ITP Lecture Archive

Proseminar on Information in Statistical Mechanics – FS 2009

Renato Renner

Download all documents (zip, 13 MB).

The QIT group organizes one of the pro-seminars for the Institute of Theoretical Physics, spring 2009. The topic is the role of information in statistical mechanics.
This is the main website for the module.

Assignment of topics (View with Firefox, not Explorer)



Talk Date



Introduction to information theory                                            
Classical information theory


Shannon, 1948 “A Mathematical Theory of Communication.”

Cover, Thomas, "Elements of Information theory", Wiley, (2006).
Mon 2 March (2009)
Adrian Hutter Roger Colbeck
Quantum information theory
Nielsen, Chuang, Quantum computation and information, Cambridge, (2000).
Mon 2 Mar Lorenzo Devittori
Roger Colbeck
Jayne's maximum entropy principle
The principle and applications
Jaynes E.T. Information Theory and Statistical Mechanics.

Physical Review, Vol 106, No 4, 620-630, (1957).

Mon 9 Mar
Simon von Overbeck
Kaiyu Yang
Derivations and justifications of principle


Shore, J. E. and Johnson, R. W. (1980). Axiomatic derivation of the principle of maximum entropy and the principle of minimum cross-entropy. IEEE Transactions on Information Theory, IT-26, 26-37.

"The Constraint Rule of the Maximum Entropy Principle", Jos Uffink, Studies in History and Philosophy of Modern Physics 27 (1996) 47-79.

Mon 9 Mar
Simone Balmelli
Fabian Hassler
Maxwell's demon and Landauer's erasure principle
Arguments for reconciling Maxwell's demon with the second law based on the impossibility of information acquisition


Szilard, "On the decrease of entropy in a thermodynamic system by the intervention of intelligent beings" original from (1929), translation in Maxwell's demon: Entropy, Information, Computing,  Leff and Rex, Princeton Univ. press pp. 124-133 (1990).

Brillouin, "Maxwell's demon cannot operate: information and entropy I",
 Journal of applied physics 22 p. 334 (1951).
Mon 16 Mar
Christfried Focke
Andrei Lebedev
Bennett's argument for reconciliation using Landauer's erasure principle.


Bennett, C.H. The Thermodynamics of Computation - a Review. International Journal of Theoretical Physics, Vol
21, No 12, (1982).

Landauer, R. Irreversibility and Heat Generation in the Computing Process. IBM Journal of Research and Development, 3, 183-191.
Mon 16 Mar
Robin Jaeger
Marco Tomamichel
Discussion of criticisms


Exorcist XIV: The Wrath of Maxwell's Demon. Part I. From Maxwell to Szilard.
Earman and Norton
Stud. Hist. Phil. Mod. Phys., Vol 29, No. 4 p435--471, 1998

Exorcist XIV: The Wrath of Maxwell's Demon. Part II. From Szilard to Landauer and Beyond.
Earman and Norton
Stud. Hist. Phil. Mod. Phys., Vol 30, No. 1 p1--40, 1999
Mon 23 Mar
Corsin Pfister Oscar Dahlsten
Mechanical models for second law violation


Compressible dynamics, time reversibility, Maxwell's demon, and the second law
Physical Review E, vol 48, number 2, p777, 1993

Mechanical models of Maxwell's demon with noninvariant phase volume.
Zhang and Zhang
Physical review A, vol 46, number 8, p4598, 1992

Mon 23 Mar
Philip Kupper
Evgeny Kozik
Reversible computation 


Toffoli T. Reversible computation MIT/LCS/TM151, (1980).

Feynman lectures on computation

Logical reversibility of computation
C.H.Bennett, IBM Journal of Research and Development 17:525-532 (November, 1973)

Mon 30 Mar
Martin Paesold
Andrei Lebedev
Information erasure in a stochastic model


Heat generation required by information erasure,
Shizume, Phys Rev E, vol 52, number 4, p3495, 1995.
Mon 30 Mar
Niklaus Papritz Sergei Isakov
Brownian motors 


"Introduction to the physics of Brownian motors", P. Reimann and P. Hänggi,  Applied Physics A, Vol. 75, 169 (2002),

"Thermodynamics and Kinetics of a Brownian Motor", R. D. Astumian, Science, Vol. 276, 917 (1997).

"Forced Thermal Ratchets", M. O. Magnasco, Physical Review Letters, Vol.
71, 1477.

Mon 6 Apr
Marco Schweizer Fabian Hassler
Emergence of thermal equilibrium
Entanglement between system and environment I


Bocchieri, P. and Loinger, A. Phys. Rev. 114, 948–951 (1959).

Chapter , 'Pure-state quantum statistical mechanics and black holes', in Lloyd, S. Black Holes, Demons and the Loss of Coherence, Thesis, Rockefeller Univ. (1988).

Mon 6 Apr
Maximilian Kelm
Peter Pickl
Ostermontag-no proseminar   Mon 13 April    
Entanglement between system and environment II


Popescu, S., Short, A. J. and Winter, A. Nature Phys. 2, 754–758 (2006).
Mon 20 Apr
Markus Schmassmann Marco Tomamichel
Entanglement between system and environment III


Linden, N., Popescu, S., Short, A.J. and Winter, A., Quantum mechanical evolution towards thermal equilibrium, arXiv:0812.2385
Mon 20 Apr
Daniel Lercher Wojciech De Roeck
Explicit thermalisation models I


Calabrese, P. and Cardy, J., Entanglement Entropy and Quantum Field Theory: A Non-Technical Introduction, Int. J. on Quantum Information, 4 (2006), arXiv:quant-ph/0505193.

Calabrese, P. and Cardy, Entanglement Entropy and Quantum Field Theory, hep-th/0405152 (2008).

Mon 27 Apr
Nikolaus Buchheim
Andreas Rüegg
Explicit thermalisation models II


Derivation of master equations in Chapter 3 of "The theory of open quantum
systems" H.-P. Breuer and F. Petruccione,   (Oxford university press, Oxford, 2002)(Examples of approach to thermal equilibrium in sections  3.4.2 and 3.4.6).
Mon 27 Apr
Martin Fluder
Johan Aaberg
Eigenstate thermalisation


"Quantum statistical mechanics in a closed system", J. M. Deutsch, Physical Review A, Vol. 43, 2046 (1991),

"Chaos and quantum thermalization", M. Srednicki, Physical Review E, Vol. 50, 888 (1994).

"Thermalization and its mechanism for generic isolated quantum systems",
M. Rigol, V. Dunjko, and M. Olshanii, Nature, Vol. 452, 854 (2008).

Mon 4 May
Pierre Rodriguez
Gang Zhou

[Whiteboard talk]

"Modern Ergodic theory" J. L. Lebowitz and O. Penrose,  Physics Today,
February 1973, p.23 

"Capturing Chaos" M. Buchanan, Nature, 435, 281 (2005).

"Weak and strong chaos in Fermi-Pasta-Ulam models and beyond" M. Pettini, L. Casetti, M. Cerrutti-Sola,  R. Franzosi, E. G. D. Cohen

Mon 4 May
Maximilian Andrae
Johan Aaberg
Fluctuation theorems


 "The Nonequilibrium Thermodynamics of Small Systems",      C. Bustamante, J. Liphart, and F. Ritort, Physics Today, Vol. 58, no. 7, 43 (2005).

"Entropy production fluctuation theorem and the nonequilibrium work relation for free energy differences", G. E. Crooks, Physical Review E, Vol. 60, 2721 (1999).

"Nonequilibrium Equality for Free Energy Differences", C. Jarzynski, Physical Review Letters Vol. 78, 2690 (1997).
Mon 11 May
Vincent Beaud Sebastian Schmidt
Black hole information paradox, Hawking radiation


Do Black Holes Destroy Information? John Preskill]

Hawking radiation and black hole thermodynamics
A review by Don

Mon 11 May
Alex Vitanov
Stefan Hohenegger
Explanation of paradox based on state merging

[Whiteboard talk-no slides]

Black holes as mirrors: quantum information in random subsystems
Hayden,  Preskill,
Mon 18 May
Szher Oleg
Roberto Volpato
Entropy in biophysics


What Is Life? Mind and Matter,

E. Schrödinger, Cambridge University Press, (1944).

Thermodynamics of natural selection I: Energy flow and the limits on organization,
Eric Smith, Journal of Theoretical Biology,
Volume 252, Issue 2, 21 May 2008, Pages 185-197.

Mon 18 May
Robert Polster
Oscar Dahlsten
Arrow of time and entropy


Physical Origins of Time Asymmetry, Eds J. J. Halliwell,     J. Pérez-Mercader, Cambridge Univ. Press, (1994).

Lebowitz, Macroscopic Laws, Microscopic Dynamics, Time's Arrow and Boltzmann's Entropy, Physica A, 194:1-27, (1993).

A quantum solution to the arrow-of-time dilemma, Lorenzo Maccone, arXiv:0802.0438v2  (2008).

Mon 25 May
Iwan Gloor
Ingo Kirsch
Algorithmic complexity


"Algorithmic randomness and physical entropy"  W. H. Zurek, Physical Review A, Vol. 40, 4731 (1989).

Mon 25 May
Marek Pikulski Charlotte Gils

Times and location

The talks start 8.45 in HIT K51 (Hoenggerberg) and should normally not last longer than until 12.30. See table above for the dates of the talks.

About Proseminars

The student is assigned a topic to learn about and eventually explain to the others in the class. This is done both by an oral presentation and a written report.

Criteria for obtaining a Testat, i.e. passing the module:

    * Give a presentation that is pedagogical and demonstrates solid understanding of the material.

    * Be present at least 80% of the time.

    * Hand in a written report of your talk in English.

    * Ask at least one question in the semester.

You are supposed to give a "professional" talk in English. If you do not know how to do this, ask your assistant immediately for assistance. The talk should be 45-1h30 minutes long.

Students in the audience are expected to ask questions and think of a good question to ask at the end of the presentation. If the speaker does not know the answer they should say so, rather than risk giving incorrect/confusing answers.

A student will be associated with a research assistant at the institute who will be available to support the student. Please be sure to contact your respective assistant at least six weeks before your talk to discuss logistics. Be sure to keep your assistant updated of your work at least once a week.

One week before your talk you are expected to have a draft of your report as well as a finished set of slides (the report can be handed in later and is not necessary for the talk).

The written report is in English. Note that no report = no Testat.

Deadline 1, Fri 15 May: Send report to assistant for feedback
Deadline 2, Fri 29 May: Send final version to

The report will be compiled to a book with all other contributions, and must therefore be prepared using a specific LaTeX macro. This was created by Prof Katzgraber who previously organised the proseminar, but any questions should be addressed to us.

LATEX MACRO (Download the file 'template.tgz' and use those files only)

INSTRUCTIONS (Follow these carefully)