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Bethel physics professor publishes third book

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NORTH NEWTON, KAN. – In publishing his third book, a Bethel College professor has produced “a perfect tool for teaching a notoriously difficult subject.”

Don Lemons, professor of physics, is the author of Mere Thermodynamics, released November 10 by the publisher, Johns Hopkins University Press.

The physical theory of thermodynamics is, Lemons writes in the “Preface” to Mere Thermodynamics, “at once beautiful and useful.” Its laws are “simply expressed” and its deductions are “universally applicable.” Albert Einstein, Lemons notes, once declared that thermodynamics alone of all the physical theories “will never be overthrown.”

Nonetheless, Lemons continues, thermodynamics is notoriously difficult both to teach and learn. So in 2007 during a sabbatical, Lemons set out to create a textbook for undergraduate students in chemistry, physics and pre-engineering that introduces the theory’s concepts and methods, using them to solve problems from a broad range of physics, chemistry and engineering practice.

Mere Thermodynamics illustrates the fundamentals as well as advanced topics such as the relationship between the Second Law of Thermodynamics and entropy. Lemons highlights the intellectual structure and history of the discipline and explores the logical consequences of each of the famous three laws, explaining and developing the first two laws and their corollaries; the methods and applications of thermodynamics; the third law; non-fluid variables; equilibrium and stability; and two-phase systems.

The book includes end-of-chapter practice problems, an appendix of worked problems, a glossary of terms and an annotated bibliography.

Mere Thermodynamics is a gem of physics pedagogy,” wrote Robert C. Hillborn from the University of Texas at Dallas. “Elegantly written and both physically and mathematically insightful, this book should be required reading for all courses in thermodynamics.”

“The title Mere Thermodynamics is meant to recall the title of C. S. Lewis’ famous book Mere Christianity,” Lemons noted. “C. S. Lewis used the word ‘mere’ ironically, as if to say that even though Christianity is very old and very familiar, Christianity is not outdated or any less important to this generation than it was to previous ones. Similarly, the subject of thermodynamics is relatively old and very familiar, at least in outline, to physicists. Nonetheless, it is still quite important and should not be taken for granted.”

Lemons has taught at Bethel College since 1987. He is also the author of Perfect Form: An Introduction to Variational Principles, Methods and Applications (Princeton University Press, 1997) and An Introduction to Stochastic Processes in Physics (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2002).

Mere Thermodynamics is available directly from Johns Hopkins University Press at www.press.jhu.edu/books/title_pages/9691.html and through online vendors such as Amazon.com.

Bethel College is a four-year liberal arts college affiliated with Mennonite Church USA. Founded in 1887, it is the oldest Mennonite college in North America. Bethel is known for its academic excellence and was the only Kansas private college to be ranked in Forbes.com’s listing of “America’s Best Colleges” for 2008 and one of only two Kansas colleges listed in Colleges of Distinction 2008-09. For more information, see the Bethel Web site at www.bethelks.edu.

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