Is thermodynamics fundamental?

Por • 15 abr, 2022 • Sección: Ciencia y tecnología

Michael te Vrugt, Paul Needham, Georg J. Schmitz

It is a common view in philosophy of physics that thermodynamics is a non-fundamental theory. This is motivated in particular by the fact that thermodynamics is considered to be a paradigmatic example for a theory that can be reduced to another one, namely statistical mechanics. For instance, the statement «temperature is mean molecular kinetic energy» has become a textbook example for a successful reduction, despite the fact that this statement is not correct for a large variety of systems. In this article, we defend the view that thermodynamics is a fundamental theory, a position that we justify based on four case studies from recent physical research. We explain how entropic gravity (1) and black hole thermodynamics (2) can serve as case studies for the multiple realizability problem which blocks the reduction of thermodynamics. Moreover, we discuss the problem of the reducibility of phase transitions and argue that bifurcation theory (3) allows the modelling of «phase transitions» on a thermodynamic level even in finite systems. It is also shown that the derivation of irreversible transport equations in the Mori-Zwanzig formalism (4) does not, despite recent claims to the contrary, constitute a reduction of thermodynamics to quantum mechanics. Finally, we briefly discuss some arguments against the fundamentality of thermodynamics that are not based on reduction.

arXiv:2204.04352v1 [physics.hist-ph]

History and Philosophy of Physics (physics.hist-ph); Statistical Mechanics (cond-mat.stat-mech); General Relativity and Quantum Cosmology (gr-qc)

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