Statistical Physics

Matter can exist in many different phases. The aim of this course is to explain why, and how one phase can transform into another. Starting from the question “what is temperature?”, the ideas of entropy, free energy, and thermal equilibrium are introduced, first in the context of thermodynamics, and then as natural consequences of a statistical description of matter. From this starting point, a simple physical picture of phase transitions is developed, with emphasis on the unifying concept of broken symmetry. The course is designed to be accessible to students from a wide range of educational backgrounds. It will be assessed through weekly problem sets, and a final presentation on a modern example of the application of statistical physics ideas, chosen by the student.