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Andrew M. Steane

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780198788560

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2017

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198788560.001.0001

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Understanding entropy

Understanding entropy

(p.108) 9 Understanding entropy

Andrew M. Steane

Oxford University Press

Entropy is described and discussed from numerous perspectives. First we present example calculations of entropy changes, and the role of entropy in heat engines and heat conduction. Then the Boltzmann formula is introduced. The entropy change in a free expansion of an ideal gas, the Gibbs paradox, and the entropy of mixing are all presented and discussed. Entropy changes in phase transitions are briefly sketched. Maxwell’s daemon, the Szilard engine, and the Feynman–Smoluchowski ratchet are all used to investigate the meaning of the second law and the role of entropy. The principle of detailed balance is described, and the concept of adiabatic surfaces explained. Finally, irreversibility in the cosmos as a whole is discussed, with reference to unresolved problems in general relativity and quantum mechanics.

Keywords:   Boltzmann formula, Gibbs paradox, Maxwell daemon, Szilard engine, Feynman ratchet, detailed balance, adiabatic surface, irreversibility

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