Scientists peek inside the mind of Maxwell’s demon | Science News

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Scientists peek inside the mind of Maxwell’s demon

Memory tests uphold the second law of thermodynamics

By
7:00am, July 17, 2017
Maxwell’s Demon illustration

ORDER FROM DISORDER  Maxwell’s Demon (illustrated above) is a hypothetical creature that could illegally decrease entropy, or disorder, by separating faster molecules (blue) from slower ones (green) within a box of gas. Scientist have probed this demon’s memory for the first time.

Physicists have now probed the memory of Maxwell’s demon, a devious, hypothetical beast. By peeking at information retained by a laboratory version of the creature, scientists confirmed the role of information in saving the second law of thermodynamics from the onslaught of a tiny, superpowerful being intent on wreaking havoc.

In work reported online July 3 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, a team of researchers created a quantum version of Maxwell’s demon in the lab and measured both the information stored in its memory and the energy it extracted from a system. The results directly illustrate that information plays a key role in the demon’s attempts to distill energy.

Since 1867, when the demon was proposed by physicist James Clerk Maxwell, scientists wondered whether such a creature could violate the second law, a sacred tenet of physics. It

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