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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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Why is the temperature zero in the ground state?

Consider the following statement: If we know that the system is in the ground state, then the temperature is zero. How does this follow from the statistical definition of temperature?
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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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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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(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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Maxwell's Demon Constant (Information-Energy equivalence)

New Scientist article: Summon a 'demon' to turn information into energy The speed of light c converts between space and time and also appears in $E=mc^2$. Maxwell's Demon can turn information ...
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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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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}...
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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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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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2answers
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Partition function containing QM?

I am wondering about the partition function of the classical microcanonical ensemble. It contains Planck's constant and also an indistinguishability argument about the particles I am looking at and I ...
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1answer
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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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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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Has the zeroth law of thermodynamics ever been proven?

Has the zeroth law of thermodynamics ever been proven? I know the zeroth law of thermodynamics probably follows from the second law of thermodynamics but according to The statistical nature of the 2nd ...
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Does entropy depend on the observer?

Entropy as it is explained on this site is a Lorentz invariant. But, we can define it as a measure of information hidden from an observer in a physical system. In that sense, is entropy a relative ...
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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-...
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Once a quantum partition function is in path integral form, does it contain any operators?

Once a quantum partition function is in path integral form, does it contain any operators? I.e. The quantum partition function is $Z=tr(e^{-\beta H})$ where $H$ is an operator, the Hamiltonian of the ...
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Phase space in quantum mechanics and Heisenberg uncertainty principle

In my book about quantum mechanics they give a derivation that for one particle an area of $h$ in $2D$ phase space contains exactly one quantum mechanical state. In my book about statistical physics ...
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How to derive Fermi-Dirac and Bose-Einstein distribution using canonical ensemble?

My textbook says that microcanonical ensemble, canonical ensemble and grand canonical ensemble are essentially equivalent under thermodynamic limit. It also derives Fermi-Dirac and Bose-Einstein ...
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Why doesn't the entropy increase when two similar gases mix with each other?

Entropy increases when two substances mix with each other. For example, the entropy of mixing of two different gases are given by $$\Delta S= 2Nk\ln\frac{V_f}{V_i}\;.$$ But, the entropy doesn't ...
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How can I intuitively understand the Boltzmann factor?

It is known that for a system at thermal equilibrium described by the canonical ensemble, the probability of being in a state of energy $E$ at temperature $T$ is given by the Boltzmann distribution: $$...
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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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How can the microstates be measured with zero energy expenditure?

James P. Sethna. Statistical Mechanics. Exercise 5.2: What prevents a Maxwellian demon from using an atom in an unknown state to extract work? The demon must first measure which side of the ...
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Slow thermal equilibrium

I have a question which is inspired by considering the light field coming off an incandescent lightbulb. As a blackbody radiation field, the light is in thermal equilibrium at temperature $T$, which ...
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Are negative temperatures typically associated with negative absolute pressures?

Negative temperatures and negative absolute pressures are both possible in physical systems. Negative temperatures arise in (for example) populations of two-state systems, which have a maximum amount ...
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For which systems is the equipartition theorem valid?

Under what conditions does a system with many degrees of freedom satisfy the equipartition theorem?
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Do unstable equilibria lead to a violation of Liouville's theorem?

Liouville's theorem says that the flow in phase space is like an incompressible fluid. One implication of this is that if two systems start at different points in phase space their phase-space ...
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Does wind raise air temperature?

In my undergrad physics classes, temperature was described as "the average kinetic energy of molecules". By simple, and probably naive, logic, one could then conclude that wind, which is basically ...