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Statistical Physics and ThermodynamicsAn Introduction to Key Concepts$
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Jochen Rau

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780199595068

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: November 2017

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780199595068.001.0001

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(p.1) 1 Introduction
Statistical Physics and Thermodynamics

Jochen Rau

Oxford University Press

Statistical mechanics concerns the transition from the microscopic to the macroscopic realm. On a macroscopic scale new phenomena arise that have no counterpart in the microscopic world. For example, macroscopic systems have a temperature; they might undergo phase transitions; and their dynamics may involve dissipation. How can such phenomena be explained? This chapter discusses the characteristic differences between the microscopic and macroscopic realms and lays out the basic challenge of statistical mechanics. It suggests how, in principle, this challenge can be tackled with the help of conservation laws and statistics. The chapter reviews some basic notions of classical probability theory. In particular, it discusses the law of large numbers and illustrates how, despite the indeterminacy of individual events, statistics can make highly accurate predictions about totals and averages.

Keywords:   microscopic scale, macroscopic scale, conservation laws, statistics, probability, law of large numbers

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