Letter | Published:

The Kinetic Theory of Gases

Nature volume 52, page 244 | Download Citation



IT seems to me that Mr. Burbury's and Prof. Boltzmann's last letters will enable us to reconcile all the main differences of opinion which were brought to light in our recent correspondence in the columns of NATURE. From Prof. Boltzmann's letter it appears that the Minimum Theorem can only be applied with absolute certainty to gases whose molecules are not too closely crowded together. Thus the proof that an aggregation of molecules tends continuously towards the Boltzmann-Maxwell distribution depends quite as much on assumptions as to the mixing of the molecules between collisions as on consideration of what happens at collisions. We cannot prove for certain that densely crowded assemblages of molecules such as solids and liquids tend to assume this distribution, and this is just as it should be, for when a substance is capable of existing simultaneously in two states, the distribution cannot be unique. For the same reason the proof does not apply to molecules moving about in a continuous medium such as the ether. So far from this limitation being a weak point in the proof, it precludes the theorem from proving too much, or from leading to results which may not accord with experience.

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