Reading: Banishing the Pesky Demon: the Final Word


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Banishing the Pesky Demon: the Final Word


Laurence Daw

The University of Western Ontario
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Thomas Pynchon's work is well known for its concern with the subject of entropy. in The Crying of Lot 49, for example, the idea of entropy in thermodynamics is linked to the idea of entropy in information theory. As Oedipa Maas succinctly puts it: "there were two distinct kinds of this entropy. One having to do with heat- engines, the other to do with communication. The equation for one, back in the '30's, had looked very like the equation for the other. It was a coincidence. The two fields were entirely unconnected, except at one point: Maxwell's Demon" (105). Oedipa is correct. Until recently, however, no one knew why. But in a recent Scientific American article, "Demons, Engines and the Second Law" (November, 1987, 108-16), Charles H. Bennett takes pains to make a distinction between the thermodynamics of the physical world and the so-called thermodynamics of information theory, to have, as it were, the last word on the failure of Clerk Maxwell's gnome-like mythological sorter that could supposedly cheat the second law of thermodynamics.
How to Cite: Daw, L., (1988). Banishing the Pesky Demon: the Final Word. Pynchon Notes. (22-23), pp.99–101. DOI:
Published on 22 Sep 1988.
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