Clarifying the link between von Neumann and thermodynamic entropies
Aix-Marseille Univ, IM2NP, Campus Scientifique Saint-Jérôme,
2 Université de Toulouse, UPS-CNRS-OMP, Institut de Recherche en Astrophysique et Planétologie (IRAP), 14 Av. Edouard Belin, 31400 Toulouse, France
Received: 22 May 2012
Received in final form: 8 October 2012
Published online: 22 November 2012
The state of a quantum system being described by a density operator ρ, quantum statistical mechanics calls the quantity −kTr(ρlnρ), introduced by von Neumann, its von Neumann or statistical entropy. A 1999 Shenker’s paper initiated a debate about its link with the entropy of phenomenological thermodynamics. Referring to Gibbs’s and von Neumann’s founding texts, we replace von Neumann’s 1932 contribution in its historical context, after Gibbs’s 1902 treatise and before the creation of the information entropy concept, which places boundaries into the debate. Reexamining von Neumann’s reasoning, we stress that the part of his reasoning implied in the debate mainly uses thermodynamics, not quantum mechanics, and identify two implicit postulates. We thoroughly examine Shenker’s and ensuing papers, insisting upon the presence of open thermodynamical subsystems, imposing us the use of the chemical potential concept. We briefly mention Landau’s approach to the quantum entropy. On the whole, it is shown that von Neumann’s viewpoint is right, and why Shenker’s claim that von Neumann entropy “is not the quantum-mechanical correlate of thermodynamic entropy” can’t be retained.
© EDP Sciences, Springer-Verlag 2012