Feb 20, 2023

David Wallace: Thermodynamics as control theory

Posted by in category: physics

I explore the reduction of thermodynamics to statistical mechanics by treating the former as a control theory: a theory of which transitions between states can be induced on a system (assumed to obey some known underlying dynamics) by means of operations from a fixed list. I recover the results of standard thermodynamics in this framework on the assumption that the available operations do not include measurements which affect subsequent choices of operations. I then relax this assumption and use the framework to consider the vexed questions of Maxwell’s demon and Landauer’s principle. Throughout I assume rather than prove the basic irreversibility features of statistical mechanics, taking care to distinguish them from the conceptually distinct assumptions of thermodynamics proper.

Annual UWO Philosophy of Physics Conference.
Thermodynamics as a Resource Theory: Foundational and Philosophical Implications.
June 20–22, 2018
David Wallace, University of Southern California.

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