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From Watt’s Steam Engine to the Unified Quantum Theory of Mechanics and Thermodynamics

Author(s): George N. Hatsopoulos

Journal: International Journal of Thermodynamics
ISSN 1301-9724

Volume: 9;
Issue: 3;
Start page: 97;
Date: 2006;
Original page

Keywords: thermodynamics | unified quantum theory of mechanics and thermodynamics | information-theory interpretation of thermodynamics | physical states with broader objective uncertainties | quantum theory

Thermodynamics is the science that deals with all the phenomena that involve the transfer of energy, i.e. heat and work. Its development started in 1824 with the efforts of Sadi Carnot to improve the closed-cycle steam engine discovered by James Watt in 1764. In 1850, R. Clausius laid the foundations of the laws of thermodynamics. Soon thereafter a conflict between the second law of Thermodynamics and the laws of mechanics was pointed out by Maxwell in 1871 and was illustrated clearly by what has come to be known as Maxwell’s demon. This conflict was addressed by Brillouin (1949) based on the work of Szilard (1929) and of many others. They all claimed that although the objective state of a system is fully describable by mechanics, classical or quantum, and evolves according to the laws of mechanics, some states of the system as perceived by an observer are subjective and reflect the lack of information the observer has about the actual mechanical state of the system. This point of view is, in effect, the information-theory interpretation of thermodynamics which, currently, is widely accepted. The central point of this paper is to describe the reasons why the information-theory interpretation of thermodynamics is contrary to physical reality. It shows that a logically viable hypothesis which reconciles mechanics with thermodynamics is the existence in nature of physical states that have objective uncertainties broader than those implied in quantum theory as it is traditionally formulated. The consequences of this hypothesis are presented in the Unified Quantum Theory of Mechanics and Thermodynamics, by Hatsopoulos and Gyftopoulos.An initial version of this paper was published inJuly of 2006 in the proceedings of ECOS’06, AghiaPelagia, Crete, Greece. 
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