05 March 2011

A Consequence of the Second Law

"The second law [of thermodynamics] establishes that the amount of useful work you can get out of a furnace depends on how much hotter things are in the furnace than on the cold side of the engine -- the cold side being the condenser, cooling tower, or whatever else is at hand to use as a dumping ground for the inevitable (and virtuous) waste....So all the gains in thermodynamic efficiency have to come from making the hot side hotter. Which means that you want to burn your fuel -- your coal, uranium, gas, oil, or whatever else may be at hand -- not just hot, but hotter, fiercely hot, as hot as you can possibly make it without melting down or blowing up all your expensive hardware."

- Peter W. Huber and Mark P. Mills, The Bottomless Well (2005).

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Knowledge is warranted belief -- it is the body of belief that we build up because, while living in this world, we've developed good reasons for believing it. What we know, then, is what works -- and it is, necessarily, what has worked for us, each of us individually, as a first approximation. For my other blog, on the struggles for control in the corporate suites, see www.proxypartisans.blogspot.com.