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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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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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17 votes
2 answers
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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 ...
Conifold's user avatar
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15 votes
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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 ...
Colin McFaul's user avatar
15 votes
2 answers
678 views

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 ...
tom's user avatar
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2 answers
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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 (...
Semiclassical's user avatar
13 votes
4 answers
2k views

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 ...
winwaed's user avatar
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11 votes
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922 views

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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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 ...
yoyo_fun's user avatar
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4 answers
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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 ...
winwaed's user avatar
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10 votes
3 answers
3k views

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 ...
Tom Au's user avatar
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8 votes
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Why do many names of technical and scientific subjects end with "ics"?

The names of many technical and scientific subjects, like mathematics, physics, statistics, etc., etc., end with letters "ics". What is meant by this, if anything? Was there any logic behind it or is ...
FAHDI GORSY's user avatar
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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 ...
SaitamaSensei's user avatar
8 votes
1 answer
1k 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 ...
Mark Fantini's user avatar
7 votes
1 answer
2k 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 ...
Eric David Kramer's user avatar
7 votes
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378 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 ...
uhoh's user avatar
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6 votes
2 answers
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What is the history behind defining temperature as measure of hotness?

I know that when two bodies of different temperature are kept in contact "heat" flows from hotter body to colder. But how did anyone know that it is the "hotness" that flows, one could have said that ...
PRITIPRIYA DASBEHERA's user avatar
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1 answer
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What is the etymology of "phase space" of a dynamical system?

The state space of a dynamical system is often called a "phase space". What is the etymology of this? (Note that I'm not asking about the history of the concept, but rather about the history of the ...
Kahovius's user avatar
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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,...
Omar Nagib's user avatar
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2 answers
2k views

Why is the thermoelectric figure of merit denoted by $ZT$?

Why is the thermoelectric figure of merit denoted by $Z T$? Does $Z T$ come from the abbreviation of words in some language? Update: So far, $T$ has been figured out — it is the temperature, to make ...
Αλέξανδρος Ζεγγ's user avatar
5 votes
0 answers
279 views

Were there any contributions to thermodynamics and electromagnetism from Medieval Islamic science?

The Medieval Islamic world, between 8th to the mid 13th century, is known for its developments in academic knowledge. Particularly in astronomy. Many stellar objects still derive their name from ...
Mauricio's user avatar
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1 answer
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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?
John's user avatar
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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 ...
Martin C.'s user avatar
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2 answers
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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 ...
J. LeMoine's user avatar
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1 answer
100 views

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 ...
Geremia's user avatar
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4 votes
1 answer
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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?
Ashwin Kumar k's user avatar
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0 answers
145 views

In which work was Boltzmann's entropy originally introduced?

I get an impression from this enyclopedia entry that the primary source of the Boltzmann entropy equation $S = k \log W$ might be 1866, Über die Mechanische Bedeutung des Zweiten Hauptsatzes der ...
Galen's user avatar
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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 ...
Sedumjoy's user avatar
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1 answer
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When was Kelvin's vitalism rejected in physics?

In 1851, in one of the most famous publications in the history of thermodynamics, On the Dynamical Theory of Heat, with numerical remits deduced from Mr JOULE'S equivalent of a Thermal Unit. etc., ...
hyportnex's user avatar
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1 answer
130 views

What motivated scientists to define quantities at a point?

We know that quantities can be defined at a point. Let's take density for instance. If we take a volume in some quantity of matter and keep on shrinking it to a point where we can assign a uniform ...
Harshit Rajput's user avatar
3 votes
1 answer
117 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 ...
Kishore's user avatar
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1 answer
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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 ...
Gottfried William's user avatar
2 votes
1 answer
182 views

What did people understand heat and temperature to be in Clausius' time?

I just took a read of Clausius' original writing from 1867 on the second law. He refers to the "unit of heat" as "that amount of heat which is required to increase the temperature of unit-weight of ...
user56834's user avatar
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2 votes
1 answer
6k views

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 ...
DrZ214's user avatar
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2 votes
2 answers
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Why was it necessary to define the "Zeroth Law of Thermodynamics"?

Historically, why was it necessary to define the Zeroth Law of Thermodynamics after defining the other Laws? In our current understanding of science, the way we study it in schools, it seems obvious. ...
Devansh Mittal's user avatar
2 votes
1 answer
193 views

Who discovered the Virial Theorem?

Who first discovered the Virial Theorem? Who first wrote it down? When? Where? My guess: a 19th century thermodynamicist
Geremia's user avatar
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2 votes
1 answer
279 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 — ...
uhoh's user avatar
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2 votes
1 answer
193 views

How did Newton originally formulate the Law of Cooling?

I am searching for Newton's original formulation of the Law of Cooling. In his article (p.140-143), Newton said: "For the heat which the hot iron communicates in a given time to cold bodies ...
David A.'s user avatar
2 votes
0 answers
188 views

Who was the first to understand that there is not a net flux of energy between Sun and Earth, but of entropy?

According to Penrose's Cycles of Time, he starts by reminding the usefulness of the second law of thermodynamics and how it applies to everyday life. In particular, how the net energy of Earth is a ...
Mauricio's user avatar
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2 votes
0 answers
90 views

What was the chronologically first derivation PV=nRT?

Wikipedia describes the Ideal Gas Law as coming from a combination of Boyle's Law, Charles' Law, Avogadro's Law, and Gay-Lussac's Law. It gives several derivations, both empirical and theoretical, ...
dain's user avatar
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0 answers
66 views

Since when is it commonplace to use conservation of energy for dynamics problems?

If I throw an object, I can derive its trajectory using the forces acted on it. I can also do the same using conservation of energy. Since when is it commonplace to use conservation of energy for ...
zabop's user avatar
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2 votes
0 answers
211 views

Historical evolution of the ideas behind Clausius-Clapeyron equation and the classical/statistical notion of entropy

The concept of entropy in classical thermodynamics has its roots in attempts to improve the design and efficiency of steam engines; through Sadi Carnot's work, scientists eventually came to realize ...
user2554's user avatar
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2 votes
0 answers
280 views

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 ...
user2554's user avatar
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1 vote
1 answer
310 views

Why is thermodynamics called thermodynamics?

Thermodynamics is derived from two Greek words Therme, which means heat Dynamis, which means power We know that 'thermodynamics' encapsulates many concepts like energy, temperature, entropy, exergy, ...
Harshit Rajput's user avatar
1 vote
1 answer
91 views

What material was the wire with which J.P. Joule did his experiment, with which he arrived at his law of heat dissipation from a resistor?

I have searched in Internet, but I have not found the material. It couldn't be copper, because a short circuit would occur, and it couldn't be Nicrom, because Nicrom was not developed until 1905, and ...
ilich qynn's user avatar
1 vote
1 answer
67 views

Origin and justification for stating the second law of thermodynamics as $dS=d_{\rm{e}}S+d_{\rm{i}}S$?

The second law of thermodynamics is sometimes stated as: $dS=d_{\rm{e}}S+d_{\rm{i}}S$ with : $dS$, the variation of entropy of the system; $d_{\rm{e}}S$, the entropy exchanged with or supplied to the ...
The Quark's user avatar
  • 111
1 vote
2 answers
393 views

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 ...
Hans-Peter Stricker's user avatar
1 vote
1 answer
88 views

Who introduced 1/T=δS/δU and when?

Who first defined temperature $T$ such that $\frac{1}{T} = \frac{\delta S}{\delta U}$, and where and when? It could not have been Thomson, right? He did not have an entropy concept. Clausius?
JPM's user avatar
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1 vote
1 answer
86 views

What's the history of the use of crude oil for transportation before the Industrial Revolution?

What's the history of the use of crude oil for transportation before the Industrial Revolution? Wiktionary says the Latin word petroleum, from petra (“rock”) + oleum (“oil”), is medieval Latin, so ...
Geremia's user avatar
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1 vote
1 answer
883 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 ...
Guha.Gubin's user avatar
1 vote
0 answers
86 views

First time equilibrium notation was used

I was wondering when was the first time that a chemist wrote a chemical equilibrium with the $\rightleftharpoons$ symbol. And if it was before or after Arrhenius's dissociation theory.
David Moldes's user avatar