Physics 117 — Statistical Mechanics
Beginning with the equal probability of accessible microstates of an isolated system, the course develops the quantum and classical statistical mechanics and thermodynamics of simple systems of many particles: classical and quantum gases, isolated spins in a magnetic field, photons, and phonons. The laws of thermodynamics are developed from statistical considerations and applied to uniform phases, phase and chemical equilibria, heat engines, refrigerators, and other practical devices. Finally, kinetic theory is applied to a computation of transport properties of gases. Lectures are held in either the 50-minute thrice weekly format or the 70-minute twice weekly format. These are supplemented with a 50-minute recitation section that focuses on student questions and supplementary problems done in groups. In some years students also work in groups on a simulation project, which is presented orally to the class at the end of the semester. Besides providing a foundation in statistical physics, this course aims to develop students' abilities to approximate, to estimate, and to apply broad physical principles to real-world situations.
Prerequisite: Physics 52. Corequisite: Physics 111 or permission of the instructor.