The First and Second Law of Thermodynamics

One of the best things about my job is that, sitting in lectures, I get to revise much of what I learned when I was at University that would otherwise be getting rusty.

In one of the greatest privileges of my life, I studied Engineering at Cambridge University – one of the oldest and best Universities in the world. One of my current students also takes Engineering, so I’m revisiting some subjects I would have been learning possibly about a decade ago now.

In today’s lecture, we learned about the First Law of Thermodynamics, which is essentially the Law of Conservation of Energy – energy can neither be created nor destroyed, but can be transformed from one form to another. Basically, the internal energy of a closed system (say, the air in a piston, or water in a tub) changes by the amount of heat added to it and work done by it. Energy is conserved, but can be transferred by heat or work.

I still remember well how we were introduced to this concept – with a recording of Flanders and Swann‘s ‘First and Second Law’:

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