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Vis Viva

The vis viva of a particle quantifies any objectified feelings of need or exigency. Recall Ernst Mach’s remark that the perception of sensation is connected to “dispositions of mind, feelings, and volitions”1Ernst Mach, The Analysis of Sensations and the Relation of the Physical to the Psychical, pages 2. Translated by C. M. Williams and Sydney Waterlow.  The Open Court Publishing Company, Chicago and London, 1914.. Some sensations are just more compelling than others. So even when perceptions exhibit the same size, they may still be distinguished by their vividness or affect. A feeling may be attractive or scary, perhaps pleasant, or maybe painful. Anyway let us call this quality the sensory urgency and try to clarify it by reflecting on the following thought experiment. First select some sensation and call it the thermometric reference sensation. Represent it using a positive number noted by k_{T}. Compare this thermometric reference sensation with the Anaxagorean sensation associated with seed Z. Determine the numbers  a and b such that perceiving a copies of the thermometric reference presents the same sensory urgency as experiencing b copies of Z. Report the result as

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

The number \widehat{K} is called the vis viva of the seed Z. It is always greater than zero because  a,  b and k_{T} 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 Schrödinger’s observation2Erwin Schrödinger, 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{K}. Instead, over the next few pages we use the results of calibrated laboratory experiments to develop the idea of vis viva into an account of temperature.

The vis viva represents feelings of urgency, movement and transcendence, somwhat like those presented in this Sumatran Tatibin.
Tatibin, Paminggir people. Lampung region of Sumatra 19th century, 93 x 41 cm. Ship motif. Photograph by D Dunlop.
References
1Ernst Mach, The Analysis of Sensations and the Relation of the Physical to the Psychical, pages 2. Translated by C. M. Williams and Sydney Waterlow.  The Open Court Publishing Company, Chicago and London, 1914.
2Erwin Schrödinger, Mind and Matter, page 76. Cambridge University Press, 1959.