Prof teaches Statistical thermodynamics in a Classical Thermodynamics class

In summary: Well, I'm not sure how I got here. I was browsing the topics for my thermodynamics course and this one popped up. I didn't bother to look at the date. I guess I assumed it was recent. For those interested I go to UC Santa Barbara and my thermo course is taught by Prof. Matzger. I have the syllabus right here in front of me and it is very similar to what you guys have been talking about. We are using the same book as well.In summary, the conversation discusses the topics covered in a "Classical Thermodynamics" class, which includes ideal gas, equipartition of energy, heat and work, heat capacities, rates of processes, multip
  • #1
ultimateguy
125
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.
 
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  • #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.
 
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  • #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.
 
  • #4
TMFKAN64 said:
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.

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.
 
  • #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.
 
  • #6
HungryChemist said:
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.

I woud agree with that... I felt after taking my thermal course that while we did not spend a lot of time on clasical concepts it was the statisical concepts that offered the most utlity to understanding the phenomena described
 
  • #7
That sounds like a very good and reasonable thermo class.
 
  • #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).
 
  • #9
Um, this thread is two years old.
 
  • #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.
 
  • #11
Vanadium 50 said:
Um, this thread is two years old.

Um, ok.

lol.
 

1. What is the difference between statistical thermodynamics and classical thermodynamics?

Statistical thermodynamics is a branch of thermodynamics that uses statistical methods to explain the macroscopic behavior of a system, while classical thermodynamics is based on empirical laws and does not consider the microscopic behavior of particles.

2. What are some applications of statistical thermodynamics?

Statistical thermodynamics is used in various fields such as chemistry, physics, and materials science to understand and predict the behavior of systems at the atomic and molecular level. It is also used in the development of new materials and technologies.

3. How does statistical thermodynamics relate to quantum mechanics?

Statistical thermodynamics is based on the principles of quantum mechanics, which describe the behavior of particles at the atomic and subatomic level. Statistical methods are used to make predictions about the behavior of a large number of particles, based on their quantum properties.

4. What are some key concepts in statistical thermodynamics?

Some key concepts in statistical thermodynamics include entropy, partition function, and free energy. Entropy is a measure of the disorder of a system, while the partition function describes the distribution of particles in a system. Free energy is a measure of the available energy in a system that can be used to do work.

5. How can statistical thermodynamics be applied to real-world problems?

Statistical thermodynamics can be applied to many real-world problems, such as understanding the behavior of gases and liquids, predicting phase transitions, and designing new materials. It can also be used to study biological systems, such as proteins and DNA, and to understand the behavior of complex systems such as the Earth's climate.

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