Thermal Physics Teaching Resources

Here are some resources that can be incorporated into a thermal physics course.

Entropy explained, with sheep“: An interactive tutorial by Aatish Bhatia.  Highly recommended.

COBE and COBRA: “The experiment that confirmed – and almost beat – COBE” from Physics Today (2018).  I did not know about COBRA until I read this physics today article.  I found the PRL paper (1990) was easier to read and present to the students.  For example, COBRA paper shows the acceleration of the rocket launch.  The history of COBE vs COBRA is interesting, and it is nice to have an opportunity to acknowledge the importance of confirmation.

from Physics Today article on COBE and COBRA.

“Max the Demon vs Entropy of Doom”: It is a graphic novel with many physics jokes.  It even goes into some discussions about entropy and information, featuring many physicists such as Thompson, Carnot, Boltzmann, and Feynman. 

Computer assignments: (1) Given a formula like the blackbody radiation or speed distribution of ideal gas, make a plot at different temperatures.  Find the maximum (wavelength or speed).  (2) Calculate the first 50 terms of the Boltzmann factor (e.g., for rotational degree of freedom, which does not have analytical solution, unlike vibration).  Find the sum (as an estimate of the partition function) and plot a bar graph as a function of angular momentum quantum number, L.  Find out which state has the largest occupancy.

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