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DRPS : Course Catalogue : School of Physics and Astronomy : Undergraduate (School of Physics and Astronomy)

Undergraduate Course: Statistical Physics (PHYS11024)

Course Outline
SchoolSchool of Physics and Astronomy CollegeCollege of Science and Engineering
Credit level (Normal year taken)SCQF Level 11 (Year 4 Undergraduate) AvailabilityAvailable to all students
SCQF Credits10 ECTS Credits5
SummaryThis is a course on the statistical physics of interacting particles. We begin by reviewing the fundamental assumptions of equilibrium statistical mechanics focussing on the relation between missing information (or entropy) and probability. We then consider the statistical mechanics of interacting particles and develop important approximation schemes. This leads us to review phase transitions and the unifying phenomenology. We study in detail a simple, microscopic model for phase transitions: the Ising model. We then consider a general theoretical framework known as
Landau Theory. Finally we discuss the issue of dynamics: how does a system approach and explore the state of thermal equilibrium? How does one reconcile microscopic time reversibility with the macroscopic arrow of time?
Course description I Derivation of Statistical Ensembles
- Maximising the missing information or Gibbs entropy
- Derivation of the principal ensembles: microcanonical; canonical; grand canonical
- Quantum systems: Fermi-Dirac, Bose-Einstein, classical limit
- Bose-Einstein Condensation

II The Many-Body Problem
- Interacting systems
- Phonons and the Debye theory of specific heat of solids
- Perturbation theory and cluster expansion
- Breakdown of perturbation theory
- Non-perturbative ideas: Debye-H\"uckel Theory

III Transitions
- Phenomenology of phase transitions
- The Ising Model
- Solution in one dimension
- Correlation functions and correlation length
- Mean-field theory
- long range order in two dimensions, lack of in one dimension
- Landau Theory
- Order Parameter
- Critical exponents and Universality

IV The Arrow of Time
- Hamiltonian dynamics and phase space
- Liouville's theorem
- Coarse graining
- The master equation
- Random walks and the diffusion equation
- Detailed balance
- Brownian motion and the Langevin equation
- Dynamics of fluctuations
- Fluctuation-dissipation relations and Linear Response
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
Pre-requisites Students MUST have passed: ( Physics of Fields and Matter (PHYS08046) OR Physics of Matter (PHYS08054)) AND ( Thermal Physics (PHYS09061) OR Statistical Mechanics (PHYS09019)) AND ( Quantum Mechanics (PHYS09053) OR Principles of Quantum Mechanics (PHYS10094))
Prohibited Combinations Other requirements At least 80 credit points accrued in courses of SCQF Level 9 or 10 drawn from Schedule Q.
Information for Visiting Students
High Demand Course? Yes
Course Delivery Information
Academic year 2024/25, Available to all students (SV1) Quota:  0
Course Start Semester 2
Timetable Timetable
Learning and Teaching activities (Further Info) Total Hours: 100 ( Lecture Hours 22, Supervised Practical/Workshop/Studio Hours 11, Summative Assessment Hours 2, Revision Session Hours 2, Programme Level Learning and Teaching Hours 2, Directed Learning and Independent Learning Hours 61 )
Assessment (Further Info) Written Exam 100 %, Coursework 0 %, Practical Exam 0 %
Additional Information (Assessment) Degree Examination, 100%
Visiting Student Variant Assessment
Degree Examination, 100%
Feedback Not entered
Exam Information
Exam Diet Paper Name Hours & Minutes
Main Exam Diet S2 (April/May)2:00
Resit Exam Diet (August)2:00
Learning Outcomes
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
  1. Define and distinguish between the Boltzmann and Gibbs entropies, and derive the principal ensembles of Statistical Physics by using the method of Lagrange multipliers to maximise the Gibbs entropy.
  2. Discuss the many-body problem and effect of interactions and be able to formulate and motivate various approximation schemes.
  3. Discuss and formulate fluctuation-dissipation relations
  4. Formulate the Ising model of phase transitions and be able to motivate and work out various mean-field theories such as Landau theory.
  5. Articulate the paradox of the arrow of time; formulate and solve mathematical descriptions of dynamics such as the master equation, Langevin equations and the diffusion equation.
Reading List
Additional Information
Graduate Attributes and Skills Not entered
Course organiserProf John Peacock
Tel: (0131) 668 8390
Course secretaryMs Dipti Dineshwar
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