Statistical Mechanics and Scientific Explanation: Determinism, Indeterminism and Laws of Nature

Singapore: World Scientific (2020)
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The book explores several open questions in the philosophy of statistical mechanics. Each chapter is written by a leading expert in the field. Here is a list of some questions that are addressed in the book: 1) Boltzmann showed how the phenomenological gas laws of thermodynamics can be derived from statistical mechanics. Since classical mechanics is a deterministic theory there are no probabilities in it. Since statistical mechanics is based on classical mechanics, all the probabilities statistical mechanics talks about cannot be fundamental. However, if probabilities are epistemic, how can they play a role, as they seem to do, in laws, explanation, and prediction? 2) Many physicists use the notion of typicality instead of the one of probability when discussing statistical mechanics. What is the connection between the two notions? 3) How can one extend Boltzmann’s analysis to the quantum domain, where some theories are indeterministic? 4) Boltzmann’s explanation fundamentally involves cosmology: for the explanation to go through the Big Bang needs to have had extremely low entropy. Does the fact that the Big Bang was a low entropy state imply that it was, in some sense, “highly improbable” and requires an explanation? 5) What exactly is the connection between statistical and classical mechanics? Is the one of theory reduction or there is no such thing? 6) Statistical mechanics has two main formulation: one due to Botzmann and the other due to Gibbs. What is the connection between the two formulations



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Valia Allori
Northern Illinois University

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