Physics 306         Thermal Physics        Spring 2012

Instructor: Meigan Aronson

Office:  B-106 Physics and Astronomy
Telephone:  (631) 632-8091, (631)344-4915
Office hours: Tues 11:15-12:30pm and by appointment

Grader: Martin Polacek

Office: C-123 Physics and Astronomy
Office hours:  Monday 2:20-3:40pm

Meeting Times: 9:50-11:10am
Tuesday and Thursdays in
Physics and Astronomy Room P130


``A theory is the more impressive the greater the simplicity of its premises, the more different kinds of things it relates, and the more extended its area of applicability. Therefore the deep impression that classical thermodynamics made upon me. It is the only physical theory of universal content which I am convinced will never be overthrown, within the framework of applicability of its basic concepts.'' -- A. Einstein

About Thermal Physics: Thermal physics describes the properties of collections of classical and quantum mechanical objects, not their individual properties.  We will study both thermodynamics, which is the description of the macroscopic properties of objects, and statistical physics, which identifies and characterizes the states accessible to different sorts of systems. Quantities such as temperature, internal energy, work, and heat will be introduced, and we will see how they are related to the ideas of accessible states, multiplicity, and entropy. The first and second laws of thermodynamics will be introduced, and then will be explored by discussing heat engines and refrigerators. Phase transitions and equilibrium between states will be explored, and the course concludes with an introduction to classical Boltzmann statistics and quantum statistics.

Textbook:   An Introduction to Thermal Physics  by Daniel V. Schroeder  (Addison-Wesley-Longman, 2000)

Course Website:
Homework assignments and solutions will be posted here, as well as the updated syllabus, announcements and other class materials. Please visit regularly!

Grading Policy  Your course grade will  be determined from your scores on the two in-class midterms (20% each), the comprehensive final exam(30%), and the weekly homework(30%). The exams will all be closed book, but you can bring an index card of  useful information with you to the exam. I encourage you to work together on the homeworhk assignments, which are crucial for mastering the material. Homework will be assigned and collected in class on a weekly basis. A late fee of 20% per day is assessed on homework which is not handed in on time.

DISABILITY SUPPORT SERVICES (DSS) STATEMENT  If you have a physical, psychological, medical, or learning disability that may impact your course work, please contact Disability Support Services (631) 632-6748, . They will determine with you what accommodations are necessary and appropriate. All information and documentation is confidential. Students who require assistance during emergency evacuation are encouraged to discuss their needs with their professors and Disability Support Services. For procedures and information go to:

ACADEMIC INTEGRITY STATEMENT. Each student must pursue his or her academic goals honestly and be personally accountable for all submitted work. Representing another person's work as your own is always wrong. Faculty are required to report any suspected instance of academic dishonesty to the Academic Judiciary. For more comprehensive information on academic integrity, including categories of academic dishonesty, please refer to the academic judiciary website at

CRITICAL INCIDENT MANAGEMENT Stony Brook University expects students to respect the rights, privileges, and property of other people. Faculty are required to report to the Office of Judicial Affairs any disruptive behavior that interrupts their ability to teach, compromises the safety of the learning environment, and/or inhibits students' ability to learn.


Weekly Class Schedule

Lecture   Topic Reading Homework Solutions
24-Jan Temperature and Ideal Gas 1.1-1.3    
26-Jan Energy and Work/1st law of thermal dynamics 1.4-1.6    
31-Jan Transport Phenomena 1.6-1.7    
2-Feb Macrostates and Microstates 2.1-2.3 HW#1 due HW#1
7-Feb Entropy/ 2nd Law of Thermodynamics /Temperature
9-Feb Entropy and Temperature Part 2
HW#2 due HW#2
14-Feb Ideal Gas Equation of State 3.1-3.2,2.5-2.6    
16-Feb Systems with a Limited Energy Spectrum 3.3 HW#3 due HW#3
21-Feb Thermodynamic Identities 3.4-3.6    
23-Feb Overview Practice Exam HW#4 due HW#4
28-Feb Midterm 1  Chapters 1-3   Midterm
1-Mar Heat Engines 4.1,4.3
6-Mar Refrigerators 4.2    
8-Mar Thermodynamic Potentials 5.1-5.2 HW#5 due HW#5
13-Mar Phase Equilibrium 5.3    
15-Mar Phase Equilibrium and van der Waals gas 5.3 HW#6 due HW#6
20-Mar Binary Mixtures 5.4    
22-Mar Dilute solutions 5.5 HW#7 due HW#7
27-Mar  Chemical Reactions 5.6    
29-Mar Canonical Ensembles 6.3,6.4,6.6,6.7  HW#8 due HW#8
April 2-8 Spring Break
10-Apr Boltzmann Statistics 6.1,6.2,6.5    
12-Apr Statistics of Ideal Quantum Systems 7.1,7.2  HW#9 due HW#9
17-Apr Overview Practice Exam   Practice
19-Apr Midterm 2 Chapters 4-6 Midterm
24-Apr Degenerate Fermi gas 7.2-7.3    
26-Apr Blackbody Radiation 7.4 HW#10 due HW#10
1-May Debye Solid and Phonons 7.5    
3-May Bose Einstein Condensation 7.6 HW#11 due HW#11
10-May Final Exam: 11:15AM-1:45PM   Practice Solutions