The Laws of Thermodynamics

  • by Peter Atkins
  • Narrated by Nick Sullivan
  • 3 hrs and 31 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

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 listener a step at a time, Atkins begins with Zeroth (so named because the first two laws were well established before scientists realized that a third law, relating to temperature, should precede them - hence the jocular name Zeroth), and proceeds through the First, Second, and Third Laws, offering a clear account of concepts such as the availability of work and the conservation of energy. Atkins ranges from the fascinating theory of entropy (revealing how its unstoppable rise constitutes the engine of the universe), through the concept of free energy, and to the brink, and then beyond the brink, of absolute zero.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

Accessible, but needs the figures

I took beginning thermo in my wasted youth and wished that I could have had this book to lean on while I was taking the class. I thought it was humorous and accessible. I listened to it walking to work and I chuckled out loud at several things. Near the end, when the narrator was talking about phase diagrams, I could have used the figures in the "downloadable pdf" he kept referring to. Apparently Audible doesn't offer this with the book, which is a glaring omission. The book itself is worth getting if you want a very general overview of the 0th through 3rd laws of thermodynamics. It made me want to study the topic further!
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- Diane Walter

Exactly What I Was Looking For

This entertaining discussion of the laws of thermodynamics was originally published in hardback as "Four Laws that Drive the Universe." The author, Peter Atkins, is a famous chemist and the author of textbooks on physical chemistry and popular science books like "Galileo's Finger: The Ten Great Ideas of Science." Atkins is also a famous atheist in the Richard Dawkins "God Delusion" mold, but his atheism does not figure into this book, which I downloaded because I was interested in a moderately rigorous review of thermodynamics. This was partially because of the relationship between the 2nd Law and Information Theory (see Gleick's "The Information: A History, A Theory, A Flood), partially because of CP Snow's famous essay on "The Two Cultures" in which he compares ignorance of the 2nd Law to ignorance of Shakespeare's "Hamlet", and partially because it has been 35 years since I took physical chemistry in college. This met my needs perfectly. Atkins manages to balance readability/listenability with scientific rigor. I do own the print version of this Very Short Introduction and referred to it periodically as I listened. For example, I would look at the figures in a chapter before listening to it while jogging. I doubt it would work well without the print copy. I have downloaded several of these Very Short Introductions as audiobooks, and this is one of the better ones.
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- M

Book Details

  • Release Date: 01-24-2011
  • Publisher: Audible Studios