‘Entropy: From Heat Engines to Black Holes & Quantum Computers’ – David Olive Lecture 2023 

Swansea University is holding the fourth instalment of its David Olive Lecture Series on 23rd March (4.30pm). 

The speaker this year is Professor Sean Hartnoll, Professor of Mathematical Physics at the Dept of Applied Mathematics & Theoretical Physics (DAMTP), Cambridge University.

The event will take place at the Faraday Lecture Theatre, Swansea University.

It will also be live streamed.


‘The notion of entropy was invented in the aftermath of the Industrial Revolution to describe the fact that heat engines could never be perfectly efficient. The irreversible generation of entropy was later understood to occur because everyday macroscopic objects are made up of very many small molecules whose microscopic motion is so complicated that we cannot hope to harness their energy in a useful way. This idea of “inaccessible energy” underpinned Hawking and Bekenstein’s calculation of the entropy of a black hole in the 1970’s: stuff inside a black hole is unknowable to an external observer. As things fall into a black hole it grows, and this is the growth of our ignorance and of entropy. I will describe how, over the past half century, black holes have come to be understood as highly quantum mechanical steam engines. As part of this process, the physics of black holes has fed into exciting developments in the seemingly unrelated field of quantum entanglement and quantum computation.’

The David Olive lecture is supported by the Learned Society of Wales.