On This Day — Ludwig Boltzmann Ends His Life (February 20, 1844 – September 5, 1906)

“Bring forward what is true, Write it so that it is clear, Defend it to your last breath!”

“The life contest is primarily a competition for available energy.”

Ludwig Eduard Boltzmann

Boltzmann’s grave in the Zentralfriedhof, Vienna, with bust and entropy formula

Ludwig Eduard Boltzmann (February 20, 1844 – September 5, 1906) was an Austrian physicist and philosopher whose greatest achievement was in the development of statistical mechanics, which explains and predicts how the properties of atoms determine the physical properties of matter. Boltzmann invented the concept of entropy and derived the entropy equation, which was later used by Claude Shannon to build the foundations of information theory. Follow us on Twitter @INTEL_TODAY

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The connection between thermodynamics and what is now known as information theory was first made by Ludwig Boltzmann and expressed by his famous equation:

S = k log W

where S is the thermodynamic entropy of a particular macrostate (defined by thermodynamic parameters such as temperature, volume, energy, etc.), W is the number of microstates (various combinations of particles in various energy states) that can yield the given macrostate, and k is Boltzmann’s constant.

Entropy is not a measurable quantity. You may go to the store and buy a meter, a chronometer or a thermometer but you will not find an “entropy-meter”.  To the 19th century physicists, the very idea that a physical system could be described by a non-measurable quantity was simply anathema.

On September 5 1906, while on holiday at the Bay of Duino near Trieste, Boltzmann committed suicide while his wife Henriette Boltzmann and daughter Elsa Boltzmann (1891-1965) were out swimming.

Boltzmann hanged himself with a short cord from the crossbar of a window casement of the hotel room. His daughter was the first to discover the suicide. He left no suicide note.

Although we can not know the reason with certainty, it is usually assumed that the cause of his suicide was the lack of acceptance of his ideas.

Information Entropy (Claude Shannon’s formula) 


Entropy (information theory) — Wikipedia


On This Day — Boltzmann Ends His Life (February 20, 1844 – September 5, 1906)

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