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Does a computer have an arrow of time?

Maroney, Owen (2007) Does a computer have an arrow of time? [Preprint]


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In [Sch05a], it is argued that Boltzmann's intuition, that the psychological arrow of time is necessarily aligned with the thermodynamic arrow, is correct. Schulman gives an explicit physical mechanism for this connection, based on the brain being representable as a computer, together with certain thermodynamic properties of computational processes. [Haw94] presents similar, if briefer, arguments. The purpose of this paper is to critically examine the support for the link between thermodynamics and an arrow of time for computers. The principal arguments put forward by Schulman and Hawking will be shown to fail. It will be shown that any computational process that can take place in an entropy increasing universe, can equally take place in an entropy decreasing universe. This conclusion does not automatically imply a psychological arrow can run counter to the thermodynamic arrow. Some alternative possible explanations for the alignment of the two arrows will be briefly discussed.

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Item Type: Preprint
Maroney, Owen
Keywords: statistical mechanics, thermodynamics, arrow of time
Subjects: Specific Sciences > Physics > Statistical Mechanics/Thermodynamics
Depositing User: Owen Maroney
Date Deposited: 20 Sep 2007
Last Modified: 07 Oct 2010 15:15
Item ID: 3533

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