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Thermodynamics in thirty-some slides

Zhigang Suo's picture

I am teaching Advanced Elasticity again.  Thermodynamics is involved in nontrivial ways in several topics, such as entropic elasticity and swelling hydrogels.  In the past, I sometines gave multple lectures on thermodynamics (200720092011), and sometimes dd not (2013).  This time I will compromise: I will present slides, as attached.


Dear Zhigang,

What a nice opportunity to get back talking to you!


I deliciously, devotedly, and deliberately went through [actually devoured] the first three slides of your rather unusual slides on thermo.


I want to go deeper into their implications, but, for the paucity of time, I can't.

But here is a timely friendly comment: In constructing your very first slide, you have begun getting into some certain abstractions, which, to my naive mind, are (and are wont to prove to be) valid.

Congrats, and not only keep up the good work at enlightening the small, subtle, simple, so very young and at times frail humanity---perhaps, may be, so very promising (at least to their own parents)---but also keep on reminding us of the ever-widening possibilities, of the things possible (without a special separate effort on your part, I mean).

In short: Good work, and keep it up, though, the pace might not be too mild. In case it proves to be too strong/rapid for your class (and which class does not complain?) adjust it dynamically... Though I won't hold you responsible for that. As a tenured professor (esp. in USA, esp. in Harvard), you can always gauge and calibrate your students dynamically. Their grades are in your hands. I am more than certain, they will be given the relative justice. That's not the point...

The point is: Sometimes us the S&T folks can get lost in the syntax of the pedagody, of the received opinion concerning what is supposed to be "oh so effective" pedagogy so much, get lost under the weight of the tradition of having to teach a course a certain way so much, that despite intentions to the contrary, we might get lost in the other direction.

My congrats were generally in the direction of encouraging you what I perceived to be the right direction.

But then, again, the judgment was based precisely on only the first 3 slides. ... I must now wonder: How would you treat a student who kept himself awake for the first 3/27X60 minutes of an hour-long lecture?

Anyway, very best wishes to you and your students, of course.




Zhigang Suo's picture

I just came back from the lecture.  In 90 minutes, I only went through the first 15 slides.  Slide 15 is a highlight:  the Gibbs-Maxwell surface.  

This class is a graduate class on  Advanced Elasticity, as I noted before.  A few places in the class later use thermodynamics in nontrivial ways.  Yet thermodynamics is not listed as prerequisite.  These slides are a compromise.  A reminder for some students, but a quick introduction for others.  I have no illusion that students will master the subject using these slides.  

But a student in class pointed out an error on slide 3.  I'll post the updated one on next Thursday, after I go through the rest of the slides in class.

These twenty-some slides were extracted from slides I prepared for an undergraduate course on engineering thermodynamics  

Zhigang Suo's picture

I added a few more slides to describe Gibbs's ideas on phases.  Now the slide on the Gibbs-Maxwell surface moves to a new page number.

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