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Statistical Mechanics

Spring 2002

Prof. Harold Baranger

Class Time:  MWF 10:30-11:20
Class Room:  room 158  Physics Building

Statistical Mechanics is the physics of systems containing a large number of particles. The main subject is to connect macroscopic observable properties to microscopic properties of matter. The goals of this course are, first, to explain the foundations of statistical mechanics and, second, to work through most of the classic examples of statistical mechanics, as well as some current ones, so that the student develops familiarity and facility with the topic. At the end of the course, the student will be able to tackle the statistical mechanics questions that come up in all areas of experimental and theoretical physics and have a good foundation for further study in statistical physics should she so choose.

The course is basically divided into 3 parts:

  1. Foundations and Fundmentals of Statistical Mechanics (preceded by a review of prerequisite material) [topics 1-16 in the syllabus]

  2. Classic Examples no educated physicist can do without [topics 17-29]

  3. Other fun examples and Advanced Topics [topics 30-37] 

A more detailed syllabus can be found by following the link above.

There is one required text for the course:

  1. R. K. Pathria, Statistical Mechanics, 2nd edition. This is the main text for the course: you will be asked to read a large fraction of the book and do many problems from it.

In addition, there are four supplemental texts, which are on reserve at the library:

  • R. Baierlein, Thermal Physics. A new undergraduate text with an especially clear and physical presentation.

  • C. Kittel and H. Kroemer, Thermal Physics, 2nd edition. This is one of the standard undergraduate texts. It has many good problems, some of which I will assign.

  • Landau and Lifshitz, Statistical Physics, part 1, 3rd edition. Excellent on many, though not all, topics. One of my main sources for lecture material.

  • A. B. Pippard, Classical Thermodynamics. This book is a lovely and elegant treatment of thermodynamics. Much of my lecture material on thermodynamics is drawn from it.

Unfortunately, the book by Pippard is out of print. However, there are is a copy on reserve at the library, and several other copies around, so hopefully this won't cause too much inconvenience. Also, perhaps used copies are available.

Last modified: 07-Jan-02