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Books on Statistical mechanics

  1. Aug 18, 2008 #1
    Dear all,
    I'm reading "Equilibrium Statistical Mechanics" by Atlee Jackson (Dover) which is very good. What could be a next step? In the web everybody speaks highly of "Introcution to modern statistical physics" by Chandler. What about the books by Hill (Dover) or Principles of Statistical Mechanics by Tolman (again, Dover)?

    Any help is welcomed!
  2. jcsd
  3. Aug 19, 2008 #2

    Andy Resnick

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    Tolman's book is excellent. and I highly recommend it.
  4. Aug 19, 2008 #3
    Thanks. But why ist so good? The thing that puzzles me is that it was published in the mid-30's. Am I going to learn outdated methods and notations etc?
  5. Aug 19, 2008 #4
    I had a look at it in Google books. It is really a "principles" kind of book. It even contains an extensive section on QM proving results etc
  6. Aug 19, 2008 #5
    Kerson Huang's book is good.
  7. Aug 28, 2008 #6


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    I find Kerson Huang's book very difficult. I don't think I have ever understood a word of it.

    A good introduction to the subject, approached entirely from statistical mechanics is Reif's "Fundamentals of Statistical and Thermal Physics".

    A book I like very much is Kardar's "Statistical Mechanics of Particles". The first chapter is a beautiful introduction to thermodynamics without statistical mechanics. You get to see the astonishing translation into equations of everyday concepts like "Heat cannot be converted completely into work." There is also a great chapter on probability with a nice presentation of the notion of information. The remaining chapters are about statistical mechanics. Throughout the book the presentation is always extremely logical, lucid and succinct.
  8. Aug 28, 2008 #7
    One reviewer of Reif's book at Amazon.com says that the way this book does thermodybamics cannot compare with modern approaches in modern textbooks...what does it means?

    What would you use first the Chandler or Kardar???
  9. Aug 28, 2008 #8
    If you are looking for the "standard" Stat. Mech. text, Donald McQuarrie's Statistical Mechanics, is what you are looking for. It assumes; however, that you have some mastery of quantum mechanics, classical mechanics (Goldstein level helps), basic thermodynamics, and some E&M background, although you can get by most of the text without needing hardly any E&M except for a few scattered problems (and if you reference his first chapter you'll do just fine).

    If you are looking for a thermodynamics text, there are plenty to choose from, but I haven't, yet, stumbled upon anything great; though, McQuarrie's P.Chem text does get cover perhaps all of the equilibrium thermo. you'll ever need.

    If you pick up McQuarrie, make sure you read the first 12 chapter very closely, after that the rest of his text is more of a selected set of topics ending with Time-Correlation formalism, which is incredibly powerful.
  10. Aug 29, 2008 #9


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    My background is only undergraduate physics, and I'm a biologist by profession, so I'm not qualified to say what modern is. However, Kardar is an active researcher in statistical mechanics, so I'd imagine his text is modern (he's the "K" of the KPZ equation). All I can say is that Reif's text is modern enough that if it is your first book, you will be able to understand Kardar, or other texts such as Nigel Goldenfeld's "
    Lectures On Phase Transitions And The Renormalization Group".

    I've never read Chandler, so I can't comment on it. Kardar is probably not an introductory text, since it corresponds to a first year graduate course at MIT. You can get Kardar's 8.333 and 8.334 lecture notes at <http://ocw.mit.edu/OcwWeb/Physics/index.htm>, which are just as good except they are not nicely bound. Eric Poisson has lecture notes on his website <http://www.physics.uoguelph.ca/~poisson/research/notes.html>, which may be helpful. I've not read his statistical mechanics notes, but his General Relativity notes were very clearly written (on the other hand, Kerson Huang's statistical mechanics text is incomprehensible to me although I found his quantum field theory text useful).
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