Advanced General Physics 323/324

Thermal Physics Unit T5 Statistical Thermodynamics

Prerequisites: T1 and T2


Thermodynamics is the study of what you can say about a system without a detailed knowledge of its fundamental constituents (molecules, for example) and the interactions among them. Given, say, an expression for the internal energy U in terms of the entropy S and the volume V, one can derive all the macroscopic properties of the system in equilibrium, but no attempt is made to explain the energy function in terms of the mechanics of its constituents.

In statistical mechanics one does try to gain such an understanding. We also get a more fundamental understanding of entropy. With this detailed picture of the system it is also possible to answer question about a system which is not in equilibrium.


F. W. Sears and G. L. Salinger, Thermodynamics, Kinetic Theory, and Statistical Thermodynamics (S&S) Chapt. 11 - Statistical Thermmodynamics.


You may also want to look at some of the applications od statistics to gases in Chapter 12.

After completing this unit you should understand:

  1. Energy states and energy levels.
  2. Macro-states and microstates.
  3. Thermodynamic probability.
  4. The different kinds of particle statistics: Maxwell-Boltzmann, Bose-Einstein, and Fermi-Dirac..
  5. Distribution functions.
  6. The statistical meaning of entropy.


Sears & Salinger, Chapt. 11: Problems 1,2,5,14,28,29,35,36 .

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