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All macroscopic systems consist ultimately of atoms obeying the laws of quantum mechanics. That premise forms the basis for this comprehensive text, intended for a first upper-level course in statistical and thermal physics. Reif emphasizes that the combination of microscopic concepts with some statistical postulates leads readily to conclusions on a purely macroscopic level. The authors writing style and penchant for description energize interest in condensed matter physics as well as provide a conceptual grounding with information that is crystal clear and memorable. Reif first introduces basic probability concepts and statistical methods used throughout all of physics. Statistical ideas are then applied to systems of particles in equilibrium to enhance an understanding of the basic notions of statistical mechanics, from which derive the purely macroscopic general statements of thermodynamics. Next, he turns to the more complicated equilibrium situations, such as phase transformations and quantum gases, before discussing nonequilibrium situations in which he treats transport theory and dilute gases at varying levels of sophistication. In the last chapter, he addresses some general questions involving irreversible processes and fluctuations. A large amount of material is presented to facilitate students later access to more advanced works, to allow those with higher levels of curiosity to read beyond the minimum given on a topic, and to enhance understanding by presenting several ways of looking at a particular question. Formatting within the text either signals material that instructors can assign at their own discretion or highlights important results for easy reference to them. Additionally, by solving many of the 230 problems contained in the text, students activate and embed their knowledge of the subject matter.
"Dies ist kein Lehrbuch der theoretischen Physik, auch kein Kompendium der Physikgeschichte ... , vielmehr eine recht anspruchsvolle Sammlung historischer Miniaturen zur Vergangenheit der theoretischen Physik - ihrer "Sternstunden", wenn man so will. Frei vom Zwang, etwas Erschöpfendes vorlegen zu müssen, gelingt dem Autor etwas Seltenes: einen "lebendigen" Zugang zum Ideengebäude der modernen Physik freizulegen, ... zu zeigen, wie Physik in praxi entsteht... Als Vehikel seiner Absichten dienen dem Autor geschichtliche Fallstudien, insgesamt sieben an der Zahl. Aus ihnen extrahiert er das seiner Meinung nach Lehrhafte, dabei bestrebt, mathematische Anachronismen womöglich zu vermeiden... Als Student hätte ich mir diese gescheiten Essays zum Werden unserer heutigen physikalischen Weltsicht gewünscht. Sie sind originell, didaktisch klug und genieren sich auch nicht, von der Faszination zu sprechen, die ... von der Physik ausgeht. Unnötig darauf hinzuweisen, das sie ein gründliches "konventionelles" Studium weder ersetzen wollen noch können, sie vermögen aber, dazu zu ermuntern." #Astronomische Nachrichten (zur englischen Ausgabe)#1
This book is based on many years of teaching statistical and thermal physics. It assumes no previous knowledge of thermodynamics, kinetic theory, or probability---the only prerequisites are an elementary knowledge of classical and modern physics, and of multivariable calculus. The first half of the book introduces the subject inductively but rigorously, proceeding from the concrete and specific to the abstract and general. In clear physical language the book explains the key concepts, such as temperature, heat, entropy, free energy, chemical potential, and distributions, both classical and quantum. The second half of the book applies these concepts to a wide variety of phenomena, including perfect gases, heat engines, and transport processes. Each chapter contains fully worked examples and real-world problems drawn from physics, astronomy, biology, chemistry, electronics, and mechanical engineering.

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