- Paperback: 120 pages
- Publisher: Oxford University Press; 1 edition (April 19, 2010)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0199572194
- ISBN-13: 978-0199572199
- Product Dimensions: 6.7 x 0.7 x 4.4 inches
- Shipping Weight: 3.5 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 63 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #84,402 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Laws of Thermodynamics: A Very Short Introduction 1st Edition
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Review from previous edition: "It takes not only a great writer but a great scientist with a lifetime's experience to explains such a notoriously tricky area with absolute economy and precision, not to mention humour."
--Books of the Year, Observer. 30.11.08
"His engaging account...the lucid figures offer readers a firm understanding of energy and entropy."
"Concise, well-written, engaging and carefully structured... an enjoyable and informative read."
--Chemistry World 01/12/2007
"Peter Atkins's account of the core concepts of thermodynamics is beautifully crafted."
--Simon Mitton, THES 16/11/2007
"A brief and invigoratingly limpid guide to the laws of thermodynamics."
--Saturday Guardian 15/09/2007
"Atkins's systematic foundations should go a long way towards easing confusion about the subject...an engaging book, just the right length (and depth) for an absorbing, informative read."
--Mark Haw, Nature 20/09/2007
"[Atkins'] ultra-compact guide to thermodynamics [is] a wonderful book that I wish I had read at university."
--New Scientist 20/10/2007
About the Author
Peter Atkins is Professor of Chemistry at the University of Oxford and Fellow of Lincoln College. He is the author of nearly 60 books, which include Galileo's Finger: The Ten Great Ideas of Science and the famed textbook Physical Chemistry (now in its eighth edition).
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Top customer reviews
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The selection of content is good, however the author did not apply adequate effort to present it in a readable way with clear details. The exact same material is covered in "Elements of Physical Chemistry" by Atkins and Julio de Paula. The language there is much more readable (probably due to the second author) with more expanded details and pictures. However it is still more focused on chemistry than physics and you still won't see the Clausius derivation of entropy.
Here are the main problems of the "Very Short Introduction":
- the Clausius definition of entropy is dumped on the reader without derivation. If you are curious how entropy appears in thermodynamics, you are out of lack, and this is typical for most chemistry books.
- the energy diagrams of two connected heat engines are best illustrated with numerical values, as many good physics books do, not with generic "Heat" which have different values for the two engines. The author completely forgets to mention that the energy flow is conserved on such a diagram so his first explanation of equivalence between Kelvin and Clausius statements will be lost on many readers that see these diagrams for the first time.
- at many places the text is unpleasant to read and hard to understand due to pretentious dictionary words and several thoughts crammed into a single convoluted sentence:
"Whereas lesser minds might view the heat source as the crucial component, or perhaps the vigorously reciprocating piston, Kelvin - as we shall anachronistically call him - saw otherwise: he identified the invisible as indispensible, seeing that the cold sink - often just the undersigned surroundings - is essential".
- some examples in the book are missing small details vital to their understanding. For example, the book fails to mention that when a chemical reaction "releases energy", the change of internal energy from the initial products to the final products at the same temperature is negative, and even cites it as positive: "When 1L of gasoline is burned it produces carbon dioxide and water vapour. The change in internal energy is 33 MJ ....". Many beginners will be lost by such a flip of sign in the First Law and will not be able to follow the explanation, which renders it useless. Another example was not explaining why the entropy change of a heat engine is not taken into account when the total entropy change of the universe is calculated. Answer: a cyclic engine returns to the initial state of the same entropy.
- the book is historically inaccurate on a few occasions. The formula for the efficiency of Carnot's engine was derived by Kelvin, not by Carnot as the book claims. Kelvin wrote a whole 40-50 page article on Carnot's book and was not "largely oblivious of Carnot's work" as Atkins claims.
In conclusion: (1) For dabblers like me, this is a superb introduction and summary; (2) For students who want an introduction to the basic concepts, this is for you -- no one should take an introductory physics course that includes thermodynamics without reading this.