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Statistical mechanics: mathematical preparation?

  1. Dec 27, 2007 #1
    Hey everyone,

    I'm about to take a senior-level undergraduate course in statistical mechanics

    What preparation in terms of mathematics and statistics knowledge do you think I'll need?

    Is there any material in math/stats you would recommend for reading before the course starts?

  2. jcsd
  3. Dec 28, 2007 #2


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    I don't think you need much preparation. In my experience, most topics in statistical mechanics come sort of naturally from the physics. If you really want to prepare you might want to read up on general statistics (mean value, standard deviation) and some calculus (integration, especially Gaussian - though I doubt you'll really need that much and if you do, it won't be thoroughly repeated in the first lectures).
    (Disclaimer: Note however, that this is my personal experience at my own university, and your experience or your course may differ. :smile:)

    Is there no information page for the course which lists the prerequisites?
  4. Dec 28, 2007 #3
    No, the course information page ( http://www.physics.utoronto.ca/undergraduate/courses/fourth-year/PHY480S.html [Broken] ) is very vague, plus there is not going to be a textbook for the course, though the prof did list a bunch of recommended books:

    I'm assuming that the course will be taught at almost a graduate level since we had to take a statistical mechanics course in our sophomore year with Kittel & Kroemer's "Thermal Physics" book.
    Last edited by a moderator: May 3, 2017
  5. Dec 28, 2007 #4
    Jeez, Pathria as recommended reading. Pathria IS very comprehensive, I'll give it that. . . but my final judgment on the book was it was just a horrible text for me at the time, and not a great text for anyone at any time. We used it in the grad level class, and I had never had either an undergrad stat mech nor thermo class before. If all I'd had was Pathria I wouldn't have learned much.

    I found an old Kittel book from the library, "Elementary Statistical Mechanics" and that helped quite a bit. If you had a really good modern physics course maybe pathria is a good place to start, but it wouldn't hurt to look at the Kittel book first to see if it helps your foundation any.
  6. Dec 28, 2007 #5


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    If I quickly scan the topic list at the bottom of that link, I don't think there is anything of which you won't find at least the basics covered in Kittel (the Thermal Physics book). Since I understand from your post that you had already bought that, I'd just try and see how far that gets you at first. I think maybe on quantum statistics it may not be entirely sufficient, but that also depends on how far the course will go. Also, maybe there are course notes that you can buy / will be handed out in class?
  7. Dec 28, 2007 #6
    Hmm he hasn't said anything about course notes, everything he's said is on the page.

    What would I need to know for quantum statistics in terms of math and statistics?
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