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PopularScience

Peter W Atkins

Four Laws that drive the Universe

If you try to learn about thermodynamics then you might find yourself getting bogged down in the mathematics and the terminology. If so then you should consider reading Four Laws that drive the Universe in which P W Atkins gives a non-technical introduction to the subject.. In case you thought there were just 3, well Atkins starts with the Zeroth Law, which allows the concept of temperature. He then introduces the First law (conservation of energy) and the Second law which C P Snow said ought to be understood by any educated person.

Before the Third Law Atkins devotes a chapter to the concept of Free Energy in thermodynamics - a topic which can be confusing, and here the book begins to look a little technical, but its much gentler than you'd find in a textbook. The final chapter on the Third Law looks at the impossibility of reaching absolute zero, and at the phenomenon of negative temperatures

I found that this book was very useful in clarifying the meaning of some of the terminology used in thermodynamics. Atkins keeps away from philosophising about the wider meaning of the subject, and so this book is possibly not aimed at a typical 'popular science' readership. Rather it's for someone who wants to start learning about thermodynamics but finds existing books intimidating.

Amazon.com info
Hardcover 144 pages  
ISBN: 0199232369
Salesrank: 745411
Weight:0.57 lbs
Published: 2007 Oxford University Press
Amazon price $17.99
Marketplace:New from $7.49:Used from $3.55
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Amazon.co.uk info
Hardcover 130 pages  
ISBN: 0199232369
Salesrank: 194556
Weight:0.57 lbs
Published: 2007 Oxford University Press
Amazon price £13.99
Marketplace:New from £7.18:Used from £1.28
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Amazon.ca info
Hardcover 144 pages  
ISBN: 0199232369
Salesrank: 187128
Weight:0.57 lbs
Published: 2007 Oxford University Press
Amazon price CDN$ 19.99
Marketplace:New from CDN$ 13.42:Used from CDN$ 6.25
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Product Description
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--everything is moved or restrained by four simple laws. Written by Peter Atkins, one of the world's leading authorities on thermodynamics, this powerful and compact introduction explains what these four laws are and how they work, using accessible language and virtually no mathematics. Guiding the reader a step at a time, Atkins begins with Zeroth (so named because the first two laws were well established before scientists realized that a third law, relating to temperature, should precede them--hence the jocular name zeroth), and proceeds through the First, Second, and Third Laws, offering a clear account of concepts such as the availability of work and the conservation of energy. Atkins ranges from the fascinating theory of entropy (revealing how its unstoppable rise constitutes the engine of the universe), through the concept of free energy, and to the brink, and then beyond the brink, of absolute zero.

About the Series: Combining authority with wit, accessibility, and style, Very Short Introductions offer an introduction to some of life's most interesting topics. Written by experts for the newcomer, they demonstrate the finest contemporary thinking about the central problems and issues in hundreds of key topics, from philosophy to Freud, quantum theory to Islam.