I am just starting out in physics. I study in germany, so excuse me if I get some terms wrong.
I am trying to understand why 'Work = Force * Way' and I think I just have some trouble imagining what work is. I have learned that force is that which can accelerate a mass, which excludes things like friction or gravity, so I just imagine it like "in space you need 1 N for 2 seconds to accelerate a 1kg mass to about 2m/s". This seems like a logical way to measure Force because things like inertia and acceleration are universal concepts.
But Force * Way? Does this still exclude friction and gravity? If some objects are accelerated by a certain force along a path, some will take longer and some will go faster, does that mean that the objects that take longer experience more of the work than the fast ones? Why not Force * Time, like in my mass-in-space example.
In all the examples I ever hear, people talk about lifting a mass from the ground and defining that as the work. So is work the force needed to 'push' an object against another (counter-directional) force for a certain distance? Is that 'other' force always gravity?
(Same goes for potential energy: A lot of examples of potential energy use gravity as some universal part of what potential energy is (?)..)
I am so confused, please help.