Rethinking boltzmannian equilibrium

Philosophy of Science 82 (5):1224-1235 (2015)
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Boltzmannian statistical mechanics partitions the phase space of a sys- tem into macro-regions, and the largest of these is identified with equilibrium. What justifies this identification? Common answers focus on Boltzmann’s combinatorial argument, the Maxwell-Boltzmann distribution, and maxi- mum entropy considerations. We argue that they fail and present a new answer. We characterise equilibrium as the macrostate in which a system spends most of its time and prove a new theorem establishing that equilib- rium thus defined corresponds to the largest macro-region. Our derivation is completely general in that it does not rely on assumptions about a system’s dynamics or internal interactions.
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