PY722: Statistical Physics II

Fall 2009

TH, 11:45 to 1:00, 314 Riddick

Instructor: Karen Daniels, 258C Riddick, Email

Office hours: after class on Thursdays, or by appointment


Prerequisite: PY721 (Statistical Physics I, or a similar class) preferred, but not required. Familiarity with the laws of thermodynamics, kinetic theory of gases, temperature, entropy, free energy, and ensembles.


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

Textbook: James Sethna, Statistical Mechanics: Entropy, Order Parameters, and Complexity. [Online Version]
Supplemental materials (available at Hill Library Reserves): Chandler, Introduction to Statistical Mechanics; Chaikin & Lubensky, Principles of Condensed Matter Physics.; Widom, Statistical Mechanics and other readings to be posted.

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?

Problem Sets: Detailed problem sets containing both analytical and computational problems are fundamental to learning the material in this class, will form the bulk of your grade, and are assigned approximately biweekly. You will need to have access to a computer running Python for some of the computational exercises: see here for more information. For some problems, you may also find it helpful to use Matlab and/or Mathematica. Hints for the computational exercises are available online.

The problem sets are due on Mondays by 5pm in my office on the date listed. Email submissions are permitted. 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. Solutions to the problem sets will be posted in a binder in 201 Riddick.

Blogging Assignments: The course blog is located at, to provide a forum for the class to share papers on current research topics relevant to the class material. You will need to fill out the FERPA agreement form and return it to me along with your Unity ID before I can add you as an author on the blog.

Blog assignments must be posted by Mondays at 5pm on the date listed. For each assignment, you will create a blog entry which:

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) between Monday and Thursday. We will take some time on Thursday classes following the due date to have a discussion about some of the issues raised by your postings.

Midterm exam: take-home exam will be due Mon, Oct 19. Please mark your calendars. Details to follow.

Final paper: review-type paper (and in-class presentation) on a current application of a statistical physics topic. Details to follow. Due Fri, Dec 4.

Grading: Assignment grades will be posted at Your final grade will be calculated as follows: 50% problem sets, 10% blog entries, 20% take-home midterm exam, 20% final paper.

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.

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 REG02.20.1.

Course Calendar

Links from Class

This calendar is subject to change as the semester progresses.



E-submissions should be in as few files as possible (preferably a single PDF I can print out). If your file is larger than 3 MB, please upload it to rather than emailing it to me. You do not need to submit your .py code unless you have some reason you want me to look at it. Please respond to text-based questions in complete sentences.