Article ID: CBB001211050

The Peculiar Status of the Second Law of Thermodynamics and the Quest for Its Violation (2012)


Even though the second law of thermodynamics holds the supreme position among the laws of nature, as stated by many distinguished scientists, notably Eddington and Einstein, its position appears to be also quite peculiar. Given the atomic nature of matter, whose behavior is well described by statistical physics, the second law could not hold unconditionally, but only statistically. It is not an absolute law. As a result of this, in the present paper we try to argue that we have not yet any truly cogent argument (known fundamental physical laws) to exclude its possible macroscopic violation. Even Landauer's information-theoretic principle seems to fall short of the initial expectations of being the fundamental `physical' reason of all Maxwell's demons failure. Here we propose a modi ed Szilard engine which operates without any steps in the process resembling the creation or destruction of information. We argue that the information-based exorcisms must be wrong, or at the very least super uous, and that the real physical reason why such engines cannot work lies in the ubiquity of thermal fluctuations (and friction).

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Authors & Contributors
Deltete, Robert J.
Abiko, Seiya
Tavel, Morton
Emch, Gérard G.
Chuang, Liu
Campisi, Michele
Physics in Perspective
Studies in History and Philosophy of Science
Historia Scientiarum: International Journal of the History of Science Society of Japan
Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part B: Studies in History and Philosophy of Modern Physics
Nineteenth-Century Contexts
Philosophy of Science
Rutgers University Press
World Scientific
Cambridge University Press
Pavia University Press
Philosophy of science
Statistical mechanics
Natural laws
Einstein, Albert
Boltzmann, Ludwig
Ostwald, Wilhelm
Maxwell, James Clerk
Helmholtz, Hermann Ludwig Ferdinand von
Nernst, Walther Hermann
Time Periods
19th century
20th century
20th century, early
21st century
18th century
Great Britain

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