Four Laws That Drive the Universe

Four Laws That Drive the Universe

Book - 2007
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The laws of thermodynamics drive everything that happens in the universe. From the sudden expansion of a cloud of gas to the cooling of hot metal, and from the unfurling of a leaf to the course of life itself - everything is directed and constrained by four simple laws. They establishfundamental concepts such as temperature and heat, and reveal the arrow of time and even the nature of energy itself. Peter Atkins' powerful and compelling introduction explains what the laws are and how they work, using accessible language and virtually no mathematics. Guiding the reader from the Zeroth Law to the Third Law, he introduces the fascinating concept of entropy, and how it not only explains why yourdesk tends to get messier, but also how its unstoppable rise constitutes the engine of the universe.
Publisher: Oxford ;, New York :, Oxford University Press,, 2007.
ISBN: 9780199232369
Branch Call Number: 536.71 AT
Characteristics: 130 pages : illustrations ; 21 cm

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Aug 25, 2015

I had the displeasure of reading the copy of of Atkins' book that the reviewer 6675tap admits he "corrected;" but he didn't.
That reviewer seemingly willingly misunderstood the text, and attempted to force his misunderstandings on it.
Oh, for an eraser!

Sep 29, 2014

The author distorts reality---many many times---when he discusses "heat". Now, the author readily conceeds that "heat is...not the name of an entity". Yet it isn't "convenient" to refrain from using the word as if it did, indeed, refer to an entity. "Everyday discourse would be stultified if we were to insist on the precise use of the word heat".

This ontological muddle concerning thermal energy is complicated further when "energy" is discussed. Sometimes energy is merely a property of matter, and sometimes it's an entity in its own right. This is like a dream come true for the epistemic relativist in you: No matter which concept of energy you believe, you get to be correct!

Another problem with "Four Laws" is the silly usage of "Zeroth" as an ordinal number. Atkins follows the herds of scientists, teachers, and journalistic popularizers who have adopted this figure of speech with enthusiasm even though they aren't trying to be funny. Still, we should let ourselves be corrected---even if the experts will not---by the discovery that the law of conservation should not be called the first law of thermodynamics, but the second. A reasonable person abandons the wrong way of describing this aspect of reality and adopts a logically coherent way. But not Atkins. In fact, he refers to the first law of thermodynamics---the law of equilibrium and temperature---as both the "Zeroth" law AND the first law. Oh, what fun chemistry becomes when the subject is treated like anthropology, sociology, or political "science".

In spite of all these and other problems, however, I recommend this book as an introduction to thermodynamics. You don't need to know any calculus, as when reading Don Lemmons' book "Mere Thermodynamics", and you can cross out Atkins' mistakes and write the truth in their place. Further, the brief account includes several fascinating revelations which were neglected in my h.s. and college chem. classes---which were designed more for people interested in medicine and biology than in engineering, physics, and philosophy. Bearing in mind the aforementioned mistakes should give the reader a good mental workout before moving on to more advanced material.


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