I enjoyed Harold Henderson’s article on Professor Kauffman of UIC [“Twisted Science,” January 26]. It’s great to see stories in the popular press about science and math.
I just wanted to clarify some statements made about the kinetic theory of (ideal) gases. The kinetic theory is indeed that gases are like marbles, a sort of three-dimensional billiard table with perfectly elastic collisions and no interatomic forces. This model is oversimplified since it would indicate that gases never undergo chemical reactions nor condense at temperatures above absolute zero (zero kelvins, I might add).
Although I know nothing of Lord Kelvin’s original paper, I imagine that he was using the knot model to come up with improvements on the kinetic theory of ideal gases so as to account for their real properties.
Associate Professor of Chemistry