PHYS 355: Thermal Physics

Liberal Arts. Prerequisites: MATH 241, PHYS 152.

Course Description

Analysis of laws of thermodynamic equilibria in solid, liquid and gaseous phases; introduction to statistical mechanics in terms of the microcanonical, canonical and grand canonical ensembles.

The course will be divided into two parts.  We will begin by examining the thermal properties of gases, liquids, and solids from a thermodynamic, that is, macroscopic, viewpoint.  Phase diagrams, the first, second, and third laws of thermodynamics and useful quantities such as internal energy, entropy, enthalpy, and free energy will be covered.  The second part of the course will focus on a microscopic understanding of thermal properties in terms of statistical mechanics.  We will explore the probability distributions for classical and quantum states, as well as the microcanonical, canonical and grand canonical partition functions and their associated thermodynamic potentials.  In both cases, concepts will be applied to several specific model systems, in the attempt to show the practical utility of these ideas.


Useful Information

Instructor          Dr. Yuly
Office Hours     MWF 3:00-4:00 PM
Office                P106

Class Time        MWF 9:55-11:00 AM

Course Materials

Course Syllabus


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Other Links

Supercriticial fluid
Supercritical fluid

Ludwig Boltzmann
Ludwig Boltzmann, image from Wikimedia.

“There is nothing more practical than a good theory.”
Ludwig Boltzman


Heinz London
Heinz London, image from Duke University Physics Department.

“For the second law [ of thermodynamics ],  I will burn at the stake.”
— Heinz London


C. P. Snow
C. P. Snow, image from Philosophy of Science Portal.

“A good many times I have been present at gatherings of people who, by the standards of the traditional culture, are thought highly educated and who have with considerable gusto been expressing their incredulity at the illiteracy of scientists. Once or twice I have been provoked and have asked the company how many of them could describe the second law of thermodynamics. The response was cold: it was also negative. Yet I was asking something which is the scientific equivalent of: Have you read a work of Shakespeare’s?”
C. P. Snow