Einstein’s Fridge: How the Difference Between Hot and Cold Explains the Universe

Paul Sen. Scribner, $28 (320p) ISBN 978-1-5011-8130-6
Director Sen makes a convincing case for the importance of thermodynamics in his impressive debut. He argues that the first two laws of thermodynamics (that the energy of the universe is constant, and that the entropy of the universe tends to increase), as articulated in 1865, “are a testament to the human intellect and imagination” and are “every bit as significant as Newton’s laws of motion.” Sen tells of the scientists whose work led to the present understanding of thermodynamics, among them Sadi Carnot (the “founding father of the science of thermodynamics”); James Joule, with his “lifelong zeal for scientific experimentation”; Albert Einstein, whose “work derived from thermodynamics”; and Alan Turing, who uncovered “a beautiful aspect of the second law of thermodynamics.” Sen explains how an understanding of thermodynamics led to “the invention that catalyzed the Industrial Revolution,” the steam engine, and goes further in arguing that refrigeration, a process building on thermodynamic principles, enabled “the greatest improvement in human nutrition” since the advent of cooking. He accomplishes all of this with splendid prose, making ample use of analogies to explain complex scientific ideas. Sen’s history of hot and cold is pop-science that hits the mark. Agent: Patrick Walsh, Pew Literary. (Mar.)
Reviewed on : 12/29/2020
Release date: 03/01/2021
Genre: Nonfiction
Downloadable Audio - 978-1-7971-2100-0
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