Statistical Mechanics

Subject PHYC90010 (2010)

Note: This is an archived Handbook entry from 2010.

Credit Points: 12.50
Level: 9 (Graduate/Postgraduate)
Dates & Locations:

This subject has the following teaching availabilities in 2010:

Semester 1, Parkville - Taught on campus.
Pre-teaching Period Start not applicable
Teaching Period not applicable
Assessment Period End not applicable
Last date to Self-Enrol not applicable
Census Date not applicable
Last date to Withdraw without fail not applicable

Timetable can be viewed here. For information about these dates, click here.
Time Commitment: Contact Hours: TBA
Total Time Commitment:


Prerequisites: A third year subject in statistical physics equivalent to 640-322 Statistical Physics (Advanced) or 640-342 Statistical Physics or 640-384 Statistical Physics.


Recommended Background Knowledge: None.
Non Allowed Subjects: None.
Core Participation Requirements:

It is University policy to take all reasonable steps to minimise the impact of disability upon academic study and reasonable steps will be made to enhance a student's participation in the University's programs. This subject requires all students to actively and safely participate in laboratory activities. Students who feel their disability may impact upon their participation are encouraged to discuss this with the subject coordinator and the Disability Liaison Unit.


Dr Nicole Bell



Subject Overview:

This subject provides an advanced introduction to the mathematical theory of collective phenomena in complex, many-body systems, in equilibrium and far from equilibrium, with an emphasis on critical phenomena and the emergence of long-range order. Specific topics may include phase transitions, transfer matrices, mean-field theory, Landau-Ginzburg theory, renormalization group, diffusive stochastic processes (Fokker-Planck equations), birth-death processes (master equations), kinetic transport, and spatio-temporal pattern formation in unstable nonlinear systems (bifurcations, chaos, reaction-diffusion equations). Examples are drawn from physics, chemistry, biology, and the social sciences.


The objectives of this subject are:

  • to challenge the students to expand their knowledge of fundamental physical principles;
  • to broaden their appreciation of how statistical mechanics integrates into the discipline of physics overall;
  • to develop their capacity to explain the emergence of long-range order in complex, many-bodysystems;
  • to appreciate the distinction between equilibrium and far-from-equilibrium dynamics in these systems;
  • to solve quantitative problems using the canonical mathematical techniques of statistical mechanics;
  • to provide the foundation for more advanced studies in statistical mechanics.

Four assignments totalling up to 48 pages of written work (40%), spaced equally during the semester, plus one 4-hour end-of-semester written examination (60%).

Prescribed Texts: Nil.
Recommended Texts: Nil.
Breadth Options:

This subject is not available as a breadth subject.

Fees Information: Subject EFTSL, Level, Discipline & Census Date
Generic Skills:

At the completion of this subject, students should have gained skills in:

  • analysing how to solve a problem by applying simple fundamental laws to more complicated situations;
  • applying abstract concepts to real-world situations;
  • solving relatively complicated problems using approximations;
  • participating as an effective member of a group in discussions and collaborative assignments;
  • managing time effectively in order to be prepared for group discussions and undertake the assignments and exam.

Access to an internet-enabled computer may be useful for assignment completion.

Related Course(s): Master of Science (Physics)

Download PDF version.