Questions tagged [statistical-mechanics]

The study of large, complicated systems by means of statistics and probability theory, in order to extract average properties and to provide a connection between mechanics and thermodynamics.

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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 ...
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31 votes
10 answers
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Can a single molecule have a temperature?

A show on the weather channel said that as a water molecule ascends in the atmosphere it cools. Does it make sense to talk about the temperature of a single molecule?
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43 votes
14 answers
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What is entropy really?

On this site, change in entropy is defined as the amount of energy dispersed divided by the absolute temperature. But I want to know: What is the definition of entropy? Here, entropy is defined as ...
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29 votes
8 answers
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Recommendations for statistical mechanics book

I learned thermodynamics and the basics of statistical mechanics but I'd like to sit through a good advanced book/books. Mainly I just want it to be thorough and to include all the math. And of course,...
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Liouville's Theorem and Boltzmann equation for plasma

The Boltzmann equation for a plasma can be thought of as coming from a continuity equation in the 6 dimensional phase space of the plasma with coordinates $\left\{x,y,z,v_x,v_y,v_z \right\}$. So ...
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Why are thermodynamic potentials minimised?

Why is it that, at equilibrium, certain potentials are minimised? That is, for a system at constant temperature and pressure, the Gibbs free energy is minimised, and for fixed volume and temperature, ...
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64 votes
7 answers
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Is the Boltzmann constant really that important?

I read a book in which one chapter gave a speech about the fundamental constants of the Universe, and I remember it stated this: If the mass of an electron, the Planck constant, the speed of light, ...
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8 answers
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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 ...
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30 votes
4 answers
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Is information entropy the same as thermodynamic entropy?

Context In one of his most popular books Guards! Guards!, Terry Pratchett makes an entropy joke: Knowledge equals Power, which equals Energy, which equals Mass Pratchett is a fantasy comedian and ...
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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.
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10 votes
3 answers
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What is the correct relativistic distribution function?

General Statement and Questions I am trying to figure out the proper way to model a velocity/momentum distribution function that is correct in the relativistic limit. I would like to determine/know ...
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30 votes
7 answers
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Why was the universe in an extraordinarily low-entropy state right after the big bang?

Let me start by saying that I have no scientific background whatsoever. I am very interested in science though and I'm currently enjoying Brian Greene's The Fabric of the Cosmos. I'm at chapter 7 and ...
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65 votes
5 answers
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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 ...
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Intuition behind Linked Cluster Theorem: connected vs. non-connected diagrams

Within statistical physics and quantum field theory, the linked cluster theorem is widely used to simplify things in the calculation of the partition function among other things. My question has the ...
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4 answers
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Chance of objects going against greater entropy?

My book uses the argument that the multiplicities of a few macrostates in a macroscopic object take up an extraordinarily large share of all possible microstates, such that even over the entire ...
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5 votes
2 answers
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Absolute zero and Heisenberg uncertainty principle

I got to read Volume I of Feynmann's lectures. It said that at absolute zero, molecular motion doesn't cease at all, because if that happens, we will be able to make precise determination of position ...
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What's the most fundamental definition of temperature?

What's the most fundamental definition of temperature? Is it the definition concern about average energy, number of micro states, or what? By "fundamental", I mean "to be applied" in such general ...
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2 answers
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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....
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52 votes
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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?
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6 answers
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Is there a quasistatic process that is not reversible?

I have seen several questions and good answers on the link between reversible and quasistatic processes, such as here or here. However, these questions only adress one side of the problem : a ...
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7 answers
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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 ...
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9 answers
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Is a spontaneous decrease in entropy *impossible* or just extremely unlikely?

I was reading this article from Ethan Siegel and I got some doubts about a sentence about entropy, specifically when Ethan explains the irreversibility of the conditions of the hot-and-cold room, as ...
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6 votes
5 answers
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Is limited computational capacity a fundamental obstacle?

Statistical physics books often motivate the necessity of statistical/thermodynamic description by impossibility of calculating the trajectories of all the molecules (I speak of "trajectories&...
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6 answers
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Is gravity an entropic force after all?

Recently, there was a rapid communication published in Phys.Rev.D (PRD 83, 021502), titled "Gravity is not an entropic force", that claimed that an experiment performed in 2002 with ultra cold ...
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17 votes
2 answers
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The statistical nature of the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics

Ok, so entropy increases... This is supposed to be an absolute statement about entropy. But then someone imagines a box with a 10 particle gas, and finds that every now and then all particles are in ...
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3 answers
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Is there some connection between the Virial theorem and a least action principle?

Both involve some 'averaging' over energies (kinetic and potential) and make some prediction about their mean values. As far as the least action principles, one could think of them as saying that the ...
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8 votes
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Are there necessary and sufficient conditions for ergodicity?

What are the necessary and sufficient conditions (if any) for ergodicity (or non-ergodicity)? I see for instance that some integrable systems are not ergodic. For instance a linear chain of harmonic ...
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8 votes
2 answers
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Clear up confusion about the meaning of entropy

So I though, and was told, that entropy is the amount of disorder in a system. Specifically the example of heat flow and it flows to maximize entropy. To me this seemed odd. This seemed more ordered ...
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5 answers
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Please clarify how entropy increases when matter gravitationally coalesces

On John Baez's website, http://math.ucr.edu/home/baez/entropy.html, he discusses the problem of how entropy increases when a cloud of ideal gas collapses gravitationally (no black holes - keeping it ...
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56 votes
4 answers
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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 ...
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15 votes
5 answers
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What are distinguishable and indistinguishable particles in statistical mechanics?

What are distinguishable and indistinguishable particles in statistical mechanics? While learning different distributions in statistical mechanics I came across this doubt; Maxwell-Boltzmann ...
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12 votes
4 answers
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Entropy as an arrow of time

From what I understand, entropy is a concept defined by the experimentalist due to his ignorance of the exact microstate of a system. To say the number of accessible microstates $W$ of the universe is ...
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14 votes
5 answers
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Understanding "natural variables" of the thermodynamic potentials using the example of the ideal gas

I'm struggling with the concept of "natural variables" in thermodynamics. Textbooks say that the internal energy is "naturally" expressed as $$ U = U(S,V,N)$$ For an ideal gas, I could take the ...
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13 votes
8 answers
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Is it theoretically possible to reach $0$ Kelvin?

I'm having a discussion with someone. I said that it is -even theoretically- impossible to reach $0$ K, because that would imply that all molecules in the substance would stand perfectly still. He ...
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4 votes
3 answers
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Reference for statistical mechanics from information theoretic view

I am interested in knowing if some one here knows book/notes for statistical mechanics from the information theoretic viewpoint. Additional Request from user83014 "Jaynes wrote a paper called ...
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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 starts by explaining that Ehrenfest's original definition was that a first-order ...
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21 votes
4 answers
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Why is the partition function divided by $(h^{3N} N!)$?

When computing partition functions for classical systems with $N$ particles with a given Hamiltonian $H$ I've seen some places writing it as $$Z = \dfrac{1}{h^{3N} N!}\int e^{-\beta H(p,q)}dpdq$$ ...
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21 votes
5 answers
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Could you please give an intuitive definition of chemical potential?

Could you please give an intuitive definition of chemical potential? It seems that it is an extremely important notion of physics but definitions are really vague.
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13 votes
3 answers
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Critical 2d Ising Model

The 2d Ising model is extremely well studied, nevertheless I have encountered two facts which seem to contradict one another, and I have not been able to find the resolution in the literature. The ...
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36 votes
4 answers
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If temperature is amount of kinetic energy of particles, then how can there be a cold breeze? [duplicate]

When we put hands on A/C it gives cold winds. These winds have high kinetic energy but low temperature. How ? *don't confuse with A/C being heat pump , just an example, take antarctic blizzards. I can'...
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10 votes
11 answers
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Where does the irreversiblity came from if all the fundamental interaction are reversible? [duplicate]

There isn't too much to explain: We know that all fundamental forces are reversible then where does the irreversibility come from? Edit: The following is edit based on comments: Consider a block of ...
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11 votes
2 answers
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(Canonical) Partition function - what assumption is at work here?

The canonical partition function is defined as $$Z=\sum_{s}e^{-\beta E_s}$$ with the sum being over all states of the system. The way I saw this derived was by assuming that for each state, the ...
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A thermodynamic transformation that can be represented by a continuous quasistatic path in its state space may still be irreversible. Why?

A thermodynamic transformation that has a path (in its state space) that lies on the surface of its equation of state (e.g., $PV=NkT$) is always reversible (right?). However, if the path is a ...
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7 votes
6 answers
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Is temperature in vacuum zero?

From Wikipedia entry on Kinetic Theory The temperature of an ideal monatomic gas is a measure of the average kinetic energy of its atoms. Now if I remove all the particles from the box shown ...
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5 votes
1 answer
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How many degrees of freedom does a spring have?

I'm currently learning about thermodynamics and heat capacities. We were told that the theoretical molar heat capacities of all solids should be $3R$. I was told this is because there are 6 different ...
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19 votes
2 answers
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Could Navier-Stokes equation be derived directly from Boltzmann equation?

I know how to derive Navier-Stokes equations from Boltzmann equation in case where bulk and viscosity coefficients are set to zero. I need only multiply it on momentum and to integrate it over ...
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8 votes
2 answers
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Gibbs Paradox - why should the change in entropy be zero?

The Gibbs paradox deals with the fact that for an ideal gas with $N$ molecules in a volume $V$ seperated by a diaphragm into two subvolumes $V_1,V_2$ with $N_1,N_2$ particles in each subvolume, ...
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3 votes
1 answer
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Collision Term in the Classical Boltzmann Transport Equation

I cannot get over the feeling that in the classical derivation of the collision term of Boltzmann's transport equation molecules that are already knocked out of a $(\textbf r, \textbf v)$ space volume ...
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3 votes
3 answers
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How does temperature relate to the kinetic energy of molecules?

In ideal gas model, temperature is the measure of average kinetic energy of the gas molecules. If by some means the gas particles are accelerated to a very high speed in one direction, KE certainly ...
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25 votes
5 answers
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Chemical potential

This is something probably very basic but I was led back to this issue while listening to a recent seminar by Allan Adams on holographic superconductors. He seemed very worried to have a theory at ...
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