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Microstates, Entropy and Quanta

An Introduction to Statistical Mechanics


Table of contents

About this book


Statistical mechanics: the bane of many a physics student.  But when pared back to its underlying concepts and built from the ground up, the field takes on a charm of its own, and embraces a wide variety of physical phenomena.

This book presents a straightforward introduction to the key concepts in statistical mechanics, following the popular style of the author's highly successful textbook "Explorations in Mathematical Physics". Offering a clear, conceptual approach to the subject matter, the book presents a treatment that is mathematically complete, while remaining very accessible to undergraduates.

It commences by showcasing the counting of configurations, which leads to entropy, thermodynamics, and physical chemistry. The Boltzmann and Maxwell distributions then appear, with related topics of thermal conductivity and viscosity. Next come bosons via Einstein's and Debye's theories of heat capacity, and fermions via electrical conduction and low-temperature heat capacity of metals. The text ends with a derivation of blackbody radiation, and uses this to discuss the greenhouse effect, cosmology, and lasers.

Suitable for use with core undergraduate courses in statistical mechanics and thermodynamics, this book concentrates on using solid mathematics, while avoiding cumbersome notation. All mathematical steps are included in the text and worked examples.

About the Author

Don Koks studied at the University of Auckland in the 1980s, where he obtained a Bachelor of Science in pure and applied mathematics and physics, and a Master of Science in applied accelerator physics. He was awarded a doctorate in quantum cosmology (quantum statistics and black hole theory) by Adelaide University. He works in Australian Defence, specialising in relativistic precision timing, orbital mechanics, spatial orientation concepts, and radar signal processing.

Review of Explorations in Mathematical Physics by Don Koks

“With enjoyable and sometimes surprising excursions along the way, the journey provides a fresh look at many familiar topics, as it takes us from basic linear mathematics to general relativity... look forward to having your geometric intuition nourished and expanded by the author’s intelligent commentaries.”

Eugen Merzbacher, University of North Carolina


Introduction to statistical mechanics Introduction to thermodynamics Laws of thermodynamics Binomial and Gaussian distributions in statistical mechanics Introduction to blackbody radiation The Boltzmann distribution Mathematics of heat flow Entropy in information theory

Authors and affiliations

  1. 1.AdelaideAustralia

About the authors

Don Koks studied at the University of Auckland in the 1980s, where he was awarded a Bachelor of Science in pure and applied mathematics and physics, and a Master of Science in physics, with a thesis in applied accelerator physics for trace-element analysis.  He was awarded a doctorate in mathematical physics by Adelaide University in 1997, with a thesis describing the use of quantum statistical methods to analyse decoherence, entropy, and thermal radiance in both the early universe and black hole theory.  He has spent a summer working on the accelerator mass spectrometry programme at the Australian National University in Canberra, and has worked in commercial Internet development in Auckland.

Currently he is a Research Scientist at the Defence Science and Technology Group in Adelaide, specialising in relativistic precision timing, satellite orbital prediction, 6-degree-of-freedom orientation concepts, and radar signal processing.  He is the author of the book Explorations in Mathematical Physics: the Concepts Behind an Elegant Language (Springer, 2006).

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