Information-Theoretic Statistical Mechanics Without Landauer's Principle

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Parker, Daniel
preprint description
This paper distinguishes two different senses of information-theoretic approaches to statistical mechanics that are often conflated in the literature: those relating to the thermodynamic cost of computational processes and those that offer an interpretation of statistical mechanics where the probabilities are treated as epistemic. This distinction is then investigated through Earman and Norton’s ([1999]) ‘sound’ and ‘profound’ dilemma for information-theoretic exorcisms of Maxwell’s demon. It is argued that Earman and Norton fail to countenance a ‘sound’ information-theoretic interpretation and describes how the latter inferential interpretations can escape the criticisms of Earman and Norton and Norton ([2005]) by adopting this ‘sound’ horn. This paper considers a standard model of Maxwell’s Demon to illustrate how one might adopt an information-theoretic approach to statistical mechanics without a reliance on Landauer’s principle, where the incompressibility of the probability distribution due to Liouville’s theorem is taken as the central feature of such an interpretation.