Questions tagged [thermodynamics]

For questions about the branch of physics concerning heat and temperature and their macroscopic relationship to energy and work.

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49 views

Earliest use of the word 'polytropic' to describe an equation of state or process

When and by whom was the word 'polytropic' first used to describe an equation of state or process of the form $P \propto V^n$? Why was this particular word chosen? The earliest use of the word that I ...
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732 views

What became of the Boltzmann-Zermelo debate about the second law of thermodynamics?

At the end of 19th century there was a lively discussion about the nature of the second law of thermodynamics, and its relation to Hamiltonian dynamics. Boltzmann developed a position that the second ...
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Was Lord Kelvin at any point a proponent of vitalism?

Vitalism is the notion now discredited as pseudoscientific that there is some fundamental cleavage between living and non-living matter. This blog post contains some quotes that suggest Lord Kelvin ...
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256 views

How did Einstein know the Avogadro Number?

Wikipedia says the Avogadro number was determined by Perrin in 1908. But Einstein used the value $$N=6\times 10^{23}$$ as early as 1905 in order to estimate the size of the fluctuations of an ...
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What were the dominant non-atomic theories of matter in the 19th century?

From what I have read, the atomic theory of matter was cemented by a 1905 paper by Einstein in which he explained the erratic motion of a bit of pollen suspended in water using the assumption that ...
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What is the history of the energy concept and its measurement?

Could someone please explain how the concept of energy was originally conceived and how it evolved over time to our current understanding of it? Also how did people come about various ways of ...
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135 views

When and how did usage of the term Centigrade give way to Celsius? Are/were they in fact numerically identical?

Discussion below the question Does the US National Weather Service use Celsius or Fahrenheit? and correction of my original use of "Centigrade" to the modern Celsius lead me here. For example, in the ...
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Heat Capacity versus Fourier's Law

What came first, Fourier's Law, or the definition of heat capacity?
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Did Ludwig Boltzmann read Albert Einstein's publication published on Brownian motion one year before Boltzmann passed away?

Apparently there was some negative reception of Boltzmann's idea of an "atom". I assume the mathematics used by Einstein in his publication did not use any of Boltzmann's statistical mathematics ...
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who was the “nabob” Truesdell thinking of?

In his "Rational Thermodynamics" 1983, 2nd ed., on page 55, Truesdell writes The axiomatization of Caratheodory has left a baneful legacy: Born's endorsement, which for a long time promoted in ...
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Query 31 in Newton's opticks and the second law of thermodynamics

Query 31 in Newton's opticks contains the following words: "But by reason of the Tenacity of Fluids, and Attrition of their Parts, and the Weakness of Elasticity in Solids, Motion is much more apt to ...
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When did the concept of temperature first arise?

I am interested in when the concept of temperature first arose. This seems surprisingly hard to pin down from the web-based research I've done so far. I am mostly interested in how people thought ...
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Who invented the steam engine: Newcomen or Watt?

The steam engine was one of the main enabling technologies of the industrial revolution. Many histories of the Industrial Revolution chart the steam engine's rise with James Watt. However, Thomas ...
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Who discovered the Virial Theorem?

Who first discovered the Virial Theorem? Who first wrote it down? When? Where? My guess: a 19th century thermodynamicist
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259 views

Why is the Brayton cycle also known as the Joule cycle? What was Joule's contribution?

Did James Prescott Joule also design this thermodynamic workcycle, separate from George Brayton? I've not found any reference to Joule's involvement besides that from George Brayton. Could someone ...
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Lord Kelvin's wonderful prediction

My question is straight forward. How did Lord Kelvin accurately determine that -273.16°C is absolute zero. I guess this was not determined by experiments cause the equipment was not so developed. ( ...
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When was double-paned glass first invented and used for insulation?

Double-paned glass windows have a hollow space between two panes of glass, usually just filled with air. This can make a much better insulator than normal glass, according to Engineering Toolbox. I ...
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130 views

How did crude oil pipelines work before WW2?

Before World War Two, how did pipelines work for crude oil? What kind of metal or plastic were they made out of? What kind of sensors and monitoring did they need? Did they have "pigs" that travel up ...
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Discovery of kinetic gas theory

I assume that there was a single person who at a specific day in time was the very first to see and understand perfectly clearly that temperature is somehow identical with the mean kinetic energy of a ...
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Why did most steam locomotives use simple expansion?

As steam engine pressures increased, it was realized the exhaust steam still had useful pressure. The compound engine was invented to take advantage of this. The exhaust from a small high pressure ...
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106 views

When was the speed of sound first “correctly” calculated?

I am not a student of thermodynamics, but I will reproduce some equations and discussion from Wikipedia to highlight the principles involved in obtaining a fairly accurate — one percent perhaps — ...
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On the work of Sadi Carnot

This PDF file contains an English translation of Sadi Carnot's Refelections on the motive power of fire. It also contains commentary by Lord Kelvin. And some chapters about the work and life of Carnot,...
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541 views

Different sign conventions in thermodynamics different for physics and chemistry

Why are the sign conventions of work done in thermodynamics different for physics and chemistry?
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249 views

When did people notice the special shapes of snowflakes, and when did they start to study them?

What was the first written account about snowflake shapes and when did physicists start to study the reasons why the form appears and how snowflakes form in the air? Is there any old book that ...
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Carnot and Entropy

After reading the article History of Entropy on Wikipedia, I noticed that it mentioned Carnot running into problems with entropy. I understand that entropy was fleshed out later by Clausius, but with ...
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762 views

Why the thermoelectric figure of merit is denoted “ZT”?

Why the thermoelectric figure of merit is denoted ZT? Does ZT come from the abbreviation of words in some language? Update: So far T has been figured out --- it is the temperature to make the whole ...
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335 views

Why isn't “thermodynamics” replaced with “thermostatics”?

In thermodynamics, one primarily studies systems that are in so-called "thermal equilibrium", a state in which certain prescribed "thermodynamic" quantities such as temperature, heat, chemical ...
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Who is Hræðraford, the “learned clerk” “writing in modern chemical Latin”?

Truesdell, C. Rational Thermodynamics. New York, NY: Springer New York, 1984. http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/978-1-4612-5206-1, p. 41 says: … in the numerous papers and books whose titles and topics ...
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Who determined the temperature of the Sun first?

It is commonplace that it is about 6000 Kelvin. But who came to this value first? And with what method? Based on the black body radiation theory?
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Historical Survey of Statistical Mechanics

Statistical mechanics is a subject with a particularly rich history. I think of the early debates of Boltzmann and Loschmidt, the rather confusing differences between the approaches of Gibbs and ...
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Clausius regarding energy

Clausius somewhere wrote (in German): ``The energy of the world is constant.'' This is a well known quotation. What is the source, publication, the rest of the paper? [Obviously he was summarizing ...
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What was wrong with the caloric theory?

The caloric theory was replaced by the modern understanding of thermodynamics in the mid-1800's. In this theory, heat is a physical fluid that flows from one object to another; this flow causes ...
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625 views

When were the modern notions of work and energy created

Reading through Wikipedia says that Coriolis was the first to introduce the notion of work, described as "weight lifted through a height". Our modern conception of work is of a force that realizes a ...
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How far did Nazi Germany get in researching the “sun gun?”

Nazi Germany tried to win World War II by creating "wonder weapons." They actually produced the V-2 Missiles capable of reaching England, and tried, but failed, to develop the atomic bomb. One of the ...
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Early history of the phase concept in the physical sciences

One of the first distinctions encountered in science education is that substances can assume different states of matter: for example, water can be found as a liquid, as a solid (ice), or as a gas (...