• Block by Block

  • The Historical and Theoretical Foundations of Thermodynamics
  • By: Robert T. Hanlon
  • Narrated by: Paul Heitsch
  • Length: 33 hrs and 47 mins
  • 4.6 out of 5 stars (18 ratings)

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Block by Block

By: Robert T. Hanlon
Narrated by: Paul Heitsch
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Publisher's Summary

At the heart of many fields - physics, chemistry, engineering - lies thermodynamics. While this science plays a critical role in determining the boundary between what is and is not possible in the natural world, it occurs to many as an indecipherable black box, thus making the subject a challenge to learn. Two obstacles contribute to this situation, the first being the disconnect between the fundamental theories and the underlying physics and the second being the confusing concepts and terminologies involved with the theories. While one needn't confront either of these two obstacles to successfully use thermodynamics to solve real problems, overcoming both provides access to a greater intuitive sense of the problems and more confidence, more strength, and more creativity in solving them.

Block by Block offers an original perspective on thermodynamic science and history based on the three approaches of a practicing engineer, academician, and historian. The book synthesizes and gathers into one accessible volume a strategic range of foundational topics involving the atomic theory, energy, entropy, and the laws of thermodynamics.

©2020 Robert T. Hanlon (P)2020 Tantor

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    3 out of 5 stars
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Incomplete

This book is incomplete. The author did not include a pdf of supplementary material like every other science audio book ever. I wonder how much shorter this book would be if I were to remove every instance where the narrator say "Those equations are available in the print and E book versions of this book". Or where he says that it would take a whole book just to cover one subject and then skips it. The book is worth listening to as long as you care about the history of thermodynamics and nothing about actual modern thermodynamics. I will think more than twice before buying anything from this author again. But I will absolutely listen to this narrator again. Very good job. While I am not going to ask for my money back, I will say he gives a solid foundation into the early players of thermodynamics.

7 people found this helpful

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Audio editor needs to be fired for this one

The worst thing about this recording, as my headline sets up, is the insistence on the audio version's editor to force the narrator to remind the reader that "You can find [equation or figure] _____ (point) _____ in the print and e-book edition of this recording". This takes up a significant amount of time: There are 43 chapters, and each chapter has on average ~10 equations or figures that need to be mentioned -- so that's ~430 readings of the sentence above, at an average of about 5 seconds per reading. So that's about 36 minutes. It doesn't seem like a lot of time compared to 34 hours length for the entire recording, but it makes listening to it unbearable.

Ignoring the problem above, the book itself also has a very slow start, and then gets even slower as it proceeds. Eventually, about halfway through, it starts to pick up, but not consistently or permanently.

It is pretty good at putting a lot of ideas into historical context, but it takes too long to do so, and somewhat anticlimactically.

It would've been worth slogging through the above issues if the content was uncommonly insightful, but it wasn't. It wasn't useless info, it just wasn't anything to give high praise. The Great Courses audio recording on Thermodynamics by Jeffrey Grossman was way more insightful in its ~13 total hours. See also Einstein and the Quantum by A. Douglas Stone, which is the best development of Modern Physics available on Audible -- it also has some pretty good sections on heat capacity and such that are infinitely better than Block by Block.

2 people found this helpful

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Graphs, and Equations

The book is a terrific a compliment, but at every equation, graph, and diagram, we are reminded that they are available, in the print and e-book. After the first few hundred, it starred to get old.

2 people found this helpful

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Must Read for Anyone Interested in this Topic

Having listened to or read much shorter books on this subject I wasn’t sure about starting this book because of its length. My bachelors degree from 30 years ago was in the social sciences. At this point in my life I’m simply enjoying learning for the sake of learning. My main focus being physics. A subject that I was overwhelmed by in my youth. For someone at my level this is the perfect book for this subject matter. I was able to understand more about the 1st law and appreciate much more about the complexity of the 2nd. Enjoyed the history and detail of those that made contributions to the development of thermodynamics. I knew from the beginning that the audiobook didn’t include any of the math and I wasn’t interested anyway. However after listening to this book I will be purchasing the hard copy for the math. Truly a delight.

1 person found this helpful

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Every Block!

The time and effort Mr. Hanlon must have devoted to this is an indication of his interest in the subject. This is a wonderful look into the lives, scientific struggles, and the search for understanding the world around us.

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Awesome book love the origin stories and narration

The math can get a bit confusing, but the overall contents are fascinating. Love the origin stories of each character's discoveries, and how not all were heading in the right direction. Great book.

1 person found this helpful

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Comprehensive Thermodynamics information

If you are not really into learning (about) thermodynamics, this book is probably not for you. But if you want to dig into the subject, this is a good book. It's not for the light-hearted reader. There's a LOT of information and it's a really long recording.. I'd really like to listen again someday. I bought the e-book version later, also, so that I can review the equations and concepts. again. Although I have never taken a course on Thermodynamics, I know from comments by Einstein, C.P. Snow and others that it is a core concept needed to have a firm foundation in science and it seems like it is linked to just about all the sciences. Like most audio books that treat mathematical subjects, it leaves something to be desired. If you can, get both the audio book and the print version. If I could have only one, I'd go with the print version.

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  • John L. Luick
  • 12-24-20

Remarkable review of the topic

I was left with a huge respect for the author's painstaking analysis and reconstruction of the evolution of our modern understanding of energy and entropy, from its early beginnings, right up through Boltzmann (with a final chapter on Information Theory). The book doesn't purport to cover developments since the mid-1900s, so it would be unfair to fault it for not doing so.

I listened to most chapters two or three times. I was amazed at how little I knew about certain things - case in point, I had no idea how the concept, or even the word, "energy" came into being. There were references to equations, but I was mainly interested in the historical development, so was not concerned about not having the equations at hand (most or all of which are pretty basic and could be found in any text, had I wanted to review them).

The writing style is clear and precise. The narrator's enunciation and pacing is flawless, but I suspect he's not mathematically literate - for example, he says "divided by" repeatedly when any maths person would say "over". One other minor quibble - maybe it's just me, but I think that reading out the parenthetical birth and death years every time they're in the text could have been omitted.

But I still have no idea what entropy is (joke).