X755 | 24855 | Amit Hagar

Chance and Time Foundational Problems in Statistical Mechanics Lisa, where are you? Come here! In this house, young lady, we respect the laws of thermodynamics! (Homer Simpson to his daughter who is engaged in building a perpetual machine of the second kind in the backyard). The second law of thermodynamics is undoubtedly one of the most known laws of physics within and without. It states that for every closed system in equilibrium there exists a state-function baptized as Entropy that cannot decrease when the system undergoes an irreversible process. Its statistical character was already exposed in the 19th-century by eminent scientists such as J.C. Maxwell and L. Boltzmann, but many still see it today as the gist behind the universal irreversible tendency of energy to degrade, otherwise known as the thermodynamic arrow in time. In the seminar we shall discuss the philosophical questions involved in the puzzle of the thermodynamic arrow in time. Topics will include: Is the second law the seat of thermodynamic irreversibility? What does its statistical character tell us about the nature of the thermodynamic arrow in time? What is Entropy and what it has to do with Information? Does Thermodynamics reduce to (Statistical) Mechanics? These fascinating topics and others continue to generate heated debates and discussions in the physics and philosophical literature. Along the way we will learn about Thermodynamics, Statistical Mechanics, Chaos Theory and their implication on one of the most puzzling feature of our life. Although all the physics/math necessary for the course will be taught in class a basic background in classical (Newtonian) mechanics is assumed. Apart from the two books below, additional reading material shall be distributed among the students. Textbooks 1. Physics and Chance Lawrence Sklar Cambridge University Press 1993 ISBN 0-521-55881-6 2. Time and Chance David Z. Albert Harvard University Press 2000 ISBN 0-674-00317-9