Offered to students admitted to Year 1 in ALL
Major/Minor ALL
Course Type
Offer in 2023 - 2024 Y N
Course Code PHYS3550
Date2024/05/28 02:43
Enquiry for Course Details
PHYS3550 Statistical mechanics & thermodynamics (6 credits) Academic Year 2023
Offering Department Physics Quota ---
Course Co-ordinator Dr C J Wang, Physics < cjwang@hku.hk >
Teachers Involved (Dr C J Wang,Physics)
Course Objectives This course covers statistical mechanics in the advanced undergraduate level with rigorous mathematical treatment.  It is one of the core electives for physics major and an elective course for the theoretical physics theme.  This is also an essential course for those who plan to pursue postgraduate studies in physics or related disciplines.  Problem solving and analytical skills will be extensively used.  They are supplemented by numerical skills occasionally.  Upon completion, interested and able students may take PHYS7550 to study graduate level statistical mechanics.
Course Contents & Topics This course includes the following topics: statistical description of macroscopic systems in terms of its microscopic constituents; canonical distribution and its applications in simple systems; classical and quantum statistical mechanics: Bose and Fermi distributions; Bose and Fermi gas; condensation; photon gas and Planck radiation law; theory of Brownian motion; theory of fluctuation, first order and continuous phase transition.
Course Learning Outcomes
On successful completion of this course, students should be able to:

CLO 1 understand the logical structure of statistical mechanics
CLO 2 apply Gibbs-Boltzmann distribution and partition function in various simple situations
CLO 3 understand the Bose and Fermi distributions and apply them in correct situations
CLO 4 describe the classification of phase transitions and understand the use of mean field theory in second order phase transition
Pre-requisites
(and Co-requisites and
Impermissible combinations)
Pass in PHYS2150 and (PHYS2260 or PHYS2261)
Course Status with Related Major/Minor /Professional Core 2023 Major in Physics ( Disciplinary Elective )
2023 Major in Physics (Intensive) ( Core/Compulsory )
2023 Minor in Physics ( Disciplinary Elective )
2022 Major in Physics ( Disciplinary Elective )
2022 Major in Physics (Intensive) ( Core/Compulsory )
2022 Minor in Physics ( Disciplinary Elective )
2021 Major in Physics ( Disciplinary Elective )
2021 Major in Physics (Intensive) ( Core/Compulsory )
2021 Minor in Physics ( Disciplinary Elective )
2020 Major in Physics ( Disciplinary Elective )
2020 Major in Physics (Intensive) ( Core/Compulsory )
2020 Minor in Physics ( Disciplinary Elective )
2019 Major in Physics ( Disciplinary Elective )
2019 Major in Physics (Intensive) ( Core/Compulsory )
2019 Minor in Physics ( Disciplinary Elective )
Course to PLO Mapping 2023 Major in Physics < PLO 1,2,3,4 >
2023 Major in Physics (Intensive) < PLO 1,2,3,4 >
2022 Major in Physics < PLO 1,2,3,4 >
2022 Major in Physics (Intensive) < PLO 1,2,3,4 >
2021 Major in Physics < PLO 1,2,3,4 >
2021 Major in Physics (Intensive) < PLO 1,2,3,4 >
2020 Major in Physics < PLO 1,2,3,4 >
2020 Major in Physics (Intensive) < PLO 1,2,3,4 >
2019 Major in Physics < PLO 1,2,3,4 >
2019 Major in Physics (Intensive) < PLO 1,2,3,4 >
Offer in 2023 - 2024 Y        1st sem    Examination Dec     
Offer in 2024 - 2025 Y
Course Grade A+ to F
Grade Descriptors
A Demonstrate thorough mastery at an advanced level of extensive knowledge and skills required for attaining all the course learning outcomes. Show strong analytical and critical abilities and logical thinking, with evidence of original thought, and ability to apply knowledge to a wide range of complex, familiar and unfamiliar situations. Apply highly effective organizational and presentational skills.
B Demonstrate substantial command of a broad range of knowledge and skills required for attaining at least most of the course learning outcomes. Show evidence of analytical and critical abilities and logical thinking, and ability to apply knowledge to familiar and some unfamiliar situations. Apply effective organizational and presentational skills.
C Demonstrate general but incomplete command of knowledge and skills required for attaining most of the course learning outcomes. Show evidence of some analytical and critical abilities and logical thinking, and ability to apply knowledge to most familiar situations. Apply moderately effective organizational and presentational skills.
D Demonstrate partial but limited command of knowledge and skills required for attaining some of the course learning outcomes. Show evidence of some coherent and logical thinking, but with limited analytical and critical abilities. Show limited ability to apply knowledge to solve problems. Apply limited or barely effective organizational and presentational skills.
Fail Demonstrate little or no evidence of command of knowledge and skills required for attaining the course learning outcomes. Lack of analytical and critical abilities, logical and coherent thinking. Show very little or no ability to apply knowledge to solve problems. Organization and presentational skills are minimally effective or ineffective.
Communication-intensive Course N
Course Type Lecture-based course
Course Teaching
& Learning Activities
Activities Details No. of Hours
Lectures 36
Tutorials 12
Reading / Self study 80
Assessment Methods
and Weighting
Methods Details Weighting in final
course grade (%)
Assessment Methods
to CLO Mapping
Assignments Including computational assignments 20 CLO 1,2,3,4
Examination 2-hour written exam 50 CLO 1,2,3,4
Test 30 CLO 1,2,3,4
Required/recommended reading
and online materials
Lecture notes provided by Course Coordinator
Stephen J. Blundell and Katherine M. Blundell, Concepts in Thermal Physics, Oxford University Press, 2010
Herbert B. Callen, Thermodynamics and an Introduction to Thermostatistics, John Willey & Sons, Inc. (1985)
Course Website http://moodle.hku.hk
Additional Course Information NIL
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