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In Search of the Holy Grail: How to Reduce the Second Law of Thermodynamics

Robertson, Katie (2020) In Search of the Holy Grail: How to Reduce the Second Law of Thermodynamics. [Preprint]

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Abstract

The search for the statistical mechanical underpinning of thermodynamic irreversibility has so far focussed on the spontaneous approach to equilibrium. But this is the search for the underpinning of what Brown and Uffink (2001) have dubbed the ‘minus first law’ of thermodynamics. In contrast, the second law tells us that certain interventions on equilibrium states render the initial state ‘irrecoverable’. In this paper, I discuss the unusual nature of processes in thermodynamics, and the type of irreversibility that the second law embodies. I then search for the microscopic underpinning or statistical mechanical ‘reductive basis’ of the second law of thermodynamics by taking a functionalist strategy. First, I outline the functional role of the thermodynamic entropy: for a thermally isolated system, the thermodynamic entropy is constant in quasi-static processes, but increasing in non-quasi-static processes. I then search for the statistical mechanical quantity that plays this role — rather than the role of the traditional ‘holy grail’ as described by Callender (1999). I argue that in statistical mechanics, the Gibbs entropy plays this role.


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Item Type: Preprint
Creators:
CreatorsEmailORCID
Robertson, Katiekrobertson0706@gmail.com
Keywords: thermodynamics; statistical mechanics; reduction; functionalism
Subjects: General Issues > Reductionism/Holism
Specific Sciences > Physics > Statistical Mechanics/Thermodynamics
Depositing User: Katie Katie Robertson
Date Deposited: 18 Jul 2020 01:47
Last Modified: 18 Jul 2020 01:47
Item ID: 17516
Subjects: General Issues > Reductionism/Holism
Specific Sciences > Physics > Statistical Mechanics/Thermodynamics
Date: 16 July 2020
URI: http://philsci-archive.pitt.edu/id/eprint/17516

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