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From Cosmos to ChaosThe Science of Unpredictability$
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Peter Coles

Print publication date: 2006

Print ISBN-13: 9780198567622

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2010

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198567622.001.0001

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From Engines to Entropy

From Engines to Entropy

(p.95) 6 From Engines to Entropy
From Cosmos to Chaos

Peter Coles (Contributor Webpage)

Oxford University Press

This chapter discusses the role of probability in thermodynamics and the rise of statistical mechanics. Classical thermodynamics is essentially a formal system of logic that descends entirely from a set of four axioms, known as the laws of thermodynamics. The chapter looks briefly at the historical development of this subject and shows how even the greatest minds of the 19th century had enormous problems understanding the relatively simple statistical concepts that underpin it. The first law of thermodynamics is essentially a statement of the law of conservation of energy, while the second law states that the entropy of an isolated system can never decrease. The third law states that at the absolute zero of temperature the entropy of any system is zero. The zeroth law establishes the concept of temperature and its relationship to the idea of thermal equilibrium.

Keywords:   probability, laws of thermodynamics, entropy, conservation of energy, zeroth law, absolute zero, temperature, thermal equilibrium, statistical mechanics

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