Why doing nothing actually takes up energy

Have you ever been told to ‘stop wasting your energy by doing nothing?’ Well, this article will use physics to help you understand where that saying comes from. You will understand that even when you think you are doing noting you actually are using up energy. We can use Trammel of Archimedes or the do-nothing grinder, is a machine that seemingly does nothing, and although it may seem like you are doing nothing you actually are doing something. Hopefully by the end of this you will understand that why in physics it takes energy to do nothing.

About the Trammel of Archimedes

The trammel of Archimedes which is not commonly known as the do noting grinder, this mechanism was used to generate the shape of an ellipse, which consisted of two pegs moving along a perpendicular channel, that were attached to a rod. When the pegs moved back and forth along their channel, the movement of the rod would create elliptical paths. However, as technology advanced an ellipse could be created with the help of a computer and trammel of Archimedes was no longer needed, hence, the mechanism is popularly known as the do-nothing grinder.

The amusing factor about the do-nothing machine is that even thought while you rotate the rod the mechanism does not achieve or doing anything, you will notice that it does require energy to operate it. The main question we will answer in this article is that, if you are putting in energy into the mechanism why isn’t it doing anything useful?

Understanding the concept

A simple answer to the question would be that all the energy you put into the device gets converted into heat. You can take weights as an example, if you have set the weight on the table, you will notice that there is no work being done on the weight as the weight is just stilled in place, in physics in order to do work you need to push it against the force at a certain distance, however if the weight is not pushed there is no distance being travelled therefore there is not work being done on the weight.

Now try picking up the weight and holding it still with your arm, the weight is still without being moved up or down showing that there is no distance being travelled so as presumed there is no work being done, however, weight is heavy and maybe by hard to hole still thus requiring energy to hold it. So, although you are not doing any work on it you are still using your energy to do it. You must be wondering why is that? Why in some instances you have to put in energy to seemingly do noting but in other instances you don’t have to put in energy to do nothing?

The answers  

The answer lays in the way our body works. In your muscle fibre, in order to move your myosin, present in your muscles, have to move towards the actin which cinches your muscles together so that you can actually move them. The interesting part is that your muscles weren’t supposed to be held still in place, this is because once your actin has bound to the myosin it doesn’t just stay there, and although it makes sense for it to stay there as it is a chemical reaction and should be able to stay there and the a person dies it does naturally stay locked in place, however, when you are alive your body produces ATP, and with the involvement of ATP it naturally releases the bond so that you can continue moving your muscles. Therefore, when your alive it makes sense for your muscles to keep moving and while it doesn’t move or stops moving your body will try to release that actin and try to take yup energy to bind again, so by doing this you will just be wasting a significant amount of energy which then turns into heat. This answers the question of why holding the weight still takes up energy.

To summarize it takes up energy because we are still alive.

An Example

You can compare this to taking a car up the hill, if you are up a hill and are not in park, you will need to continuously rev the engine for the vehicle to say in place and not roll down.

So, while there is no physical work being done there has still been a lot of entry that is being used by the care. But you would just park it you would notice that there is no energy being used

To conclude

Even if you aren’t necessarily doing any work but you are putting in energy, that means that what you are doing is ‘something’ and cannot be deemed as ‘nothing’.

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