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.
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