Monday, May 3, 2010

The Third Law of Thermodynamics and The Speed of Light Analogy



There has been a trend in 2010 thanks to Erik Verlinde toward Thermodynamics, the Engineering/Physics undergraduate and 19th Century specialty, in Physics. In order to get up to speed I am boning up on what I learned as an undergraduate Engineer on the topic.

One grand introduction, short, sweet, and concise, can be found in the Micropedia section of the Encyclopedia Brittanica, a reference source I still prefer to Wikipedia in many ways. It also has a long Macropedia section devoted to Thermo. For the greatest detail on things Physics and especially Mathematics, I do find Wikipedia to be outstanding however.

The Third Law of Thermodynamics

In any event, I like the way the 3rd law is defined in E.B., thus:

"The concept of temperature enters into thermodynamics as a precise mathematical quantity that relates heat and work to entropy. The interplay of these three quantities is further constrained by the third law of thermodynamics, which deals with the absolute zero of temperature and its theoretical unattainability. Absolute zero (approximately -273 degrees Centigrade) would correspond to a condition in which a system had achieved its lowest energy state. The third law states that, as this minimum temperature is approached, the further extraction of energy becomes more and more difficult."

Interesting. I knew that, but not in that well-put way. I thought of Ab Zero's attainment as simply being impossible.

So that made me think of something else:

The Speed of Light

The speed of light is described as being our Universe's upper speed limit, in a vacuum. True vacuum doesn't really exist, but in any event, trying to move a mass closer and closer to the speed of light requires an ever-increasing amount of energy, according to the special theory of relativity.

Is it just me, or could there be a connection?

Limits. The Universe has limits. Just like lives.

1 comment:

Steven Colyer said...

Well let's see, those are the "limits" in Thermodynamics and Relativity.

What is the "limit" in Quantum Mechanics, hmm?

I know what it is. I just want somebody else to be the first to posit it here.

Go quantumthermodynamicalgravity.

Connect the limits, connect the theory.

A puzzle. Great.