Conservation of Energy

Here’s a question I saw several years ago and have never seen an answer to:

Take a spring, compress it, and put a rubber band or something around it so that it stays compressed. The spring now has potential energy. Throw it in a vat of acid–the spring dissolves. Where does the potential energy go?

I wouldn’t want to have to make a chart of its progress, but I would say the energy would go into heat of viscous friction in the acid as parts of the spring are released during its corrosion.

Ray (no authority on this)

The energy is stored in the molecular bonds of the material making up the spring. When the bonds are broken as the spring dissolves the energy is released. More precisely, less energy is required to dissolve the bonds in the first place, since a strained bond will dissolve more easily than a relaxed one. So the energy “goes” the same place it does for an uncompressed spring – into the chemical reaction between the acid and the metal.

“Vandelay!! Say Vandelay!!”

The energy is actually converted into mass, by the famous E = mc^2 formula. If you weigh the total acid plus spring (plus rubber band) before and after, you’ll find more mass after the acid has done its trick, especially if it’s a Catholic mass. If it’s not a Catholic mass, but you’re doing the experiment in Boston, the energy would of course have been converted into Boston, Mass. If the experiment were done in April, you could say that there was spring (with rubber band) in the air in Boston, Mass. However, trying to weigh the whole of Boston before and after the experiment is considered too difficult.

Oh, wait, man, I bet you didn’t mean that kind of acid, like, wow.