Guest post from ‘Lucy Skywalker’.
Last time I described my visit to Roderich Graeff’s seminar. Now we look at the experiments in detail. Experiment trumps theory. Experiment is the final arbiter, as Einstein said. Only after looking at the experiments do I want to consider the theoretical elements.
HISTORY AND CONTEXT
One has to be aware of the depth to which the Second Law has been held most sacrosanct of all the laws of physics. Eddington said famously:
“If someone points out to you that your pet theory of the universe is in disagreement with Maxwell’s equations—then so much the worse for Maxwell’s equations. If it is found to be contradicted by observation—well these experimentalists do bungle things sometimes. But if your theory is found to be against the second law of thermodynamics I can give you no hope; there is nothing for it but to collapse in deepest humiliation.”
But today, Dan Sheehan of the University of San Diego could write in his 2005 book “Challenges to The Second Law of Thermodynamics“:
“The second law has no general theoretical proof. Except perhaps for a few idealized cases like the dilute idal gas, its absolute status rests squarely on empirical evidence. As remarked by Fermi and echoed by others, “support for this law consists mainly in the failure of all efforts that have been made to construct a perpetuum mobile of the second kind”… [yet] One would be hard-pressed to name ANY physics theory, concept, law or principle that has not undergone major revision either in content or interpretation over the last hundred years… The damning question is, why has it taken so long for [the 2LoT's] absolute status to be questioned?”