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Statistical mechanics: a tale of two theories

Frigg, Roman ORCID: 0000-0003-0812-0907 and Werndl, Charlotte (2019) Statistical mechanics: a tale of two theories. The Monist, 102 (4). pp. 424-438. ISSN 0026-9662

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Identification Number: 10.1093/monist/onz018


There are two theoretical approaches in statistical mechanics, one associated with Boltzmann and the other with Gibbs. The theoretical apparatus of the two approaches offer distinct descriptions of the same physical system with no obvious way to translate the concepts of one formalism into those of the other. This raises the question of the status of one approach vis-à-vis the other. We answer this question by arguing that the Boltzmannian approach is a fundamental theory while Gibbsian statistical mechanics (GSM) is an effective theory, and we describe circumstances under which Gibbsian calculations coincide with the Boltzmannian results. We then point out that regarding GSM as an effective theory has important repercussions for a number of projects, in particular attempts to turn GSM into a nonequilibrium theory.

Item Type: Article
Additional Information: © 2019 The Authors
Divisions: Philosophy, Logic and Scientific Method
Subjects: Q Science > QA Mathematics
Q Science > Q Science (General)
B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > B Philosophy (General)
Date Deposited: 28 Mar 2019 10:48
Last Modified: 20 Oct 2021 00:56

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