Ph12c: Satistical Mechanics, Spring 2019

Course description: An introduction to statistical mechanics.

Course Information

Instructor: David Simmons-Duffin, Lauritsen 442, (dsd@caltech). Office hours by appointment.

Textbook: Thermal Physics (2nd Edition) by Charles Kittel and Herbert Kroemer

Lecture notes: Lecture notes are available here: Ph 12c 2019 Lecture notes. They are part of this git repository. If you spot a typo or want to suggest a clarification, and you are familiar with git, please submit a pull request.

Other references: Lecture notes for a previous iteration of this course are available at the Ph 12c 2016 website. This year's course will follow the 2016 course relatively closely, at least for the first several lectures. I am also drawing material from David Tong's lectures on statistical physics.

Offered: Spring term, 2019.

Class meetings:

Recitation leaders:


Grading: Grades will be based on weekly problem sets (50%), a midterm (20%), and a final exam (30%). The lowest homework grade during the term will be dropped.

Homework: Problem sets will be posted on this page on Thursday, and will be due in the Physics 12c inbox in Bridge Annex at 5:00 pm the following Thursday. Graded homework will be returned to the Physics 12c outbox in Bridge Annex by the following Monday morning. Solution sets will be posted on this page. Unexcused late homework will be accepted for half credit up until one week after the due date; there is no credit if your assignment is more than one week late. If your homework will be late for a good reason, you may request an extension before the assignment is due by sending email to that week’s grader.

Discussing and working in groups on the problem sets is encouraged. However, the final writeup must be your own. You may use a symbolic algebra system like Mathematica or Maple, but please indicate on your problem set if you do so.

Ombudspeople: Ryan White (rpwhite@caltech, Blacker House), Eric Moreno (emoreno@caltech, Ricketts House). Please send me an email if you'd like to volunteer as well.


Homework Assignments



The total grade was computed via 0.5(Homework) + 0.2(Midterm) + 0.3(final). Letter grades were assigned as follows.

A 86-95
A- 81-86
B 70-76
B- 65-70

The distribution of grades was: 8 A+, 10 A, 5 A-, 4 B+, 4 B, 5 <= B-.

Please fill out the TQFR for this course if you have not done so. The system will be available until July 7. Have a good summer!