Energy is Good, Calories are Bad

Everybody knows that energy is good for you and calories are bad for you. What newagers, health nuts and alties seem to be completely ignorant of is that both words originate in physics and that they refer to the same thing.

Energy “is a scalar physical quantity that describes the amount of work that can be performed by a force”. It can be measured in various units, in the context of food usually kilocalories. A Snickers bar contains about 150 kilocalories, which is equal to the energy content of about 20 ml of gasoline.

Both energy content estimates of course refer to the amount of chemical energy you get out of the stuff when using it to fuel the pertinent piece of machinery, viz a car engine for gasoline and a human body for Snickers bars. The atomic energy content is way, way greater, but we haven’t got the technology to run nuclear power plants on chocolate just yet.

Oh, and you know when newagers speak of “spiritual energy”? It’s a meaningless phrase.


  1. #1 Duncan
    June 15, 2009

    I fully support the snickers reactor concept. The old 1950’s-era twinkie reactors have proven unsafe and uneconomical.

    No, seriously, my autofilter needs tweaking. Not sure how it assigned high correlation to nuclear energy for this post.

    I will bite my tongue and not comment on newagers and electrical energy.

  2. #2 6EQUJ5
    June 15, 2009

    Spiritual energy? I think that’s the alcohol and sugars in liquor.

  3. #3 Mike Olson
    June 15, 2009

    I’ve always been amazed by the use of physics, or phrases which sound scientific amongst the various new age types. I’ve been honest here before and I’ll be honest again: I believe in God. I realize I can’t prove his existence. I don’t believe in ghosts, nor do I believe in a controlling God. My point? Claiming to believe in energy fields, frequencies, etc, is nothing more than ghosts, telekinesis, ESP re-done with a few words of scientific jargon thrown into to give them greater credibility. I do believe in God. But, I’ve got the where with all to seperate my spirituality from my explainations of the physical world.

  4. #4 Roland Branconnier
    June 15, 2009

    Spiritual energy is an oxymoron. Spiritual by definition is non-physical. Ergo: spiritual “energy” would violate the principle of physical causal closure and the first law of thermodynamics.

  5. #5 Spaulding
    June 15, 2009

    People often use “energy” to describe a mood – basically the opposite of lethargy and fatigue. Perhaps that’s imprecise, but it’s not superstitious. And it’s generally not in conflict with weight-loss motivated calorie limiting!

  6. #6 MattP
    June 16, 2009

    I don’t see what’s so bad about people using “energy” to mean something different than what it means in science. What makes the scientific definition the only a most pure definition of a term? We often use words like “error” and “random” in science to denote the opposite of what we’d mean if we used the same words in a philosophy discussion.

  7. #7 Bengt O.
    June 16, 2009

    I have read that sleeping with your feet on the floor fills up your body with cosmic energy. Do you mean to say that this is not true? It would be a relief in a way because it is very uncomfortable but I would miss the energy. Could a Snickers bar compensate for this?

  8. #8 Martin R
    June 16, 2009

    You need to sleep with your feet on a Snickers bar, Bengt.

  9. #9 Dunc
    June 16, 2009

    I once read a letter in a climbing magazine asking for advice about “high energy, low calorie” foods… Clearly our education system isn’t working properly.

  10. #10 DianaGainer
    June 16, 2009

    I like your advice about sleeping with feet on a Snickers bar, Martin. That’s probably the best thing to do with Snickers bars. As for “spiritual energy,” that’s as meaningful as using the Chinese word “chi” untranslated, which is sometimes used for the same purpose. Or we could use the older English word “ghost.” Or my granny’s expression, “haint” (which is to say, the standard word “haunt” which meant the same thing as “ghost”). Whatever! We don’t believe in science in the U.S., Martin. We do believe in flying saucers, Bigfoot, the Loch Ness monster, ESP, ghosts and haints that haunt cemeteries and attics, and assorted other imponderables that scientists can’t discover. Why? Because we can’t teach science in school here. Why? Because they have to teach Creationism instead. Why? Don’t ask so many questions!

  11. #11 llewelly
    June 16, 2009

    No no no – energy isn’t calories! It’s uppers like caffeine, ephedrine, ephedra, …

  12. #12 Akhorahil
    June 17, 2009

    “Oh, and you know when newagers speak of ‘spiritual energy’? It’s a meaningless phrase.”

    That’s mighty Logical Positivist of you. 🙂

    It really isn’t a meaningless phrase – people clearly use it to communicate in various manners. It’s just that it doesn’t have a referent. You wouldn’t say that “unicorn” is a meaningless word, now would you?

  13. #13 Martin R
    June 17, 2009

    Haha, good point! What I meant is that we can speak of things that exist and whose characteristics we know (e.g. Snickers bars), fictional things whose characteristics we agree upon (e.g. unicorns), things that exist but which we don’t know much about, and finally fictional things whose characteristics we can’t agree upon. Spiritual energy, I argue, belongs to the latter category.

  14. #14 Bengt O.
    June 17, 2009

    Your typology has an uncanny similarity to the famous one of Donald Rumsfeld:

    As we know,
    There are known knowns.
    There are things we know we know.
    We also know
    There are known unknowns.
    That is to say
    We know there are some things
    We do not know.
    But there are also unknown unknowns,
    The ones we don’t know
    We don’t know.

  15. #15 Martin R
    June 17, 2009

    Yes, Donald Rumsfeld is one of my greatest heroes. d-;

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