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Ludwig BoltzmannThe Man Who Trusted Atoms$
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Carlo Cercignani

Print publication date: 2006

Print ISBN-13: 9780198570646

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2010

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198570646.001.0001

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(p.1) Introduction
Ludwig Boltzmann


Oxford University Press

All the fundamental laws of physics are symmetric with respect to the inversion of the time arrow; the cup which reunites itself from the broken pieces, recovers the coffee from the floor and jumps back to the table, does not violate any law of mechanics. The man who first gave a convincing explanation of this paradox was Austrian physicist Ludwig Boltzmann. Boltzmann, who was born in Vienna in 1844 and committed suicide in Duino in 1906, was one of the main figures in the development of the atomic theory of matter. His fame will be forever related to two basic contributions to science: the interpretation of the concept of entropy as a mathematically well-defined measure of what one can call the disorder of atoms, and the equation aptly known as the Boltzmann equation. This equation describes the statistical properties of a gas made up of molecules and is, from a historical standpoint, the first equation ever written to govern the time evolution of a probability.

Keywords:   time arrow, physics, atomic theory, matter, entropy, atoms, Boltzmann equation, probability

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