Event

Apr 26, 2018 4:00 pm - Nielsen Hall 170 - Colloquium
Mark Raizen - University of Texas
From Maxwell’s Demon to Einstein’s Speed Demon

In this talk, I will describe two historical thought experiments in statistical mechanics and their experimental realization.  Maxwell’s Demon was proposed by James Clerk Maxwell in 1871 as a way to reduce the entropy of gas-phase particles by means of an “intelligent creature with deft hands.”  We have realized this thought experiment with a self-acting one-way wall for atoms, as originally suggested by Maxwell.  This construction has been used to cool atoms, and for efficient isotope separation which will have important medical applications.  In 1907, Albert Einstein predicted that Brownian motion should be ballistic on very short time scales, rather than diffusive.  Einstein concluded that this instantaneous velocity would be impossible to measure in practice, a prediction that held for over 100 years.  We have realized such a ‘speed demon’ by measuring the motion of micrometer beads held in optical tweezers, and have resolved the instantaneous velocity of a Brownian particle in air and in liquid.  This system can be used to study the onset of irreversibility, the “arrow of time,” and may even have real-life applications.

In this talk, I will describe two historical thought experiments in statistical mechanics and their experimental realization. Maxwell’s Demon was proposed by James Clerk Maxwell in 1871 as a way to reduce the entropy of gas-phase particles by means of an “intelligent creature with deft hands.” We have realized this thought experiment with a self-acting one-way wall for atoms, as originally suggested by Maxwell. This construction has been used to cool atoms, and for efficient isotope separation which will have important medical applications. In 1907, Albert Einstein predicted that Brownian motion should be ballistic on very short time scales, rather than diffusive. Einstein concluded that this instantaneous velocity would be impossible to measure in practice, a prediction that held for over 100 years. We have realized such a ‘speed demon’ by measuring the motion of micrometer beads held in optical tweezers, and have resolved the instantaneous velocity of a Brownian particle in air and in liquid. This system can be used to study the onset of irreversibility, the “arrow of time,” and may even have real-life applications.

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