Friday, July 30, 2010

Points of Interest in Chapter 1 of Nelson

As you read Chap. 1 of Nelson, here are some interesting points of interest.

Thompson was later named Count Rumford. He married A. Lavoisier's widow after the latter was guillotined. A. Lavoisier is known as the father of modern empirical chemistry.

A popular urban myth holds that Lavoisier's final experiment was to test how long the brain remained concious after beheading, by having an assistant count how many blinks his head could execute following its removal from his torso. The myth maintains that between 12 and 15 blinks were counted. However, an article in the Journal of Chemical Education claims that this myth is groundless, and puts forward some very reasonable arguments.

Examples of pattern formation during non-equilibrium processes abound in nature. A good example are the convection cells that can be seen forming in clouds when you examine them from an airplane. The cells form long repeating stripe patterns. Sand dunes are another example. Another popular example is the Belousov-Zhabotinskii reaction.

Franklin never actually did the calculation. However, Rayleigh redid the experiment later in 1890, and calculated a thickness of 2nm.

The relationship between disorder and information is sometimes hard to grasp, and the connection between the thermodynamical and information-theoretic entropy can be subtle. For more insight, consult:

Swanson. Entropy measures amount of choice. Journal of Chemical Education (1990) vol. 67 (3) pp. 206
Lowe. Entropy: Conceptual disorder. Journal of Chemical Education (1988) vol. 65 (5) pp. 403
Castans. Entropy and Uncertainty. American Journal of Physics (1962) vol. 30 (7) pp. 521-527
Styer. Insight into entropy. American Journal of Physics (2000) vol. 68 (12) pp. 1090-1096

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