chapter  3
24 Pages

Thermodynamics and the Heat Death

Spiritual and religious reflections based on the new thermodynamics relied on the second law in particular, but in some cases the law of energy conservation was enough to serve as an argument for a divine creator. Thomson's version of the heat death came in 1862, in a paper dealing with the origin and duration of the Sun's emission of heat radiation. According to the highly successful caloric theory, dating from the 1730s, heat was an imponderable and self-repulsive fluid- sometimes called caloric- that could be transferred from hotter to colder bodies. The thermodynamical theory that emerged in the mid-nineteenth century almost immediately became of cosmological importance, although in a way that astronomers at first paid little attention to, and which was mostly discussed outside the astronomical community. The English lawyer, chemist and physicist William Grove was equally convinced of the religious implications of the correlation between different kinds of forces or energies.