Ontological Elimination: Heat vs. Molecular Motion

There was a discussion on the everything list
http://groups.google.com/group/everything-list/thread/ae327624f1257170

where among other things there was discussion between David Nyman and 1Z on whether heat was eliminated onltologically after its reduction to molecular motion. It has started afther the next statement

Ontological reduction does not necessarily entail epistemological elimination, but it does entail ontological elimination.

My comment to this discussion was as follows.

When you compare heat and molecular motion, first it would be good to define what molecular motion is.

At the beginning, the molecules and atoms were considered as hard spheres. At this state, there was the problem as follows. We bring a glass of hot water in the room and leave it there. Eventually the temperature of the water will be equal to the ambient temperature. According to the heat theory, the temperature in the glass will be hot again spontaneously and it is in complete agreement with our experience. With molecular motion, if we consider them as hard spheres there is a nonzero chance that the water in the glass will be hot again. Moreover, there is a theorem (Poincaré recurrence) that states that if we wait long enough then the temperature of the glass must be hot again. No doubt, the chances are very small and time to wait is very long, in a way this is negligible. Yet some people are happy with such statistical explanation, some not. Hence, it is a bit too simple to say that molecular motion has eliminated heat at this level.

Then we could say that molecules and atoms are not hard spheres but quantum objects. This however brings even more problems, as we do not have macroscopic objects then. Let me quote Laughlin A Different Universe to this end

“By the most important effect of phase organisation is to cause objects to exist. This point is subtle and easily overlooked, since we are accustomed to thinking about solidification in terms of packing of Newtonian spheres. Atoms are not Newtonian spheres, however, but ethereal quantum-mechanical entities lacking that most central of all properties of an object – an identifiable position. This is why attempts to describe free atoms in Newtonian terms always result in nonsense statements such as their being neither here nor there but simultaneously everywhere. It is aggregation into large objects that makes a Newtonian description of the atoms meaningful, not the reverse. One might compare this phenomenon with a yet-to-be-filmed Stephen Spilberg movie in which a huge number of little ghosts lock arms and, in doing so, become corporeal.”

So I personally not that sure that molecular motion has more meaning ontologically than heat.


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