- Series: Scientific American Library Paperback
- Paperback: 216 pages
- Publisher: W. H. Freeman; 2nd edition (August 15, 1994)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0716760061
- ISBN-13: 978-0716760061
- Product Dimensions: 8.5 x 0.6 x 9.3 inches
- Shipping Weight: 10.6 ounces
- Average Customer Review: 12 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #532,736 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The 2nd Law: Energy, Chaos, and Form (Scientific American Library Paperback) 2nd Edition
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From Library Journal
With this volume on thermodynamics, Scientific American launches its new line of paperbacks, which are essentially softcover releases of popular hardcover titles from the Scientific American library. Other new titles include Philip Morrison's Powers of Ten and Jeremy Sabloff's The New Archaeology and the Ancient Maya.
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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If you want to master this material you need more exposure to it than reading this book will give you, and will need to read detailed mathematical presentations and work through specific problems. I do not have this mastery but I do have experience judging which books are good to learn from, and I think that for someone who has read Atkins' book and wants to learn more, a good next step would be "Understanding Thermodynamics" by H. C. Van Ness. Van Ness's book is short, unlike for example Terrell L. Hill's "An Introduction to Statistical Thermodynamics" which is comprehensive but overwhelming for someone trying to learn this material on their own.
Like all of Atkins' books, the writing is extraordinarily good. The Mark I and Mark II universes are highly effective pedagogical tool to help the reader think about thermodynamics microscopically. In Chapter 7, Atkins explains how to think about a system whose temperature is below absolute zero, which is not paradoxical when presented microscopically. Also in Chapter 7 he mentions the idea of thinking about temperature as "imaginary time" (in the sense of complex numbers), but does not pursue this, and I hope that he finds a chance to write about this in a future book.
Many of these books are quite approachable (Powers of Ten), some are quite technical and require a knowledgable background of the subject. "The Second Law" falls somewhere between the two. The first problem is understanding what the second law says. The second problem is relating this to the universe of reality.
Perhaps the greatest problem in relating current scientific to the average layman is that the subject matter is so arcane and sophisticated. Most non-scientists (particularly considering the dismal state of science in public education) cannot grasp either the theory, mechanics or ramifications of that research - nor do they want to. The hardback book is beautiful with many illustrations. The writing is technically superb and at the same time literate and approachable. If you are a serious student of the way the universe operates, get this book.
But exactly what is entropy? How can it be understood in term of intuitive concepts? What is the relation between the enginner's entropy and the microscopic one (the disorder index)? Why is it so fundamental, yet so arcane that no one ever dared explain it except to teach us how to compute it?
P.W. Atkins answers these questions beautifully. First, he makes an historical account of how we became aware of the concept and defines it from a contemporary perpective. He very accurately and clearly dissect the fundamentals of the laws of thermodynamics. He then gives us numerous examples of how entropy is relevant to the understanding of nature's process, be it in physics, mechanics, chemistry or biology, etc. Eventually, one acquires an intuitive understanding of why these two laws are so fundamentals: why these are so important and prevalent? Why their existence is so unavoidable?
In order to undertand this book,no special mathematical knowledge is required. The logic is rigorous yet affordable and the text is very well structured. You may find the task easier if you have at least a college degree in science but all that is really required is the discipline to pay attention.
At the end of the book, you will appreciate the orderly fashion of the authors toughts. Most of all you will enjoy the very visceral pleasure of seeing one more part of nature's beauty.
Most recent customer reviews
This is wonderful book for those of us confused and frustrated.Read more