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Open Access Publications from the University of California


  • Author(s): Baez, JC
  • Pollard, BS
  • et al.

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© 2015 by the authors. There is a well-known analogy between statistical and quantum mechanics. In statistical mechanics, Boltzmann realized that the probability for a system in thermal equilibrium to occupy a given state is proportional to exp(-E=kT), where E is the energy of that state. In quantum mechanics, Feynman realized that the amplitude for a system to undergo a given history is proportional to exp(-S=ih), where S is the action of that history. In statistical mechanics, we can recover Boltzmann's formula by maximizing entropy subject to a constraint on the expected energy. This raises the question: what is the quantum mechanical analogue of entropy? We give a formula for this quantity, which we call "quantropy". We recover Feynman's formula from assuming that histories have complex amplitudes, that these amplitudes sum to one and that the amplitudes give a stationary point of quantropy subject to a constraint on the expected action. Alternatively, we can assume the amplitudes sum to one and that they give a stationary point of a quantity that we call "free action", which is analogous to free energy in statistical mechanics. We compute the quantropy, expected action and free action for a free particle and draw some conclusions from the results.

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