Given the success of Ludwig Boltzmann's statistical approach in explaining the observed irreversible behavior of macroscopic systems in a manner consistent with their reversible microscopic dynamics, it is quite surprising that there is still so much confusion about the problem of irreversibility. (See figure 1.) I attribute this confusion to the originality of Boltzmann's ideas: It made them difficult for some of his contemporaries to grasp. The controversies generated by the misunderstandings of Ernst Zermelo and others have been perpetuated by various authors. There is really no excuse for this, considering the clarity of Boltzmann's later writings. Since next year, 1994, is the 150th anniversary of Boltzmann's birth, this is a fitting moment to review his ideas on the arrow of time. In Erwin Schrödinger's words, “Boltzmann's ideas really give an understanding” of the origin of macroscopic behavior. All claims of inconsistencies that I know of are, in my opinion, wrong; I see no need for alternate explanations. for further reading I highly recommend Boltzmann's works as well as references 2–7. (See also PHYSICS TODAY, January 1992, page 44, for a marvelous description by Boltzmann of his visit to California in 1906.)
Given that microscopic physical lows are reversible, why do all macroscopic events have a preferred time direction? Boltzmann's thoughts on this question have withstood the test of time.