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Four Laws That Drive the Universe (Very Short Introductions #226)

3.95  ·  Rating details ·  670 Ratings  ·  78 Reviews
The laws of thermodynamics drive everything that happens in the universe. From the sudden expansion of a cloud of gas to the cooling of hot metal, and from the unfurling of a leaf to the course of life itself--everything is moved or restrained by four simple laws. They establish fundamental concepts such as temperature and heat, and reveal the arrow of time and even the na ...more
Hardcover, 130 pages
Published November 1st 2007 by Oxford University Press, USA (first published January 1st 1990)
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Jan 25, 2014 rated it really liked it

Very nice little book, with little mathematical content but conceptually very precise and rigorous, and without oversimplifications. Unfortunately, it deals only very succinctly with statistical thermodynamics.

Simple, very easy, introductory-level, quick refresher of the basics of thermodynamics. Nicely written and a pleasure to read.
Mar 06, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science
The Laws of Thermodynamics: A Very Short Introduction by Peter W. Atkins

“The Laws of Thermodynamics" is a very solid and practical book that covers the core concepts of thermodynamics. Accomplished author of many science books and Professor of Chemistry at the University of Oxford, does the wonderful A Very Short Introduction series justice by providing readers with an accessible account of the four laws of thermodynamics. This well-written 144 page-book is composed of the following five chapter
Mohamed al-Jamri
My notes while reading the book:

4 laws (0 to 3). Temperature, energy, entropy and absolute zero

Developed during the steam engine age, when scientists weren't sure the atom was real.

Chapter 1: The zeroth law

Temperature. System and surroundings. Open, closed and isolated systems. Pressure and mechanical equilibrium. Temperature and thermal equilibrium. Classical thermodynamics. Statistical thermodynamics. Beta is inversely proportional to energy. K is Boltzmann constant.

K * Beta = 1 / T

Beta would
Mengsen Zhang
Jan 25, 2013 rated it it was amazing
this book is amazing. If it's not dad's recommendation I wouldn't have read that with the look of the title. And I was shocked. This is the most elegant book I have ever read about thermodynamic. It's concise, accessible but doesn't sacrifice its depth. No dramatic statement or attempts to elicit unnecessary or unscientific imagination. no cheezy fantasy. if I had read this in college, physical chem would not have to be a pain in the ass.
Jan 09, 2008 rated it really liked it
This guy is an english chemistry professor who's specialty is to make simple things complicated for the lay person.
Gustav Tonér
Interesting and important but a bit too much chemistry and formulas for my taste (apparently). I missed some more real world applications.
Mar 06, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Entropy is increasing? DUH! Who knew?

Amazon review:
The laws of thermodynamics drive everything that happens in the universe. From the sudden expansion of a cloud of gas to the cooling of hot metal--everything is moved or restrained by four simple laws. Written by Peter Atkins, one of the world's leading authorities on thermodynamics, this powerful and compact introduction explains what these four laws are and how they work, using accessible language and virtually no mathematics. Guiding the read
Teo 2050
105min @ 2x. Contents:
(view spoiler)
Chris Lynch
I felt that I needed to brush up my Thermodynamics, and this little pocket-sized introduction was just the ticket to get me re-started. Not by any means an exhaustive treatment of the subject but a good memory-jogger for someone whose last encounter with Gibbs' Free Energy was sometime around 1987. Each chapter gives firstly a treatment of a concept in classical, 'bulk' thermodynamics, and then explains the statistical link to the micro-world. Peter Atkins tackles the subject with an appealing, ...more
Aug 16, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Peter Atkins, as he seems to be known for his popular science books rather than the P W Atkins of his textbooks, is as good a popular science writer as he is a textbook writer. He manages the balance between keeping things simple (or at least not too technical) while not over-simplifying to the point of inaccuracy. This book about the Laws of Thermodynamics is part of the Oxford University Press series A Very Short Introduction, and like the others I have read in the series lives up to that desc ...more
Roberto Rigolin Ferreira Lopes
They say it is impossible to break the thermodynamics laws in this universe, everything else is uncertain; give it a try. You can see and feel thermodynamics making a cup of tea while reading this book. Hell of fun, right? Wait for it because this Atkins guy push the whole thing to another level of fun. Damn good teacher! For example, he started comparing work and heat at the molecular level to end the discussion making a connection with our civilization development. You will never forget the la ...more
Dan Cohen
Peter Atkins has an excellent dry writing style and the type of keenly pedantic Oxbridge mind that helps the reader to see things in a different way. He starts this right at the beginning by surprising me with a "zero'th law" and ends the book surprising me again by talking about temperatures below absolute zero. Most importantly, he explains why conventional measures of temperature are an accident of history and that a better approach would be to use inverse temperature. A good book.
Jeff Selles
Nov 24, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Four Laws Presented in a Readable Style.

I will recommend this book to anyone interested in the four laws of our universe and the physical laws that affect our every day lives here on earth. I have read about the topic of this book by other authors but this author has made the subject readable and interesting. My favorite law is the LAW of entropy which we can't escape from. I keep imagining that most if not all the secrets of the cosmos can be explained by the four laws. This book is great readi
Mykyta Kuzmenko
Aug 12, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Очень хорошая книжка по физике и химии с нестандартным фокусом.
Jul 30, 2017 rated it really liked it
A great introduction to thermodynamics - except for the missing discussion of time in the chapter covering the second law and entropy. Highly recommended.
Fred Kohn
Feb 24, 2017 rated it really liked it
This book went better on a second read through. I must have read it about 4 years ago and on the reread I found I had not retained very much. This time around I took notes and did some of the math that the author left for the reader to figure out on his/her own. In this way I got a lot more out of it. To be sure, there's a lot of material packed in these few pages.
Gianni Costanzi
Feb 09, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Gianni by: Amedeo Pividori
Ho letto questo libro su consiglio di un collega che ne era rimasto colpito per la chiarezza con cui vengono affrontati i 3+1 principi della termodinamica: già, i tre principi della termodinamica "1. L'energia di un sistema termodinamico isolato non si crea né si distrugge, ma si trasforma, passando da una forma a un'altra", "2. L'entropia di un sistema isolato lontano dall'equilibrio termico tende a salire nel tempo, finché l'equilibrio non è raggiunto" e "3. non è possibile raggiungere lo zero ...more
Alessandro Veneri
What is temperature? How do you define heat? What are the basic implications of the conservation of energy and the spontaneous rise of entropy?
Pretty much of what we experience can be described by thermodynamic laws, and ignoring them may derail us into bad conclusions about the nature of the world. Just as we can't expect engines to produce more energy that we feed in, and that order can come into being only at the expense of an increase in the overall disorder, we cannot dedicate our mental en
Nov 28, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is an interesting and thought provoking book about the laws of thermodynamics. The level of treatment is accessible to any intelligent person, being mostly a qualitative discussion with occasional mathematical formulas. Concepts are illustrated with diagrams and examples.

The book covers the four laws of thermodynamics (Zeroth: the concept of temperature, First: the conservation of energy, Second: the increase in entropy, and Third: the unattainability of zero temperature). The concept of f
Sehar  Moughal
Apr 11, 2014 rated it it was amazing
A great read. I stumbled upon this book by accident (I had no active interest in studying the field of thermodynamics). Suffice to say, I am now very much interested! Peter Atkins has a flare of delivering a difficult concept using stories and scenarios. I could picture the steam engines and the inside working of a refrigerator as he explained the 1st and 2nd law of thermodynamics. In my mind, I could see the electrons bouncing back and forth as Atkins explained temperature, heat and work. High ...more
Aug 30, 2014 rated it liked it
I'd like to state first why i wanted to read that book ? because i wanted to understand the second law of thermodynamics and to have an understanding perhaps provisional one in case i study thermodynamics in the future quantitatively with equations , my review : the first two chapter are very good and introduce the idea of Temperature , i love very much the third chapter in my humble opinion it is the best chapter written , i made me get a good intuition about entropy and the second law , his ex ...more
Maria Renate
Jun 17, 2016 rated it really liked it
I'd give it a five star rating, except that I know that I didn't understand everything presented. However, if you want to have your mind stretched and re-learn something you had to memorize in high school (which is not learning), then I can recommend this book. The concepts presented allowed me to reconsider the Four Laws of Thermodynamics from unfamiliar angles and I profited from it. I am not a terribly sciency sort, but I know that even if I was, I would want to read this book. Atkins' langua ...more
Apr 15, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: philosophy
This is one steamy book. I fumed and panted, waiting for it to arrive. In truth, I was a bit worried that I might find it dry, but that wasn't the case. I started it in the library one night with the flue.

Now, I wouldn't say it fans the flames of any controversy, but it did light a fire under me. Sparked thought. Set me off. Some chapters practically had me in a sweat. Nearly too hot for me to handle.

All too soon, it died down. Yep--I fairly burned right through this slim little volume as soon
Sep 12, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: math-engineering
Thermodynamics is a deep subject, and this book did a good job of showing the highlights of how it works. The author had a very interesting explanation of heat: "In thermodynamics heat is not an entity or even a form of energy: heat is a mode of transfer of energy. It is not a form of energy, or a fluid of some kind, or anything of any kind. Heat is the transfer of energy by virtue of a temperature difference. Heat is the name of a process, not the name of an entity."

I had taken two semesters of
Sep 14, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: math-and-science
I had to read this book because I was doing a physics project on thermodynamics. This is a good starting point for people who didn't know anything about the subject before because (like all very short introductions) it's quite easy to understand. If there is anything you don't understand it'll become clear after reading the section again a few times. Nothing really difficult is presented, which I guess is good because it didn't scare me off the topic! However what you learn from the book is kin ...more
Sep 17, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: physics, reviewed
The best introduction on thermodynamics that I know of. The author goes through all four of the laws of thermodynamics concisely, including their histories and development.

With that said a few minor gripes:
1. I don't recall the arrow of time ever being mentioned - you'd think that would be worth getting across to a reader, concerning the Second Law.
2. Given the book is aimed at the layman, there is probably a little too much mathematics in here.

It's 100 pages and provides a near comprehensive i
Steven Atkinson
Jan 06, 2016 rated it it was amazing
An explanation of the Laws of thermodynamics, it claims it is aimed at the layperson but I think at least an O Level in Physics is needed to even understand what is being explained, Interesting read but a bit heavy going seems to require a rest to absorb what has been read every couple of pages.
I thought I basically understood these laws and their consiquences, how wrong was I ?
They are deeper and more interesting than I thought, just like reletivity laws, explaining such phenomenon as why abs
Francisco Luis Benítez
Manual de termodinámica para diletantes. Fácilmente aprensible, pero en algunos momentos se hace difícilmente comprensible. La simplificación de las Leyes de la Termodinámica se hace muy complejo, y más cuando se hace desde la perspectiva de un químico que no de un físico. No obstante, explica muy bien conceptos como el de la entropía, entalpía o la energía libre. Recomendable para entender como funciona el universo y entender la complejidad de los estudios de la cosmología o la física de altas ...more
Dec 26, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
As a layman with no college math, this helped me understand a little bit about thermodynamics, though I think I'll need to reread a few more times for the concepts to sink in, but not sure you could ask more of a tiny 100 page treatment on the subject. I picked this up because I wanted to understand entropy better, especially as it relates to information theory. The author cops at the end to not daring to get into this domain, understandably sticking to the core concepts.
Srinivas Kowtal
Jun 14, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A fantastic book, at a beginners level, about thermodynamics. After reading this short title you will conclude that the answer to life, universe, and everything is not 42 but is in fact thermodynamics. But to understand the answer, you must know what the questions is as Deep Thought wisely counseled. But be warned, even though it is a short read you will have to spend time thinking to fully assimilate the concepts and their wonderful implications.
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Peter Atkins is a fellow of Lincoln College, University of Oxford and the author of about 70 books for students and a general audience. His texts are market leaders around the globe. A frequent lecturer in the United States and throughout the world, he has held visiting professorships in France, Israel, Japan, China, and New Zealand. He was the founding chairman of the Committee on Chemistry Educa ...more
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