Energy & Entropy

Course Credits

PH 423: Paradigms in Physics: Energy & Entropy meets 7 hours per week (MWF for 1 hour, TR for 2 hours) for five weeks for a total of 3 credits.

Prerequisites, Co-requisites and Enforced Prerequisites

Prereq: PH 213

Office Hours

Davide Lazzati Weniger 313 Wed & Fri 11am-noon in 304F
Corinne Manogue Wngr 495

Open Office:

If you can find me and I'm not talking to someone else, ask if I'm available!

Mike Vignal  Wed & Fri 2-3pm in 304F
John Waczak  Wed noon-1pm, Thurs 3-4pm in 304F











Learning Resources

A complete list of required texts and other resources for the the entire year of Paradigms courses can be found on the Paradigms website. For this course, no text is required.

Course Content

The "Energy & Entropy" course provides an introduction into thermal and statistical physics. Historically these fields are called thermodynamics and statistical mechanics. Thermodynamics is a phenomenological theory of temperature and heat. It provides a description of properties of macroscopic systems in thermal equilibrium. Starting from only a few laws and a new concept, entropy, thermodynamics provides deep insight into many physical systems:

  • First law: energy is conserved, provided we include energy transfer by working and heating.
  • A change in entropy is experimentally found by measuring heat in a reversible process and dividing by temperature.
  • Second law: we can distinguish between possible and impossible processes by checking whether the entropy of the system plus its surroundings increases or decreases.

Statistical mechanics allows us to to derive the results of thermodynamics from the microscopic laws of physics.

Student Learning Outcomes

Students shall be able to:

  • Characterize and distinguish between different types of thermodynamic processes.
  • Analyze thermodynamic processes and calculate the change in state variables.
  • Know about and determine the efficiency of idealized engines, refridgerators and heat pumps.
  • Use the laws of statistical mechanics to calculate thermodynamic variables for simple systems with known microstates.

Evaluation of Student Performance

  • 50% required Homework and other assignments.
  • 10% Quizzes - Tuesdays in class
  • 40% Exam (Thursday, December 6, noon-2pm, Wngr 212).
  • Practice problems provide simple examples for you to check whether or not you understand the material as you go along.  They will not be graded.  Sometimes solutions will be posted.  At a minimum, you should read each practice problem and make sure that you know how to do it. If you can't, ask for help!
  • Required problems will be graded.  Solutions will be posted online.  Assignments turned in after solutions are posted can earn at most 50% of the total points.  Very late assignments will earn less.  It is a good idea to turn in what you have done by the due date, and, if necessary, the rest later. Please consult the instructor for special circumstances.
  • In 400/500 level classes, some of the required problems and probably one problem on the final exam will be marked as "Challenge" problems.   500-level students are required to do these Challenge problems.  400-level students are not necessarily expected to do them.  However, those students who hope to get an A are encouraged to do so.  While it may be possible for a 400-level student to get an A without doing any Challenge problems, it may be difficult.  (In PH 320, they are optional and don't count for anything--just fun.) Grading of the Challenge problems will be quite strict; we won't even look at them unless they seem to be clearly written, coherent, complete, and essentially correct.

Statement of Expectations for Student Conduct

Students will be expected to abide by all university rules regarding student conduct and academic honesty, in particular, see: link to University Rules.

Additional Ground Rules

Science is inherently a social and collaborative effort, each scientist building on the work of others. Nevertheless, each student must ultimately be responsible for his or her own education. Therefore, you will be expected to abide by a number of Ground Rules:

  1. We strongly encourage students to work with each other, more advanced students, the TA, and the professor, on assignments. However, each student is expected to turn in assignments that have been independently written up. In other words, the final synthesis must be entirely your own. This applies also to, and especially to, computer generated worksheets. If you work with someone on a computer project, do not get locked into writing the solution together. You will end up turning in the sameassignment.
  2. Homework solutions from previous years are very strictly off limits. You are on your honor not to use them, and not to share your homework solutions with other students. Allow faculty to use their time interacting with you, rather than continually thinking up new assignments. Besides, if you don't do the work yourself, it will show up very clearly on exams later. Likewise, the solutions are for your use only. You may make one copy and keep it in your personal files.
  3. Sources must be appropriately documented. If you find a homework problem worked out somewhere (other than homework solutions from previous years), you may certainly use that resource, just make sure you reference it properly. If someone else helps you solve a problem, reference that too. In a research paper, the appropriate reference would be:    Jane Doe, (private communication).
  4. Plagiarism – representing someone else’s work as your own – is unethical, but collaboration and exchange of ideas is healthy. You can avoid having collaborative efforts take on the look of plagiarism by acknowledging sources and by writing up your work independently.
  5. If you find that you have worked on a problem for 1/2 hour without making any forward progress, it would be a good idea to stop and seek help.

Statement Regarding Students with Disabilities

Accommodations for students with disabilities are determined and approved by Disability Access Services (DAS). If you, as a student, believe you are eligible for accommodations but have not obtained approval please contact DAS immediately at 541-737-4098 or at DAS notifies students and faculty members of approved academic accommodations and coordinates implementation of those accommodations. While not required, students and faculty members are encouraged to discuss details of the implementation of individual accommodations.