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Thermodynamics is such a great example of "much from little". As with plane geometry, a few fundamental concepts unfold via logic into a host of important, widely-applicable results: energy, entropy, equilibrium, enthalpy, ...

One great idea from the thermodynamic world is that of the Carnot cycle, named for the nineteenth century French engineer Sadi Carnot. The key notion here is simply to take something around a closed loop --- physically or metaphorically --- and keep track of the changes that it undergoes along the way. Do it with a volume of gas, monitor the energy flows, and you can derive the theoretical efficiency of a heat engine. Do it with a Rubik's Cube, watch the colored faces, and you can derive new algorithms to unscramble the darned thing. Do it with silver and gold, as international traders did back in an era when the US Government maintained a bimetallic standard of currency at a fixed 16:1 ratio, and you can make a lot of money. And so forth ...

(see also AppliedBypasses (14 Apr 1999), ... )

TopicScience - TopicEconomics - Datetag20040801

(correlates: QiRunning, ImpedanceMatching, InSearchOfTheFulcrum, ...)