Thermodynamics and Arcadia





General Thermodynamics
History of Thermodynamics
Brief of the Second Law of Thermodynamics
The Second Law of Thermodynamics and Arcadia
Interesting quotes by Isaac Newton
Other Thermodynamics Links
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Thermodynamics In General
Thermodynamics is the study of heat and its conversion to other forms of energy. The Second Law of Thermodynamics deals with the entropy of a system. Entropy is the amount of disorder or chaos in a system. In thermodynamics, entropy is used to measure the amount of thermal energy available for work; the greater the entropy, the less energy available for work. Actually, the greater the entropy in a system, the closer that system is to equillibrium. This leads to the idea that nature favors chaos, which is briefly touched upon in the play, Arcadia.
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History of Thermodyanmics
One of the greatest contribution to thermodynamics was made by Benjamin Thompson (1753-1814). He was an Anglo-American physicist who left America after the Revolutionary war and began working in England. He had many important experiments with heat and in 1798 he was one of the original scientists to promote the idea that heat was a form of motion instead of the popular belief that it was a material substance. His work led to the development of the calorimeter and the photometer.

With Thompsons' contributions to the science, thermodynamics became more defined in the 19th century. In fact, most of the laws of thermodynamics were proven by the middle of the 1800s. More work was done in the 19th century by a French scientist named Nicolas Lonard Sadi Carnot. He was the first person to prove that it is not possible for a perfectly efficient engine to exist. He said that any engine must create exhaust, and therefore could not use all of its input heat for the output. The limit of efficiency placed on engines by the Second Law of Thermodynamics, which is always less than 100%, is also known as the Carnot cycle.
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Brief of the Second Law of Thermodynamics
Essentially, the Second Law of Thermodynamics says that there can never be a perpetual motion machine, or a machine that can power itself. This is because heat only travels to cold objects and will not travel to hot objects. This means that in the creation of energy, a motor will create heat, which will be lost into the colder air around it. Therefore, you will never get as much energy out of the system as you put in.
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The Second Law of Thermodynamics and Arcadia
The ideas of the Second Law of Thermodynamics are illustrated in the play by both Valentine and Thomasina in act two, scene seven. Valentine talks to Hannah about the loss of heat by tea and the sun and stars. He makes the comment that eventually we all end up at room temperature, which is supported by the Second Law.

Thomasina also parallels the Second Law when she is talking about Noakes' steam engine, but she also extrapolates it to everything in the universe as illustrated by the line, "Yes, Septimus, they know it about engines!" This line supports the idea that Thomasina is a genius because she is stating an idea that is still new to the world of science in her time and therefore not widely known. Along with her ideas about fractal geometry, Thomasina's grasp of the nature of heat shows an amazing ability to comprehend the lessons she is being taught, and to extrapnformation she is given to support her wandering thoughts.


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Page by Nate Weisshaar


Other Thermodynamics Links
Chemystery Thermodynamics Page
Thermodynamics, Creationism and Evolution
A definition of thermodynamics

Love and the Second Law of Thermodynamics an interesting article on Arcadia, math and physics.

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