Statistical Mechanics, spring 2018

Statistical Mechanics (537004, 5cr) is a bachelor level Theoretical Physics course at the University of Helsinki, covering the basics of classical statistical physics. The most important aim of the course is to establish a link between the microscopic world of individual particles and macroscopic physical systems obeying the laws of thermodynamics. Topics covered during the course include the classical phase space, classical ensemble theory and equilibrium distributions, kinetic theory, as well as the basics of interacting systems.

Previous knowledge of classical mechanics and thermodynamics is assumed in the lectures. The students are also expected to comfortably master basic algebraic tools at the level of the courses Matemaattiset apuneuvot and Fysiikan matemaattiset menetelmät I.

The course is bilingual: lectures are given in Finnish, but the homework problems are provided in English. The lecture notes and course book are both in Finnish, but handwritten notes in English (from a previous year) as well as a list of international textbooks are provided below. It will be possible to take the final exam in either language.

NB: While the course has now ended, the follow-up course Quantum Statistics will commence on Monday, March 12.


Mondays and Tuesdays 12.15-14.00 in A315. The first lecture takes place on January 15.

Lecturer: Aleksi Vuorinen, A322,

The course book is Statistinen fysiikka (J. Arponen and J. Honkonen, Limes ry, 2000). Additional recommended reading includes:


Fridays 10.15-12.00 in C129 (Exactum). The first exercise session takes place on January 26.

Teaching Assistant: Pyry Wahlman, C311,

The home work problem sets are published on this page on Tuesdays: Problem sets 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6. Written solutions should be returned either directly to the lecturer or to his mailbox by the Tuesday of the following week. The solutions are graded, and they make up 1/4 of the final grade of the course.

Course results

The course results are now available here.

Timetable and lecture notes

The lectures will follow the rough timetable given below. Online lecture notes will be posted here prior to the lectures, so that the students will be able to familiarize themselves with the material beforehand.

Week 1 (15.-16.1.): Reminder of classical mechanics, classical phase space; Mathematica file used in the lectures
Week 2 (22-23.1.): Ensemble theory, the microcanonical and canonical ensembles
Week 3 (29.-30.1.): The grand canonical ensemble, Einstein's theory of fluctuations; Mathematica file used in the lectures
Week 4 (5.-6.2.): Basics of kinetic theory, diffusion, viscosities; Mathematica file used in the lectures
Week 5 (12.-13.2.): Vlasov and Boltzmann equations, H theorem, Maxwell-Boltzmann distribution
Week 6 (19.-20.2.): Transport coefficients from the relaxation time approximation, basics of interacting systems
Week 7 (26.-27.2.): More about interacting systems, review of course material
Week 8 (5.3.): Final exam at 9.00-13.00 in E204 (other details to follow later)

Lecture notes from 2016, covering ~80% of the course material (in English):

Lecture 1 (Classical phase space)
Lecture 2 (Equilibrium distributions)
Lecture 2a (Grand canonical ensemble)
Lecture 2b (Ideal systems and summary)
Lecture 3 (Kinetic theory)
Lecture 3a (Maxwell-Boltzmann gas, relaxation time approximation)
Lecture 4 (Classical real gas)
Lecture 5 (More kinetic theory)