**Gist**

The law of conservation of energy states that energy can neither be created nor destroyed - only converted from one form of energy to another. This means that a system always has the same amount of energy, unless it's added from the outside. This is particularly confusing in the case of non-conservative forces, where energy is converted from mechanical energy into thermal energy, but the overall energy does remain the same. The only way to use energy is to transform energy from one form to another.

**Summary**

Conservation of energy is the principle of physics according to which the energy of interacting bodies or particles in a closed system remains constant. The first kind of energy to be recognized was kinetic energy, or energy of motion. In certain particle collisions, called elastic, the sum of the kinetic energy of the particles before collision is equal to the sum of the kinetic energy of the particles after collision. The notion of energy was progressively widened to include other forms. The kinetic energy lost by a body slowing down as it travels upward against the force of gravity was regarded as being converted into potential energy, or stored energy, which in turn is converted back into kinetic energy as the body speeds up during its return to Earth. For example, when a pendulum swings upward, kinetic energy is converted to potential energy. When the pendulum stops briefly at the top of its swing, the kinetic energy is zero, and all the energy of the system is in potential energy. When the pendulum swings back down, the potential energy is converted back into kinetic energy. At all times, the sum of potential and kinetic energy is constant. Friction, however, slows down the most carefully constructed mechanisms, thereby dissipating their energy gradually. During the 1840s it was conclusively shown that the notion of energy could be extended to include the heat that friction generates. The truly conserved quantity is the sum of kinetic, potential, and thermal energy. For example, when a block slides down a slope, potential energy is converted into kinetic energy. When friction slows the block to a stop, the kinetic energy is converted into thermal energy. Energy is not created or destroyed but merely changes forms, going from potential to kinetic to thermal energy. This version of the conservation-of-energy principle, expressed in its most general form, is the first law of thermodynamics. The conception of energy continued to expand to include energy of an electric current, energy stored in an electric or a magnetic field, and energy in fuels and other chemicals. For example, a car moves when the chemical energy in its gasoline is converted into kinetic energy of motion.

With the advent of relativity physics (1905), mass was first recognized as equivalent to energy. The total energy of a system of high-speed particles includes not only their rest mass but also the very significant increase in their mass as a consequence of their high speed. After the discovery of relativity, the energy-conservation principle has alternatively been named the conservation of mass-energy or the conservation of total energy.

When the principle seemed to fail, as it did when applied to the type of radioactivity called beta decay (spontaneous electron ejection from atomic nuclei), physicists accepted the existence of a new subatomic particle, the neutrino, that was supposed to carry off the missing energy rather than reject the conservation principle. Later, the neutrino was experimentally detected.

Energy conservation, however, is more than a general rule that persists in its validity. It can be shown to follow mathematically from the uniformity of time. If one moment of time were peculiarly different from any other moment, identical physical phenomena occurring at different moments would require different amounts of energy, so that energy would not be conserved.

**Details**

In physics and chemistry, the law of conservation of energy states that the total energy of an isolated system remains constant; it is said to be conserved over time. In the case of a closed system the principle says that the total amount of energy within the system can only be changed through energy entering or leaving the system. Energy can neither be created nor destroyed; rather, it can only be transformed or transferred from one form to another. For instance, chemical energy is converted to kinetic energy when a stick of dynamite explodes. If one adds up all forms of energy that were released in the explosion, such as the kinetic energy and potential energy of the pieces, as well as heat and sound, one will get the exact decrease of chemical energy in the combustion of the dynamite.

Classically, conservation of energy was distinct from conservation of mass. However, special relativity shows that mass is related to energy and vice versa by

, the equation representing mass–energy equivalence, and science now takes the view that mass-energy as a whole is conserved. Theoretically, this implies that any object with mass can itself be converted to pure energy, and vice versa. However, this is believed to be possible only under the most extreme of physical conditions, such as likely existed in the universe very shortly after the Big Bang or when black holes emit Hawking radiation.Given the stationary-action principle, conservation of energy can be rigorously proven by Noether's theorem as a consequence of continuous time translation symmetry; that is, from the fact that the laws of physics do not change over time.

A consequence of the law of conservation of energy is that a perpetual motion machine of the first kind cannot exist; that is to say, no system without an external energy supply can deliver an unlimited amount of energy to its surroundings. Depending on the definition of energy, conservation of energy can arguably be violated by general relativity on the cosmological scale.

**Mass–energy equivalence**

Matter is composed of atoms and what makes up atoms. Matter has intrinsic or rest mass. In the limited range of recognized experience of the nineteenth century, it was found that such rest mass is conserved. Einstein's 1905 theory of special relativity showed that rest mass corresponds to an equivalent amount of rest energy. This means that rest mass can be converted to or from equivalent amounts of (non-material) forms of energy, for example, kinetic energy, potential energy, and electromagnetic radiant energy. When this happens, as recognized in twentieth-century experience, rest mass is not conserved, unlike the total mass or total energy. All forms of energy contribute to the total mass and total energy.

For example, an electron and a positron each have rest mass. They can perish together, converting their combined rest energy into photons which have electromagnetic radiant energy but no rest mass. If this occurs within an isolated system that does not release the photons or their energy into the external surroundings, then neither the total mass nor the total energy of the system will change. The produced electromagnetic radiant energy contributes just as much to the inertia (and to any weight) of the system as did the rest mass of the electron and positron before their demise. Likewise, non-material forms of energy can perish into matter, which has rest mass.

Thus, conservation of energy (total, including material or rest energy) and conservation of mass (total, not just rest) are one (equivalent) law. In the 18th century, these had appeared as two seemingly-distinct laws.

**Special relativity**

With the discovery of special relativity by Henri Poincaré and Albert Einstein, the energy was proposed to be a component of an energy-momentum 4-vector. Each of the four components (one of energy and three of momentum) of this vector is separately conserved across time, in any closed system, as seen from any given inertial reference frame. Also conserved is the vector length (Minkowski norm), which is the rest mass for single particles, and the invariant mass for systems of particles (where momenta and energy are separately summed before the length is calculated).

The relativistic energy of a single massive particle contains a term related to its rest mass in addition to its kinetic energy of motion. In the limit of zero kinetic energy (or equivalently in the rest frame) of a massive particle, or else in the center of momentum frame for objects or systems which retain kinetic energy, the total energy of a particle or object (including internal kinetic energy in systems) is proportional to the rest mass or invariant mass, as described by the famous equation

Thus, the rule of conservation of energy over time in special relativity continues to hold, so long as the reference frame of the observer is unchanged. This applies to the total energy of systems, although different observers disagree as to the energy value. Also conserved, and invariant to all observers, is the invariant mass, which is the minimal system mass and energy that can be seen by any observer, and which is defined by the energy–momentum relation.

**General relativity**

General relativity introduces new phenomena. In an expanding universe, photons spontaneously redshift and tethers spontaneously gain tension; if vacuum energy is positive, the total vacuum energy of the universe appears to spontaneously increase as the volume of space increases. Some scholars claim that energy is no longer meaningfully conserved in any identifiable form.

John Baez's view is that energy–momentum conservation is not well-defined except in certain special cases. Energy-momentum is typically expressed with the aid of a stress–energy–momentum pseudotensor. However, since pseudotensors are not tensors, they do not transform cleanly between reference frames. If the metric under consideration is static (that is, does not change with time) or asymptotically flat (that is, at an infinite distance away spacetime looks empty), then energy conservation holds without major pitfalls. In practice, some metrics, notably the Friedmann–Lemaître–Robertson–Walker metric that appears to govern the universe, do not satisfy these constraints and energy conservation is not well defined. Besides being dependent on the coordinate system, pseudotensor energy is dependent on the type of pseudotensor in use; for example, the energy exterior to a Kerr–Newman black hole is twice as large when calculated from Møller's pseudotensor as it is when calculated using the Einstein pseudotensor.

For asymptotically flat universes, Einstein and others salvage conservation of energy by introducing a specific global gravitational potential energy that cancels out mass-energy changes triggered by spacetime expansion or contraction. This global energy has no well-defined density and cannot technically be applied to a non-asymptotically flat universe; however, for practical purposes this can be finessed, and so by this view, energy is conserved in our universe. Alan Guth even famously stated that the universe might be "the ultimate free lunch", and theorized that, when accounting for gravitational potential energy, the net energy of the Universe is zero.

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