While recently reading a physics textbook and thinking about magic systems, I tried to perform a thought experiment I had problems with concluding, so I thought of asking for help. Here I explain the thought experiment:

An enabled person has a personal store of Mystical Energy X. With his mind, he can transduce X-Energy from this personal store into other forms of energy at some point in his surroundings (with some energy being lost as waste, because from physics and nature we know that nothing ever achieves perfect energy convertion, but that is not important for this thought experiment).

Now, from reading the physics textbook, I am reminded that energy can be divided into kinetic energy or potential energy.

Kinetic energy, in turn, can be divided into mechanical energy, thermal energy, electrical energy and electromagnetic radiation. If I try to imagine transducing X-Energy into any of these forms of energy, it is easy; the X-Energy simply turn into force, heat, electricity and light wherever the enabled person decides to.

Potential energy can be divided into gravitational potential energy, electromagnetic potential energy (which can be further divided into electric potential energy, magnetic potential energy, chemical potential energy and elastic potential energy), strong nuclear potential energy and weak nuclear potential energy. And this is where my imagination gives be trouble.

If I state that the enabled persons has an ability to increase the amount of any form of potential energy in any given system (a piece of matter, like gas, metal, a chair, a person, etc.), how would that phenomenon express itself? What would happen, from a physics standpoint, and more practically, how would such a phenomena of potential energy increasing "out of nowhere" look like to an uninformed observer in the vicinity?

As a secondary, optional question, why does it seem easier to imagine this ability with kinetic energy than potential energy?

  • $\begingroup$ Kinetic energy, in turn, can be divided into mechanical energy, thermal energy, electrical energy and electromagnetic radiation. No way. Where did you read it? $\endgroup$
    – L.Dutch
    Mar 7, 2019 at 15:38
  • $\begingroup$ @L.Dutch I might be writing it wrong, but I am simply using information from a physics textbook on the Internet, physics.info/energy/summary.shtml . $\endgroup$
    – Netsrym
    Mar 7, 2019 at 15:40
  • $\begingroup$ from a quick look it doesn't state that $\endgroup$
    – L.Dutch
    Mar 7, 2019 at 15:42
  • $\begingroup$ @L.Dutch, properly, it seems to state in bullet point form that the four mentioned types of energies are "types of kinetic energy". $\endgroup$
    – Netsrym
    Mar 7, 2019 at 15:44
  • $\begingroup$ Potential energy is an energy of a system, not just one object. For gravitational energy, the system is typically the Earth and your object. For other types of potential energy (chemical, nuclear etc.), your object may, or may not be the entire system. For example, gasoline without oxygen has a fairly low potential chemical energy, but if you include oxygen in the system, it's a potent energy source. TNT, on the other hand, does not need oxygen from outside and is potent by itself. $\endgroup$
    – Alexander
    Mar 7, 2019 at 17:45

1 Answer 1


The reason you are struggling to visualize it is because it isn't really a thing. Potential energy is not really a property of the object. It is the potential to release energy. A book on the table has potential energy but nothing happens unless you move the table out of the way whereupon that potential is released and turned into kinetic energy as the book falls and then sound and heat as it lands.

A mass above the earth has potential energy that could be released by moving it to the center of the earth. It doesn't actually have any actual energy though, just the potential of having energy.

Water at the top of a stream has potential energy, as it flows downward it is converting that potential energy into real energy in the form of movement, sound, heat, etc. But if you try and extract that potential energy you can't, except by moving the water down the hill.

To increase the potential energy of something move it upwards. It then has the potential to release it again by moving downwards. To reduce potential energy move it downwards.

Changing potential energy directly though is meaningless as potential energy is a consequence of position and mass, not a "thing" that you can modify.


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