cod. 1004552

Academic year 2021/22
2° year of course - Second semester
Academic discipline
Fisica teorica, modelli e metodi matematici (FIS/02)
Teorico e dei fondamenti della fisica
Type of training activity
78 hours
of face-to-face activities
9 credits
course unit

Learning objectives

The student will acquire the basic theoretical concepts in Lagrangian and Hamiltonian mechanics. She/he will understand the principles leading to the study of macroscopic systems and the basic concepts in statistical mechanics. The student will be able to apply these methods to calculate the thermodynamical properties of macroscopic systems at equilibrium, starting from the statistical distribution of microscopic variables in phase space, in simple physical systems. She/he will develop learning skills and she/he will be able to identify the relevant points in a physical problem, the validity of relations and their applicability.


A solid understanding of calculus and basic familiarity with linear algebra; three semesters of introductory calculus-based physics (mechanics and termodynamics). It is also very important to have good familiarity with differentiation, integration, vector calculus and matrices. 

Course unit content

Introduction to Analytical Mechanics: Lagrangian and Hamiltonian approach.

Statistical Mechanics of Microcanonical, Canonical and Gran Canonical Ensembles.

Applications of the classical ensembles.

Full programme

- Classical Mechanics in an arbitrary reference frame. Constraints, virtual displacements, generalized lagrangian coordinates. The Lagrangian of a physical systems and the Lagrange equations. Symmetries and conservation laws. Noether's theorem. Small oscillations, normal modes. The Legendre transform and the Hamiltonian. Hamilton's equations. Configuration space and phase space. Poisson brackets.

- Variational principles and Lagrange and Hamilton equations. Elements of calculus of variations. Canonical transformations. Elements of perturbation theory. Examples of relevant Lagrangians and Hamiltonians of physical systems: central forces, changed particles in an electromagnetic field. Infinite degrees of freedom: the vibrating string.

- The statistical description of a macroscopic system. Systems with many degrees of freedom and classical mechanics. Liouville theorem. The problems of the microscopic approach. Temporal averages and the ergodic hypothesis. How and if equilibrium is reached.
Brief review of thermodynamics: extensive and intensive variables, thermodynamic potentials, Legendre transformations.

-Microcanonical distribution. Boltzmann entropy and its properties. Additivity. Microcanonical classical ideal gas. Gibbs paradox.

- Canonical distribution. The partition function and the Helmotz free energy. Energy fluctuation in the canonical ensemble. Fluctuation and response. Maxwell distribution. Equipartition. Equivalence between microcanonical e canonical ensembles. Canonical Ideal Gas.

- Gran canonical distribution. Gran canonical partition function and pressure. Chemical potential. Gran canonical Ideal Gas.


H. Goldstein- C. Poole - J. Safko, Classical Mechanics

L.D. Laundau - E.M. Lifsits, Mechanics

L.D. Laundau - E.M. Lifsits, Statistical Physics

K. Huang - Statistical Mechanics

R.K. Pathria - Statistical Mechanics

Lecture notes.

Teaching methods

There are 42 hours of lectures and 36 hours of exercise class.
There will be exercise sheets every week.
I will provide my own lecture notes, however the use of a text book is highly recommended.

Assessment methods and criteria

There will be two midterm quizzes which contribute, if positive, to the final written grade. There will be a final written and oral examination.

Other information

Support activity: tutor activity during the course, material from web sites on advanced subjects