Syllabus for Paradigms in Physics: Energy and Entropy

Course name:
Paradigms in Physics: Energy and Entropy
Course number:
PH 423
Course credits:
Class meeting times:
7 hours of lecture per week for five weeks
Recommended PH 213
Course description:
Thermodynamics and canonical statistical mechanics.
Learning resources:
Optional text: An introduction to Thermal Physics by Daniel Schroeder
Student learning outcomes:
  • 1) Use both dimensional reasoning and intensivity/extensivity to make sense of mathematical expressions involving thermodynamic variables
  • 2) Interpret phase diagrams and reason about processes involving phase transitions
  • 3) Explain how a given partial derivative relates to a particular experimental measurement
  • 4) Distinguish between state properties and quantities such as heat and work that arise from inexact differentials
  • 5) Use terms from thermodynamics such as quasistatic, reversible, adiabatic, intensive, extensive, and isothermal in physical context
  • 6) Use the laws of thermodynamics to solve problems both for generic systems (for with the equation of state is not known) and for specific systems such as the ideal gas
  • 7) Reason about thermodynamic processes and cycles, including integrating along paths
  • 8) Use the methods of statistical mechanics (in particular, the Boltzmann ratio, and summation over probabilities) to solve for thermal properties in equilibrium
  • 9) Describe the Gibbs and Boltzmann statistical formulations for entropy
Course content:
  • 1) Entropy, heat, and temperature
  • 2) First Law of Thermodynamics, work and heat
  • 3) Second Law of Thermodynamics and irreversible processes
  • 4) Phase diagrams
  • 5) Heat engines and Carnot efficiency
  • 6) Thermodynamic potentials and Maxwell relations
  • 7) Canonical statistical mechanics
  • M1) Partial derivative relationships
  • M2) Differentials
  • M3) Legendre transforms
  • M4) Numerical integration of experimental data
Evaluation of student performance:
The class will be graded based on homework, a midterm exam, and a final exam.
Midterm exam
Final exam
Late homework is accepted at any point prior to the final exam, with reduced credit.
Statement regarding students with disabilities:
Accommodations for students with disabilities are determined and approved by Disability Access Services (DAS). If you, as a student, believe you are eligible for accommodations but have not obtained approval please contact DAS immediately at 541-737-4098 or at DAS notifies students and faculty members of approved academic accommodations and coordinates implementation of those accommodations. While not required, students and faculty members are encouraged to discuss details of the implementation of individual accommodations.
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Students are expected to comply with the University code of conduct, available at
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