Stars and steam engines: To what extent do thermodynamics and statistical mechanics apply to self-gravitating systems?

Synthese 196 (5):1783-1808 (2019)

Foundational puzzles surround gravitational thermal physics—a realm in which stars are treated as akin to molecules in a gas. Whether such an enterprise is successful and the domain of thermal physics extends beyond our terrestrial sphere is disputed. There are successes and paradoxical features. Callender :960–981, 2011) advocates reconciling the two sides of the dispute by taking a broader view of thermodynamics. Here I argue for an alternative position: if we are careful in distinguishing statistical mechanics and thermodynamics, then no reconciliation is required. Both sides can live in harmony because whilst statistical mechanics applies, thermodynamics does not. This state of affairs—the applicability of statistical mechanics without the emergence of thermodynamic behaviour—can be explained in terms of an infamous infinite idealisation: the thermodynamic limit.
Keywords No keywords specified (fix it)
Categories No categories specified
(categorize this paper)
DOI 10.1007/s11229-018-02032-5
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Request removal from index
Revision history

Download options

Our Archive

Upload a copy of this paper     Check publisher's policy     Papers currently archived: 45,545
Through your library

References found in this work BETA

Time and Chance.David Albert - 2005 - Mind 114 (453):113-116.
Taking Thermodynamics Too Seriously.Craig Callender - 2001 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part B: Studies in History and Philosophy of Modern Physics 32 (4):539-553.

View all 24 references / Add more references

Citations of this work BETA

No citations found.

Add more citations

Similar books and articles

Thermodynamics of Self-Gravitating Systems.Joseph Katz - 2003 - Foundations of Physics 33 (2):223-269.
Critical Phenomena and Breaking Drops: Infinite Idealizations in Physics.Robert Batterman - 2004 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part B: Studies in History and Philosophy of Modern Physics 36 (2):225-244.
Gravity, Entropy, and Cosmology: In Search of Clarity.David Wallace - 2010 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 61 (3):513-540.
Statistical Mechanics and Thermodynamics: A Maxwellian View.Wayne C. Myrvold - 2011 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 42 (4):237-243.
Chance in Boltzmannian Statistical Mechanics.Roman Frigg - 2008 - Philosophy of Science 75 (5):670-681.
Time in Thermodynamics.Jill North - 2011 - In Criag Callender (ed.), The Oxford Handbook of Philosophy of Time. Oxford University Press. pp. 312--350.
Choosing a Definition of Entropy That Works.Robert H. Swendsen - 2012 - Foundations of Physics 42 (4):582-593.


Added to PP index

Total views
23 ( #395,209 of 2,280,463 )

Recent downloads (6 months)
10 ( #86,321 of 2,280,463 )

How can I increase my downloads?


My notes

Sign in to use this feature