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Saturday, April 11, 2020

Ludwig Boltzmann and statistical mechanics


Photo source: Wikimedia Commons, Universitat Wien


Ludwig Boltzman (1844-1906) was an Austrian physicist and mathematician best known for his pioneering contributions to statistical mechanics. Wikipedia says,


"His greatest achievement was in the development of statistical mechanics, and the statistical explanation of the second law of thermodynamics." (Wikipedia: Ludwig Boltzmann, 8.16.21 UTC 23:02)


Astrophysicist George Greenstein said,


"Boltzmann was both a wizard of a mathematician and a physicist of international renown. The magnitude of his output of scientific papers was positively unnerving." (The Bulldog: A Profile of Ludwig Boltzmann, 1999)


Chemist Brian L. Silver said,


"Boltzmann... felt that all that we were really doing when we stated physical laws was using a series of linguistic representations of reality. to relate force and mass, as Newton had done in his laws of motion, was to relate labels in such a way that we could use the relations for predictive purposes. To read anything more into the terms 'force' and 'mass' was to presume more than we can know." (The Ascent of Science, 1998)


The rest of this post is some quotes from Boltzmann.




"Bring forward what is true, Write it so that it is clear, Defend it to your last breath!" (Quoted in Ludwig Edward Boltzmann by S. Rajasekar and N. Athavan)


"If you are out to describe the truth, leave elegance to the tailor." (


"[Kirchhoff] is characterized by the extreme precision of his hypotheses, minute execution, a quiet rather than epic development with utmost rigor, never concealing a difficulty, always dispelling the faintest obscurity... He resembled Beethoven, the thinker in tones." (Ceremonial Speech at Karl-Franzens-University Graz, 1887)




"The most ordinary things are to philosophy a source of insoluble puzzles. In order to explain our perceptions it constructs the concept of matter and then finds matter quite useless either for itself having or for causing perceptions in a mind." (On Statistical Mechanics, 19904)


"Philosophy gets on my nerves. If we analyze the ultimate ground of everything, then everything finally falls into nothingness. But I have decided to resume my lectures again and look the Hydra of doubt straight into the eye, and it be quite ominous if one values one's life." (Quoted in Into the Cool by Eric Schneider and Dorion Sagan)


"To go straight to the deepest depth, I went for Hegel; what unclear thoughtless flow of words I was to find there!" (Quoted in Stud. Hist. Phil. Sci. by D. Flamm)