Don S. Lemons

Don S. Lemons is Professor of Physics Emeritus at Bethel College in North Newton, Kansas and the author of Drawing Physics: 2,600 Years of Discovery from Thales to Higgs and Thermodynamic Weirdness: From Fahrenheit to Clausius (both published by the MIT Press).

  • On the Trail of Blackbody Radiation

    On the Trail of Blackbody Radiation

    Max Planck and the Physics of his Era

    Don S. Lemons, William R. Shanahan, and Louis J. Buchholtz

    An account of Max Planck's construction of his theory of blackbody radiation, summarizing the established physics on which he drew.

    In the last year of the nineteenth century, Max Planck constructed a theory of blackbody radiation—the radiation emitted and absorbed by nonreflective bodies in thermal equilibrium with one another—and his work ushered in the quantum revolution in physics. In this book, three physicists trace Planck's discovery. They follow the trail of Planck's thinking by constructing a textbook of sorts that summarizes the established physics on which he drew. By offering this account, the authors explore not only how Planck deployed his considerable knowledge of the physics of his era but also how Einstein and others used and interpreted Planck's work.

    Planck did not set out to lay the foundation for the quantum revolution but to study a universal phenomenon for which empirical evidence had been accumulating since the late 1850s. The authors explain the nineteenth-century concepts that informed Planck's discovery, including electromagnetism, thermodynamics, and statistical mechanics. In addition, the book offers the first translations of important papers by Ludwig Boltzmann and Wilhelm Wien on which Planck's work depended.

    • Hardcover $30.00
  • Thermodynamic Weirdness

    Thermodynamic Weirdness

    From Fahrenheit to Clausius

    Don S. Lemons

    An account of the concepts and intellectual structure of classical thermodynamics that reveals the subject's simplicity and coherence.

    Students of physics, chemistry, and engineering are taught classical thermodynamics through its methods—a “problems first” approach that neglects the subject's concepts and intellectual structure. In Thermodynamic Weirdness, Don Lemons fills this gap, offering a nonmathematical account of the ideas of classical thermodynamics in all its non-Newtonian “weirdness.” By emphasizing the ideas and their relationship to one another, Lemons reveals the simplicity and coherence of classical thermodynamics.

    Lemons presents concepts in an order that is both chronological and logical, mapping the rise and fall of ideas in such a way that the ideas that were abandoned illuminate the ideas that took their place. Selections from primary sources, including writings by Daniel Fahrenheit, Antoine Lavoisier, James Joule, and others, appear at the end of most chapters. Lemons covers the invention of temperature; heat as a form of motion or as a material fluid; Carnot's analysis of heat engines; William Thomson (later Lord Kelvin) and his two definitions of absolute temperature; and energy as the mechanical equivalent of heat. He explains early versions of the first and second laws of thermodynamics; entropy and the law of entropy non-decrease; the differing views of Lord Kelvin and Rudolf Clausius on the fate of the universe; the zeroth and third laws of thermodynamics; and Einstein's assessment of classical thermodynamics as “the only physical theory of universal content which I am convinced will never be overthrown.”

    • Hardcover $24.95
    • Paperback $16.95
  • Drawing Physics

    Drawing Physics

    2,600 Years of Discovery From Thales to Higgs

    Don S. Lemons

    Drawings and short essays offer engaging and accessible explanations of key ideas in physics, from triangulation to relativity and beyond.

    Humans have been trying to understand the physical universe since antiquity. Aristotle had one vision (the realm of the celestial spheres is perfect), and Einstein another (all motion is relativistic). More often than not, these different understandings begin with a simple drawing, a pre-mathematical picture of reality. Such drawings are a humble but effective tool of the physicist's craft, part of the tradition of thinking, teaching, and learning passed down through the centuries. This book uses drawings to help explain fifty-one key ideas of physics accessibly and engagingly. Don Lemons, a professor of physics and author of several physics books, pairs short, elegantly written essays with simple drawings that together convey important concepts from the history of physical science.

    Lemons proceeds chronologically, beginning with Thales' discovery of triangulation, the Pythagorean monocord, and Archimedes' explanation of balance. He continues through Leonardo's description of “earthshine” (the ghostly glow between the horns of a crescent moon), Kepler's laws of planetary motion, and Newton's cradle (suspended steel balls demonstrating by their collisions that for every action there is always an equal and opposite reaction). Reaching the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, Lemons explains the photoelectric effect, the hydrogen atom, general relativity, the global greenhouse effect, Higgs boson, and more. The essays place the science of the drawings in historical context—describing, for example, Galileo's conflict with the Roman Catholic Church over his teaching that the sun is the center of the universe, the link between the discovery of electrical phenomena and the romanticism of William Wordsworth, and the shadow cast by the Great War over Einstein's discovery of relativity.

    Readers of Drawing Physics with little background in mathematics or physics will say, “Now I see, and now I understand.”

    • Hardcover $29.95
    • Paperback $19.95