Physics 210A : Course Description

Subject Matter and Course Text
The subject matter of Physics 210A is statistical physics. We will cover the following material: (i) approach to equilibrium, (ii) statistical ensembles, (iii) thermodynamics, (iv) quantum statistics, (v) classical interacting systems, and (vi) mean field theory of phase transitions.

The course text is Peliti's "Statistical Mechanics in a Nutshell". This is a new book which I find to be outstanding, with excellent explanations of the material and a thoroughly modern outlook. However, I cannot muster much enthusiasm for lecturing out of someone else's book, so I will be following my own lecture notes. I have indicated which sections in the notes I plan on covering. Please make an effort to read the relevant sections ahead of class - it will make the lectures more understandable.

At the beginning of each chapter of my notes, I list some recommended texts. There are too many to place on reserve in the S&E Library, but if you are having trouble finding a book please contact me.

Course Web Site
Lecture notes and reading assignments, important announcements, homework assignments and solutions will all be available through the course web site. Please check it before each lecture to see if there is new material. The notes themselves are essentially complete (I am working on a final chapter on renormalization, which we will not cover anyway), but I may make some editorial changes or additions as we go along. I will indicate on the lecture notes page the date, time, and size (in pages) of the most recent upload for each chapter. If you find any errors in the notes, I would greatly appreciate it if you would alert me via the web forum pages.

On the course home page, I have included a number of links to potentially useful websites.

Problem Sets
I will try to assign one problem set per week, due at the beginning of the following Tuesday's class. Problem sets will not be printed out for you, but rather will be available through the course website. You are encouraged to discuss the problem sets with your fellow students. I suggest that you initially try to do the problems by yourselves, so that you can more accurately identify your confusions and honestly assess your weaknesses. Then, before you write up your assignment, get together with some of your fellow students to talk over the problems and hammer out the details. Solutions to problem sets will be posted on the course website. Hopefully the solutions and your graded assignments will be made available in a timely manner, but invariably there are lags from time to time.

Through the course homework page, I have made available detailed solutions to all homework sets and examinations from the last time I taught this course (W10), as well as from the last two times I taught the undergraduate version (F08-W09 and F11-W12). These worked problems should prove a valuable resource in learning the material.

Office hours
Office hours are scheduled for Mondays from 12:00 pm to 1:30 pm.

Course grade
The magic formula: 40% problem sets, 50% comprehensive final, 10% intangibles (e.g. personal hygiene, your taste in music, sense of humor [= laughing at my jokes], etc.).

Discussion Board
The course home page contains a link to the Physics Department discussion boards. You must register in order to be able to post. This is a place where you can publicly discuss the course, ask me questions, exchange tips about homework, tell jokes, pose riddles, post links to interesting web sites, etc. Just keep it clean, folks. I will be checking in regularly.