History and Philosophy Of Science | Demons in Physics
X391 | 31161 | Amit Hagar

Two famous demons, namely Laplace’s and Maxwell’s, have shaped the
development of our best theories of matter, spacetime, and
information, and have generated much philosophical discussions. The
first demon signifies complete determinism; the second - the
universality of thermodynamics. We shall divide this research
seminar into four (not necessarily equal in length) modules. In the
first, we shall get acquainted with the basics of Hamiltonian
(Newtonian) mechanics, thermodynamics, and statistical mechanics; in
the second, we shall analyze the status of Laplacian determinism in
physics; and in the third, we shall evaluate the ongoing attempts to
exorcise Maxwell demon. Finally, in the fourth module we shall bring
these two demons together with a discussion on the physical notion
of probability. Grading will be based on discussion’s participation,
class expositions of the reading, and a final research paper. The
class is open for senior undergrads with a prior permission from the
instructor. The course is self-contained, which means that while
certainly a plus, prior knowledge of the relevant physics is not a