PhilSci Archive

Maxwell and the normal distribution: A colored story of probability, independence, and tendency toward equilibrium

Gyenis, Balazs (2017) Maxwell and the normal distribution: A colored story of probability, independence, and tendency toward equilibrium. [Preprint]

[img]
Preview
Text
Maxwell_and_the_normal_distribution_a_colored_story.pdf

Download (617kB) | Preview

Abstract

We investigate Maxwell's attempt to justify the mathematical assumptions behind his 1860 Proposition IV according to which the velocity components of colliding particles follow the normal distribution. Contrary to the commonly held view we find that his molecular collision model plays a crucial role in reaching this conclusion, and that his model assumptions also permit inference to equalization of mean kinetic energies (temperatures), which is what he intended to prove in his discredited and widely ignored Proposition VI. If we take a charitable reading of his own proof of Proposition VI then it was Maxwell, and not Boltzmann, who gave the first proof of a tendency towards equilibrium, a sort of H-theorem. We also call attention to a potential conflation of notions of probabilistic and value independence in relevant prior works of his contemporaries and of his own, and argue that this conflation might have impacted his adoption of the suspect independence assumption of Proposition IV.


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

Item Type: Preprint
Creators:
CreatorsEmailORCID
Gyenis, Balazsgyepi@hps.elte.hu
Keywords: Maxwell, kinetic theory, statistical mechanics, normal distribution, independence, H-theorem, second law of thermodynamics, condition A
Subjects: General Issues > History of Science Case Studies
Specific Sciences > Physics > Statistical Mechanics/Thermodynamics
Depositing User: Dr. Bal√°zs Gyenis
Date Deposited: 08 Feb 2017 18:00
Last Modified: 08 Feb 2017 18:00
Item ID: 12795
DOI or Unique Handle: 10.1016/j.shpsb.2017.01.001
Subjects: General Issues > History of Science Case Studies
Specific Sciences > Physics > Statistical Mechanics/Thermodynamics
Date: 2017
URI: http://philsci-archive.pitt.edu/id/eprint/12795

Monthly Views for the past 3 years

Monthly Downloads for the past 3 years

Plum Analytics

Altmetric.com

Actions (login required)

View Item View Item