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Limits of Prediction in thermodynamic systems: a review

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General Reference
author-supplied keywords
Robert Marsland III
Jeremy England
Limits of Prediction in thermodynamic systems: a review
Reports on Progress in Physics


The past twenty years have seen a resurgence of interest in nonequilibrium thermodynamics, thanks to advances in the theory of stochastic processes and in their thermodynamic interpretation. Fluctuation theorems provide fundamental constraints on the dynamics of systems arbitrarily far from thermal equilibrium. Thermodynamic uncertainty relations bound the dissipative cost of precision in a wide variety of processes. Concepts of excess work and excess heat provide the basis for a complete thermodynamics of nonequilibrium steady states, including generalized Clausius relations and thermodynamic potentials. But these general results carry their own limitations: fluctuation theorems involve exponential averages that can depend sensitively on unobservably rare trajectories; steady-state thermodynamics makes use of a dual dynamics that lacks any direct physical interpretation. This review aims to present these central results of contemporary nonequilibrium thermodynamics in such a way that the power of each claim for making physical predictions can be clearly assessed, using examples from current topics in soft matter and biophysics.


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