Physics 621 - Statistical Physics I - Fall 2005

Current reading assignment

Currently, there is no reading assignment due for this class.

The reading assignment feedback page can be reached after logging in at Once you are logged in choose "Physics 621 - Fall 2005" and then "submit current assignment". If you do not see a "submit current assignment" button, there is no open assignment available.

If you want to learn more about the teaching technique "Just-In-Time Teaching" which is what these reading assignments are officially called, you may look at Gregor Novak, Evelyn T. Patterson, Andrew D. Garvin, and Wolfgang Christian, Just-in-Time Teaching: Blending Active Learning with Web Technology, Prentice Hall, Upper Saddle River, NJ, 1999, ISBN 0-13-085034-9)

Contact Information

Prof. Ralf Bundschuh

Office:2010 Physics Research Building
Office hours:after class and any
time I am in my office
Phone (office):(614) 688-3978
Phone (home):(614) 876-2372

Grader: Sarah Parks

Office:3025 Physics Research Building
Office hours:by appointment

General Information

Classes:Mondays, Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays 9:30am-10:18am
Location:Smith Lab 3094
Web page:
First class:Wednesday, September 21
Midterm exams:Monday, October 17, 9:30am-10:18am; Monday, November 7, 9:30am-10:18am
No class:Friday, November 11 (veterans' day)
No class:Thursday, November 24 (thanksgiving)
No class:Friday, November 25 (Columbus day)
Last class:Friday, December 2
Final exam:Wednesday, December 7, 7:30am-9:18am
Credit hours:4
Prerequisites: 263 (dynamics of particles and waves III) or equivalent

Problem Sets

Here, you will find the problem sets as they are handed out.

Online class system

You can access the online class system under In the online class system, you can find the points you got for your homework solutions and check on the results of the exams. You also submit the answers to reading assignments through this system and you can look up old reading assignments.

You identify yourself to the system using your last name and your four digit PIN. The first time you log in your PIN are the last four digits of your social security number. You are required to change this PIN at your first login. It is recommended to try the system out as soon as possible so that you know that you can log in successfully once the first reading assignemnt comes around.

Lecture notes

Here, you can find the lecture notes as the class progresses. Beware, these are scanned from my hand-written notes and thus rather large files.


In this and the following class (phy622) we will study the basics and some applications of statistical mechanics. The essence of statistical mechanics is to understand the macroscopic behavior of systems of many degrees of freedom from the microscopic behavior of their constituents. During the first quarter we will focus on the case of non-interacting particles. We will learn different formalisms capable of describing systems of many such particles. We will apply these techniques to example systems like the ideal gas. In the next quarter we will look at systems interacting particles which will allow us to look at phase transitions.


Daniel Schroeder, An Introduction to Thermal Physics, ISBN 0-201-38027-7

Other books

If you are interested in reading things from a different point of view, you can find a list of statistical mechanics textbooks on the web at Some of the books that I like are the following (I might actually use parts of Chowdhury and Stauffer's book next quarter when we talk about interacting particles and phase transitions, but I will provide the relevant material to you then.)


The grade for this class is determined by a weighted average of the weekly problem sets, the reading assignments, the midterm exams and the final exam. There will be no curve grading and I hope that everybody will get an A. The final grades will be determined according to the following scheme:

Problem Sets (20%)

Problem sets will be handed out every Thursday starting on September 22. The problem sets will also be available on the course web page. The problem sets are due the following Thursday by the close of business. The exception is problem set number 9 which is due on Monday, November 28, in class (due to Thanksgiving). Students who cannot attend class are requested to give their solutions to a fellow student or deposit them in my mailbox in the physics business office on the same day. If you have a good reason for not being able to complete your homework by the due date please contact me for approval of an extension and put it into my mailbox by the approved extended deadline. In the interest of protecting the grader from extra work due to homework trickeling in late, unapproved late homework and homework submitted directly to the grader's mailbox will not be accepted.

The solutions of the problem sets will be discussed during each Friday's class (with the exception of problem set number 9 which will be discussed Monday, November 28). You are strongly encouraged to discuss about the problem sets and any other aspect of the class with your fellow students. Group solutions to problem sets by two people working together are accepted. However, the solutions have to be hand-written by both students, either alternating weekly or within one week's solutions. Typed solutions will not be accepted.

Reading assignments (10%)

From time to time (about once a week) reading assignments of sections of the textbook will be given. These reading assignments will be announced on top of the course web page as well as in class. On days on which reading assignments are discussed in class you have to answer some questions about the reading using the online class system by 3:59am the day of class. Your answers will not be graded; the only requirement is that you submit the questionnaires on time. However, since the answers to these questions will help focus the discussion during the class to those issues you had difficulties with during your reading, it is in your own interest to answer these questions as honestly as possible. It is also not implausible that some of these questions might reappear on the exams. Your credit for this section of the course is the fraction of the reading assignment feedbacks that you have submitted on time.

Midterm Exams (20% each)

The midterm exams will take place on Monday, October 17, and on Monday, November 7, 9:30am-10:18am. Students who have any problem with the dates of the exams are asked to contact me as soon as possible. The first midterm exam will contain a problem related to the problem sets up to the one due on October 13 (set number 3) and a few conceptional questions related to the lectures up to the class on October 13. The second midterm exam will contain a problem related to the problem sets up to the one due on November 3 (set number 6) and a few conceptional questions related to the lectures up to the class on November 3. They will be closed book exams.

As examples of the conceptual questions, here are the questions I asked on the midterm in the graduate statistical physics course (phy846) two years ago. Note that this class had only one midterm which is why there are six questions - you will get only three per midterm. Also note that I presented things in a different order in the graduate class which is why you should not be worried about not being able to answer most of these questions - just take them as examples of the type of questions that I like to ask in the conceptual section.

Final Exam (30%)

The final exam will take place on Wednesday, December 7, 7:30am-9:18am. Students who have any problem with the date of the exam are asked to contact me as soon as possible.

The exam will contain several problems which will have a close resemblance to the problem sets of the full quarter with a strong emphasis on the second half of the quarter. There will be one problem asking for conceptual understanding and knowledge of basic definitions. It will be a closed book exam.

Attendance (0%)

Attendance during the lectures is not required. However, the problem sets will be closely related to the contents of the class and it is every students responsibility to keep up with announcements, etc., made in class if not present. In order not to disturb your fellow students I strongly discourage arriving to class late. I prefer you not coming to class over you coming in late.

Special needs

Students with any special needs are asked to inform me at their earliest convenience.

[OSU physics] [College of Mathematical and Physical Sciences] [The Ohio State University]
12/02/2005, Ralf Bundschuh