abstract bibtex

Many physicists think that the maximum entropy formalism is a straightforward application of Bayesian statistical ideas to statistical mechanics. Some even say that statistical mechanics is just the general Bayesian logic of inductive inference applied to large mechanical systems. This approach identifies thermodynamic entropy with the information-theoretic uncertainty of an (ideal) observer's subjective distribution over a system's microstates. In this brief note, I show that this postulate, plus the standard Bayesian procedure for updating probabilities, implies that the entropy of a classical system is monotonically non-increasing on the average - the Bayesian statistical mechanic's arrow of time points backwards. Avoiding this unphysical conclusion requires rejecting the ordinary equations of motion, or practicing an incoherent form of statistical inference, or rejecting the identification of uncertainty and thermodynamic entropy.

@Article{Shalizi2004, author = {Shalizi, Cosma Rohilla}, title = {The Backwards Arrow of Time of the Coherently Bayesian Statistical Mechanic}, journal = {arXiv}, volume = {cond-mat.stat-mech}, number = {}, pages = {}, year = {2004}, abstract = {Many physicists think that the maximum entropy formalism is a straightforward application of Bayesian statistical ideas to statistical mechanics. Some even say that statistical mechanics is just the general Bayesian logic of inductive inference applied to large mechanical systems. This approach identifies thermodynamic entropy with the information-theoretic uncertainty of an (ideal) observer\'s subjective distribution over a system\'s microstates. In this brief note, I show that this postulate, plus the standard Bayesian procedure for updating probabilities, implies that the entropy of a classical system is monotonically non-increasing on the average - the Bayesian statistical mechanic\'s arrow of time points backwards. Avoiding this unphysical conclusion requires rejecting the ordinary equations of motion, or practicing an incoherent form of statistical inference, or rejecting the identification of uncertainty and thermodynamic entropy.}, location = {}, keywords = {cond-mat.stat-mech}}

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