 18-zeroes. But once again, we are not talking about anything big enough to measure, let alone feel.

Now it gets worse.

This is because the “electron” doesn’t operate like a hammer, rock, or any other physical “thing” – it interacts strangely with magnetism in that it can create or be created-by magnetism. A neat trick and all, but magnetism is only “work” if you happen to be a ferrous metal.

James Clerk Maxwell, in one of his famed lectures, pointed out to students that those “magnetic lines of force” that you can see being “pushed away” from a bar magnet if you sprinkle iron filings on paper, are very curious, indeed. Think of them as the B-field of magnetics.

When we look at a picture of these “lines of force” around a magnet, then, we need to ask is the “work” done by magnets being done singly by the solid part of the field (where the filings are) or by the B-field void? Or, is the “work” done by moving between the two regions? Remember from your electronics engineering degree that moving a conductive coil through a magnetic field is resisted and it is this resistance that is inducing electrons to move.

So yes, it takes work to round up the herd and move ’em along, but it’s a messier problem than simple friction. With friction, when you put “work” in, you can get heat out…so it’s not as mysterious.

The weight of “work” problem becomes even more impressive when we realize that since “work” can be done by something as small as electrons, does “work” have any weight at all?

The physics equation f=ma (force equals mass times acceleration) argues that “the more work is applied to a given object, the more acceleration you’ll get” and that’s fine, except them I come back to my question:

“OK, wise-ass: What does force weigh, if you can’t answer a simple question like what does “work” weigh?”

I was tossing around like a flounder in the wee hours of Saturday morning thinking this through. Elaine, perceptive as always, woke up long enough to point out that it’s a linguistic problem since “work” my be both a noun and a verb. Good point.  “Now, go back to sleep…

Having been able to dismiss the question at that point and SHE could go back to sleep. I couldn’t.

After getting Peoplenomics done, I wandered out to the shop to study the cans of paint on the upper shelf. “Work” got them there. Or maybe “force” pushed them up to the top shelf of the paint rack.

But as of this morning I’m still finding myself a bit bewildered by this “what does work weigh” problem and how it is that we have been so dreadfully inefficient in solving it.

Except now that it’s Monday I’m pretty sure work weighs more on this day of the week than any other.

I think I know why that is – because when we don’t have to do any of this nearly weightless stuff, we become lazy.

But then we get to the problem of lazy and what does “lazy” weigh, or is it a communicable disease?

Back to the shop this morning to study the paint cans some more.

But in the meantime, if you’re a physics whiz, engineer, or just a fellow nutjob, a bit of clarity on two points is desperately sought.  These are:

1. What does Work Weigh?

2. How can we distill, store, and utilize “Work” better?

More tomorrow when I unstick my tongue.

Write when you get rich,