About the Title

In advanced physics, people do enormous experiments to get high-energy particles going in opposite directions so they can smash them together and see what happens. At the opposite end of the spectrum we have low energy physics, which might be about very cold things, or it might be about people who are lazy and watch TV all day and do not read or learn about energy physics at all. This page covers the middle ground, which is much neglected in the news media. This page is about medium-energy physics.


Driving a car is pretty easy to do once we learn how. A little tap on the gas pedal with your foot causes a large car, truck, or SUV to leap forward when it's stopped, or race forward to a high speed. The car weighs much more than we do, and it goes much faster than we could run.

What if we had to push our cars up a hill instead of burning gasoline in the engine? If we had a big crank to turn for leverage, what kind of workout would we get standing at the top of a hill, pulling a Jeep to the top using the crank?

Our personal transportation isn't even the biggest impact on the environment. Our industrial processes, agriculture and manufacturing production, have more of an impact.

Since it is not very easy to find numbers on these things that relate to our everyday personal experience, I thought it might make a popular site if I would show some of the numbers. It varies because people are different strengths, and some people might take a year to move a car up a hill, because they have gotten old, and some people are young and strong and athletic, and they could do it much faster. This could account for a factor as much as 100 or more, as some people become very feeble when they are elderly. Anyone not confined to a bed or a wheelchair has to do a little bit of work against gravity just to get around. On the other hand even a weight-lifter, decathlete, marathon runner, swimmer, or football player has to sleep 8 hours a day.

Fact 1. The amount of energy in a gallon of gasoline.

250,000 BTUs


A BTU is the amount of energy needed to raise the temperature of a pound of water from 60 to 61 degrees Fahrenheit at standard pressure. 250,000 pounds of water is the amount in a pool 5 feet deep and 32 feet across.

Pool Math
There are 62.4 pounds of water in a cubic foot of water.
250,000 pounds in cubic feet.that is 4006 cubic feet.
This could be a pool of water about 5 feet deep and 32 feet across.
The area should be 4006/5 which is 801.2.
For a round pool, 801.2 square feet is the area of a circle which is π times the radius squared.
The square of the radius is 801.2/π which is 255.03.
Solving r^2 = 255.03 results in r=15.98 so your pool is about 32 feet across.

194,882,000 ft-lb

Consider the amount of work it takes to lift a small, medium, or large weight

from waist level to up above your head (2.5 feet if you are about average size for an adult). If you were to lift this about 0 times (or reps), the lifting would require the same energy that is in one US gallon of gasoline.

References: Here is how I found some weights in the above list

Weight of a House (Seattle Times - Ask the Expert) Weight of House (wiki.answers.com - How many pounds does a house weigh?) Toyota Corolla specifications from www.toyota.com NBA player average weight, by team

Gasoline Energy Facts (incomplete)

  1. How much crude oil does it take to make 1 gallon of gasoline? (I don't know, and something is left over)
  2. When I use a gallon of gasoline, that is equivalent to the fuel required to:
    1. walking ___ miles
    2. burning ___ wooden match sticks (half way up the stick)
    3. burning ___ paper match sticks (half way up the stick)
    4. heating an average middle class American house for ___ minutes
    5. electricity coming from a 2' x 4' solar panel for ___ minutes
    6. ___ KwH of electricity
    7. running a mid range 2007 desktop computer for ___ hours
    8. running a mid range 2007 laptop computer for ___ hours
  3. When I fly 600 miles
  4. When I fly 1,500 miles
  5. When I fly 3,000 miles
  6. When I fly 8,000 miles


If this doesn't make you more conscious about energy use, then (huffily).... I don't know what would! (U.S. Dept. of Energy site)