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Previous Programs

2018 Agency in the Physical World
Awardees; RFP download

2016 Physics of the Observer
Awardees; RFP download

2015 The Physics of What Happens
Awardees; RFP download

2013 Physics of Information
Awardees; RFP download

2010 The Nature of Time
Awardees; RFP download

2008 Foundational Questions in Physics and Cosmology
Awardees; RFP download

2006 Foundational Questions in Physics and Cosmology
Awardees; RFP download

Sebastian Deffner
University of Maryland Baltimore County

Project Title

Thermodynamics of information from driven quantum field theories

Project Summary

Ever since its inception Maxwell’s demon has challenged our understanding of the fundamental laws of thermodynamics. Maxwell noted that if an intelligent agent has information about the microscopic dynamics of a system, the agent can use this information to violate common experience. For instance, usually heat allows flows from hot to cold, but in presence of such a demon heat can flow from cold to hot without having to pay a price. In recent years, we have developed a consistent framework dubbed “thermodynamics of information”, in which the information gained by the agent is understood as an additional thermodynamic resource on par with heat and work. We are now proposing to extend and generalize the existing framework to physics’ most fundamental theory. This will allow us to obtain the most fine-grained understanding for how intelligent control arises from the most fundamental principles of physics. This most fundamental theory (quantum field theory) is a versatile tool to describe physics at all scales – from the universe to properties of materials. Thus, our results could have far-reaching consequences for our understanding of the universe, but also more practically in the design of novel architecture for the next generation computers.

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