European Physical Journal - H 36 (3):353-378 (2011)

Authors
Massimiliano Badino
Università degli Studi di Verona
Abstract
An intricate, long, and occasionally heated debate surrounds Boltzmann’s H-theorem (1872) and his combinatorial interpretation of the second law (1877). After almost a century of devoted and knowledgeable scholarship, there is still no agreement as to whether Boltzmann changed his view of the second law after Loschmidt’s 1876 reversibility argument or whether he had already been holding a probabilistic conception for some years at that point. In this paper, I argue that there was no abrupt statistical turn. In the first part, I discuss the development of Boltzmann’s research from 1868 to the formulation of the H-theorem. This reconstruction shows that Boltzmann adopted a pluralistic strategy based on the interplay between a kinetic and a combinatorial approach. Moreover, it shows that the extensive use of asymptotic conditions allowed Boltzmann to bracket the problem of exceptions. In the second part I suggest that both Loschmidt’s challenge and Boltzmann’s response to it did not concern the H-theorem. The close relation between the theorem and the reversibility argument is a consequence of later investigations on the subject.
Keywords Boltzmann  Statistical Mechanics  Probability  H-theorem
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References found in this work BETA

The Kind of Motion We Call Heat.S. G. Brush - 1982 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 33 (2):165-186.
Boltzmann's H-Theorem, its Discontents, and the Birth of Statistical Mechanics.Harvey R. Brown, Wayne Myrvold & Jos Uffink - 2009 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part B: Studies in History and Philosophy of Modern Physics 40 (2):174-191.

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Citations of this work BETA

Bridging Conceptual Gaps: The Kolmogorov-Sinai Entropy.Massimiliano Badino - forthcoming - Isonomía. Revista de Teoría y Filosofía Del Derecho.
OF WEIGHTING AND COUNTING: STATISTICS AND ONTOLOGY IN THE OLD QUANTUM THEORY.Massimiliano Badino - forthcoming - In Oxford Handbook of the History of Interpretations and Foundations of Quantum Mechanics. Oxford, Regno Unito:
Boltzmann and the Heuristics of Representation in Statistical Mechanics.Cássio C. Laranjeiras, Jojomar Lucena & José R. N. Chiappin - 2020 - Transversal: International Journal for the Historiography of Science 8:72.

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Boltzmann's H-Theorem, its Discontents, and the Birth of Statistical Mechanics.Harvey R. Brown, Wayne Myrvold & Jos Uffink - 2009 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part B: Studies in History and Philosophy of Modern Physics 40 (2):174-191.

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