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Hot Molecules, Cold Electrons

From the Mathematics of Heat to the Development of the Trans-Atlantic Telegraph Cable

Paul J. Nahin

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Princeton University Pres
01 September 2020
An entertaining mathematical exploration of the heat equation and its role in the triumphant development of the trans-Atlantic telegraph cable Heat, like gravity, shapes nearly every aspect of our world and universe, from how milk dissolves in coffee to how molten planets cool. The heat equation, a cornerstone of modern physics, demystifies such processes, painting a mathematical picture of the way heat diffuses through matter. Presenting the mathematics and history behind the heat equation, Hot Molecules, Cold Electrons tells the remarkable story of how this foundational idea brought about one of the greatest technological advancements of the modern era.

Paul Nahin vividly recounts the heat equation's tremendous influence on society, showing how French mathematical physicist Joseph Fourier discovered, derived, and solved the equation in the early nineteenth century. Nahin then follows Scottish physicist William Thomson, whose further analysis of Fourier's explorations led to the pioneering trans-Atlantic telegraph cable. This feat of engineering reduced the time it took to send a message across the ocean from weeks to minutes. Readers also learn that Thomson used Fourier's solutions to calculate the age of the earth, and, in a bit of colourful lore, that writer Charles Dickens relied on the trans-Atlantic cable to save himself from a career-damaging scandal. The book's mathematical and scientific explorations can be easily understood by anyone with a basic knowledge of high school calculus and physics, and MATLAB code is included to aid readers who would like to solve the heat equation themselves.

A testament to the intricate links between mathematics and physics, Hot Molecules, Cold Electrons offers a fascinating glimpse into the relationship between a formative equation and one of the most important developments in the history of human communication.
By:   Paul J. Nahin
Imprint:   Princeton University Pres
Country of Publication:   United States
Dimensions:   Height: 235mm,  Width: 156mm, 
ISBN:   9780691207858
ISBN 10:   0691207852
Series:   Princeton ANZ Paperbacks
Pages:   232
Publication Date:   01 September 2020
Audience:   General/trade ,  ELT Advanced
Format:   Paperback
Publisher's Status:   Active

Reviews for Hot Molecules, Cold Electrons: From the Mathematics of Heat to the Development of the Trans-Atlantic Telegraph Cable

This enjoyable book tells the story of Fourier series and transforms, their role in solving the heat equation, and subsequent applications. Providing a multitude of takeaways, Paul Nahin masterfully moves back and forth between the mathematical advances involved in the development and usage of Fourier analysis and the historical events and characters associated with the field.--Oscar Fernandez, author of Calculus Simplified Introducing readers to some of the most important scientific questions and technological challenges of the nineteenth century, this delightful book shows how they were solved using the heat equation. Reliving this exciting period through letters, stories, and insights, Hot Molecules, Cold Electrons is a triumphant success.--Christopher Tully, author of Elementary Particle Physics in a Nutshell Hot Molecules, Cold Electrons vividly demonstrates the power of mathematical tools for studying the heat equation in connection to the trans-Atlantic cable. This excellent book will be useful to anyone with an interest in mathematics, physics, or engineering.--Yasuyuki Kawahigashi, University of Tokyo


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