Fluctuations and irreversibility: an experimental demonstration of a second-law-like theorem using a colloidal particle held in an optical trap
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The puzzle of how time-reversible microscopic equations of mechanics lead to the time-irreversible macroscopic equations of thermodynamics has been a paradox since the days of Boltzmann. Boltzmann simply sidestepped this enigma by stating "as soon as one looks at bodies of such small dimension that they contain only very few molecules, the validity of this theorem [the second law of thermodynamics and its description of irreversibility] must cease." Today we can state that the transient fluctuation theorem (TFT) of Evans and Searles is a generalized, second-law-like theorem that bridges the microscopic and macroscopic domains and links the time-reversible and irreversible descriptions. We apply this theorem to a colloidal particle in an optical trap. For the first time, we demonstrate the TFT in an experiment and show quantitative agreement with Langevin dynamics.
Physical Review Letters
© 2004 American Physical Society. Reproduced in accordance with the copyright policy of the publisher. This journal is available online - use hypertext links.
Page numbers are not for citation purposes. Instead, this article has the unique article number of 140601