A poem inspired by Richard Feynman’s book, *Six Easy Pieces*, Lecture 4: Conservation of Energy; with an update on Einstein’s famous equation, thanks to Mike’s comment.

It’s a Fact

There is a fact in nature that energy’s conserved.

The total’s always constant, changing form, but not perturbed.

Gravitational, potential, nuclear, kinetic,

Radiant and chemical, elastic and electric.

Existence gives mass energy,

Einstein got us there.

Mass and energy relate: E=mc squared;

(That’s when momentum is a null

From where you look to there.)

The energy so useful to power our machines

Is mathematical abstraction; reality as dreams.

Don’t need to understand it all to pay electric bills,

And speak of it with confidence, and calculate at will.

By Kate Rauner

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Mike – what a great comment. It can’t be “unpoetic” if we accept Feynman’s challenge (as I present it) to write poetry inspired by physics. Being a humble engineer myself, I have struggled with trying to develop an intuitive feel for physics. Feynman comforts me when he says to get over that need for intuition and follow the facts.

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That’s a nice poem, but I would like to point out something: You write that “Mass and energy are one: E=mc squared.” But that is not a correct interpretation of Einstein’s equation, for which E=mc^2 is a special case. The complete equation is E^2 – p^2 = m^2 in units for which c=1, where p is momentum. When a body is at rest it’s momentum is p=0, and Einstein’s equation then reduces to E=m. But that is only for a body _at rest_, and of course a body at rest in one inertial frame is not necessarily at rest in another. More generally, the mass of a body is what physicists call a “4-scalar”, which means it is the same in all inertial frames of reference; this is not true for energy or momentum, which are frame-dependent. Physicists would say, “Mass is the magnitude of the energy-momentum 4-vector.” I apologize for being so unpoetic, but we should not forget about momentum (lest we hurt its feelings :-).

Mike Gottlieb

Editor, The Feynman Lectures on Physics

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