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Statistical Physics 1


Admission requirements

Classical Mechanics a, Electromagnetic Fields, Analysis 1&2, Linear Algebra 1


Statistical Physics builds a bridge between the microscopic world of, for instance, atoms and molecules and the resulting collective behavior at the macroscopic level, that is described by thermodynamics. The concept of temperature and the fact that a very large number of particles is involved play crucial roles in making this work. Using probability theory and the principle of maximum entropy the statistical physics of systems in equilibrium is developed and applied to gases and other examples, such as magnetic systems.

Course objectives

After finishing the course you are able to perform calculations and derivations concerning the following topics in statistical physics:

  • Probability theory, phase space

  • Thermal equilibrium, entropy, microcanonical ensemble

  • Maxwell-Boltzmann distribution, ideal gas law

  • Thermodynamic potentials, heat engine

  • Free energy, canonical ensemble

  • Gibbs free energy, grand canonical ensemble

  • Ensemble equivalence

  • Classical and quantum harmonic oscillator

  • Ising model of magnetism, mean field approximation

  • Phase transitions, critical exponents


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Mode of instruction

Lectures and self-study of written material, mandatory tutorial sessions, weekly homework sets. The course is taught in English.
See Brightspace

Assessment method

6 EC = 168h
Written exam with open questions. Extra points can be earned from homework problems.

Reading list

R.H. Swendsen, 'An Introduction to Statistical Mechanics and Thermodynamics', Oxford University Press.


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Lecturer:Dr.S. Semrau