The Big Bang, Thermodynamics, and Silos

“It is difficult to see why the book starts with a chapter on the big bang and nuclear synthesis, which were considered and understood well after thermodynamics was born. For my own taste, I would simply eliminate the big-bang chapters.” – early reviewer of my book

Oxford University Press did an absolutely wonderful job in guiding my book through the entire publishing process. This included their invitations to experts in the field of thermodynamics to assess the suitability of my book for publication. Positive feedback from these reviewers culminated in the OUP’s decision to move forward.

In this post I wanted to share with you the above comment from one of the reviewers. Why include the Big Bang in a thermodynamics book? Great question! Here was my response back to OUP.

“Regarding discussion around Part I (Big Bang) and Part II (The Atom), I have never seen the science on the origin and behaviors of atoms included in a book on thermodynamics and feel that my unique approach will lead readers to a better understanding of thermodynamics based on physical concepts.”

I expanded on this in my book itself with the following:

“Why did I include the story of the Big Bang in this book? First, because it explains the origins and populations of the elements in the periodic table. Second, because the world of astronomy rarely overlaps with the world of physics, chemistry and engineering, and perhaps something, some opportunity to gain insight, is lost because of this. Our division of science and engineering into different camps serves a purpose—we can’t study everything—but perhaps this does us an injustice as it narrows our view and hence our understanding and hence our ability to explore and create.”

The silo walls between the fields of science and engineering can be very thick. I believe that breaking these walls down and merging the content into one seamless integrated whole would make for a wonderful and more effective educational experience.

What do you think?

Full access to Block by Block’s Chapter 1: The Big Bang/Science is available on google books here (pp. 5-11).

Published by Robert T Hanlon

I earned my Sc.D. in chemical engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and subsequently conducted post-doctoral research at Karlsruhe University in Germany. My professional career took me to Mobil Oil Research & Development Corporation, the Rohm and Haas Company, and then back to MIT where I am currently involved with their School of Chemical Engineering Practice.

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