Bennett's demon and black holes

December 8, 2022. *Maxwell’s demon *


Maxwell’s demon is a tiny hypothetical imp that can separate fast- and slow-moving particles of a gas into two different chambers. Bennett’s demon is a special case where the demon computes reversibly and therefore generates no entropy cost. This appears to violate the Second Law of Thermodynamics, up to a cunning proviso. Each time it sorts a particle, it generates a single bit of data, which it can either remember or forget. Forgetting costs thermodynamic entropy $k_BT \ln 2$, where $T$ is the temperature of the demon’s memory unit, and $k_B$ is Boltzmann’s constant. Remembering, on the other hand, has a memory cost, and cannot be sustained indefinitely.

Let’s be more concrete. Suppose Bennett’s demon has a quantum memory $\mathcal{M}$ of $n$ qubits, total dimension $N = 2^n$, each in initial state $| 0\rangle$. After the $n$th particle is observed, qubit $n$ is either left in state $|0\rangle$, or set to state $|1\rangle$, depending on whether it got sorted into fast or slow chambers. We can imagine an auxiliary counter system of $n’ = \log n$ qubits to keep track of how many particles have been observed. Using Landauer’s principle, this should allow for the Second Law to be violated to the tune of $\Delta S = nk_B T \ln 2$, since once we start erasing bits and continue computing reversibly, the entropy generated by erasure and the entropy saved should balance out.

It seems like we could make $\mathcal{M}$ indefinitely large. But the Second Law seems pretty robust, and apparent violations usually tell us about constraints elsewhere. So our question is:

Bennett's demon.
What are the constraints on $\mathcal{M}$, and in what sense do they preserve the Second Law?

Black holes

Let’s assume the demon is p