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John D. Norton
preprint description
Landauer's Principle asserts that there is an unavoidable cost in thermodynamic entropy creation when data is erased. It is usually derived from incorrect assumptions, most notably, that erasure must compress the phase space of a memory device or that thermodynamic entropy arises from the probabilistic uncertainty of random data. Recent work seeks to prove Landauer’s Principle without using these assumptions. I show that the processes assumed in the proof, and in the thermodynamics of computation more generally, can be combined to produce devices that both violate the second law and erase data without entropy cost, indicating an inconsistency in the theoretical system. Worse, the standard repertoire of processes selectively neglects thermal fluctuations. Concrete proposals for how we might measure dissipationlessly and expand single molecule gases reversibly are shown to be fatally disrupted by fluctuations. Reversible, isothermal processes on molecular scales are shown to be disrupted by fluctuations that can only be overcome by introducing entropy creating, dissipative processes.

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