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Prof teaches Statistical thermodynamics in a Classical Thermodynamics class

  1. Dec 4, 2006 #1
    I'm just finishing up a "Classical Thermodynamics" class. Here is a list of topics we covered:

    Chapter 1: Ideal gas, equipartition of energy, heat and work, heat capacities, rates of processes
    Chapter 2: Multiplicity of an Einstein solid, of an ideal gas, of interacting systems
    Chapter 3: temperatures, entropy, two-state paramagnet, mechanical and diffusive equilibrium, chemical potential
    Chapter 4: Heat engines, Carnot cycle, etc.
    Chapter 5: Free energies, Helmholtz, Gibbs, etc. phase transformations
    Chapter 6: Boltzmann statistics, Boltzmann factors, partition function, maxwell distribution, canonical potential (Grand as well), average values for a gas
    Chapter 7: quantum statistics, Gibbs factor, Bosons and fermions, Fermi-Dirac distribution, Bose-Einstein distribution, degenerate Fermi gases

    My gripe is that my department has both Classical and Statistical Thermodynamics classes, and it seems that half of the classical class has been statistical. I spoke to a grad student who took the class, and he says that he doesn't recognize most of the things we did, mainly because there was a different prof. Sure enough, the things he doesn't recognize are the statistical chapters.

    I even looked on the library website for the last exam (which was taught by a different prof), and I don't think I could do 3/4 of the questions because they all appear to have classical concepts which I haven't seen.

    My prof's research area is condensed matter physics, and it seems as though he is simply trying to incorporate this into the class, even though it is isn't a part of the curriculum. How can profs do this? Why is it that two different profs can teach the same class, and the topics covered are almost entirely different?

    A friend and I were thinking of going to the chair of the department, but I wanted another opinion on this matter.
  2. jcsd
  3. Dec 4, 2006 #2
    Maybe it's just me, but that sounds like a fine themodynamics course.

    But actually answering your question, "Classical Thermodynamics" is a broad field. So of course two professors could have a different take on the subject, depending on exactly where their interests lie.
    Last edited: Dec 4, 2006
  4. Dec 4, 2006 #3
    looks like you're using the schroeder book right? i had that book for a class called "thermal physics" and i hated it, way too verbose, no examples etc... anyway, you're class seems to have the same ciriculum that mine did, i was surprised as well that we only got a brief introduction to classical thermo and spend most time doing statistical stuff.
  5. Dec 4, 2006 #4
    If it was general thermodynamics, I would agree. But because there is a statistical course specifically for this stuff, it doesn't seem right that I'm missing a bunch of classical concepts that students from previous years had the benefit of seeing.
  6. Dec 6, 2006 #5
    Classical Thermodynamics far much more illuminating when Statistical concept is addressed along with the same line. For that reason, I see the course outline to be just fine. If you're worried about missing out "Classical Thermodynamics", Just read it by side or over the break. My personal experience with Thermodynamics was that there are far much more to learn via statistical approach rather than the classical.
  7. Dec 6, 2006 #6
    I woud agree with that.... I felt after taking my thermal course that while we did not spend alot of time on clasical concepts it was the statisical concepts that offered the most utlity to understanding the phenomena described
  8. Dec 10, 2006 #7
    That sounds like a very good and reasonable thermo class.
  9. Feb 16, 2009 #8
    If you feel like you are really missing out on the classical thermodynamics, there are plenty of good texts to cover this material. However, it has been my experience that the most useful texts to cover classical thermodynamics has been Physical Chemistry texts. McQuarrie is a good text for this (be warned not to buy his Stat. Mech. book if you are looking for classical thermodynamics, you won't find much of it at all). By the looks of it you have covered a lot of the "classical" topics in thermodynamics, and it was probability presented to you in a way related to classical Kinetic theory (i.e. averages of distributions). For an undergraduate Physics course in thermo, you course is pretty close to Par.

    If you were a chemist...then you might be in trouble.

    I honestly wouldn't worry too much. The material you learned should be "classical" enough for you.

    Just a question... For the statistical thermodynamics course does the outline focus on non-equilibrium behavior? It seems that you are kind of being set up for those situations, or a rehashing of what you have learned from the "proper" method (The Gibbs ensemble approach to statistical mechanics, which is very powerful).
  10. Feb 16, 2009 #9

    Vanadium 50

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    Um, this thread is two years old.
  11. Feb 16, 2009 #10
    Most of the interesting topics in thermodynamics are taught in engineering thermodynamics classes. Physicists would rather play around with partition functions and microcanonical ensembles all day long.
  12. Feb 16, 2009 #11
    Um, ok.

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