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Masters of Thermodynamics

Zhigang Suo's picture

One Internet, multiple worlds.  People have gone mobile, but iMechanica has not.  Although iMechanica is accessible from mobile phones, but it was not designed as such.  On the other hand, mobile social networks are good mostly for short forms.  A practical solution seems to be posting on iMechanica and linking the entries to social networks, such as twitter, wechat, and Facebook.  For example, The New Yorker has a strong presence on Facebook, as my sons and their friends would say.   

In the last few months, I have been experimenting with wechat, a mobile social network extremely popular in China.  But only tiny fraction of non-Chinese use wechat.  

Since my son Michael joined Facebook last year, I also started to experiment with Facebook.  Like many people, I have had a Facebook account for a long time, but had seldom used it.  I did link my Facebook account to my iMechanica account, so that all my iMechanica posts appear automatically on Facebook.  But Facebook is unavailable in China.

The Internet are fragmented by people, governments, and technologies.  Here are my accounts.  twitter. wechat:  zhigangsuo.  Facebook.   


Here are two entries I posted on wechat on 26 December 2015.  I hope to keep posting on the readings of the Masters of Thermodynamics, and hope to discuss with you on iMechanica or any of the mobile social networks.

Teaching thermodynamics to undergraduate students has once again renewed my interest in thermodynamics. I am now particularly intrigued by the history of packaging various ingredients into a course on thermodynamics. How does each ingredient get in?  Why?  Last semester I reread Carnot, Maxwell, and Fermi. For the trip to Princeton I have brought along Planck. It has been a great fun to watch great people struggle with a great subject. At some point I'd like to finish reading Gibbs. Here is a New Year's resolution.


Fermi's thermodynamics is a short book, about 150 pages. Perhaps only the first 4 chapters are worth reading. There you get a concise, yet patient, treatment of classical thermodynamics: state of equilibrium (chapter 1), energy (chapter 2), and entropy (chapters 3 and 4). All within 70 pages or so, plus some simple exercises. After that, the great man seemed to have lost patience. A quick succession of applied topics:  potentials (chapter 5), reaction (chapter 6), and dilute solution (chapter 7). The treatment is more like quick notes taken from Planck's book. You will do much, much better with Planck on these topics. Fermi's last chapter, the third law, is good. Here the pace is fast. He quotes several results from statistical mechanics to illustrate the absolute entropy. The chapter gives you an introduction, but is too impatient to be an independent textbook. But again, the short book is a delight to read.  Even where he failed to deliver the point, you forgive him for not belaboring his failure. He moved on.

Planck’s book is freely available at Google Books.


Dibakar Datta's picture

Dear Prof. Suo,

May be we can create official Facebook and Twitter page of iMechanica. iMechanica can have FB and Twitter icon in its front page so that iMechanicians can also land in FB and Twitter pages from iMechanica site. 

In FB of iMechanica, in addition to iMechanica post, mechanicians can discuss many other topics. We can also post some memorable photos/videos like EML birthday celebration, videos of Timoshenko and other important lectures, and many other things. Since people can share FB post in their own FB page, in that way interesting post can reach to many people beyond iMechanicians. That will also increase iMechanica users and its popularity.

Happy New Year to iMechanicians. 


Dibakar Datta

Stanford University

Dear All, 

Regarding Dibakar's suggestion,a few years ago I with the help of some of my interested friends in the field of mechanics created a page on facebook under the name "Computational Mechanics" to refelect  news, new trends, book & software introduction and etc. in this interesting field of science and engineering. Here's the link to our page:

We would be grateful to collaborate with you on improving the contents of this page.

Kind Regards, 


Dibakar Datta's picture

Dear Babak,

Great initiative ! This Facebook page of Computational Mechanics is really very useful. I will be very happy to collaborate on improving the contents of this page. Thank you. 



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