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Warmth Disperses and Time Passes: The History of Heat (Modern Library Paperbacks) Paperback

ISBN-13: 978-0375753725 ISBN-10: 0375753729

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Product Details

  • Series: Modern Library Paperbacks
  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Modern Library (June 15, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0375753729
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375753725
  • Product Dimensions: 8.6 x 5.9 x 0.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #392,794 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Warmth Disperses and Time Passes deals with, among other things, "Maxwell's Demon," a metaphorical device invented by James Clerk Maxwell a century and a half ago in an attempt to expose flaws in the second law of thermodynamics. This imaginary demon would sit between two flasks of air and allow only warm air molecules to enter the warmer flask. This would cause heat to flow uphill--a death knell for the second law if it were possible. Only it wasn't; it was the death knell for the demon instead. Successive "improved" demons were invented by later physicists, but all have subsequently been killed. The realization that a live demon is impossible has served to further strengthen the second law.

Hans von Baeyer is almost as much historian as scientist. As he walks us through the evolution of scientific understanding of thermodynamics, he stops to dwell on the intellectual and societal framework that allowed the physicists of the time to make their respective scientific leaps. This blend of science and history, combined with von Baeyer's journalistic approach, creates a book that is both exceedingly accessible and surprisingly illuminating. --Eric Warner

Review

"Hans von Baeyer's writing style is so compelling that it would induce even the most scientifically naïve reader to care about the laws of thermodynamics."--Publishers Weekly, starred review

"Professor von Baeyer is a prime candidate for best wordsmith among popularizers of physics, composing prose that is elegant, economical and, above all, civilized."--Physics Today

"Hans von Baeyer uses common sense and familiar observations as a tool for exploring deep scientific principles."--Library Journal, Best Sci-Tech Books of 1998

"Hans Christian von Baeyer has published a highly readable, highly humanized account of the second law of thermodynamics. He gives what could be an abstract and difficult discussion a profoundly human tone."--The Boston Globe

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Customer Reviews

3.9 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

16 of 16 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on August 1, 1999
Format: Paperback
Buy this book if you have given any thought to why coffee cools and orange juice always gets warm. This extremely well written book deals with the most important thoughts some of the most outstanding scientific thinkers throughout history have given to our concepts of heat and energy. What is really striking about the book is that it does so in a readily understood manner without resorting to a single formula or diagram. As a relatively young student I was exposed to a course in thermodynamics which left enduring scars on me. I developed a life long distaste for the likes of Carnot, Clausius and Clapeyron. This book has shown me the errors of my ways. Every faculty member who teaches thermodynamics and every student who wishes to really understand thermodynamics should be required to read this book before entropy is ever discussed again in a classroom. The single concern that I have about the book is it's failure to mention the name or contributions of Willard Gibbs.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By James R. Mccall on May 29, 2002
Format: Paperback
This is an enjoyable history of thermodynamics. Maxwell's Demon does not actually come into it until about half-way through, and then becomes, gradually, the focus. Von Baeyer's approach is to advance his topic short chapter by short chapter. Each chapter treats the work of a man (alas, in science women have not, until recently, played much of a part) as it relates to the growing knowledge of the first and second laws of thermodynamics. The ideas, the experiments, the intellectual milieu, and the subject's life are all fair game in these little essays, and all are treated in a clear, serious, but still light-hearted way. The writing is very pleasing, the author's humane, humorous and cultured personality shines through.
The point of the book, of course, is to explore the Second Law of Thermodynamics, using the Demon invented by the physicist Maxwell. It has proved a remarkably troublesome sprite in spite of all the attempts to exorcise it over the years. Here you will learn some thermodynamics and some history, and when you are done you will have a general idea of the issues swirling around the notion of entropy. After reading this book, you very well might want to get your feet wet in an introductory text on thermodynamics, now that you know some of the issues in play. Or, if you already know some, this will fill in the human background, and may alert you to some current thinking.
One of the current issues is the relationship between the entropy from Information Theory and the entropy from Thermodynamics. As various folks keep trying to conflate them, our author reports on it. The discussion is detailed enough to actually convey some of the ideas that trouble modern researchers, and tantalizing enough to make the reader want to know even more. What else could one want from a popular book on the subject?
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Bete Noire on January 9, 2000
Format: Paperback
Here is a very fine and accesible history of thermodinamics that not only keeps the reader interested and excited to he last page,but it is also thought provoking,spurring readers into more advanced reading on the subject.Highly recommended!
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Carlos Boabaid Neto on October 6, 2000
Format: Paperback
This is the best book about thermodynamics I have ever read ! In my opinion, it makes more to the understanding of this difficult and so misundertood discipline than any other "theoretical" book. Reading this is a funny and pleasant experience! It's like an adventure book, as it relives the history of the men who built the discipline of thermodynamics, and the curious and interesting circustances that brought them to their discoveries. some of that men and their histories I have never heard about!! Congratulations to Von Baeyer, who has done an outstanding and incredible job!!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Phillip on February 17, 2014
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I enjoyed this book because it shows how a concept develops over time and the many individuals that have contributed. It does talk about heat, but is leading to its final goals the two laws of thermodynamics. The ending was a little disappointing.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Garrett Mccutcheon on November 20, 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
A pop-history of thermodynamics, presented as a concise and entertaining narrative. An enjoyable primer for thermodynamics, and an extension of other pop science history books which touch on, but do not explore, the history of the subject
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By N on July 23, 2008
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book chronicles the history of energy, heat, and entropy from the late 18th century with Count Rumford to today.
Nowadays we take the law of conservation of energy to be a given but this book allows you to peer into how scientists of old try to grapple with what was then a very abstruse and elusive concept of energy.
I found this book especially helpful in illustrating the different definitions of the second law of thermodynamics. Each one shines more light on this often subtle law in physics. I was especially fond of reading the description of Clausius' discovery of entropy.

Aside from these high points there were some parts that struck out completely. Chapter 8 falls squarely into this category - it is a parable supposedly describing entropy but I did not gain anything from it. Another chapter that did not flow with the better parts of the book was "Four Obituaries of the Demon"

The end of the book briefs some more contemporary concepts of entropy. One question raised is on the relation between classical dynamics and entropy: If I know the state of every particle in a bottle, is there actually any entropy? Similarly, the odds of a pack of playing cards being ordered by number and suit is actually the same as being ordered in some much less noticeable pattern - is the amount of disorder the same between the two instances?

Overall, I think the book covers too much in too little space. I would have liked to see more detail and rigor too.
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