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Statistical Physics

What happens when ice melts or a material becomes superconducting? A small change in external parameters can have a big impact on material properties. Phase transition is a core physics concept explored in this course. Statistical physics provides a link between the visible macroscopic properties of a system and its microscopic details.

Left: superconductivity. Right: Bose-Einstein condensate
Left: magnet levitating above a superconductor. Right: Velocity distributions of rubidium atoms confirming the existence of the Bose Einstein condensate.

This course describes the thermal properties of several systems in equilibrium with an emphasis on explaining the phenomena of Phase transitions. The models and their relevance for physical systems that are treated include: the Ising model, the Van-der-Waals fluid and some introduction to the XY and Heisenberg models. Some of the topics covered are convexity properties of the Free energy, methods for exact solutions, order parameters, mean-field theories, the Landau theory of phase transition and its limitations, spontaneous symmetry breaking, first and second order phase transitions, scaling and universality classes and the Kosterlitz Thouless phase transition.

  • Course structure

    This is a second cycle course given at half speed during daytime. This course can also be taken as a third cycle course.

    Teaching format

    The teaching consists of lectures and problem solving sessions.


    The course is examined by a final written examination, and continual assessment through weekly hand-in assignments which can earn the students some bonus points.


    David Milstead

    Phone: +468 5537 8663


  • Schedule

    The schedule will be available no later than one month before the start of the course. We do not recommend print-outs as changes can occur. At the start of the course, your department will advise where you can find your schedule during the course.
  • Course literature

    Note that the course literature can be changed up to two months before the start of the course.

    “Lectures on Phase Transitions and the Renormalization Group,” by Nigel Goldenfeld, Addison Wesley (1992)

  • Course reports

  • Contact

    Course coordinator and teacher:
    David Milstead, tel: 08 5537 8663, e-mail:

    Alexandre Adler, e-mail:


    Academic advisor at the Department of Physics:

    Student office: