Starting from Antonov's discovery that there is no maximum to the entropy of a gravitating system of point particles at fixed energy in a spherical box if the density contrast between centre and edge exceeds 709, we review progress in the understanding of gravitational thermodynamics. We pinpoint the error in the proof that all systems have positive specific heat and say when it can occur. We discuss the development of the thermal runaway in both the gravothermal catastrophe and its inverse. The energy range over which microcanonical ensembles have negative heat capacity is replaced by a first order phase transition in the corresponding canonical ensembles. We conjecture that all first order phase transitions may be viewed as caused by negative heat capacities of units within them. We find such units in the theory of ionization, chemical dissociation and in the Van der Waals gas so these concepts are applicable outside the realm of stars, star clusters and black holes.
Physica A Statistical Mechanics and its Applications
- Pub Date:
- February 1999
- Condensed Matter - Statistical Mechanics;
- 17 pages, LaTeX with 4 encapsulated postscript figures included. To appear in Proceedings of XXth IUPAP International Conference on Statistical Physics, Paris, July 20-24, 1998