HPS 2559
Thermodynamics and Statistical Mechanics Spring 2020

Topics and Readings

Access this site at http://www.pitt.edu/~jdnorton/teaching/2559_Therm_Stat_Mech/general.html

This seminar covers historical and foundational issues in thermodynamics and statistical mechanics. We will read important papers in the history, including some by Carnot, Clausius and Thomson. We will also examine foundational issues, following class interest but provisionally including Boltzmannian vs Gibbsian approaches, the notion of a reversible process in thermodynamics, the relation of thermodynamics to statistical mechanics, the origins of dynamical irreversibility, the statistical mechanics and thermodynamics of black holes, and Maxwell’s infernal demon.

John D. Norton, Department of History and Philosophy of Science, Room 1109B CL, jdnorton@pitt.edu
David Wallace, Department of History and Philosophy of Science, Room 1132 CL, dmw121@pitt.edu
Room 1008C CL (In response to the corona virus pandemic, we are planning to shift to virtual meetings.)
Thursday 9:30am - 12:00 noon

Your Part

Term paper
To be submitted Friday April 24 by 5pm Friday May 1 by 5pm in email to both instructors. (Change due to corona virus pandemic delay of classes.)

Our policy is NOT to issue incomplete grades, excepting in extraordinary circumstances. We really do want your papers completed and submitted by the end of term. We do not want them to linger on like an overdue dental checkup, filling your lives with unnecessary worry and guilt.

In return for the rigidity of the deadline, the seminar will not meet in the final week of term (Thursday April 23) (Thursday April 30) to give you extra time to complete the paper.

The paper may be on any subject of relevance to the seminar.

To assist you in commencing work, please submit a paper proposal by the seminar meeting Thursday April 2 Thursday April 9. It should be send in email ahead of the class meeting or presented on paper in the meeting. The proposal need only be brief. It should contain a short paragraph describing the topic to be investigated and give a brief indication of the sources you intend to use.

Do talk with us about possible topics. Do talk with us earlier rather than later.

Take your turn presenting material
The seminar will be structured around presentations by seminar members, including the instructors. They are based on weekly readings drawn from the topics and reading list.

We have roughly 2 readings or its equivalent each week, so there will commonly be two presenters. Each should expect about one hour to be spent on the reading. For a small group such as we will have in the seminar, a highly structured "talk, then question time" is not optimal. A better model is for the presenter to develop the ideas of the paper in interactive discussion with the seminar members.

In presenting a reading, you should presume that the seminar has read it. You should spend a short amount of time reviewing the principal claims and arguments of the reading. This is not intended to replace the seminar's reading of the text, but merely to provide a basis of common agreement on its content and upon which subsequent discussion is based. Your principal burden is to provide a critical analysis, a response to the reading and to encourage analytic discussion. This analysis can take many directions. Is the project of the paper clear? Are the theses clear? Are the arguments cogent? How does the reading relate to other readings and issues in the seminar? Are there plausible counter-theses? What arguments support them?

You are encouraged to stand at the front of the room, make strong eye contact with the seminar and deliver the material, writing as needed on the blackboard or gesturing at the digital screen. This promotes a more engaging presentation than when you sit at the table with your head buried in your notes talking to the notes.

Attendance and participation
We look forward to seeing and hearing you each week in the seminar.