Reduction of thermodynamics to statistical mechanics

Wayne Myrvold

Where do we stand, when it comes to the reduction of thermodynamics to statistical mechanics? In this lecture briefly review I briefly review topics that I touched on in my previous lecture: the statistical mechanical construal of the heat/work distinction, and the statistical mechanical analogue of the Second Law, and then consider the matter of obtaining analogues of the laws of thermodynamics from statistical mechanics. The First Law is just conservation of energy. The analogue of the Second Law is the theorem already discussed. This leaves what Brown and Uffink (2001) have dubbed the Minus First Law, or Equilibrium Principle, the tendency of systems to equilibrate. This is an area of active research, with results of varying degrees of generality. I will discuss some of these results. I expect that this will provide a useful lead-in to Nino’s lecture, following.

Brown, Harvey R., and Jos Uffink (2001). The origins of time-asymmetry in thermodynamics: The minus first law. Studies in History and Philosophy of Modern Physics 32, 525–38.