Possible dynamical explanations for Paltridge's principle of maximum entropy production

Virgo, Nathaniel, and Takashi Ikegami. “Possible dynamical explanations for Paltridge’s principle of maximum entropy production.” In AIP Conference Proceedings , vol. 1636, no. 1, pp. 172-179. American Institute of Physics, 2014.

Throughout the history of non-equilibrium thermodynamics a number of theories have been proposed in which complex, far from equilibrium flow systems are hypothesised to reach a steady state that maximises some quantity. Perhaps the most celebrated is Paltridge’s principle of maximum entropy production for the horizontal heat flux in Earth’s atmosphere, for which there is some empirical support. There have been a number of attempts to derive such a principle from maximum entropy considerations. However, we currently lack a more mechanistic explanation of how any particular system might self-organise into a state that maximises some quantity. This is in contrast to equilibrium thermodynamics, in which models such as the Ising model have been a great help in understanding the relationship between the predictions of MaxEnt and the dynamics of physical systems. In this paper we show that, unlike in the equilibrium case, Paltridge-type maximisation in non-equilibrium systems cannot be achieved by a simple dynamical feedback mechanism. Nevertheless, we propose several possible mechanisms by which maximisation could occur. Showing that these occur in any real system is a task for future work. The possibilities presented here may not be the only ones. We hope that by presenting them we can provoke further discussion about the possible dynamical mechanisms behind extremum principles for non-equilibrium systems, and their relationship to predictions obtained through MaxEnt.

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