Explore why matter can exist in more than one phase, and how it can transform from one phase into another. Develop the ideas of entropy, free energy and thermal equilibrium starting from the question “what is temperature?”. From the context of thermodynamics, and as natural consequences of a statistical description of matter, develop a simple physical picture of phase transitions with an emphasis on the unifying concept of broken symmetry. Demonstrate understanding of the subject through weekly problem sets, and deliver a final presentation on a modern example of the application of statistical physics ideas, chosen by the student. Accessible to students from a wide range of education backgrounds.
Undergraduate calculus and algebra.