Thermal Sensitivity Theories


THERMODYNAMICS, LAWS OF. These laws, originating in the physical sciences but often invoked in explaining psychological phenomena, refer to the study of principles governing the interrelationships between heat, mechanical work, and other forms of energy and their influence on the behavior of systems. The first law of thermodynamics, also called the law of the conservation of energy when referring to situations in which heat transfer takes place, is an extension of the result obtained by the English physicist James Prescott Joule (1818-1889), which asserts that when the state of an otherwise isolated closed system is changed by the performance of work, the amount of work needed depends only on the change effected and not on the means by which the work is done nor on the stages through which the system passes. In other terms, the first law of thermodynamics states that when a system changes from one state to another, energy is converted to a different form but the total amount of energy remains unchanged, that is, it is "conserved" [cf., phlogiston theory - an early chemical theory -proposed by the German chemist/physician Georg Ernst Stahl (1660-1734) in his elaboration of an earlier theory of combustion by the German chemist/physician Johann Joachim Becher (1635-1682) - that posits that when something is burned, a material or substance called phlogiston is lost. In a series of meticulous experiments, the French chemist Antoine Laurent Lavoisier (1743-1794), among others, displaced the phlogiston theory in the 1770s by demonstrating that such was not the case during combustion, but discussed the true role of oxygen in combustion, and indicated that matter can neither be created nor destroyed, but only changed]. The second law of thermodynamics is a generalization of experience that may be stated in a number of equivalent ways: as an axiomatic statement formulated by the German mathematician Constantin Caratheo-dory (1873-1950) that allows for the existence of an integrating factor for the heat transfer in an infinitesimal reversible process for a physical system of any number of degrees of freedom; as a principle by the British natural philosopher/physical theorist Lord William Kelvin (1824-1907) stating that it is impossible to devise a machine that, working in a cycle, produces no effect other than the extraction of a certain quantity from its surroundings and the performance of an equal amount of work on its surroundings; and as a principle by the Ger-man physicist Rudolf J. E. Clausius (1822-1888) suggesting that when two systems are placed in thermal contact, the direction of energy transfer in the form of heat is always from the system at the higher temperature to the system at the lower temperature. In other terms, the second law of thermodynamics states that in any closed system (i.e., a system that exchanges energy but not matter with the exterior), entropy (i.e., the degree of disorder of a closed system) may only increase or, in an idealized condition, remain unchanged [cf., Maxwell's demon - named after the Scottish physicist James Clerk Maxwell (1831-1879), refers to the conceptualization of the molecules on either side of a semipermeable membrane/barrier as tiny "humanlike agents" in an effort to try to disprove the second law of thermodynamics by governing or regulating the movement of the molecules]. The third law of thermodynamics, also called the Nernst heat theorem - named after the German phys-ical chemist Walther Nermann Nernst (1864-1941), who formulated it in 1906, and given a modern reformulation by the German physicist Sir Francis Eugen Simon (1893-1956) in 1927 - states that the contribution to the entropy of a system by each aspect that is in internal thermodynamic equilibrium tends to zero as the temperature tends to zero. One consequence of the third law of thermodynamics is that it is impossible to reduce the temperature of any system, or part of a system, to absolute zero in a finite number of operations. In other terms, the third law of thermodynamics refers to the conclusion that as a homogeneous system approaches a temperature of absolute zero, its entropy tends toward zero. Occasionally, the science of psychology borrows the concepts and laws/principles from other sciences (cf., Roeckelein, 1997), such as physics. In the present case, the physical laws of thermodynamics (including the notions of entropy and conservation of energy) find service in psychological discussions of topics and issues such as general systems theory, information-processing theory, and Jung's theory of personality. See also CONSERVATION OF ENERGY, LAW/ PRINCIPLE OF; CONSTANCY, PRINCIPLE OF; ENTROPY


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