PY722 :: Statistical Physics II :: Fluctuations & Phase Transitions

Fall 2014

Mo, 1:30 to 2:45, 314 Riddick Hall
We, 1:30 to 2:45, 143 Partners III (Starting Sept 3)

Instructor: Karen Daniels, 258C Riddick, 919-513-7921, kdaniel@...

Office hours: after class or by appointment


Prerequisite: Familiarity with the laws of thermodynamics, entropy, free energy, and ensembles, such as provided by PY721.


Course format: Upper-level graduate course with emphasis on current, inter-disciplinary applications and experiments, using both computational and analytic techniques.

Textbooks: The course will be topics-based rather than closely following a textbook. The main books we will reference are

These books, as well as other readings drawn from current scientific literature, will be available through Hill Library Reserves. Some are books, others are PDFs.

Reading Assignments: You should read through the assigned chapters or papers prior to class, in enough detail to be able to answer questions of the following type: What were the key concepts introduced? What types of physical systems do the techniques in the reading apply to? What parts were difficult to understand? What mathematical techniques were used, and why? I expect students to take an active role in discussing material. A few times during the semester, you will make an informal 10-minute presentation to the class.

Assignments: For each topic you will solve one analytical problem and one computational problem related to the topic, and write one blog entry summarizing a current/classic application in your own field. These will approximately alternate weeks. Computational problems can be completed in the language of your choice (Matlab, Python, Fortran, Mathematica, etc). Students may either use their own computer, or can make use of University resources.

Problem sets will be due in class a week or two following the end of each unit, unless otherwise specified (due dates will be provided for each assignment as they are created). Late assignments will lose 10% for each day late. Students are encouraged to work together, but each of you must present your own work and list who you worked with on each problem so as to give credit where it is due. Problem sets will be graded for both effort and accuracy. For computer-based exercises, you do not need to submit your raw code unless you have some reason you want me to look at it. Responses to text-based questions need to be in well-structured, complete sentences. For analytical problems, solutions will be posted in a binder in the Grad Student Lounge.

Blogging Assignments: Students will contribute to a shared blog which will serve as a journal club of current literature related to class topics. Blog assignments must be posted by the due date (usually set a week in advance, approximately alternating with problem sets). For each assignment, you will create a blog entry which:

You should spend approximately 60-90 minutes finding and reading your entry, and about 30-60 minutes looking over your classmates' submissions. Entries will be graded on a 0 to 2 scale where 0 = missing, 1 = minimally present or late, 2 = acceptable. Extra points may be awarded for outstandingly insightful entries. In addition, you will post at least one comment on a classmate's entry from the previous week (worth 1 additional point). We will take some time in the class immediately following each due date, to have a discussion about some of the issues raised by your postings.

Workload: My goal is that homework assignments (including readings, blogs, problems) will require around 8 hours/week. You will have two weeks to work on each problem set (one per unit), and I welcome information which aids in calibrating this time estimate.

Final paper: The final exam will consist of a review-type paper and in-class presentation on a current application of a statistical physics topic. Examples from Fall 2009 and Fall 2012.

Grading: Your final grade will be calculated as follows: 60% problem sets, 10% blog entries, 30% final paper.

Course Topics

University Regulations

Honor Pledge: For all assignments, the instructor will assume that the student has upheld the NCSU Honor Pledge: "I have neither given nor received unauthorized aid on this test or assignment." Please refer to the Code of Student Conduct Policy for details. Sections 8.2 and 8.4 of the above policy are particularly applicable to our problem sets and bar the use of published solutions.

Students with disabilities: Reasonable accommodations will be made for students with verifiable disabilities. In order to take advantage of available accommodations, students must register with Disability Services for Students at 1900 Student Health Center, Campus Box 7509, 515-7653. For more information on NC State's policy on working with students with disabilities, please see the Academic Accommodations for Students with Disabilities Regulation REG 02.20.01.