Time in Thermodynamics

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

16 Scopus citations


It is often claimed, or hoped, that some temporal asymmetries are explained by the thermodynamic asymmetry in time. Thermodynamics, the macroscopic physics of pressure, temperature, volume, and so on, describes many temporally asymmetric processes. Heat flows spontaneously from hot objects to cold objects (in closed systems), never the reverse. More generally, systems spontaneously move from non-equilibrium states to equilibrium states, never the reverse. Delving into the foundations of statistical mechanics, this chapter reviews the many open questions in that field as they relate to temporal asymmetry. Taking a stand on many of them, it tackles questions about the nature of probabilities, the role of boundary conditions, and even the nature and scope of statistical mechanics.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationThe Oxford Handbook of Philosophy of Time
PublisherOxford University Press
ISBN (Electronic)9780191728372
ISBN (Print)9780199298204
StatePublished - Apr 7 2011
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Arts and Humanities(all)


  • Boundary conditions
  • Probabilities
  • Statistical mechanics
  • Temporal asymmetries
  • Thermodynamics


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