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Maxwell-boltzmann distribution

  1. Jul 3, 2012 #1
    Hello everyone.

    This is more of statistical / probability question.
    I need to understand Maxwell-Boltzmann distribution, but I find wikipedia article way out of my league.. I really can't understand lot of what they are saying.

    Is there a good reading material that I can introduce myself with this distribution?
    I am familiar with its usage, but not so much sure about the derivation and what not.

    Thank you.
  2. jcsd
  3. Jul 3, 2012 #2
    There are (at least) two levels of understanding:
    1 - What it is, what it means, and where it is used (not too hard).
    2 - How it was derived (harder).

    For number 1- I would recommend you surf the web. There are a number of decent links that describe what this distribution is and how it is used (for example kinetic theory of gasses). In particular, look for links that show animations of particles bouncing around in a box. Some of these allow you to slow down the animation and you can follow a single particle with your eyes and witness its velocity (and thus energy) changing as it collides with other particles. You will be able to see how the overall distribution of speeds changes with temperature. The link that I have attached seems good.


    Are you are interested in learning how the distribution is derived?
  4. Jul 3, 2012 #3
    Thank you so much for the helpful link!

    I am definitely interested in derivation! I feel like I truly understand only when I really understand the derivation. It would really be wonderful if I can get hold of text that explains the derivation.

    Otherwise, understanding how it is used, and what it means will also be helpful. But, with the way Wikipedia page is written, I feel like I can only get superficial understanding of it.
  5. Jul 4, 2012 #4
    One way for you to ease into the theory of this gently is to watch Dr. Susskind's lectures on statistical mechanics (Stanford University, on YouTube). Lectures 1 through 3 take you through Boltzmann. This will be an investment in time, each lecture is 2 hours. If you decide to do this, get out a notebook and take notes as if you were taking a class.
  6. Jul 4, 2012 #5
    thank you so much for taking your time to give your response!
    I would definitely be willing to invest those time.
    My summer plan is just study math and physics (which I really have been keeping past one month by going to library almost every day!)

    Do you have any recommendation on statistical mechanics book?
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