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I have a couple of related questions that have been bothering me for a while. They might sound unscientific, but here is goes:

  1. What are the building blocks of energy? What does energy consist of? Is there 1 fundamental, theoretical particle or something similar that causes energy, just like higgs boson?

  2. If there exists a 'building block' of energy, how can objects smaller than that building block exist? It couldn't have energy itself, could it? The only example I can think of are strings in string theory; they are considered to be fundamental, so do they exist in an energy-less microscopic world? Is energy an inherent property of strings? Or does there not exist an answer to this question?

If was just thinking about it, and I'll add a question which is intertwined with question 2:

How does the Higgs boson get mass when it is the particle that causes mass (from what I've understood)?

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Possible duplicates: physics.stackexchange.com/q/3014/2451 and physics.stackexchange.com/q/31374/2451 and links therein –  Qmechanic Dec 26 '12 at 15:18

4 Answers 4

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There isn't any particular particle or material or essence that all energy would be composed of. Instead, energy is an abstract quantity – a numerical value followed by a unit of energy such as a joule – that all forms of matter and "existence" may carry and that is conserved (the conservation law is known to follow from the time-translational symmetry of the laws of Nature: physical phenomena proceed in the same way as they did proceed some time ago).

For related reasons, energy isn't a multiple of any "elementary quantum", so it may be arbitrarily low and the increment of the energy may be decreased arbitrarily, too. For example, a photon of frequency $f$ carries energy $E=hf$ and both $f,E$ may be arbitrarily low.

In all theories respecting the special theory of relativity – including string theory – the energy is equivalent to mass. So every object of rest mass $m$ carries a latent energy $E=mc^2$ which is huge and which may be released under certain circumstances. On the contrary, a large amount of energy $E=mc^2$ may be used to "create mass" or "increase the mass of objects".

The Higgs boson gives the mass to various elementary particles such as W-bosons, Z-bosons, leptons, and quarks. One may say that it gives the mass to itself – via self-interactions (mutual influence on "itself") – too. The required mathematical formula needed to explain the Higgs boson's own mass is given by the $ah^4-bh^2$ potential energy.

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What are the building blocks of energy? What does energy consist of? Is there 1 fundamental, theoretical particle or something similar that causes energy, just like higgs boson?

Energy is a continuous variable defining four momentum space ( p_x,p_y,p_z,E) analogous to the four dimensional space-time continuum (x,y,z,t). These variables are used to define the equations that describe nature as we know it, up to now. They are all continuous in the formulations we have, (though there are adventurous and highly respected theoreticians who might reduce them to a binary form at an elementary level). Still 0 energy or space dimension is accepted .

If there exists a 'building block' of energy, how can objects smaller than that building block exist? It couldn't have energy itself, could it?

There is none.

The only example I can think of are strings in string theory; they are considered to be fundamental, so do they exist in an energy-less microscopic world? Is energy an inherent property of strings? Or does there not exist an answer to this question?

Strings, like all model theories of physics, exist as solutions of equations in the four dimensional space-time and four momentum space too, no matter their extra dimensions. All are continuous anyway, no fundamental thingy is there.

If was just thinking about it, and I'll add a question which is intertwined with question How does the Higgs boson get mass when it is the particle that causes mass (from what I've understood)?

This is an unfortunate confusion. It is the Higgs field that gives masses to the massive particles, and is a necessary field in the theoretical Standard Model, which describes all the known elementary particle data up to now. The Higgs particle that was measured last summer is another particle in the zoo of particles of the Standard Model, necessary for its completion and due to the Higgs field, it is a proof that the Higgs field is there, since it validates the standard model. The Higgs particle also gets its mass from the Higgs field.

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Possessing energy is a property of matter. Energy can be of different form, and the matter can take different forms. One can say that matter is a carrier of energy. Matter is more complicated than just a building block of energy - it possesses some other properties.

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Think of currency.

Each piece of currency has a different value - 25 cents for a US quarter, 1.2 cents for a Japanese yen, etc. However, there is no building block of value. Each bit of currency has a certain value, but it's not like a US quarter has 21 times as many "value pieces" in it as a one-yen coin.

Instead, the value of a coin or note gives us a way of converting between them. You can trade your quarters for yen, then trade the yen for quarters, and the total value is always the same (assuming no transaction costs), even though there is nothing in particular that value is made out of. The total amount of value stays the same.

Now just replace "currency" with "physical systems" and "value" with "energy".

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