The study of large systems through coarse graining microscopic descriptions, providing a more detailed understanding of thermodynamics.

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What are the justifying foundations of statistical mechanics without appealing to the ergodic hypothesis?

This question was listed as one of the questions in the proposal (see here), and I didn't know the answer. I don't know the ethics on blatantly stealing such a question, so if it should be deleted or ...
58
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1answer
8k views

If we had a “perfectly efficient” computer and all the energy in the Milky-way available, what number could it count to?

The idea for this question comes from an example in cryptography, where supposedly 256-bit symmetric keys will be enough for all time to come (brute-forcing a 256-bit key is sort-of equivalent to ...
47
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6answers
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Why does a system try to minimize its total energy?

Why does a system like to minimize its total energy? For example, the total energy of a $H_2$ molecule is smaller than the that of two two isolated hydrogen atoms and that is why two $H$ atoms tries ...
45
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5answers
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Is there a Lagrangian formulation of statistical mechanics?

In statistical mechanics, we usually think in terms of the Hamiltonian formalism. At a particular time $t$, the system is in a particular state, where "state" means the generalised coordinates and ...
39
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4answers
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How exact is the analogy between statistical mechanics and quantum field theory?

Famously, the path integral of quantum field theory is related to the partition function of statistical mechanics via a Wick rotation and there is therefore a formal analogy between the two. I have a ...
37
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6answers
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Is there a thermodynamic limit on how efficiently you can solve a Rubik's cube?

Suppose I build a machine which will be given Rubik's cubes that have been scrambled to one of the $\sim 2^{65}$ possible positions of the cube, chosen uniformly at random. Is it possible for the ...
35
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7answers
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Homemade salad dressing separates into layers after it sits for a while. Why doesn't this violate the 2nd law of thermodynamics?

The oil, vinegar and other liquids in homemade salad dressing separate into layers after sitting for a while, making the mixture become more organized as time evolves. Why doesn't this violate the ...
35
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0answers
518 views

Systematic approach to deriving equations of collective field theory to any order

The collective field theory (see nLab for a list of main historical references) which came up as a generalization of the Bohm-Pines method in treating plasma oscillations are often used in the study ...
33
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1answer
672 views

$(\mu,P,T)$ pseudo-ensemble: why is it not a proper thermodynamic ensemble?

While teaching statistical mechanics, and describing the common thermodynamic ensembles (microcanonical, canonical, grand canonical), I usually give a line on why there can be no $(\mu, P, T)$ ...
32
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7answers
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How is $\frac{dQ}{T}$ measure of randomness of system?

I am studying entropy and its hard for me to catch up what exactly is entropy. Many articles and books write that entropy is the measure of randomness or disorder of the system. They say when a gas ...
31
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5answers
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What are some critiques of Jaynes' approach to statistical mechanics?

Suggested here: What are the justifying foundations of statistical mechanics without appealing to the ergodic hypothesis? I was wondering about good critiques of Jaynes' approach to statistical ...
30
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5answers
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Why don't things get destroyed by gas molecules flying around?

Gas molecules go at an insane velocity, and though they are miniscule, yet there is a LOT of them. Of course, because of all these molecules hurtling around, there is air pressure; yet if you envision ...
29
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2answers
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Why do we expect our theories to be independent of cutoffs?

Final edit: I think I pretty much understand now (touch wood)! But there's one thing I don't get. What's the physical reason for expecting the correlation functions to be independent of the cutoff? I....
28
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3answers
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First and second order phase transitions

Recently I've been puzzling over the definitions of first and second order phase transitions. The Wikipedia article (at the time of writing) starts by explaining that Ehrenfest's original definition ...
26
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6answers
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How can fast moving particles gain energy from slow moving ones?

Imagine a large diameter piston filled with water connected to a small funnel. When you press on the piston slowly but with considerable force the water will move very quickly from the funnel in form ...
26
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4answers
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Prove that negative absolute temperatures are actually hotter than positive absolute temperatures

Could someone provide me with a mathematical proof of why, a system with an absolute negative Kelvin temperature (such that of a spin system) is hotter than any system with a positive temperature (in ...
24
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4answers
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The unreasonable effectiveness of the partition function

In a first course on statistical mechanics the partition function is normally introduced as the normalisation for the probability of a particle being in a particular energy level. $$p_j=\frac{1}{Z}\...
24
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4answers
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How do you prove $S=-\sum p\ln p$?

How does one prove the formula for entropy $S=-\sum p\ln p$? Obviously systems on the microscopic level are fully determined by the microscopic equations of motion. So if you want to introduce a law ...
24
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1answer
2k views

Why is the partition function called ''partition function''?

The partition function plays a central role in statistical mechanics. But why is it called ''partition function''?
24
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0answers
731 views

Can Lee-Yang zeros theorem account for triple point phase transition?

Now the prominent Lee-Yang theorem (or Physical Review 87, 410, 1952) has almost become a standard ingredient of any comprehensive statistical mechanics textbook. If the volume tends to infinity, ...
23
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3answers
405 views

Does entropy measure extractable work?

Entropy has two definitions, which come from two different branches of science: thermodynamics and information theory. Yet, they both are thought to agree. Is it true? Entropy, as seen from ...
22
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5answers
7k views

Is there any proof for the 2nd law of thermodynamics?

Are there any analytical proofs for the 2nd law of thermodynamics? Or is it based entirely on empirical evidence?
22
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1answer
627 views

Mermin-Wagner theorem in the presence of hard-core interactions

It seems quite common in the theoretical physics literature to see applications of the "Mermin-Wagner theorem" (see wikipedia or scholarpedia for some limited background) to systems with hard-core ...
21
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1answer
801 views

List of known universality classes

I am working with RG and have a pretty good idea of how it works. However I have noticed that even though the idea of universality class is very general and makes it possible to classify critical ...
21
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1answer
311 views

Fluctuations of an interface with hammock potential

This question is related to that one. I ask it here since comments are too short for the extended discussion that was going on there. I am interested in a very simple interface model. To each $x\in\...
20
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5answers
278 views

Connections and applications of SLE in physics

In probability theory, the Schramm–Loewner evolution, also known as stochastic Loewner evolution or SLE, is a conformally invariant stochastic process. It is a family of random planar curves that are ...
20
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What is the difference between thermodynamics and statistical mechanics?

What is the difference between thermodynamics and statistical mechanics?
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1answer
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How did Kelvin make this fascinating calculation?

I was just reading Lord Kelvin's "The Sorting Demon Of Maxwell" where I found this quote concerning what Maxwell's Demon can do: (He) can direct the energy of the moving molecules of a basin of ...
19
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Home experiment to estimate Avogadro's number?

How to get an approximation of Avogadro or Boltzmann constant through experimental means accessible by an hobbyist ?
19
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1answer
538 views

Are there any modern textbooks on statistical mechanics which don't ignore Gibbs' analysis of the microcanonical ensemble?

I have lately been reading Gibbs' book Elementary Principles in Statistical Mechanics, and I'm surprised how much in that book seems to have been ignored by later textbook writers. In particular, ...
18
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Ignorance in statistical mechanics

Consider this penny on my desc. It is a particular piece of metal, well described by statistical mechanics, which assigns to it a state, namely the density matrix $\rho_0=\frac{1}{Z}e^{-\beta H}$ (...
18
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2answers
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Ising model for dummies

I am looking for some literature on the Ising model, but I'm having a hard time doing so. All the documentation I seem to find is way over my knowledge. Can you direct me to some documentation on it ...
18
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1answer
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Motivation for the use of Tsallis entropy

Every now and again I hear something about Tsallis entropy, $$ S_q(\{p_i\}) = \frac{1}{q-1}\left( 1- \sum_i p_i^q \right), \tag{1} $$ and I decided to finally get around to investigating it. I haven't ...
17
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6answers
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Does the scientific community consider the Loschmidt paradox resolved? If so what is the resolution?

Does the scientific community consider the Loschmidt paradox resolved? If so what is the resolution? I have never seen dissipation explained, although what I have seen a lot is descriptions of ...
17
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4answers
984 views

Why is it often assumed that particles are found in energy eigenstates?

Energy eigenstates provide a convenient basis for solving quantum mechanics problems, but they are by no means the only allowable states. Yet it seems to me that particles/systems are assumed to be in ...
17
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3answers
632 views

Could temperature have been defined as $-\partial S/\partial U$?

When coming up with a definition of temperature, it's typical to start with an empirical definition that a system with a hotter temperature tends to lose heat to a system with a colder temperature. ...
16
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3answers
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How Non-abelian anyons arise in solid-state systems?

Recently it has been studied non-abelian anyons in some solid-state systems. These states are being studied for the creation and manipulation of qubits in quantum computing. But, how these non-...
16
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4answers
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What does Peter Parkers formula represent?

Okay, so the trailer for the new Spider Man movie is out and appearently our friendly physicist from the neightborhood came up with something. However I can't find out what this is. Transcription: ...
16
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5answers
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Can a single classical particle have any entropy?

recently I have had some exchanges with @Marek regarding entropy of a single classical particle. I always believed that to define entropy one must have some distribution. In Quantum theory, a single ...
16
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4answers
832 views

What is a simple intuitive way to see the relation between imaginary time (periodic) and temperature relation?

I guess I never had a proper physical intuition on, for example, the "KMS condition". I have an undergraduate student who studies calculation of Hawking temperature using the Euclidean path integral ...
16
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2answers
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Is this Landau's other critical phenomena mistake?

There was an old argument by Landau that while the liquid gas transition can have a critical point, the solid-liquid transition cannot. This argument says that the solid breaks translational symmetry, ...
16
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1answer
447 views

How is the logarithmic correction to the entropy of a non extremal black hole derived?

I`ve just read, that for non extremal black holes, there exists a logarithmic (and other) correction(s) to the well known term proportional to the area of the horizon such that $S = \frac{A}{4G} + K ...
15
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5answers
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Why isn't absolute $0 K$ temperature possible?

So $T$ is defined as $$T = \left(\frac{\partial E}{\partial S}\right)$$ and $S$ is defined as $$S = k_B \ln \Omega$$ where $\Omega$ is the number of accessible states of the system for a given $E$....
15
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7answers
663 views

Relativity of temperature paradox

The imagined scenario: Part A: From special relativity we know that velocity is a relative physical quantity, that is, it is dependent on the frame of reference of choice. This means that kinetic ...
15
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1answer
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Onsager's Regression Hypothesis, Explained and Demonstrated

Onsager's 1931 regression hypothesis asserts that “…the average regression of fluctuations will obey the same laws as the corresponding macroscopic irreversible process". (Here is the links to Onsager'...
15
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How do you prove the second law of thermodynamics from statistical mechanics?

How do you prove the second law of thermodynamics from statistical mechanics? To prove entropy will only increase with time? How to prove? Please guide.
15
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2answers
75 views

Sampling typical clusters between distant points in subcritical percolation

I have on several occasions wondered how one might proceed in order to sample large subcritical Bernoulli bond-percolation clusters, say on the square lattice. More precisely, let's consider the ...
15
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4answers
437 views

Comments on entropy and the direction of time in Landau and Lifshitz's Statistical Mechanics

In Landau and Lifshitz's Stat Mech Volume I is the comment: However, despite this symmetry, quantum mechanics does in fact involve an important non-equivalence of the two directions of time. ...
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Why does the Boltzmann factor $e^{-E/kT}$ seem to imply that lower energies are more likely?

I'm looking for an intuitive understanding of the factor $$e^{-E/kT}$$ so often discussed. If we interpret this as a kind of probability distribution of phase space, so that $$\rho(E) = \frac{e^{-E/kT}...
14
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2answers
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Doesn't entropy increase backwards in time, too?

In statistical explanations of entropy, we can often read about a (thought) experiment of the following sort. We have a bunch of particles in box, packed densely in one of the corners. We assume some ...