Subscribe
Subscribe
MY AMERICAN SCIENTIST
LOG IN! REGISTER!
SEARCH
 
Logo IMG
HOME > PAST ISSUE > July-August 2013 > Article Detail

MARGINALIA

The Thermodynamic Sinks of this World

What would an elemental soup cook up to?

Roald Hoffmann

Supposing you have a stew of all the elements, in sufficient quantity, a good way to mix them, a temperature intermittently high enough to get all molecules and extended solids to fall apart to atoms or ions, lots of time—what would you have in the end, when such a world cooled to a specified temperature?

This is a Gedankenexperiment. I am ignoring here the astrophysical history of the universe. No world where my experiment might be relevant exists—each star, planet, satellite, asteroid has had a history. And that history has certainly involved nonequilibrium conditions, whereas I am trying to impose equilibrium. Am I after a chimera then, something completely irrelevant to this world? I don’t think so—the minerals of Mars are by and large the same minerals as those of our moon or the Earth, and the atmosphere of Titan contains no molecules strange to Earth, be they present in very different ratios. What, then, are the most stable compounds of this world, of any world?








comments powered by Disqus
 

EMAIL TO A FRIEND :

Subscribe to American Scientist