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Carina Prunkl (Oxford): “Black Hole Entropy is Entropy and not (necessarily) Information”

5 March 2018, 5:15 pm6:45 pm

Abstract: The comparison of geometrical properties of black holes with classical thermodynamic variables reveals surprising parallels between the laws of black hole mechanics and the laws of thermodynamics. Since Hawking’s discovery that black holes when coupled to quantum matter fields emit radiation at a temperature proportional to their surface gravity, the idea that black holes are genuine thermodynamic objects with a well-defined thermodynamic entropy has become more and more popular. Surprisingly, arguments that justify this assumption are both sparse and rarely convincing. Most of them rely on an information-theoretic interpretation of entropy, which in itself is a highly debated topic in the philosophy of physics. Given the amount of disagreement about the nature of entropy and the second law on the one hand, and the growing importance of black hole thermodynamics for the foundations of physics on the other hand, it is desirable to achieve a deeper understanding of the notion of entropy in the context of black hole mechanics. I discuss some of the pertinent arguments that aim at establishing the identity of black hole surface area (times a constant) and thermodynamic entropy and show why these arguments are not satisfactory. I then present a simple model of a Black Hole Carnot cycle to establish that black hole entropy is genuine thermodynamic entropy which does not require an information-theoretic interpretation.

Carina Prunkl is a third year DPhil student at the University of Oxford, working on the philosophy and foundations of quantum mechanics.


5 March 2018
5:15 pm – 6:45 pm
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Bryan W. Roberts


LAK 2.06
Lakatos Building
London, WC2A 2AE United Kingdom
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