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on 2 November 2008
This slim volume offers an introduction into the laws of thermodynamics. No funny stuff, just plain and basic explaining. If you simply want to know the principles of this branch of physics, this book will lift your grasp of the matter from highschool to college level in an admirable way.

Only when at the end of the book, in the process of explaining the third law, he introduces the spin of an electron, does Peter Atkins stray away from the until then crystal clear reasoning. Cleaning up the non-intuitive steps in this chapter would have made the book truly perfect.
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on 1 April 2011
Peter Atkins' Four Laws may be one of the slimmest books that you ever read but, for casual readers, it is also likely to be one of the most demanding.

As an introduction to thermodynamics, this treatise serves its purpose well enough and, for those prepared to commit the time and effort, it will doubtless enhance understanding of this fundamental subject. Nonetheless, reading this book leaves one with the overwhelming impression that it has been assembled using the orphan chapters of an undergraduate text book and throughout, Atkins conspicuously fails to breathe life into his subject.

For undergraduates this book may be the perfect introduction to thermodynamics; however, for the casual reader, it fails to inspire.
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VINE VOICEon 28 February 2008

This remarkably slim volume primer for basic principles of `Thermodynamics' shows great clarity and economy in its descriptions. If you saw this on a shelf you might consider its of a low academic quality, but i.m.h.o this is a mistake. However please note, this does not contain explicit mathematical descriptions, such as Partial derivatives equations using Vector Calculus e.g. DIV, GRAD, Curl or anything approaching this, so please bear this in mind.

What does it cover?

The Prof. begins by defining energy principles that allow for the quickest, clearest comprehension. The mathematical supporting these statements is largely removed to give an orientating guide to understanding of the reader in the main features of this topic. Topics described with superb clarity are the 'Zeroth Law', and the concept of temperature and work, the conservation of energy, descriptive features about the second law with regard to entropy and work in `Carnot heat engines', and finishing with the unattainably nature of zero k and how this follows into basic quantum theory.


For what's its worth I have seen a Dr. Engineering (I will not name) use this book as the basis for his lectures. He regarded this volume possessing "...deep understanding for a new students perspective" and "...is the model of clarity often used by senior tutors to compare their own teaching styles".
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on 16 February 2013
Can't praise this enough. Peter Atkins is a great writer and easy to read. So you should read this, and re-read it t get a good feel for the significance of the four laws (of thermodynamics) and their place in understanding this universe. Get this and his Galileo's Finger.

And if you watch him on youtube he's pretty direct and doesn't take any nonsense. His chemistry books are good too.
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on 4 November 2009
This book was great up to page 35: a very clear and lucid account of heat and energy. Then it suddenly became very difficult and dropped into a heavy and turgid morass.

I was a complete beginner at this, and although the book has no maths in it, it is not at all easy to understand if you don't have a secondary school education in the basic physics. I suspect, from what other reviewers have said, that it contains many profound insights for people who were taught the equations, but were never taught why they should be using them. It isn't really suitable for general readers, or at least not this general reader, looking for an introduction to the laws of thermodynamics and concepts like enthalpy, entropy and Gibbs energy, and an explanation as to why physical and chemical reactions occur.

Atkins doesn't put any mathematical equations into the book. Normally, this what you do if you are writing for general readers. However, I found Atkins impenetrable, and had to turn to the mathematical descriptions (like van Ness) before I understood what he was trying to say. I feel bad saying such a negative thing about a book that was clearly an intense effort to write, and it is just a shame that he couldn't maintain the lucidity of the first 35 pages for the remaining 100-odd.

In all, I was a bit disappointed, but if you are approaching the book from the right background, it might well be very worthwhile.
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on 10 November 2015
I bought this book about a month and a half ago, and I finally finished reading it today (though I didn't spend a month and a half reading it, I just have been very busy), and I have found that it has explained everything in enough detail for my simple post-GCSE mind, as I am currently studying my first year of A levels and many concepts within the book had only been briefly touched upon, however I found it very interesting a read and I have found it quite useful as now as I am going along the course I have found that I already know some things or why something is the way it is. I found the way Atkins explained everything very informative and easy to follow and it was certainly a good book to start off my wider reading.
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on 18 October 2009
If you have already a good knowledge of chemistry or physics then you'll enjoy this book, but he can strech your mind at times with the maths. He really knows his subject and if you perservere you will be rewarded.
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on 14 November 2014
Great read would recommend it.
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on 1 April 2012
This book gives a very concise explanation of the laws of thermodynamics. It is well written and interesting. However, what it lacks is some more explaining. There are always lots of questions that can be asked about thermodynamics, but this book only gives a short introduction to the topic. To fully understand thermodynamics there needs to be more explanation and perhaps some more equations. I found myself being more unsure about my understanding of thermodynamics after reading this than I was before.
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on 30 December 2014
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