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Always, Sometimes, or Never True

Keywords: Thermo & Stat Mech, Energy and Entropy, Second Law, Small Group Activity


Highlights of the activity

  1. This small group activity is designed to give students practice with recognizing if given statements about systems / scenarios are always, sometimes, or never true.
  2. Students use their knowledge of thermodynamics to determine if each given statement is always, sometimes, or never true.
  3. The whole class discussion focuses on ensuring that students are familiar enough with the tools they need to label the statements correctly.

Reasons to spend class time on the activity

Before beginning any computation, one must assess the physical situation to understand what is actually occurring in a process. We have found that after focusing on the use of Maxwell relations and Legendre transforms for an extended period of time, students benefit from returning to the first and second thermodynamic laws to practice physical reasoning. This activity provides students the opportunity to practice using the first and second thermodynamic laws to make physical arguments about many different thermodynamic processes. Since students are working in small groups, the students will have to collaborate to resolve any inconsistencies in their logic of reasoning for answers to each question.

Beware: this activity requires extensive preparation with TAs, and as such is generally skipped. With careful consideration and planning it makes an excellent group exercise that gives students ample challenge, but the material does not suffer from its exclusion.


Instructor's Guide

Student Handouts



Authors: Corinne Manogue
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