Date: May 2008
Creator: Campisi, Michele
Description: This dissertation aims at addressing two important theoretical questions which are still debated in the statistical mechanical community. The first question has to do with the outstanding problem of how to reconcile time-reversal asymmetric macroscopic laws with the time-reversal symmetric laws of microscopic dynamics. This problem is addressed by developing a novel mechanical approach inspired by the work of Helmholtz on monocyclic systems and the Heat Theorem, i.e., the Helmholtz Theorem. By following a line of investigation initiated by Boltzmann, a Generalized Helmholtz Theorem is stated and proved. This theorem provides us with a good microscopic analogue of thermodynamic entropy. This is the volume entropy, namely the logarithm of the volume of phase space enclosed by the constant energy hyper-surface. By using quantum mechanics only, it is shown that such entropy can only increase. This can be seen as a novel rigorous proof of the Second Law of Thermodynamics that sheds new light onto the arrow of time problem. The volume entropy behaves in a thermodynamic-like way independent of the number of degrees of freedom of the system, indicating that a whole thermodynamic-like world exists at the microscopic level. It is also shown that breaking of ergodicity leads to microcanonical ...
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