As an engineer you quickly learn to appreciate how any dynamic system is just a series of energy connections. For example: any driver knows what the brake pedal does; a technician understands how it works, with the caliper pressing the pads against the disc; an engineer, however, understands that deceleration is nothing but a conversion of energy: from kinetic to heat. The car will lose velocity by the same rate as the brakes heat up. Power simply has to go somewhere.
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> "Power simply has to go somewhere". Politicians take that observation very seriously!
This reminds of the tale of the pitcher who got hit by a line drive right on the head and the ball bounced of his head and flew up to the highest seats in the stadium. A physics professor watching exclaimed: "He is going to be fine".
Ha! That's a good one! I'll use that example from now on :)
As an engineer I'va always been confused about potential energies though.
I don't know what flavor of engineering you are in. I am in between mechanical and electrical, so I try to see any potential energy as a the behavior of a capacitor or a spring (the two are equivalent). Gravity is like a constant force spring pulling you towards the center of the planet. Heating up and cooling down a pizza stone is like charging and discharging a capacitor. Bond graphs helped me understand these equivalences: