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Statistical Mechanics: Entropy, Order Parameters, and Complexity

Second Edition

James P. Sethna

26 January 2021

ISBN: 9780198865247

496 pages

In Stock

Oxford Master Series in Physics

Price: £65.00

A new and updated edition of the successful Statistical Mechanics: Entropy, Order Parameters and Complexity from 2006. Statistical mechanics is a core topic in modern physics. Innovative, fresh introduction to the broad range of topics of statistical mechanics today, by brilliant teacher and renowned researcher.



A new and updated edition of the successful Statistical Mechanics: Entropy, Order Parameters and Complexity from 2006. Statistical mechanics is a core topic in modern physics. Innovative, fresh introduction to the broad range of topics of statistical mechanics today, by brilliant teacher and renowned researcher.

  • Broad perspective on statistical mechanics as tool for deriving new laws.
  • 80 in-depth exercises in astrophysics, computer science, biology, and social sciences.
  • Avoids traditional focus on molecules, thermodynamics, and quantum mechanics.
  • 70 in-class activities, 33 exercises to test comprehension.
  • 50 ambitious computational exercises, with hint notebooks in Mathematica and Python.

New to this edition

  • The number of exercises is almost doubled, with wide-ranging applications to many fields of science.
  • New exercises designed for 'flipped classroom' and remote instruction; handouts and instructions for in-class activities.
  • 50 ambitious computational exercises, accompanied by hint notebooks in Python and Mathematica.
  • Polished answer key available for instructors, with additional teaching content for many exercises.

About the Author(s)

James P. Sethna, Professor of Physics, Cornell University

James P. Sethna is professor of physics at Cornell University. Sethna has used statistical mechanics to make substantive contributions in a bewildering variety of subjects — mathematics (dynamical systems and the onset of chaos), engineering (microstructure, plasticity, and fracture), statistics (information geometry, sloppy models, low-dimensional embeddings), materials science (glasses and spin glasses, liquid crystals, crackling noise, superconductivity), and popular culture (mosh pit dynamics and zombie outbreak epidemiology). He has collected cool, illustrative problems from students and colleagues over the decades, which inspired this textbook.

Table of Contents

    List of figures
    What is statistical mechanics?
    1.1:Quantum dice and coins
    1.2:Probability distributions
    1.3:Waiting time paradox
    1.4:Stirling’s formula
    1.5:Stirling and asymptotic series
    1.6:Random matrix theory
    1.7:Six degrees of separation
    1.8:Satisfactory map colorings
    1.9:First to fail: Weibull
    1.11:Emergent vs. fundamental
    1.12:Self-propelled particles
    1.13:The birthday problem
    1.14:Width of the height distribution
    1.15:Fisher information and Cram´er–Rao
    1.16:Distances in probability space
    Random walks and emergent properties
    2.1:Random walk examples: universality and scale invariance
    2.2:The diffusion equation
    2.3:Currents and external forces
    2.4:Solving the diffusion equation
    Temperature and equilibrium
    3.1:The microcanonical ensemble
    3.2:The microcanonical ideal gas
    3.3:What is temperature?
    3.4:Pressure and chemical potential
    3.5:Entropy, the ideal gas, and phase-space refinements
    Phase-space dynamics and ergodicity
    4.1:Liouville’s theorem
    5.1:Entropy as irreversibility: engines and the heat death of the Universe
    5.2:Entropy as disorder
    5.3:Entropy as ignorance: information and memory
    Free energies
    6.1:The canonical ensemble
    6.2:Uncoupled systems and canonical ensembles
    6.3:Grand canonical ensemble
    6.4:What is thermodynamics?
    6.5:Mechanics: friction and fluctuations
    6.6:Chemical equilibrium and reaction rates
    6.7:Free energy density for the ideal gas
    Quantum statistical mechanics
    7.1:Mixed states and density matrices
    7.2:Quantum harmonic oscillator
    7.3:Bose and Fermi statistics
    7.4:Non-interacting bosons and fermions
    7.5:Maxwell–Boltzmann ‘quantum’ statistics
    7.6:Black-body radiation and Bose condensation
    7.7:Metals and the Fermi gas
    Calculation and computation
    8.1:The Ising model
    8.2:Markov chains
    8.3:What is a phase? Perturbation theory
    Order parameters, broken symmetry, and topology
    9.1:Identify the broken symmetry
    9.2:Define the order parameter
    9.3:Examine the elementary excitations
    9.4:Classify the topological defects
    Correlations, response, and dissipation
    10.1:Correlation functions: motivation
    10.2:Experimental probes of correlations
    10.3:Equal-time correlations in the ideal gas
    10.4:Onsager’s regression hypothesis and time correlations
    10.5:Susceptibility and linear response
    10.6:Dissipation and the imaginary part
    10.7:Static susceptibility
    10.8:The fluctuation-dissipation theorem
    10.9:Causality and Kramers–Kr¨onig
    Abrupt phase transitions
    11.1:Stable and metastable phases
    11.2:Maxwell construction
    11.3:Nucleation: critical droplet theory
    11.4:Morphology of abrupt transitions
    Continuous phase transitions
    12.2:Scale invariance
    12.3:Examples of critical points
    A Appendix: Fourier methods
    A.1:Fourier conventions
    A.2:Derivatives, convolutions, and correlations
    A.3:Fourier methods and function space
    A.4:Fourier and translational symmetry


"Review from previous edition Since the book treats intersections of mathematics, biology, engineering, computer science and social sciences, it will be of great help to researchers in these fields in making statistical mechanics useful and comprehensible. At the same time, the book will enrich the subject for physicists who'd like to apply their skills in other disciplines. [...] The author's style, although quite concentrated, is simple to understand, and has many lovely visual examples to accompany formal ideas and concepts, which makes the exposition live and intuitvely appealing." - Olga K. Dudko, Journal of Statistical Physics, Vol 126

"Sethna's book provides an important service to students who want to learn modern statistical mechanics. The text teaches students how to work out problems by guiding them through the exercises rather than by presenting them with worked-out examples. " - Susan Coppersmith, Physics Today, May 2007

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