The Road to Maxwell's Demon

The Road to Maxwell's Demon : Conceptual Foundations of Statistical Mechanics

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Time asymmetric phenomena are successfully predicted by statistical mechanics. Yet the foundations of this theory are surprisingly shaky. Its explanation for the ease of mixing milk with coffee is incomplete, and even implies that un-mixing them should be just as easy. In this book the authors develop a new conceptual foundation for statistical mechanics that addresses this difficulty. Explaining the notions of macrostates, probability, measurement, memory, and the arrow of time in statistical mechanics, they reach the startling conclusion that Maxwell's Demon, the famous perpetuum mobile, is consistent with the fundamental physical laws. Mathematical treatments are avoided where possible, and instead the authors use novel diagrams to illustrate the text. This is a fascinating book for graduate students and researchers interested in the foundations and philosophy of physics.
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Product details

  • Electronic book text
  • Cambridge University Press (Virtual Publishing)
  • Cambridge, United Kingdom
  • English
  • 105 b/w illus.
  • 1139095161
  • 9781139095167

Review quote

'The Road to Maxwell's Demon is an exceptionally clear and readable book, intended for readers without physics or philosophy backgrounds. It is also a highly original and important contribution to the foundations of physics. It goes against much of the received wisdom and offers novel solutions to many problems: among them, discussions of time asymmetry in classical mechanics, an empiricist alternative to typicality, a criticism of the role of ergodicity, the notion of a physical observer and the irrelevance of information theory to the foundations of statistical mechanics. Readers interested in the foundations of physics will welcome such a fresh outlook on these topics.' Amit Hagar, Metascience
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Table of contents

Preface; 1. Introduction; 2. Thermodynamics; 3. Classical mechanics; 4. Time; 5. Macrostates; 6. Probability; 7. Entropy; 8. Typicality; 9. Measurement; 10. The past; 11. Gibbs; 12. Erasure; 13. Maxwell's Demon; Appendixes; References; Index.
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