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Maxwell’s Demon debunked. And the debunking debunked.

Schematic figure of Maxwell's demon

Image via Wikipedia

I just like to say “debunked”…

So, when I wrote my post about Maxwell’s Demon, I knew I was on shaky ground… I’m not the most science-headed individual. (Friday, at work, someone was talking to me about dosimeters. I nearly asked if a dosimeter measured the number of dosas that came with your lamb korma. And then she told me what a dosimeter actually does, which I found scarier than any demon. But I knew what she was talking about because there’d been one on Castle a couple weeks ago.)

Anyway, you know who has a lot of science in her head? Jolaine Incognito, infrangible author of last year’s uber popular May is Mummy Month feature.

So, before making myself look like a dork on the interwebs, I asked Jolaine if she’d double-check my work. She kindly consented. She found I hadn’t made any mistakes (which made me walk a little taller all day), but she did have something to add. Here it is:

I suppose there’s no fun in pointing out that Maxwell’s demon has been debunked, since the work he puts in sorting the molecules would result in a net entropy increase.

Although the flip side of the debunk is kind of fun.   If Maxwell’s sorting mechanism were a being of limited abilities (or whatever his phrase was), then the entropy-expending debunk would apply. The limited being would expend work interacting with the particles (measuring speeds, opening doors, etc). That’s the work that increases the net entropy. However, if the sorting mechanism had mystical, non-measurable qualities enabling it to measure the particles and move the door in non-physical ways (i.e. without involving matter-on-matter interactions or interventions based on the pesky laws of nature), then that extra entropy wouldn’t be generated. In other words,  Maxwell’s demon only works if it is a demon.

Next: Scientific American on Maxwell’s Demon

About teresawilde

Author of Young Adult Paranormals, Paranormal Romance, Historical Paranormal Romance, tragical- comical-historical-pastoral, scene individable, and poem unlimited.

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