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Thermodynamics Quotes (17 quotes)

A theory is the more impressive the greater the simplicity of its premises is, the more different kinds of things it relates, and the more extended is its area of applicability. Therefore the deep impression which classical thermodynamics made upon me. It is the only physical theory of universal content concerning which I am convinced that within the framework of the applicability of its basic concepts, it will never be overthrown.
Autobiographical Notes (1946), 33. Quoted in Gerald Holton and Yehuda Elkana, Albert Einstein: Historical and Cultural Perspectives (1997), 227.
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Classical thermodynamics ... is the only physical theory of universal content which I am convinced ... will never be overthrown.
Quoted in Albert Einstein and Stephen Hawking (ed.), A Stubbornly Persistent Illusion (2007), 353.
Science quotes on:  |  Theory (353)

For if there is any truth in the dynamical theory of gases the different molecules in a gas at uniform temperature are moving with very different velocities. Put such a gas into a vessel with two compartments [A and B] and make a small hole in the wall about the right size to let one molecule through. Provide a lid or stopper for this hole and appoint a doorkeeper, very intelligent and exceedingly quick, with microscopic eyes but still an essentially finite being.
Whenever he sees a molecule of great velocity coming against the door from A into B he is to let it through, but if the molecule happens to be going slow he is to keep the door shut. He is also to let slow molecules pass from B to A but not fast ones ... In this way the temperature of B may be raised and that of A lowered without any expenditure of work, but only by the intelligent action of a mere guiding agent (like a pointsman on a railway with perfectly acting switches who should send the express along one line and the goods along another).
I do not see why even intelligence might not be dispensed with and the thing be made self-acting.
Moral The 2nd law of Thermodynamics has the same degree of truth as the statement that if you throw a tumblerful of water into the sea you cannot get the same tumblerful of water out again.
Letter to John William Strutt (6 Dec 1870). In P. M. Hannan (ed.), The Scientific Letters and Papers of James Clerk Maxwell (1995), Vol. 2, 582-3.
Science quotes on:  |  Gas (30)  |  Maxwell's Demon (2)  |  Molecule (82)  |  Temperature (23)  |  Theory (353)

For the second law [of thermodynamics], I will burn at the stake.
Comment made to H. Montgomery during his time at Harwell. In D. Shoenberg's obituary of H. London, Biographical Memoirs of Fellows of the Royal Society (1971), 17, 442.
Science quotes on:  |  Autobiography (48)

Heat can never pass from a colder to a warmer body without some other change, connected therewith, occurring at the same time.
'On a Modified Form of the Second Fundamental Theorem in the Mechanical Theory of Heat', Philosophical Magazine, 1856, 12, 86.
Science quotes on:  |  Heat (48)

Heat energy of uniform temperature [is] the ultimate fate of all energy. The power of sunlight and coal, electric power, water power, winds and tides do the work of the world, and in the end all unite to hasten the merry molecular dance.
Matter and Energy (1911), 140.
Science quotes on:  |  Coal (20)  |  Dance (5)  |  Electricity (82)  |  End (51)  |  Energy (103)  |  Entropy (25)  |  Fate (16)  |  Haste (3)  |  Merry (2)  |  Molecule (82)  |  Power (103)  |  Solar Power (7)  |  Sunlight (9)  |  Temperature (23)  |  Tidal Power (2)  |  Tide (8)  |  Ultimate (27)  |  Uniform (5)  |  Unite (6)  |  Water (122)  |  Water Power (3)  |  Wind Power (6)  |  Work (198)  |  World (231)

How did Biot arrive at the partial differential equation? [the heat conduction equation] . . . Perhaps Laplace gave Biot the equation and left him to sink or swim for a few years in trying to derive it. That would have been merely an instance of the way great mathematicians since the very beginnings of mathematical research have effortlessly maintained their superiority over ordinary mortals.
The Tragicomical History of Thermodynamics, 1822-1854 (1980), 51.
Science quotes on:  |  Biot_Jean (2)  |  Conduction (3)  |  Derive (4)  |  Differentiation (11)  |  Equation (46)  |  Pierre-Simon Laplace (45)  |  Mathematician (110)  |  Mortal (6)  |  Ordinary (19)  |  Research (360)  |  Sink (6)  |  Superiority (6)  |  Swim (3)

In a sense cosmology contains all subjects because it is the story of everything, including biology, psychology and human history. In that single sense it can be said to contain an explanation also of time's arrow. But this is not what is meant by those who advocate the cosmological explanation of irreversibility. They imply that in some way the time arrow of cosmology imposes its sense on the thermodynamic arrow. I wish to disagree with this view. The explanation assumes that the universe is expanding. While this is current orthodoxy, there is no certainty about it. The red-shifts might be due to quite different causes. For example, when light passes through the expanding clouds of gas it will be red-shifted. A large number of such clouds might one day be invoked to explain these red shifts. It seems an odd procedure to attempt to 'explain' everyday occurrences, such as the diffusion of milk into coffee, by means of theories of the universe which are themselves less firmly established than the phenomena to be explained. Most people believe in explaining one set of things in terms of others about which they are more certain, and the explanation of normal irreversible phenomena in terms of the cosmological expansion is not in this category.
'Thermodynamics, Cosmology) and the Physical Constants', in J. T. Fraser (ed.), The Study of Time III (1973), 117-8.
Science quotes on:  |  Biology (83)  |  Cosmology (11)  |  Expansion (18)  |  History (156)  |  Irreversibility (2)  |  Psychology (69)  |  Red-Shift (3)

In all cases where work is produced by heat, a quantity of heat proportional to the work done is expended; and inversely, by the expenditure of a like quantity of work, the same amount of heat may be produced.
'On the Moving Force of Heat, and the Laws regarding the Nature of Heat itself which are deducible therefrom', Philosophical Magazine, 1851, 2, 4.
Science quotes on:  |  Heat (48)

It has been suggested that thermodynamic irreversibility is due to cosmological expansion.
'Thermodynamics, Cosmology, and the Physical Constants', in J. T. Fraser (ed.), The Study of Time III (1973), 117-8.
Science quotes on:  |  Cosmology (11)  |  Expansion (18)  |  Irreversibility (2)

It was not easy for a person brought up in the ways of classical thermodynamics to come around to the idea that gain of entropy eventually is nothing more nor less than loss of information.
Letter to Irving Langmuir, 5 Aug 1930. Quoted in Nathan Reingold, Science in America: A Documentary History 1900-1939 (1981), 400.
Science quotes on:  |  Entropy (25)  |  Idea (226)  |  Information (56)  |  Loss (44)

Laws of Thermodynamics
1) You cannot win, you can only break even.
2) You can only break even at absolute zero.
3) You cannot reach absolute zero.
Anonymous
Folklore amongst physicists.
Science quotes on:  |  French Saying (51)

The fundamental laws of the universe which correspond to the two fundamental theorems of the mechanical theory of heat.
1. The energy of the universe is constant.
2. The entropy of the universe tends to a maximum.
The Mechanical Theory of Heat (1867), 365.
Science quotes on:  |  Entropy (25)  |  Heat (48)  |  Universe (291)

The laws of thermodynamics, as empirically determined, express the approximate and probable behavior of systems of a great number of particles, or, more precisely, they express the laws of mechanics for such systems as they appear to beings who have not the fineness of perception to enable them to appreciate quantities of the order of magnitude of those which relate to single particles, and who cannot repeat their experiments often enough to obtain any but the most probable results.
Elementary Principles in Statististical Mechanics (1902), Preface, viii.
Science quotes on:  |  Statistical Mechanics (4)

The production of motion in the steam engine always occurs in circumstances which it is necessary to recognize, namely when the equilibrium of caloric is restored, or (to express this differently) when caloric passes from the body at one temperature to another body at a lower temperature.
'Réflexions sur la Puissance Motrice du Feu et sur les Machines Propres a Développer cette Puissance' (1824). Trans. Robert Fox, Reflexions on the Motive Power of Fire (1986), 64.
Science quotes on:  |  Heat (48)  |  Steam Engine (21)

To pick a hole–say in the 2nd law of Ωcs, that if two things are in contact the hotter cannot take heat from the colder without external agency.
Now let A & B be two vessels divided by a diaphragm and let them contain elastic molecules in a state of agitation which strike each other and the sides. Let the number of particles be equal in A & B but let those in A have equal velocities, if oblique collisions occur between them their velocities will become unequal & I have shown that there will be velocities of all magnitudes in A and the same in B only the sum of the squares of the velocities is greater in A than in B.
When a molecule is reflected from the fixed diaphragm CD no work is lost or gained.
If the molecule instead of being reflected were allowed to go through a hole in CD no work would be lost or gained, only its energy would be transferred from the one vessel to the other.
Now conceive a finite being who knows the paths and velocities of all the molecules by simple inspection but who can do no work, except to open and close a hole in the diaphragm, by means of a slide without mass.
Let him first observe the molecules in A and when lie sees one coming the square of whose velocity is less than the mean sq. vel. of the molecules in B let him open a hole & let it go into B. Next let him watch for a molecule in B the square of whose velocity is greater than the mean sq. vel. in A and when it comes to the hole let him draw and slide & let it go into A, keeping the slide shut for all other molecules.
Then the number of molecules in A & B are the same as at first but the energy in A is increased and that in B diminished that is the hot system has got hotter and the cold colder & yet no work has been done, only the intelligence of a very observant and neat fingered being has been employed. Or in short if heat is the motion of finite portions of matter and if we can apply tools to such portions of matter so as to deal with them separately then we can take advantage of the different motion of different portions to restore a uniformly hot system to unequal temperatures or to motions of large masses. Only we can't, not being clever enough.
Letter to Peter Guthrie Tait (11 Dec 1867). In P. M. Harman (ed.), The Scientific Letters and Papers of James Clerk Maxwell (1995), Vol. 2, 331-2.
Science quotes on:  |  Collision (6)  |  Energy (103)  |  Maxwell's Demon (2)  |  Particle (45)

We define thermodynamics ... as the investigation of the dynamical and thermal properties of bodies, deduced entirely from the first and second law of thermodynamics, without speculation as to the molecular constitution.
The Scientific Papers of James Clerk Maxwell (2003), 664-665.
Science quotes on:  |  Molecule (82)


Carl Sagan Thumbnail In science it often happens that scientists say, 'You know that's a really good argument; my position is mistaken,' and then they would actually change their minds and you never hear that old view from them again. They really do it. It doesn't happen as often as it should, because scientists are human and change is sometimes painful. But it happens every day. I cannot recall the last time something like that happened in politics or religion. (1987) -- Carl Sagan
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