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answers-01-13-2011 - Answers to Physics 176 One-Minute...

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Answers to Physics 176 One-Minute Questionnaires Lecture date: January 13, 2011 Given the many students in the class and given my limited time to write answers, I will generally answer just some (although usually most) of your questions, the ones that seem more relevant or interesting for the class, or the questions that I can answer with a reasonable effort. My apologies to those who asked questions that I didn’t answer. I will however include all questions received—answered or not—so that you can see what your classmates wanted to know. Perhaps you can discuss some of these questions with your classmates and figure out some of the answers for yourselves. Please also understand that the one-minute questionnaires are not in- tended to replace your meeting with me or with the TA if you have questions about the lectures, homeworks, or textbook. The purpose of the question- naires is to help me get a sense of where a point in my lecture could use further discussion or what topic piqued your interest so you would like to know more. Should we expect to see homework posted after every lecture? The answer is no, homeworks will be posted only about once a week, with the new assignment usually being posted the day after the previous assignment was handed in. The next homework assignment will be posted on Friday, January 21. Is thermal physics in any way related to thermodynamics? The answer is yes. “Thermal physics” is generally understood as encompassing two different subjects, thermodynamics and statistical physics. Thermodynamics concerns the general properties of equilibrium systems, especially issues related to spontaneous processes, energy, work, heat, en- tropy, and efficiency (say how much work can an engine produce that gets its energy from some given temperature difference). One can discuss ther- modynamics without ever worrying about what a substance is made of. Statistical physics concerns the derivation of macroscopic equilibrium properties from a knowledge of the properties of the microscopic compo- nents. Although statistical physics began with the kinetic theory of gases 1
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in the late 19th century, it really became a vibrant and important subject after the discovery of quantum mechanics in the 1920s. About two thirds of 176 will involve statistical physics because of its greater ability to make useful predictions. Why is this class cross-listed as ECE? There was a time about ten years ago when the Physics Department and Electrical Engineering Department were taking turns teaching this course, which was a required course for engineers back then. Physics 176 is no longer a required course (I am shedding some tears here) but historically the cross-listing has continued. How much will a knowledge of quantum physics aid in this course?
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