Energy, Entropy, and Everything

Honors 1500, Perspectives in the Physical Sciences

Daily Assignments, Part 1

Thursday, January 11: Mathematical Preliminaries. Read Romer, pages 2 through 19. The first section gives an overview of the concept of energy and the "energy problem" as Romer calls it. Keep in mind that this was written 25 years ago. The second section covers some very important mathematical skills that we will use throughout the course. If you would like to see a more detailed treatment of the math, get Romer's book (from the reserve desk in the library) and read Section 1.4. You might also benefit from reading the problems at the end of Chapter 1. If you would like to read more about energy in general, take a look at Chapter 2 of The Ring of Truth by Morrison and Morrison, or pages 69-77 of Feynman's The Character of Physical Law.

Tuesday, January 16: Mechanical Energy. Read Lightman, pages 9-35. Some of the equations in this section get rather cumbersome, but the basic ideas are much simpler. In the first section, the main point is that gravitational energy should be measured by the formula 1-4. In the next section, the important formulas are 1-7 and 1-8. Optional reading: Mechanical energy is also treated, in more detail, by Romer in Chapter 2, and in almost any traditional introductory physics textbook. For applications to hydroelectricity and windmills, you may wish to consult Romer, Sections 4.2 and 16.3.

Thursday, January 18: Thermal Energy. Read Romer, pages 202-219. Optionally, you may wish to read Lightman, pages 37-57; be warned, though, that Lightman's writing is less careful than Romer's, and he also defines some terms differently. For a delightful historical treatment, you may wish to read von Baeyer, pages 3-34.

Tuesday, January 23: Chemical Energy. Read Asimov, Chapter 8. Being a careful writer, Asimov points out that the heat involved in a reaction depends on whether or not the system is allowed to expand during the process. However, the difference between the two cases is usually only a small percentage, so we can safely ignore it in this course. Then the quantity that Asimov calls H ("enthalpy" or "heat content") can be replaced by simply E, the energy content of the system.

Thursday, January 25: Electrical Energy. Read Priest, pages 58-75. You may skim the section on magnetism, pages 63-65.

Tuesday, January 30: Nuclear Energy. Read Ristinen and Kraushaar, pages 171-185.

Thursday, February 1: Fission and Fusion. Read Ristinen and Kraushaar, pages 185-206.

Tuesday, February 6: Mass and Energy. Read Romer, pages 437-445.

Last modified on 10 January 2001.