, 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


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...


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2014

Authors and Affiliations

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

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