Entropy (statistical thermodynamics)

The concept entropy was first developed by German physicist Rudolf Clausius in the mid-nineteenth century as a thermodynamic property that predicts that certain spontaneous processes are irreversible or impossible. In statistical mechanics, entropy is formulated as a statistical property using probability theory. The statistical entropy perspective was introduced in 1870 by Austrian physicist Ludwig Boltzmann, who established a new field of physics that provided the descriptive linkage between the macroscopic observation of nature and the microscopic view based on the rigorous treatment of large ensembles of microstates that constitute thermodynamic systems. Boltzmann's entropy formula Ludwig Boltzmann defined entropy as a measure of the number of possible microscopic states (microstates) of a system in thermodynamic equilibrium, consistent with its macroscopic thermodynamic properties, which constitute the macrostate of the system. A useful illustration is the example of a sample of gas contained in a container. The easily measurable parameters volume, pressure, and temperature of the gas describe its macroscopic condition (state). At a microscopic level, the gas consists of a vast number of freely moving atoms or molecules, which randomly collide with one another and with the walls of the container. The collisions with the walls produce the macroscopic pressure of the gas, which illustrates the connection between microscopic and macroscopic phenomena. A microstate of the system is a description of the positions and momenta of all its particles. The large number of particles of the gas provides an infinite number of possible microstates for the sample, but collectively they exhibit a well-defined average of configuration, which is exhibited as the macrostate of the system, to which each individual microstate contribution is negligibly small. The ensemble of microstates comprises a statistical distribution of probability for each microstate, and the group of most probable configurations accounts for the macroscopic state.
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