HISTORY of Thermodynamics
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Pages : 335
The most exciting and significant episode of scientific progress is the
development of thermodynamics and electrodynamics in the 19th century
and early 20th century. The nature of heat and temperature was recognized,
the conservation of energy was discovered, and the realization that mass
and energy are equivalent provided a new fuel, – and unlimited power.
Much of this occurred in unison with the rapid technological advance
provided by the steam engine, the electric motor, internal combustion
engines, refrigeration and the rectification processes of the chemical
industry. The availability of cheap power and cheap fuel has had its impact
on society: Populations grew, the standard of living increased, the environ-
ment became clean, traffic became easy, and life expectancy was raised.
Knowledge fairly exploded. The western countries, where all this happened,
gained in power and influence, and western culture – scientific culture –
spread across the globe, and is still spreading.
At the same time, thermodynamics recognized the stochastic and
probabilistic aspect of natural processes. It turned out that the doctrine of
energy and entropy rules the world; the first ingredient – energy – is
deterministic, as it were, and the second – entropy – favours randomness.
Both tendencies compete, and they find the precarious balance needed for
stability and change alike.
Philosophy, – traditional philosophy – could not keep up with the grand
words and subjective thinking – in the conventional style –, and scientific
culture, which uses mathematics and achieves tangible results.
Indeed, the concepts of the scientific culture are most precisely expressed
mathematically, and that circumstance makes them accessible to only a
minority: Those who do not shy away from mathematics. The fact has
forced me into a two-tiered presentation. One tier is narrative and largely
devoid of formulae, the other one is mathematical and mostly relegated to
Inserts. And while I do not recommend to skip over the inserts, I do believe
that that is possible – at least for a first reading. In that way a person may
ficance. The word came up about two cultures: One, which is mostly loose
expansion of knowledge. It gave up and let itself be pushed into insigni-
acquire a quick appreciation of the exciting concepts and the colourful
personages to whom we owe our prosperity and – in all probability – our