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Maxwell's Demon

Maxwell's Demon: Entropy, Information, Computing

Copyright Date: 1990
Pages: 362
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  • Book Info
    Maxwell's Demon
    Book Description:

    About 120 years ago, James Clerk Maxwell introduced his now legendary hypothetical "demon" as a challenge to the integrity of the second law of thermodynamics. Fascination with the demon persisted throughout the development of statistical and quantum physics, information theory, and computer science--and linkages have been established between Maxwell's demon and each of these disciplines. The demon's seductive quality makes it appealing to physical scientists, engineers, computer scientists, biologists, psychologists, and historians and philosophers of science. Until now its important source material has been scattered throughout diverse journals.

    This book brings under one cover twenty-five reprints, including seminal works by Maxwell and William Thomson; historical reviews by Martin Klein, Edward Daub, and Peter Heimann; information theoretic contributions by Leo Szilard, Leon Brillouin, Dennis Gabor, and Jerome Rothstein; and innovations by Rolf Landauer and Charles Bennett illustrating linkages with the limits of computation. An introductory chapter summarizes the demon's life, from Maxwell's illustration of the second law's statistical nature to the most recent "exorcism" of the demon based on a need periodically to erase its memory. An annotated chronological bibliography is included.

    Originally published in 1990.

    ThePrinceton Legacy Libraryuses the latest print-on-demand technology to again make available previously out-of-print books from the distinguished backlist of Princeton University Press. These paperback editions preserve the original texts of these important books while presenting them in durable paperback editions. The goal of the Princeton Legacy Library is to vastly increase access to the rich scholarly heritage found in the thousands of books published by Princeton University Press since its founding in 1905.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-6152-1
    Subjects: Physics

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Preface
    (pp. vii-x)
    Harvey Leff and Andrew Rex
  4. Acknowledgments and Copyright Information
    (pp. xi-xii)
  5. CHAPTER 1 Overview
    (pp. 1-32)

    Maxwell’s demon lives on. After more than 120 years of uncertain life and at least two pronouncements of death, this fanciful character seems more vibrant than ever. As the dictionary entry above shows, Maxwell’s demon is no more than a simple idea. Yet it has challenged some of the best scientific minds, and its extensive literature spans thermodynamics, statistical physics, information theory, cybernetics, the limits of computing, biological sciences and the history and philosophy of science.

    Despite this remarkable scope and the demon’s longevity, coverage in standard physics, chemistry and biology textbooks typically ranges from cursory to nil. Because its...

  6. CHAPTER 2 Historical and Philosophical Considerations
    (pp. 33-122)
    William Thomson, EDWARD E. DAUB, P. M. HEIMANN, Martin J. Klein, L. BRILLOUIN, Jerome Rothstein, Kenneth Denbigh and ALVIN M. WEINBERG

    IN abstract dynamics an instantaneous reversal of the motion of every moving particle of a system causes the system to move backwards, each particle of it along its old path, and at the same speed as before when again in the same position—that is to say, in mathematical language, any solution remains a solution whentis changed into —t. In physical dynamics, this simple and perfect reversibility fails on account of forces depending on friction of solids; imperfect fluidity of fluids; imperfect elasticity of solids; inequalities of temperature and consequent conduction of heat produced by stresses in solids...

  7. CHAPTER 3 Maxwell’s Demon and Information Acquisition
    (pp. 123-186)
    Leo Szilard, L. Brillouin, Richard C. Raymond, C. Finfgeld, S. Machlup, Philip Rodd, D Gabor, J. M. Jauch, J. G. Báron, Olivier Costa de Beauregard, Myron Tribus and A. F. Rex

    The objective of the investigation is to find the conditions which apparently allow the construction of a perpetual-motion machine of the second kind, if one permits an intelligent being to intervene in a thermodynamic system. When such beings make measurements, they make the system behave in a manner distinctly different from the way a mechanical system behaves when left to itself. We show that it is a sort of a memory faculty, manifested by a system where measurements occur, that might cause a permanent decrease of entropy and thus a violation of the Second Law of Thermodynamics, were it not...

  8. CHAPTER 4 Maxwell’s Demon, Information Erasure, and Computing
    (pp. 187-288)
    R Landauer, C. H. Bennett, RICHARD LAING, Charles H. Bennett, W. H. Zurek, Rolf Landauer, Elihu Lubkin and Charles H. Bennett

    The search for faster and more compact computing circuits leads directly to the question: What are the ultimate physical limitations on the progress in this direction? In practice the limitations are likely to be set by the need for access to each logical element. At this time, however, it is still hard to understand what physical requirements this puts on the degrees of freedom which bear information. The existence of a storage medium as compact as the genetic one indicates that one can go very far in the direction of compactness, at least if we are prepared to make sacrifices...

  9. Chronological Bibliography with Annotations and Selected Quotations
    (pp. 289-332)
  10. Alphabetical Bibliography
    (pp. 333-344)
  11. Index
    (pp. 345-349)