Thermal and Statistical Physics

Reviews For Thermal and Statistical Physics

"Energies add and the total is conserved; probabilities multiply and the product is unchanged." - Edward Teller I joined the class late, what I knew about equilibrium statistical physics is contained in this quote from Teller’s book: “Conversations On the Dark Secrets of Physics” Teller was one of the great physicists of the 20th century, a man of his political circumstances and times. I personally did not agree with most of his politics, with one exception, not knowing very much about anything I agreed with his concern that most people are badly educated and taught only those few skills necessary to make some money and be fitted into “the economy” to serve. Teller clearly believes that some appreciation of complicated science can be taught to people without a lot of math. In Teller’s book you need only a little understanding of Calculus. Teller is having a conversation with his daughter Wendy and does his best to explain Physics. Wendy’s job is to ask questions and challenge her father to do better. If you like listening to Professor Carlson’s class she presents in a conversational style and does a good job explaining physics. I do not have the book that goes along with her course, I have “Thermal Physics” by Schroeder and an old paperback by Nash. Nash begins by stating: "Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose. " I have been thinking about this statement for thirty four years but always part time and away from chasing dollars which occupies most of my clear head time.
I have really enjoyed this podcast. The subject is very interesting, and Professor Carlson does an excellent job in explaining the physics behind the laws of thermodynamics. I say this as a person that has not studied any calculus -- I must admit that when the Professor turns to the equations I haven't a clue what's going on -- but the equations are bracketed by very clear explanations and examples. I'm looking forward to the next semester.
An excellent bridge between statistics and chemistry. Will require, or motivate you to learn, calculus. For those interested in teaching per se, listen for the interactions; the pacing and organization of questions to students, and, especially, the timing, thoughtfulness, and tone of answers to student questions. The explications of the equations begin with motivating physical questions, but also with relations to previously learned math "technology" or similar laws. Even the individual variables are given re-introductions as needed, like minor characters in a long novel. This explanatory structure reminds me of really well-documented code. It applies a rudimentary narrative arc to terse facts. The tone, however, is consistently one of delight in discovery and respect for the cleverness, of, respectively, nature and science. You'll need calculus, including Taylor expansions and harmonic oscillators, as well as Kittel and Kroehmer's "Thermal Physics", 2nd ed., to actually master the subject, but, if you're homework-phobic, you can enjoy the lectures without the stress. When out in public, just remember to smile and nod.