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Specific Energy

The specific energy of a particle quantifies how we are more aware of some sensations than others. It is difficult to say exactly what makes us more or less conscious of a perception. But let us call this quality of awareness the sensory magnitude or size and try to be more definite about it by mulling over the following thought experiment. First select some sensation and call it the calorimetric reference sensation. Mathematically represent it using a positive number noted by k_{C}. Compare this calorimetric reference sensation with the Anaxagorean sensation associated with seed Z. Determine the numbers  a and b such that perceiving a copies of the calorimetric reference presents the same sensory magnitude as experiencing b copies of Z. Report the result as

    \[ \widehat{E} \left( \mathsf{Z} \right)   \equiv  \frac{a}{b} k_{C} \]

The number \widehat{E} is called the specific energy of the seed Z. It is always greater than zero because  a,  b and k_{C} are all positive numbers. Thus specific energy is fundamentally understood as a ratio of sensation.

The forgoing is a thought experiment, and results are idiosyncratic. There may be statistically significant patterns among groups of people, but even the gross categories used in the experiment depend on anthropological and linguistic factors that are not universal. So a deeper analysis of sensory magnitude must appeal to other disciplines like physiology and psychology. For instance Canadian academic work relating sensory ratios to space and time has been led by a political economist Harold Innis and a professor of English literature Marshall McLuhan. If that seems dubious, then recall Schrรถdinger’s observation1Erwin Schrรถdinger, Mind and Matter, page 76. Cambridge University Press, 1959. about how much of our physical knowledge is “suggested mainly by communication with other human beings”. Accordingly, EthnoPhysics is informed by the Toronto School of communications.

So to understand physics we must consider more than just physics. And that is why EthnoPhysics is illustrated with quantized ethnographic art. Moreover definite numerical values are not assigned to \widehat{E}. Instead, over the next few pages we use the results of calibrated laboratory experiments to develop the idea of specific energy into an account of internal energy.

Specific energy is understood as a balance between different sensations, somewhat like the ratios shown in this Sumatran tampan.
Tampan, Paminggir people. Lampung region of Sumatra, 19th century, 76 x 70 cm. Photograph by D Dunlop.
1Erwin Schrรถdinger, Mind and Matter, page 76. Cambridge University Press, 1959.