Ludwig Boltzmann Forum

Gerhard Fasol: Entropy, information and Ludwig Boltzmann

Entropy, information and Ludwig Boltzmann, 10th Ludwig Boltzmann Forum 20 February 2018

Gerhard Fasol CEO, Eurotechnology Japan KK, Board Director, GMO Cloud KK. former faculty Cambridge University and past Fellow, Trinity College Cambridge

Ludwig Boltzmann 20 February 1844 – 5 September 1906

Ludwig Boltzmann 20 February 1844 - 5 September 1906
Ludwig Boltzmann 20 February 1844 – 5 September 1906

We use Ludwig Boltzmann’s results every day. Here are some examples:

  • The definition of the units of temperature, Kelvin, Celsius, are directly linked to Boltzmann’s constant
  • The Stefan-Boltzmann radiation law tells us that the total energy emitted by a black body per unit surface area is proportional to the 4th power of the temperature, and allows us to measure temperatures at a distance. For example, the temperature of the surface of the sun can be measured using the Stefan-Boltzmann radiation law
  • Boltzmann’s formula S = k log W links the macroscopic Entropy with the probability (W = Wahrscheinlichkeit) of a macrostate
  • Boltzmann’s transport equations are used for many purposes, to simulate carrier transport in semiconductor devices, and to design airplanes, turbine blades and cars
  • Ludwig Boltzmann’s philosophy of nature contributes to our understanding of nature and our world

Ludwig Boltzmann was proposed several times for the Nobel Prize: 1903, 1905 and three times in 1906, the year he took his life in Duino, Italy.

Ludwig Boltzmann achieved his Matura, Austria’s high-school examination required to enter University education at the age of 19 in 1863.

In 1865, at the age of 21, he published his first research paper entitled “Über die Bewegung der Elektrizität in krummen Flächen” (electricity in curved surfaces). It was the dawn of our electrical age, Maxwell created his Maxwell’s equations in 1861-1862, and on 15 February 1883, 20 years later, Tokyo Dentsu KK received the license to start its electricity business in Tokyo.

Among Ludwig Boltzmann’s teachers were Josef Loschmidt and Jozef Stefan.

Josef Loschmidt proposed structures for 300 chemical compounds including benzene, he determined the number of gas molecules in a given volume and the Loschmidt constant is named after him.

Jozef Stefan created the Stefan-Boltzmann Law with Ludwig Boltzmann, and used it to determine the temperature of the surface of the sun.

Ludwig Boltzmann traveled extensively, was in correspondence and discussions and scientific exchange with most major scientists of the time. He also moved professionally:

  • University of Vienna
  • 1867-1869 Privat-Dozent
  • 1869-1873 Full Professor of Mathematical Physics in Graz
  • 1873-1876 Full Professor of Mathematics in Vienna
  • 1876-1890 Full Professor at University of Graz, Head of the Institute of Physics
  • 1887-1888 Rektor (President) of the University of Graz
  • 1890-1894 Professor University of München
  • 1894-1900 Professor University of Vienna
  • 1900-1902 Professor of Theoretical Physics University of Leipzig
  • 1902- Professor University of Vienna

Ludwig Boltzmann supported and worked with women:

One of Ludwig Boltzmann’s students was Lise Meitner (November 1878 – 27 October 1968). Lise Meitner was part of Otto Han’s team that discovered nuclear fission, Otto Hahn was awarded the Nobel Prize. Lise Meitner was the second woman to earn a PhD degree in Physics at the University of Vienna. The Element 109, Meitnerium is named about Lise Meitner.

The first President of Osaka University (1931-1934), Nagaoka Kantaro (1865 – 1950) was Ludwig Boltzmann’s student in München around 1892-1893.

The unit of temperature, Celsius or Kelvin, is directly linked to Boltzmann’s constant k

Currently the unit of Temperature Kelvin is defined as follows:

One Kelvin is defined such that the temperature of the triple point of water is exactly 273.16 Kelvin.
For this definition to be reproducible, the water needs to be defined: its defined as VSNOW = Vienna Standard Mean Ocean Water.
While this definition may have been best at the time it was set, clearly its not sufficient for today.

When the SI system of physical units will be redefined next year, the definition of the unit of temperature, Kelvin will be:

Kelvin is defined such, that the numerical value of the Boltzmann constant k is equal to exactly 1.380650 x 10^-23 JK^-1.

Thus the unit of temperature Kelvin is directly linked to Boltzmann’s constant.

For more details, see: Boltzmann constant and the new SI system of units

What is Entropy?

Entropy measures information, entropy is the measure of information.

Macro-states, determined for example by the macroscopic quantities pressure (p), Volume (V), or Temperature (T), or number of particles (N), contain a very large number of micro-states.

Boltzmann’s Entropy S = k logarithm of the phase volume(= the probability) of a macro-state in terms of the possible micro-states.

Different faces of Entropy

Entropy has many faces

  • thermodynamic entropy, is a macroscopic state parameter of a system in equilibrium, like temperature, pressure, volume. However, can we measure entropy directly?
  • microscopic, statistical entropy
    • Boltzmann Entropy: S = k log W
    • Gibbs entropy
  • information theory
    • Shannon’s entropy

Shannon’s entropy

Shannon: “I thought of calling it “information”. But the word was overly used, so I decided to call it “uncertainty”. When I discussed it with John von Neumann, he had a better idea:

  1. in the first place your uncertainty has been used in statistical mechanics (ie by Boltzmann) under that name, so it already has a name
  2. in the second place, and more importantly, no one knows what entropy really is, so in a debate you will always have the advantage

What can we learn from Ludwig Boltzmann?

  • Empower young people, recognize and support talent early
    • LB published first scientific work at age 21
    • Full Professor at 25
    • Head of Department at 32
    • President of University at 43
  • Talent is not linear – talent is exponential
  • Move around the world. Connect. Interact.
  • Empower women (LB promoted many women)
  • Don’t accept authority for authority’s sake
  • Science/physics issues need to be treated with the methods of physics/science
  • No dogmas
  • Support entrepreneurs (LB supported airplane developers before airplanes existed)
10th Ludwig Boltzmann Forum 2018, Tuesday 20 February 2018 at the Embassy of Austria in Tokyo
10th Ludwig Boltzmann Forum 2018, Tuesday 20 February 2018 at the Embassy of Austria in Tokyo
10th Ludwig Boltzmann Forum 2018, Tuesday 20 February 2018 at the Embassy of Austria in Tokyo
10th Ludwig Boltzmann Forum 2018, Tuesday 20 February 2018 at the Embassy of Austria in Tokyo

Copyright (c) 2018 Eurotechnology Japan KK All Rights Reserved

Ludwig Boltzmann Symposium

5th Ludwig Boltzmann Forum Tokyo 2013

Gerhard Fasol, Chair


Wednesday, 20th February 2013, Embassy of Austria, Tokyo

  • 14:00 Welcome by Dr. Bernhard Zimburg, Ambassador of Austria to Japan
  • 14:10 Gerhard Fasol, “today’s agenda”
  • 14:20 – 14:40 Robert Geller
    Professor of Geophysics University of Tokyo, seismologist. First ever tenured non-Japanese faculty member at the University of Tokyo
    “A seismologist looks at nuclear power plant safety issues”
  • 14:40 – 15:20 Gerhard Fasol
    Physicist. CEO of Eurotechnology Japan KK, served as Assoc Professor at Tokyo University and Lecturer at Cambridge University and Manager of Hitachi Cambridge R&D lab
    “Ludwig Boltzmann – the disrespectful revolutionary”
  • 15:40 – 16:20 Kiyoshi Kurokawa
    Academic Fellow of GRIPS and former Chairman of Fukushima Nuclear Accident Independent Investigation Commission by National Diet of Japan
    “Creativity, Crazy Ones and Power of Pull”
  • 16:40 – 17:20 Shuji Nakamura
    Professor, University of California, Santa Barbara. Inventor of GaN LEDs and lasers, which are the basis for the global LED lighting revolution.
    “The global lighting revolution and the changes I want for Japan”
  • 17:20 – 17:30 Gerhard Fasol “Summary”
  • Followed by reception (private, invitation only)

Registration: latest 10 February 2013 (by invitation only)

Further information:

  • Gerhard Fasol and
  • Peter Storer, Minister for Cultural Affairs, Embassy of Austria
Ludwig Boltzmann Forum 2013
Ludwig Boltzmann Forum 2013


Robert Geller: “A seismologist looks at nuclear power plant safety issues”

Robert Geller gave an overview of large scale earthquakes and tsunamis in different regions of earth, and in history, and explained that large “Tohoku-2011” scale earth quakes and tsunamis do have a finite probability of striking Japan, and need to be taken in to account in the construction of structures such as nuclear power plants. Robert Geller in particular explained and emphasized the risks on the northern coast of Japan, facing the Sea of Japan.

Gerhard Fasol: “Ludwig Boltzmann – the disrespectful revolutionary”

Gerhard Fasol reviewed Ludwig Boltzmann’s life and work, and particular Boltzmann’s efforts to promote open discussion and to destroy dogmatic views, most importantly the rejection of atoms by Oswald’s school of “energetics” and Mach. Ludwig Boltzmann’s work is fundamental in many areas of today’s physics, technology, IT, energy and in many other fields. As a demonstration of Ludwig Boltzmann’s work linking the macrosopic face of Entropy with the statistical properties of atoms and molecules, Gerhard Fasol explained today’s state of development of electrical power production from the entry of mixing of water with different concentrations of salts, from salinity gradients. “Osmotic powerplants”, which are directly based on Boltzmann’s work on the Entropy of mixing, have the potential to be developed into a very important contribution to our future renewable energy mix, although much research still remains to be done, especially in the area of semipermeable membranes.

Kiyoshi Kurokawa: “Creativity, Crazy Ones and Power of Pull – Uncertain Times: Changing Principles”

Kiyoshi Kurokawa laid out the rapid and dramatic changes we are currently facing in our world: the development of the global information revolution, revolutions towards democracy in the arab world, the Sept-11 terror attacks, and the triple disaster in Tohoku in March 2011. As short summary of the information revolution, linked with other major developments of global impact:

web 1.0: 1991-2000 – end of cold war, world wide web, globalization and financial crises: 1990, 1992, 1997

web 2.0: 2001-2010 – 9.11, digital age, wireless, touch panel, growth of emerging economies, BRICs, global financial crisis 2007, and President Barak Obama

web 3.0: 2011- – Arab Spring, and March-11 Tohoku disaster

Paradigm shift of The Principles (Joi Ito, MIT Media Lab, and Kiyoshi Kurokawa, GRIPS):

The principles 1:
RESILIENCE instead of strength
RISK instead of safety
SYTEMS instead of objects

The principles 2:
COMPASSES instead of maps
PULL instead of push
PRACTICE instead of theory

The principles 3:
DISOBEDIENCE instead of compliance
CROWDS instead of experts
LEARNING instead of education

For his work as former Chairman of Fukushima Nuclear Accident Independent Investigation Commission by National Diet of Japan, Kiyoshi Kurokawa was recently awarded the “Scientific Freedom and Responsibility Award” by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). Kiyoshi Kurokawa paid particular attention for the deliberations and fact finding by the Independent Investigation Commission was open and transparent, and published globally in Japanese and in English in many different forms. The report itself can be downloaded here:

Kiyoshi Kurokawa emphasised the contribution of “Regulatory Capture” to the Fukushima nuclear disaster. Important work on “Regulatory Capture” was done by US economist George Stigler, who was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1982. Kiyoshi Kurokawa emphasized that Regulatory Capture is not specific to Japan, there are many examples throughout the world.

Shuji Nakamura: “The global lighting revolution and the changes I want for Japan”

Shuji Nakamura briefly outlined his inventions of a long series of GaN based devices, GaN LEDs and lasers, which are the basis for the global lighting revolution, and for bluray storage technology. Shuji Nakamura gave us a passionate personal view of his work as a researcher, how he created and experienced the breakthroughs, and some consequences on his personal life. Shuji Nakamura explained how he was accused in a US court by his former employer, and how as a consequence in order to defend himself and his family, he saw himself forced to countersue his former employer in Japanese courts. Shuji Nakamura compared his situation as a researcher in Japan, and now in Santa Barbara, and made some suggestions for change for the position of researchers.



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