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Understanding Thermodynamics (Dover Books on Physics) [Paperback]

H.C. Van Ness , Physics
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (24 customer reviews)

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Book Description

January 1, 1983 0486632776 978-0486632773 Dover ed

Grappling with the first and second laws of thermodynamics can test the intellectual mettle of even the most dedicated student of the physical sciences. Approaching the subject for the first time may raise more queries and doubts than are usually handled in the basic, straightforward textbook.
Based on a series of lectures delivered to 500 sophomore engineering students at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Dr. Van Neer's clear, lucid treatment is readily comprehensible by undergraduate-level science and engineering students. His language is informal, his examples are vivid and lively, his perspective is fresh. This book, a companion to a basic textbook, discusses thermodynamics, a topic of profound importance in the study of physics, in a manner which elucidates fundamental concepts and demonstrates their practical applicability.
In these increasingly energy-conscious and costly times, as traditional energy sources are being depleted and revolutionary new sources are contemplated, appreciating the consequences of the laws of thermodynamics is more than a fascinating avenue of intellectual inquiry: it is a pragmatic concern imperative to all — students, scientists, engineers, technicians, politicians, businessmen, and anyone facing the energy challenges of the future. Here is help understanding concepts which will prove all-important in the next century.
Dr. H. C. Van Ness is a distinguished professor of chemical engineering at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and co-author of several textbooks on thermodynamics. He is an unsurpassed as an expert in the field.

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Product Details

  • Series: Dover Books on Physics
  • Paperback: 128 pages
  • Publisher: Dover Publications; Dover ed edition (January 1, 1983)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0486632776
  • ISBN-13: 978-0486632773
  • Product Dimensions: 8 x 5.4 x 0.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (24 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #137,221 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
74 of 76 people found the following review helpful
Understanding Thermodynamics is an exceptional introduction to a subtle and complex topic. The First and Second Law of Thermodynamics are seemingly trivial, and yet an understanding of theoretical and applied thermodynamics often eludes even the best of students. This 100-page overview is much better than the chapter or two on thermodynamics in a first year physics text. It is a more lucid and interesting discussion than is even found in Feynman's Lectures in Physics, Volume 1.
H. C. Van Ness, a professor of chemical engineering at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and expert in thermodynamics, approaches his subject in an uniquely interesting fashion, stressing that the First and Second Law are assumptions based on empirical data. They are fundamental statements that cannot be derived from other principles.
In chapter 1 Van Ness borrows a humorous analogy from Feynman to explain the reasonableness of the abstract concept of internal energy and the relationship between internal energy, heat, and work.
Chapter 2 introduces the concept of reversibility, and explains its fundamental importance to thermodynamics. In doing so he carefully exposes our underlying assumptions.
In chapter 3, titled Heat Engines, Van Ness emphasizes that the reversible process represents the limiting behavior of actual systems, the best that we can hope for. Also, in most cases we are not even able to make calculations unless we simplify our problem by assuming that our system exhibits reversibility. Van Ness carefully explains the basic engineering calculations for both the Otto engine cycle and the Carnot theoretical heat engine.
In chapter 4 Van Ness guides the reader carefully through detailed thermodynamic analysis of a large scale power plant.
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44 of 45 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Deals with the abstractness November 3, 2000
Thermo is hard for two reasons. The equations are messy, and the properties are so abstract. Van Ness deals directly and only with the second problem. His discussion of energy functions and energy transformations just as rules between observables is very helpful. Using that notion to get at what he means by a property and then making entropy understandable as a PROPERTY of a system is the core of much of the book. The derivation of some basic stuff in statistical mechanics is quite clear, and the logical relationship to classical thermo is very clear. An index would be nice.
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25 of 27 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Highly recommended May 12, 2005
By hpde
This book is an excellent conceptual introduction to thermodynamics. It helps you to get the "big picture" without getting into mathematical details. The first few chapters are suitable for high-school students that are interested in the fundamental concepts and laws of thermodynamics.
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18 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent foundation January 2, 2006
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Van Ness cures the common problem of vapid thermodynamics texts by clearly explaining the basics and then stopping.

His little book is an easy read, and firmly roots the student in the reality of what thermodynamic laws and equations actually mean. Most importantly, van Ness repeatedly makes clear that thermodynamics is about imaginary processes that will never occur in real machines.

This should be the first week's read of every course in thermo.
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Best description of entropy I've seen February 29, 2008
This thin book is a must-have for anyone who wants to understand thermodynamics. A better title for this book may be `Thermodynamics Companion'. This it not a stand alone text, but a supplement to a text book or more advanced reference. This author explains in detail (and without a lot of mathematical mumbo-jumbo) the basics of thermodynamics. It is geared toward the advanced undergraduate or beginning graduate student in engineering or physics who wants to understand thermo. The mathematics is simple (anyone with a little knowledge of calculus can handle it), so the reader won't get bogged down in the equations. If you really want to get a handle on what thermo means (beyond just manipulating equations), this would be a great place to start. This book contains the best discussion of entropy that I've ever found. The notion of entropy is a difficult one for many new to thermo. It is easy to learn how to manipulate the equations, another thing to really understand what they mean. The latter is the author's goal in this book, and he has succeeded. At less than $8, this is a no-brainer.
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars good alternative intro August 29, 2006
First, skip over the silly introductory analogy of a little kid playing with marbles or whatever. But then it gets good. Aside from introducing an equation (p.28) including the variable S without even defining, let alone explaining, it, the 1st and 2nd law are explained very lucidly and with much care (I am a graduate electrical engineer with a full-semester thermodynamics course under my belt who's forgotten most of the subject). Entropy is very well dealt with. The last part of the book deals with thermodynamics vs statistical mechanics & there it gets pretty rough. I didn't try to assimilate too much of that part, not being as intetersted, but it's rigorous and doubtlessly also a fine exposition.

This book is certainly worth the small price and a chunk of your time.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Simply outstanding January 1, 2007
Who knew that thermodynamics could actually be entertaining? This book is a joy to read regardless of your technical background or interests. It isn't meant to be a text, or even a demonstration of the subject's importance, but, rather, an invocation of the sheer wonder that can lie in the most mundane things if only you can look at them from the viewpoint that thermodynamics offers.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
2.0 out of 5 stars Sometimes Omits Critical Explanations
I've gone through this text twice and found the same objections both times: Van Ness is prone to papering over jumps in reasoning when it suits his tutorial. Read more
Published 2 months ago by M. Kersey
5.0 out of 5 stars Great book for introduction to thermodynamics!
I always felt thermodynamics to be a very difficult and deep subject both in my undergrad and grad school....never got hold of it completely... Read more
Published 5 months ago by Saptarshi Chakraborty
3.0 out of 5 stars know your calculus before reading
Having had two very difficult--and fascinating--terms of TD in college long ago, I was interested enough to purchase this book to read during an overseas flight. Read more
Published 10 months ago by Latewood
5.0 out of 5 stars The thermodynamics professor who wrote this gets an A++!
I went straight to the part about entropy, and after a short while I had it! Finally, someone has actually explained what it is and where it came from! Read more
Published 14 months ago by Mark Goodell
5.0 out of 5 stars very complete book
The author has an extensive amount of knowledge about the subject of Physical Chemistry, particularly Chemical Thermodynamics. It was a good purchase.
Published 14 months ago by John Ball
4.0 out of 5 stars Very nice
Well presented and good contents. It will be helpfull for its purpose. easy way to learn the topic of acrilic painting. Being helpful already
Published 16 months ago by JOSE M BASAGOITI CAYCOYA
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Book
This should be a supplemental text for every thermodynamics class. Easy to read and relays fundamental thermodynamic concepts clearly. Highly recommended.
Published 16 months ago by J. Turner
5.0 out of 5 stars Pedagogically perfect !
The only one - among the modern treatises containing the correct and detailed analysis of the traditional (but nonetheless not completely understood) notions of thermodynamic... Read more
Published 16 months ago by Jewgeni Starikow
5.0 out of 5 stars Another One
My policy is:
Published 17 months ago by Myrna B. Tagayun
5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic Short Overview
This is a very short book but does the best job I have seen so far of explaining thermodynamics concepts like entropy. Read more
Published 17 months ago by Maggie Essington
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