The Microscopic Theory of Irreversible Processes

  • I. Prigogine
Conference paper
Part of the Springer Series in Synergetics book series (SSSYN, volume 28)


I am very happy to present this lecture in Pushchino. The work done here had wide repercussions on the development of nonequilibrium physics. The study of the Belousov-Zhabotinskii reaction has led to a new way of looking on macroscopic physics. We see now that matter in nonequilibrium conditions can acquire strikingly new properties which nobody could have predicted two decades before. However, I have decided to devote my lecture to the microscopic theory of irreversible processes, as this still remains a somewhat controversial subject. Indeed, in all fundamental theories (be it classical dynamics, quantum mechanics or relativity theory), entropy is conserved as a result of the unitary (or measure preserving) character of the evolution, in flagrant contradiction to the formulation of the second law of thermodynamics. As a result, the second law has usually been regarded as an approximation or as even being subjective in character. However, precisely because of the striking new developments in the phenomenological theory of irreversible processes, such an attitude becomes more difficult to accept today. For this reason, in the approach to the problem of irreversibility as developed by us, the law of entropy increase, and therefore the existence of an arrow of time, is taken as a fundamental fact1, 2, 3). The task of a satisfactory theory of irreversibility is thus conceived as the study of the fundamental change of the conceptual structure of dynamics which the law of entropy increase implies.


Hard Sphere Irreversible Process Microscopic Theory Liouville Operator Point Transformation 
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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 1984

Authors and Affiliations

  • I. Prigogine
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.Faculté des SciencesUniversité Libre de BruxellesB-BrusselsBelgium
  2. 2.Center for Studies in Statistical MechanicsUniversity of Texas at AustinAustinUSA

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