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Tolman's Principles of Statistical Mechanics

  1. Jun 21, 2012 #1


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    I'm looking for a good book on statistical mechanics (to go with a course) and I've been considereing Tolman's book
    Is this book still up to date with the quantum mechanics? (I've read that the notation is outdated, how much of a problem would that be?)
    Would you recommend a better book or is Tolman the way to go?

    The reason I'm leaning towards this book is that it has a large section on classical statistical mechanics while other books usually jump straight to the quantum mechanics.

    Last edited: Jun 21, 2012
  2. jcsd
  3. Jun 21, 2012 #2


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    Many people like Tolman's book. I read most of it and here are my thoughts.
    1) The physics hasn't changed, although it has certainly moved on beyond what's in Tolman's book. That's ok for an "intro" book, of course, but you can't read this book and think you know all of Stat Mech.
    2) Some of the terms and notation are old-fashioned. The partition function is called "the sum over states," for instance, and it isn't introduced until p. 522. Only you can tell if using a book whose notation differs from your course is an issue for you.
    3) The real strength of Tolman is the lengthy text and clear explanations, making it great for self-study. It occurred to me at some point that I felt like I was sitting in a lecture. It's as though Tolman transcribed his course lectures--his voice, style, clear way of explaining, come through loud and clear and at great length.
    4) If you are supplementing a course, that same length and slow pace can be a disadvantage. The sheer number of pages devoted to each topic may not work well if you have to also read your primary course book (and do problem sets) according to an aggressive schedule.

    Other suggestions? Chandler wrote an intro text that is excellent. Reif's Statistical and Thermal Physics is still the most widely used classic text, for advanced undergrad and grad classes. I like it, but be aware that some people find it wordy. (It's not nearly so wordy as Tolman, however.) Pathria is widely used as well, though I find it a little harder to follow. The one by Landau and Lifgarbagez is characteristic of all their books--beautiful, insightful and advanced.
    Last edited: Jun 21, 2012
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