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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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PRINTED FROM OXFORD SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (oxford.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Oxford University Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in OSO for personal use. date: 03 August 2021

Simple Systems

Simple Systems

(p.57) 4 Simple Systems
Statistical Physics and Thermodynamics

Jochen Rau

Oxford University Press

Even though the general framework of statistical mechanics is ultimately targeted at the description of macroscopic systems, it is illustrative to apply it first to some simple systems: a harmonic oscillator, a rotor, and a spin in a magnetic field. These applications serve to illustrate how a key function associated with the Gibbs state, the so-called partition function, is calculated in practice, how the entropy function is obtained via a Legendre transformation, and how such systems behave in the limits of high and low temperatures. After discussing these simple systems, this chapter considers a first example where multiple constituents are assembled into a macroscopic system: a basic model of a paramagnetic salt. It also investigates the size of energy fluctuations and how—in the case of the paramagnet—these fluctuations scale with the number of constituents.

Keywords:   harmonic oscillator, rotor, spin, magnetic field, paramagnet, partition function, Legendre transformation, high-temperature limit, low-temperature limit, fluctuations

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