Skip to main content

PHYS 432/532 Thermal Physics

Updated 2014 Aug 23 Sat

Location:  MP-408       Time:  MWF 10:30 – 11:45pm

Prerequisites:  PHYS 309
Required preparation (mathematical): Ability to master Appendix B of Schroeder
Recommended review (quantum physics): Appendix A on Quantum Mechanics in Schroeder
Students who have received credit for PHYS 432 may not enroll in PHYS 532.

TextIntroduction to Thermal Physics by Daniel Schroeder, 1st edition
Author’s corrections to the 1st edition
InstructorDr. Hanna     (208) 426-3775     MP-425
Office Hours:  MW 4:00-5:00pm in MP-425, or by appointment

Week Mon date Topics
Part 1:    First and Second Laws
(Exam 1 over Chapters 1 and 2 on Wed Oct 2)
1. 8/26 Thermal Equilibrium & Ideal Gas;  Heat and Work;  Compression
reading:  1.1-1.2a (1-13);  1.3-1.5a (14-22);  1.5b (23-26)
H1 due 9/4:   1.7, 1.8, 1.16, 1.23, 1.24, 1.33, 1.34, 1.36, 1.38
2. 9/2 (Labor Day);  Heat Capacity and Enthalpy;  Heat conduction
reading:  1.6 (28-35);  1.7a,b (37-44)
H2 due 9/9:   1.41, 1.45, 1.47, 1.50, 1.56, 1.61, 1.63, 1.68
3. 9/9 Viscosity and Diffusion;  Two-State Systems;  Einstein Solid
reading:  1.7c,d (44-48);  2.1 (49-53);  2.2 (53-55)
H3 due 9/16:  1.39, 1.46, 2.1, 2.3, 2.5, 2.6, 2.7
4. 9/16 Interacting Systems;  Large Systems;  Monatomic Ideal Gas
reading:  2.3 (56-59);  2.4 (60-66);  2.5a (68-72)
H4 due 9/23:  2.8, 2.13, 2.16, 2.18, 2.22, 2.26
5. 9/23 Multiplicity of an Ideal Gas;  Entropy;  Mixing
reading:  2.5b (72-74);  2.6a,b (74-78);  2.6c,d (79-83)
H5 due 9/30:  2.27, 2.28, 2.29, 2.30, 2.32, 2.38
6. 9/30 Review;  Exam 1 (Wed Oct 2);  Temperature & Entropy
reading:  (Review Chapters 1 & 2);  (Exam 1);  3.1,3.2 (85-97)
H6 due 10/9:  2.24, 2.34, 2.36, 2.37, 3.1, 3.3
Part 2:    Thermodynamics
(Exam 2 over Chapters 3, 4.1-4.2, 4.4b, and 5.1-5.4a on Wed Nov 6)
7. 10/7 Paramagnetism;  Mechanical Equilibrium;  Diffusive Equilibrium
reading:  3.3 (98-107);  3.4 (108-113);  3.5,3.6 (115-121)
H7 due 10/14:  3.20, 3.25, 3.31, 3.32, 3.35, 3.37
Extra Credit:  3.19, 3.23
8. 10/14 Heat Engines;  Refrigerators and Throttling;  Free Energy
reading:  4.1 (122-126);  4.2 (127-129), 4.4b (139-143);  5.1 (149-158)
H8 due 10/21:  4.1, 4.2, 4.10, 4.15, 4.33, 5.5, 5.11
Extra Credit:  5.12
9. 10/21 Toward Equilibrium;  Phase Transformations;  van der Waals Model
reading:  5.2 (161-165);  5.3a,b,c (166-174);  5.3d1 (180-181)
H9 due 10/28:  5.20, 5.23, 5.28, 5.32, 5.35, 5.36
10. 10/28 Maxwell Construction;  Free Energy of a Mixture;  Review
reading:  5.3d2 (181-185);  5.4a (186-191);  (Review Chapters 3,4,5)
H10 due 11/4:  5.22, 5.30, 5.37, 5.48, 5.50, 5.51
Part 3:    Statistical Mechanics
(Comprehensive Final Exam emphasizing chapters 6.1-6.3, 6.5-6.7, and 7 on Wed Dec 18)
11. 11/4 Boltzmann Factor;  Exam 2 (Wed Nov 6);  Average Values
reading:  6.1 (220-227);  (Exam 2);  6.2 (229-236)
H11 due 11/11:  6.3, 6.6, 6.12, 6.18, 6.20, 6.23
12. 11/11 Equipartition, Speed, and Free Energy;  Composite Systems;  Gibbs Factor
reading:  6.3-6.5 (238-248);  6.6,6.7 (249-255);  7.1 (257-260)
H12 due 11/18:  6.31, 6.33, 6.43, 6.48, 6.52, 7.7
Extra CreditExtra Credit for H12
13. 11/18 Bosons and Fermions;  Fermi Gas;  Density of States
reading:  7.2 (262-269);  7.3a,b (271-276);  7.3c,d (277-282)
H13 due 12/2:  7.10, 7.11, 7.19, 7.22, 7.26, 7.28
 11/25-29  Thanksgiving Break  
14. 12/2 Planck Distribution;  Photon Gas;  Cavity Radiation
reading:  7.4a-e (288-293);  7.4f-h (294-296);  7.4i-k (300-306)
H14 due 12/9:  7.38, 7.42, 7.44, 7.45, 7.51, 7.54
Extra Credit: Extra Credit for H14 or H15
15. 12/9 Debye Solids;  Bose-Einstein Condensation
reading:  7.5 (307-312);  7.6 (315-323)
H15 due 12/18:  7.58, 7.60, 7.66
Extra Credit: 7.67, 7.68
*** FINAL EXAM on Wed Dec 18 from 12:00pm-2:00pm ***

GOALS: To obtain a basic understanding of the key concepts of thermal physics, especially the use and basic applications of equilibrium statistical mechanics and elementary thermodynamics in problems of pedagogical and practical importance.  The course objectives will be accomplished through lecture and discussion of selected topics in class and by students working through the assigned parts of text, including all assigned homework problems. Assessment will come from exams and assigned homework.

SYLLABUS: The syllabus describes the intended progression of the course. The syllabus and homework assignments will be revised as needed. Changes to the syllabus and the homework assignments will be posted on the course web page,, which should be checked frequently for updates.

TEXTBOOK: The textbook is central to this course, including the examinations, homework, and topics covered in and out of class.  The textbook pages that are covered in each class meeting are listed in the syllabus.  Please read those pages before the class meeting, ask questions and take notes in class, and re-read those pages after class.  It is recommended that you prepare study notes defining all boldface terms in the textbook readings, and that you know their meaning and significance, especially those terms that are set apart for emphasis in the textbook (such as the fundamental assumption of statistical mechanics, etc.).

EXAMS: 75% of the PHYS 432 grade*, and 66% of the PHYS 532 grade*, is based on the exams.  The exams are based on the textbook readings, the numbered examples in the text, the homework, and the class lectures. ALL EXAMS WILL BE COUNTED, AND NO MAKE-UP EXAMS WILL BE GIVEN. There will be two in-class exams and a two-hour final exam (all 3 exams are worth the same amount of credit).  Only simple scientific calculators allowed during exams: no calculators that are capable of graphing, integration, differentiation, or symbolic algebra are allowed.

FORMULA SHEETS: Each exam will include an instructor-prepared cumulative formula sheet containing selected numbered formulas from those sections of the chapters that are covered on the exam.  It is recommended that you print the formula sheet in advance of the exam and study every formula carefully. It is your responsibility to know the meaning of every symbol on the formula sheet, and to understand the meaning, applicability, and use of every equation it contains.

HOMEWORK: 25% of the PHYS 432 grade*, and 22% of the PHYS 532 grade*, is based on the homework. Hand in what you have on the due date, at the beginning of class. NO LATE HOMEWORK ACCEPTED. Homework problems will form the basis for many of the exam problems. Look over your graded homework carefully and make sure you can work and understand every assigned homework problem. You are strongly encouraged to talk to the instructor about any homework problems that you do not understand.  The last homework assignment counts as extra credit; however, all homework problems, including extra-credit homework assignments, may be used as a basis for exam questions.  You are responsible for being able to correctly solve all assigned and extra-credit homework problems, even those that you do not hand in.

*Note:  The instructor reserves the right to change the grading weights listed above for the homework and exams for all students, if evidence of sufficiently widespread academic dishonesty is discovered.

PHYS 532 PROJECT: 12% of the PHYS 532 grade is based on a written paper (7% of grade) and PowerPoint presentation of the paper (5% of grade).  PHYS 532 students will write a researched paper, with references, on a thermal-physics topic selected in consultation with the instructor, and will give a 15-minute PowerPoint presentation to the class, followed by time for questions.  Paper format: Title page (title, author name and information, one-paragraph abstract), at least 10 pages worth of double-spaced text for the main body (12-point font, 1-inch margins all around), not counting figures and references in standard form.  Please provide a hard copy of the paper, and e-mail the source files of the paper and the presentation to the instructor, on the due date.

LECTURES & ASSIGNED READINGS: Class lectures relate closely to the assigned readings in the text.  Students are expected to attend all lectures and participate actively in class.  Consult the syllabus and read the assigned pages before the material is covered in class.  Carefully work through all calculations presented in the assigned reading.  As you read, write down any questions you have about the reading and the numbered examples, and ask questions in class.

EXTRA CREDIT: Extra credit problems that are an integral part of the textbook readings may be given from time to time in class.  They should be handed in at the due date of the earliest upcoming homework assignment with that homework assignment.  In addition, the first person who emails the instructor with an accurate finding (and proposed correction) of an error in the text that has not already been listed in the Author’s Corrections (see the web links near the beginning of the syllabus) will also receive extra credit.  Note that the total possible amount of extra credit is very small, so students should only attempt extra credit if it enhances their learning and does not interfere with their course assignments and responsibilities.

ACADEMIC HONESTY: Although you are encouraged to discuss the class lectures, readings, and assignments with your classmates, all the work that you turn in must be your own. NO CHEATING OR PLAGIARISM (PRESENTING OTHER PEOPLE’S WORK AS IF IT WERE YOUR OWN) WILL BE TOLERATED, INCLUDING ANY USE OF HOMEWORK SOLUTIONS FOUND ON THE WEB.  If you make use of sources besides the class lectures or textbooks, you must provide explicit written references to the sources you use and specify where they were used, including any use of hints provided by the instructor.  Failure to follow this rule or any others listed in the Student Code of Conduct could have drastic consequences, including (but not limited to) ejection from the course with a failing grade.

*Note: The instructor reserves the right to change the grading weights listed above for the homework and exams for all students, if evidence of sufficiently widespread academic dishonesty is discovered.

GRADING:    A- to A+ = 90 – 100,   B- to B+ = 75 – 90,   C- to C+ = 60 – 75,   D- to D+ = 45 – 60