# Thermodynamics : Only experimental?

• absurdist
In summary: Generally speaking, models which must account for many locally unknown variables tend to require experimental measurements, as there are too many free parameters to effectively compute the answer. Thermodynamics is often a many-body problem, the statistics of which cannot be numerically solved. Therefore, models have been built based on variables which are convenient to measure in the lab.However, in a strict usage (macroscopic) thermodynamics does not include any models. In this context, a model is a mathematical description of a physical system that is independent of the particular collection of measurements made on that system. Rather, the model is a mathematical abstraction of the physical system, and the properties of the system can be accurately calculated from the model alone.
absurdist
Ok I read in a book that thermodynamics is an experimental science. What exactly does experimental science mean?

Also does computational science come under experimental science or as an alternative to it?

I think it may have to do with the many thermodynamics science is done with data tables that came about as a result of people performing experiments in the lab. Check out steam tables for example, where people would heat up steam, and record pressure (and other properties...etc). In contrast, some other sciences have pretty equations that can predict a lot of the phenomena without heavy reliance of experimentally obtained measurements.

Computational science may count as experimental science if the underlying physics is very well understood. These are usually expressed in terms of partial differential equations, for example, and computing can be similar to actually doing experiments in the lab. In modern engineering design work this type of computational experiments can save money on actually running the experiments etc. This is probably also why modern bikes are lighter

Thermodynamics isn't strictly experimental. There are many situations where a purely theoretical model very accurately predicts experimental data.

Generally speaking, models which must account for many locally unknown variables tend to require experimental measurements, as there are too many free parameters to effectively compute the answer. Thermodynamics is often a many-body problem, the statistics of which cannot be numerically solved. Therefore, models have been built based on variables which are convenient to measure in the lab.

I would disregard that statement from your book.

It could depend on what you mean by thermodynamics. Sometimes the terms is used as to include statistical mechanics.

e.g.
uby said:
Thermodynamics isn't strictly experimental. There are many situations where a purely theoretical model very accurately predicts experimental data.

Generally speaking, models which must account for many locally unknown variables tend to require experimental measurements, as there are too many free parameters to effectively compute the answer. Thermodynamics is often a many-body problem, the statistics of which cannot be numerically solved. Therefore, models have been built based on variables which are convenient to measure in the lab.

But in a strict usage (macroscopic) thermodynamics does not include any models.

And in the same usage I would say it doesn't predict experimental data in the absolute, it predicts experimental data from other experimental data. Which can save the trouble of obtaining it. For example you do not need to directly measure the heat produced in a chemical reaction if it is more convenient to measure the effect of temperature on the equilibrium of that reaction from which you can confidently calculate what it must be (you could say predict it - but if you verify it experimentally you have not really added anything unless there are non-thermodynamic assumptions built in).

Whether we conclude (or define) that it is an experimental science or not, it is certainly used in experimental science.

Last edited:
Khashishi said:
I would disregard that statement from your book.

I would go further, I would throw away that book and pick one up which treats statistical mechanics

uby said:
Thermodynamics isn't strictly experimental. There are many situations where a purely theoretical model very accurately predicts experimental data.

Generally speaking, models which must account for many locally unknown variables tend to require experimental measurements, as there are too many free parameters to effectively compute the answer. Thermodynamics is often a many-body problem, the statistics of which cannot be numerically solved. Therefore, models have been built based on variables which are convenient to measure in the lab.

Sorry, zoned out for a bit.

Why is it that the "STATISTICS" cannot be numerically solved. Why do we solve it statistically, I mean instead of other tools?

Curl said:
I would go further, I would throw away that book and pick one up which treats statistical mechanics

HAHA Might as well: COMMONLY ASKED QUESTIONS IN THERMODYNAMICS, PG 2

"Thermodynamics is an exacting experimental science because it has turned out to be quite difficult and time-consuming to make very accurate measurements of properties over a range of condtns (Temp, Press,Comp) over a wide range of materials of interest in the modern world."

epenguin said:
It could depend on what you mean by thermodynamics. Sometimes the terms is used as to include statistical mechanics.

e.g.

But in a strict usage (macroscopic) thermodynamics does not include any models.

So this is because we can simply calculate the macroscopic properties you mean?
What is the difference b/w macroscopic and microscopic thermodynamics in your context?

## What is thermodynamics?

Thermodynamics is a branch of physics that deals with the study of energy and its transformation in various systems, including chemical reactions and the behavior of matter in response to different types of energy.

## Why is thermodynamics important?

Thermodynamics is important because it helps us understand the fundamental principles that govern the behavior of energy in various systems, which is crucial in fields such as engineering, chemistry, and physics.

## What are the laws of thermodynamics?

The laws of thermodynamics are fundamental principles that govern the behavior of energy in different systems. They include the first law, which states that energy cannot be created or destroyed, only transferred or transformed, and the second law, which states that the total entropy of an isolated system will always increase over time.

## What is an experimental approach to thermodynamics?

An experimental approach to thermodynamics involves conducting experiments and collecting data to study the behavior of energy in different systems. This approach allows scientists to test and validate the theories and laws of thermodynamics.

## What are some real-world applications of thermodynamics?

Thermodynamics has many real-world applications, including the design and optimization of engines, refrigeration and air conditioning systems, power plants, and chemical reactions. It also plays a crucial role in understanding weather patterns, climate change, and the behavior of materials in various industries.

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