Advertisement

Metascience

, Volume 23, Issue 3, pp 475–484 | Cite as

Demons in physics

Hemmo, Meir and Orly R. Shenker: The road to Maxwell’s demon. Conceptual foundations of statistical mechanics. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2012, x+327pp, £64.00 HB
  • Amit Hagar
Essay Review

Introduction

Maxwell’s “finite being” was born in 1867, as one “who knows the paths and velocities of all the molecules” (Knott 1911, 213), and who, unlike us, is “clever enough” (Knott 1911, 213), and can violate the second law of thermodynamics. It was baptized as a demon by Lord Kelvin (Knott 1911, 214), and ever since has fueled the discussions in the foundations of statistical mechanics. Since its inception and contrary to Maxwell’s own intention, the demon has suffered numerous exorcism attempts, physical and information–theoretic all aiming to demonstrate that it cannot achieve its goal; all culminating in (or, more precisely, starting from) the common belief that the second law of thermodynamics is an a priori truth.

In their monograph The Road to Maxwell’s Demon, Hemmo and Shenker put an end to this long tradition of exorcism and argue convincingly that under a very mild assumption, common to classical andquantum mechanics, namely, the deterministic character of the...

References

  1. Albert, David. 2003. Time and chance. Harvard: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  2. Bennett, Charles. 1987. Demons, engines, and the second law. Scientific American 257(5): 108–116.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Bombelli, Luca, Joohan Lee, David Meyer, and Rafael D. Sorkin. 1987. Spacetime as a causal set. Physical Review Letters 59: 521–524.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Bustamante, Carlos, J. Liphardt, and F. Ritort. 2005. Non-equilibrium thermodynamics of small systems. Physic Today 58(7): 43–48.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Knott, Cargill Gilston. 1911. The life and scientific work of Peter Guthrie Tait. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  6. Landauer, Rolf. 1961. Irreversibility and heat generation in the computing process. IBM Journal Of Research Development 5(3): 183–191.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Maudlin, Tim. 2007. What could be objective about probabilities? Studies in History and Philosophy of Modern Physics 38(275–291): 2007.Google Scholar
  8. Pitowsky, Itamar. 2004. Macroscopic objects in quantum mechanics: a combinatorial approach. Physical Review A 70: 022103.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Pitowsky, Itamar. 2011. Typicality and the role of the Lebesgue measure in statistical mechanics. In Probability in Physics: Essays in Honor of Itamar Pitowsky, ed. Y. Ben Menahem, and M. Hemmo, 87–98. Heidelberg-Berlin: The Frontiers Collection, Springer.Google Scholar
  10. Sklar, Lawrence. 1993. Physics and chance. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Szilard, Leó. 1929/2003. On the decrease in entropy in a thermodynamic system by the intervention of intelligent beings. In Maxwell's Demon, eds. Leff, Harvey and Andrew F. Rex, vol 2, 110–119. Bristol: Institute of Physics Publishing.Google Scholar
  12. von Neumann, John. 1932. Mathematical foundations of quantum theory. Princeton: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of History and Philosophy of ScienceIndiana UniversityBloomingtonUSA

Personalised recommendations