PhilSci Archive

What Is a Macrostate? Subjective Observations and Objective Dynamics

Shalizi, Cosma Rohilla and Moore, Cristopher (2003) What Is a Macrostate? Subjective Observations and Objective Dynamics. [Preprint]


Download (310kB)


We consider the question of whether thermodynamic macrostates are objective consequences of dynamics, or subjective reflections of our ignorance of a physical system. We argue that they are both; more specifically, that the set of macrostates forms the unique maximal partition of phase space which 1) is consistent with our observations (a subjective fact about our ability to observe the system) and 2) obeys a Markov process (an objective fact about the system's dynamics). We review the ideas of computational mechanics, an information-theoretic method for finding optimal causal models of stochastic processes, and argue that macrostates coincide with the ``causal states'' of computational mechanics. Defining a set of macrostates thus consists of an inductive process where we start with a given set of observables, and then refine our partition of phase space until we reach a set of states which predict their own future, i.e. which are Markovian. Macrostates arrived at in this way are provably optimal statistical predictors of the future values of our observables.

Export/Citation: EndNote | BibTeX | Dublin Core | ASCII/Text Citation (Chicago) | HTML Citation | OpenURL
Social Networking:
Share |

Item Type: Preprint
Shalizi, Cosma Rohilla
Moore, Cristopher
Keywords: Statistical mechanics, thermodynamics, macroscopic state, entropy, computational mechanics, causal state, memory effects, Markov processes, hydrodynamics, spin glasses, coarse graining, cellular automata, hysteresis, aging, nonequilibrium behavior, path dependence
Subjects: General Issues > Reductionism/Holism
Specific Sciences > Physics > Statistical Mechanics/Thermodynamics
Depositing User: Cosma Rohilla Shalizi
Date Deposited: 03 Apr 2003
Last Modified: 07 Oct 2010 15:11
Item ID: 1119

Monthly Views for the past 3 years

Monthly Downloads for the past 3 years

Plum Analytics

Actions (login required)

View Item View Item