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The Laws of Thermodynamics

A Very Short Introduction
Written by: Peter Atkins
Narrated by: Nick Sullivan
Length: 3 hrs and 31 mins
Categories: Science & Math, Physics

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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.

©2010 Peter Atkins (P)2011 Audible, Inc.

What members say

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  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Diane Walter
  • 09-08-11

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!

9 people found this helpful

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  • M
  • 30-12-12

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.

5 people found this helpful

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  • Andre
  • 06-10-11

Very Good Non Math Text on Thermo

I wish my engineering prof could have told it to me this way.
It gave me a better picture of the whole then what I learned
in school.

2 people found this helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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  • Paul
  • 17-07-15

Thermodynamics made even more boring

Definitely touched up on some good concepts, but the voice actor has the voice of a wet peanut watching ink dry as he fills out an IRS complaint form.

I only listen to audio books to get through the boredom of reading, Nick Sullivan did not help my cause. Maybe choose someone less monotone next time.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Mario
  • 05-09-14

An endless subject for study

This book shows how thermodynamics is a vast field of study. I wanted just to have an introduction of this subject, but it is complex and needs time and study to grasp the fundamentals. It is a good book for it gives an comprehensive idea of the field.

2 people found this helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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  • Daniel
  • 24-01-20

Audio is not a good platform

Thermo is better studied and learned through a textbook. An audiobook does do the subject justice.

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 21-10-18

Very good at adding context to p-chem

I am currently taking p-chem in college. In class we cover the equations and how everything relates to one another mathematically but do not go deep into the theory. This book does a good job of giving context and details to the math. This book requires a strong science background to get the most out of it. This book is a good companion to any P-chem course.

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  • john
  • 02-01-18

Great read that really helps you take a step back!

kept me listening until the very last page. Peter Atkins simplifies the world in a lamen way.

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  • james
  • 20-03-17

Listened over five times

The best part about the book is it taps into the slow learners mind and introduces concepts and the book keeps a bead on the listener and the idea of hearing it for the first time, so the narrator is thorough. As far as parts of the book I believe they accomplished for the visual learner a moving picture of what the topic is and could become.

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  • Anthony Bianco
  • 19-12-16

Awesome intro to thermodynamics.

I have only taken physics 12, and so could not grasp all of the later material on gibbs energy and the like. However, I plan on listening to it several more times because of my interest in the subject. But if youre not familiar with physics, you can still get the basic concepts given throughout

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    2 out of 5 stars
  • Lesley
  • 11-04-12

NO PDF

A PDF was supposed to accompany this but it doesn't download. Iv'e tried it twice to no avail.

3 people found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
  • Anonymous User
  • 17-04-11

Very good book,

I thought this book was great. It did not speak down to you but it also did not use complicated language. I work in refrigeration and found this book very helpful.

2 people found this helpful

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  • D. Robertson
  • 09-05-19

Short indeed

I think this is a good book for someone who is revising or refreshing their recent study and understanding of thermodynamics. If however, like me, you thought this was a quick look at the basic laws then you should avoid this as a first foray on the subject. It is obviously an authoritative tilt at the four laws but does make assumptions on the readers current level of understanding. Recommended for students and budding thermodynamisists, or a follow up listen to a slower paced exposition of thermodynamics.

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  • Anonymous User
  • 14-05-19

very informative

very informative, worth listening to more than once. i would suggest reviewing each chapter by writing down each of the key themes