Thermodynamics – a poem from India

The Mahabharata is the longest known epic poem, written in Sanskrit around 400 BCE. In Indian culture, it is a revered text of historical and philosophical importance. Associate Professor Sukarma Thareja of CSJM Kanpur University, India, suggests our understanding of thermodynamics is no less significant than a work such as the Mahabharata.

Specialising in Physical Chemistry research, she is a fellow advocate of sharing science through poetry and visual arts. We are delighted to feature her free-verse poem and accompanying road-mind-map collage image and invite you to take Sukarma’s poetical journey into the world of thermodynamics.

(to view an enlarged version of Sukarma’s road-mind-map, click: corr Thm coll)

Collage Thermodynamics











Thermodynamics  by Sukarma Rani Thareja

Thermodynamics is all about
Flow of heat, into and out of system
As it undergoes physical/chemical transformations.
Thermodynamics lets us know; if particular
physical/chemical changes can occur
Under a given set of conditions.

In thermodynamics, there are three laws empirical.
One must learn all
To become an innovative physical chemist.
Boundary and surroundings are environment of system.
A diathermal boundary-wall provides no insulation (to system);
Adiabatic process won’t allow heat to flow in or out (of system).

Three thermodynamic principles
Are source of my inspiration
As a student of chemistry.
Understanding them is my passion
Since I have to learn them on my own
Therefore I need to make clear
Road-mind-map of these principles.

Where does heat energy move?
Heat energy is always moving towards a state.
Concept of state we can’t abbreviate.
When two systems are in contact
And the temperature of one (system)
Is uniform and same to connected system
Thermal equilibrium is said to be attained by two systems.
When the state variables have constant values throughout (the system)
Thermodynamic equilibrium is said to be attained (by the system).

First law of thermodynamics determines internal energy (of system)
By taking difference between heat and work (of system)
Thermodynamics attempts to explain by its second law
Why energy always moves from high to low.
Why are we not able to reverse the flow?
There is increase in randomness: entropy
Is answer to this important query.
Zero is the total change in entropy (of system)
Plus surrounding: for a reversible system.
But can we do work against increase in entropy?
Yes. But in doing so, we put a drain on some energy.

As scientists, we are looking towards perfect model.
Value of entropy is zero at Absolute Zero for a perfect crystal
But with finite number of steps
We can’t reach Absolute Zero – a temperature which is so magical
This is what the laws of thermodynamics tell us.

Finally, it seems we have reached our goal
Recollecting – learning three laws – empirical
by making mental-map-road.
Was that as easy as it looked before?
This masterpiece on thermodynamics
This literary humble poem, by Sukarma Thareja
May not be as worthy as epics of Mahabharta.
But it is surely no less than
The epic struggle of Bhisham Pitahma in Mahabharta.