415 Thermal
Physics
This is an
introduction to the physics of macroscopic collections of particles, classical
and quantum. This course differs from other courses in that the focus is
not so much on the microscopic behavior of systems, but how that microscopic
behavior manifests itself in the macroscopic phenomena typically
observed. A highlight of the course is understanding how the quantum
nature of particles is often necessary for understanding the macroscopic
behavior of collections of those particles.
The course
begins with an introduction to probability theory. That theory is then
used to develop thermodynamics, describing work, heat, entropy, and related
concepts. The course then proceeds to statistical mechanics, which looks
at thermodynamics from the point of view of the microscopic physics governing
the particles that make up the thermodynamic system. This leads to new
insights and a deeper understanding. Finally, the topic of quantum
statistical mechanics is introduced and applied to simple quantum systems, such
as metals and gases.
A
typical list of topics covered is:
Probability
and Statistics
Statistical
description of systems of particles
Thermodynamics
Applications
of thermodynamics
Statistical
Mechanics
Applications
of Statistical Mechanics
Equilibrium
between phases
Quantum
Statistics
Systems of
Interacting Particles
This course
assumes a good knowledge of multivariate calculus, which is used extensively in
the course. It relies on the material
learned in mechanics, modern physics (205, 241, 244, or 249) and, to a lesser extent, electricity and
magnetism. Course work typically
consists of homework assignments, 2 exams, and a final.
