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PHY2023 : Statistical Mechanics

  • Offered for Year: 2019/20
  • Module Leader(s): Professor Patrick Briddon
  • Owning School: Mathematics, Statistics and Physics
  • Teaching Location: Newcastle City Campus
Semester 2 Credit Value: 10
ECTS Credits: 5.0


To provide a knowledge and understanding of statistical mechanics and how this can be used to understand the behaviour of collections of large numbers of particles such as atoms, electrons, photons and phonons.

Outline Of Syllabus

Statistical interpretation of entropy. S = k lnΩ. Boltzmann distribution, 2-level system, Einstein and Debye theories of specific heat. Black body radiation. Specific heats of a diatomic molecule. Maxwell Boltzmann velocity distribution. In distinguishability, Fermi-Dirac and Bose-Einstein distributions.

Teaching Methods

Teaching Activities
Category Activity Number Length Student Hours Comment
Guided Independent StudyAssessment preparation and completion11:301:30Final exam
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesLecture51:005:00Formal problems class
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesLecture122:0024:00Formal lectures
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesDrop-in/surgery120:102:00Office hours
Guided Independent StudyIndependent study135:0035:00Reviewing lecture notes; background reading.
Guided Independent StudyIndependent study170:308:30Revision for final exam
Guided Independent StudyIndependent study122:0024:00Problem solving; preparation for problems class
Teaching Rationale And Relationship

The lectures are the main means of delivering the knowledge base required for the module. The lecturer highlights the important aspects and enhances understanding through illustrative examples. Exercises relating to the lecture material are set at regular intervals to encourage the development of a deeper understanding of the topics and enhance skills in problem solving and mathematical manipulation. Private study consolidates the knowledge and understanding acquired during lectures. Confidence in understanding basic physics and key problem solving skills is established through solving a variety of problems that illustrate the physics involved.
Formative feedback is given following the marking of the set exercises.
In addition, office hours provide an opportunity for more direct contact between individual students and the lecturer: a typical student might spend a total of one or two hours over the course of the module, either individually or as part of a group.

Assessment Methods

The format of resits will be determined by the Board of Examiners

Description Length Semester When Set Percentage Comment
Written Examination1202A90N/A
Other Assessment
Description Semester When Set Percentage Comment
Prob solv exercises2M10Weekly Problem Solving Exercises
Assessment Rationale And Relationship

Much of the material taught in the module is factual and the student is asked to demonstrate a knowledge and understanding of the content through being able to present the basic aspects of their knowledge of the material in an unseen written examination paper and to demonstrate an ability to manipulate numerical problems on the topics. Weekly exercises are set and assessed during the module to enhance the understanding of the material and nurture the progressive acquisition of skills in solving illustrative problems.

Reading Lists