Munich Center for Mathematical Philosophy (MCMP)

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The Second Law (1 - 2 September, 2017)


Idea and Motivation

The attempt to understand the Second Law of thermodynamics occupies a central role in the foundations of physics: not only is it of great importance in and of itself, but it also ramifies into a host of other problems of fundamental physical and philosophical import. These include, to name only a few, the direction of the arrow of time, the nature of probability and its role in physical theory, the relationship between classical mechanics and quantum mechanics, the nature of spacetime, the concepts of predictability and determinism, and even the possibility of memory and agency. Despite this, there has been no major international conference since the 1950s that has sought to address all foundational issues associated with the Second Law, and to examine how they bear upon one another. The time is therefore ripe for such a conference, bringing together leading figures and emerging stars from both physics and philosophy, with expertise on the extraordinary range of issues spanned by the Second Law. It will also serve as an opportunity to consolidate and reflect upon the state of the art in research on the Second Law, and thereby provide a comprehensive overview of the problems and issues it raises.


01 September 2017

09:30 - 10:00 Coffee and Snacks, Registration

10:00 - 11:15 Aron Wall: The Generalized Second Law and Singularity Theorems
11:15 - 11:30 Coffee Break
11:30 - 12:30 Carina Prunkl and Katie Robertson: Thermodynamics Without Observers?
12:30 - 13:45 Lunch

13:45 - 15:00 Alison Fernandes: The Temporal Asymmetry of Chance
15:00 - 15:15 Coffee Break
15:15 - 16:15 Dustin Lazarovici: Thermodynamic Arrow Without Past Hypothesis
16:15 - 16:45 Coffee and Snacks

16:45 - 18:00 David Wallace: Probability and Irreversibility in Modern Statistical Mechanics: Classical and Quantum
19:00 Conference Dinner

02 September 2017

09:30 - 10:00 Coffee and Snacks
10:00 - 11:15 Giovanni Valente: On the Paradox of Reversible Processes in Thermodynamics
11:15 - 11:30 Coffee Break
11:30 - 12:30 Patricia Palacios: Had We But World Enough, and Time, But We Don’t!: Justifying the Thermodynamic and Infinite-time Limits in Statistical Mechanics
12:30 - 13:45 Lunch
13:45 - 15:00 Charlotte Werndl: Boltzmann versus Gibbs: Phase Transitions
15:00 - 15:15 Coffee Break
15:15 - 16:15 Mathias Frisch: The Second Law and the Arrow of Radiation: Re-assessing the Ritz-Einstein Debate


The conference is organized by the Munich Center for Mathematical Philosophy (LMU Munich). The MCMP is very grateful to the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation for financial support. In addition the conference is partly funded by Dr. Erik Curiels DFG Research Grant "Gravitation, Quantum Theory, and Thermodynamics: The Crossroads of Physics and Philosophy".

Photo Credits

Header background: Umberto Salvagnin, "Bubbles". Some right reserved (desaturated from original). Source: