Can We Explain Thermodynamics by Quantum Decoherence?

Meir Hemmo, Orly Shenker

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Can we explain the laws of thermodynamics, in particular the irreversible increase of entropy, from the underlying quantum mechanical dynamics? Attempts based on classical dynamics have all failed. Albert (1994a,b; 2000) proposed a way to recover thermodynamics on a purely dynamical basis, using the quantum theory of the collapse of the wavefunction of Ghirardi, Rimini and Weber (1986). In this paper we propose an alternative way to explain thermodynamics within no-collapse interpretations of quantum mechanics. Our approach relies on the standard quantum mechanical models of environmental decoherence of open systems, e.g. Joos and Zeh (1985) and Zurek and Paz (1994).

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)555-568
Number of pages14
JournalStudies in History and Philosophy of Science Part B - Studies in History and Philosophy of Modern Physics
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 2001


  • Collapse
  • Decoherence
  • Quantum Mechanics
  • Thermodynamics

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • History
  • General Physics and Astronomy
  • History and Philosophy of Science


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