is the boltzmann factor the probability of a particular state of a system? can someone explain the partition function to me (qualitatively please!), we've been using it in class and i don't get it. we derived what the partition function was for a general system. usually when learning physics and i don't understand something it's because i'm looking at the math and i don't understand the physical interpretation of something, what something "is" physically. but in this case, we're rather studying physical phenomena using statistics, and so i have to be able to look at things and understand what's going on statistically (statistics is a class which i haven't taken yet). So, statistically, i don't understand what the partition function "is". What does it tell me? all i know is what i can do with it, kind of... i can convert between the boltzmann factor of a particular state and the probability of that state, and that's all i know. could someone give me a better feel for what the partition function is? i've looked on wikipedia and google searched it but i didn't really get much..