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The Thought Experiment of Maxwell's Demon and the Origin of Irreversibility

Aspasia S. Moue
Journal for General Philosophy of Science / Zeitschrift für allgemeine Wissenschaftstheorie
Vol. 39, No. 1 (Sep., 2008), pp. 69-84
Published by: Springer
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/40390690
Page Count: 16
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The Thought Experiment of Maxwell's Demon and the Origin of Irreversibility
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Abstract

The problem of the irreversibility's origin in thermodynamic processes occupies a distinguished place among many and lasting attempts by researchers to derive irreversibility from molecular-mechanical principles. However, this problem is still open and no universally accepted solution may be given during any course. In this paper, I shall try to show that the examining of Maxwell's demon thought experiment may provide insight into the difficulties that emerge, looking for this origin because: (i) it is connected with the notion of irreversibility, and (ii) one of its functions is that of the "reversibility objection." In order to illustrate this point, I study Boltzmann's approach to the problem of a molecular-mechanical interpretation of irreversibility and I show that an auxiliary assumption (the selected direction of time) is responsible for producing irreversibility. But this result is accordant with the predictions of Maxwell's demon thought experiment: the assumptions of this kind are not dictated by molecular-mechanical principles but are separate input in the model-systems used.

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