Sunday, June 1, 2014


It is strange that I did not dedicate any post to thermodynamics, since it was one of "the topics" of my work during the last years. As usual I approached Thermodynamics by analysing  a physical process. It was the dynamics of freezing soil (e.g. see Dall’Amico et al., 2011) where phase transitions in soil under capillary effects was the problem under scrutiny.  To get rid of the tens of empirical equations, and desperate after the reading of some nonsensical books and papers, I literally understood what the words of C. Truesdall wanted mean with:

“Thermodynamics today is a blend of statements from most of the founders: GibbsPlanckBoltzmann, even from information theory. Confusion is nearly universal. Constitutive properties are not delimited, just pulled out from under the table as needed.”

I decided to calm down, and face it from the scratch. 

Reading the firsts chapters of Dall’Amico thesis would give you a quick synthesis of what I learned with Matteo: it is a good introduction to the topic. Dall'Amico introduces a new and fresh notation that can help the understanding. 

For a more in-deep information, I selected the following list of books and papers (which you should read, with Dall'Amico notation in mind).

I would start from:
And continue with:
the latter was a revelation (I really loved their chapter on diffusion). Callen, on his side, with his axiomatic approach, frees your mind from several encrustations that you can have learnt before.

Those three references above should do the main work. However, I would add some other books and papers:
the above, for really understanding the role of Legendre transform
  • Bohren, C., and B. Albrecht (1998), Atmospheric Thermodynamics, 402 pp. (I understand, not a cheap book but it also contains a lot of good stuff)
This book above made me gain consciousness about the nonsensical algebra notation of Thermodynamics: I  agree with their criticism, which I completely endorse (actually also  Callen and  Katchalsky-Curran books mildly use the traditional notation. I say mildly because, once you are advised, you can read through it, in their books).  Other clarifying chapters can be found in:
Particularly I liked Muller and Weiss chapters on ideal gas and ideal rubber, and many other parts, indeed.

The classic on non-equilibrium thermodynamics is the old Dovers’book by De Grot and Mazur. However, in reading it one gets the idea of a great generality, and I keep in my bookshelf, but, at the same time, inherits a sense of frustration for the too concise treatment of the subject.

I would also mention one (defeated ?) but stimulating view on thermodynamics, the Jaynes one's   explained in
Going more specialised, I would also read

and finally I would also include in the lectures
This last contribution open the way to the generalisation of thermodynamics to include small systems, in which the presences of few atoms would otherwise prevent to apply thermodynamics.

There are other books are in my bookshelf, but which I mentioned above can be enough for starting. I am pretty sure that also some good web coursewares is out there, and I would thanks if someone can address them to me.

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