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MPTL9 Meeting, Sep-2004, Graz ("Billiards in Class, Entropy After Hours")
ASPUS lecture, Nov-2004, Vienna


Introducing Statistical Physics

First encounter with StatPhys: usually around the third term

Didactic problem:
  • Classroom experiments not possible
  • Therefore: Subject usually presented in a purely formal way
  • The formalism refers to an abstract, high-dimensional phase space

Suggested solution:
  • Replace classroom experiments by simulation
  • Support formal arguments by visualization
  • Use a bottom-up approach, made possible by chaos in small systems

Realization: web tutorial at
Here are some highlights illustrating the approach:
Stadium Billiard
A toy system with only 2 dimensions
more ...
2-dimensional 1-particle gas
A more "physical" toy system

more ...
The bottom-up path to StatPhys
Add one dimension, and another one ...

more ...
Approaching equilibrium
The power of Boltzmann's transport equation

more ...
Classical distribution functions
Boltzmann's roulette

more ...
Entropy seen from within
The amazing properties of hyperspheres

more ...
Quantum mechanical distribution function
Fermi's quantum roulette

more ...
... with due apologies to the creators of Statistical Physics