Thermodynamics 2017-18

Welcome to the homepage for Junior Honours Thermal Physics Part 1: Thermodynamics. Here you will find lecture notes, tutorial sheets, hand-in questions etc. The recommended text on which the course is based is "Thermal Physics" by Finn. There are several copies of the second edition in the library and a third edition is out this year. You should also use my Inverted Textbook on Thermodynamics available free online in two parts. Questions and Answers

The online materials on this page are from 2016-17 and provided for your convenience. They will be updated as the course progresses. I do not expect that the course will change much but be aware that these may not be the final versions 2017-18.

Thermodynamics is a fantastic and subtle subject - enjoy!

Lectures and Tutorials

Lectures (LTA, Weeks 1-10)

Mo 10h00-10h50
Th 10h00-10h50

Course involves 18 lectures, 2 demonstrations (examinable) and one for-interest lecture (non-examinable, November 27th).


come to one of...

Mo JCMB 4325c and 5328 14h10-16h00
Th JCMB 1501 16h10-18h00

Please sign up for a slot at one of the workshops. In principle, the rooms are not large enough to accommodate everyone, but if there is space you are welcome to come to both. Prof Ackland will be at all the tutorials, available to help with the course or discuss physics more widely.

I previously posted solutions to the hand-ins and tutorials after the fact. Unfortunately, too many people took this as a cue not to attempt the work until the solutions were available. It's a much better learning method to try the questions cold first, use the solutions to give yourself feedback on what you did wrong, then try again if there's anything you don't understand mistakes. Despite making the answers available immediately, I hope you will resist temptation to peek, and use them as feedback. Do look at the solutions eventually, as they contain commentary on what physics the question relates to, as well as checking answers.

The overheads used in lectures are not intended to make sense on their own. All necessary information is in the lecture notes, questions and solutions, and in Finn.

Assessments ( Hand in calendar)

There are be 4 assessed problems. Students taking the 10 point "Thermodynamics" course only do the first 3. Students taking the 20 point "Thermal Physics" should do all 4, although the marking scheme allows one handin to be discarded from either Thermal or Statistical section. Assessments count as 20% of final mark.

Plagiarism and group working for assessments

We know that students often work closely together on handins. This is a good way to learn. Technically, it is also plagiarism, so we have a process to regularise the situation.

1/ You may work on the hand-ins in self-organised groups of up to six. There is no obligation to do this, nor is there any constraint by degree program.

2/ If you do, you must hand in a single submission, with ALL barcodes attached.

3/ Group submission will be expected to have a higher standard of presentation (i.e. you should explain what you are doing). There is no other reduction in marks.

This approach is meant to formalise what was already happening in practice.

Assessments will be released not more than one week before the due date. This is to avoid a problem in previous years where far too much time was spent on the assessments, at the cost of the tutorial problems.

The question is subtly different from previous years. Answering last year's version would be obvious plagiarism, don't do it.

Revision classes will be held in Semester 2. REMEMBER: The Mon/Thurs problem classes are your chance to get feedback on your work from Prof Ackland and PhD student demonstrators I'm going to work on the assumption that anyone who doesn't come is able to do the problems without needing assistance or feedback.

This is Prof Ackland's fifth year of teaching the course.

Assessments for Hand-in

Assessment 1: Ramjet. 12 noon Tuesday of Week 5 (17th Oct) Indicative marking scheme, parts a-i ( 2,2,3,3,5,3,3,2,2) FEEDBACK

Assessment 2: Steam engine 12 noon Tuesday of Week 8 (7th Nov) Indicative marking scheme, parts a-i ( 2,3,2,3,5,3,3,2,2) FEEDBACK

Assessment 3: Magnetic Fridge 12 noon Tuesday of Week 10 (21nd Nov): Indicative marking scheme, parts a-i ( 3,2,2,3,4,2,3,4,2) FEEDBACK

Assessment 4: Phase Transition 12 noon Thursday of S2 week 1 (Jan 18th).--> Indicative marking scheme, parts 1-7 (2,2,2,4,4,3,4,4). NOT required for 10pt course "Thermodynamics". FEEDBACK


Notes for Demo 1

Notes for Demo 2

Slides for Demo 2

General Interest seminar movie and notes. Hydrogen goes bang! Hydrogen General Interest Talk

Lecture Notes, Tutorial Sheets and Solutions

If you spot any errors or omissions in the lecture notes and problem sheets let me know and they will be corrected in the online version. Finalised course notes will be available shortly after the lectures: they will be very similar to last year's which are available now.

Ongoing Commentary and Feedback

Here I will make a note of feedback given to individual students, in those cases where it seems relevant to the whole class.

The preferred text for the course is Finn's Thermal Physics - there are several copies in the library.

You should attempt the tutorial problems in advance of the problems class feedback session.

LECTURES: Will cover the foundations and proofs of thermodynamics, illustrated with examples drawn for various physics problems..

TUTORIAL SHEETS: Will give you the chance to train your skills by practice on a series of problems.

TUTORIALS: Give you a chance to discuss the problems you encountered in doing the tutorial sheet, and get feedback on your solutions.

TUTORIAL SOLUTIONS: Are lengthy and contain not only the answers, but some in-depth description of what physical points the question has been designed to illustrate.

Both lectures and tutorials will cover theory and the practical application by relating it to physical systems which are somewhat familiar. REMEMBER: The Mon/Thurs problem classes are your chance to get feedback on your work from Prof Ackland and two demonstrators I'm going to work on the assumption that anyone who doesn't come is able to do the problems without needing assistance or feedback.

This is Prof Ackland's fifth year of teaching the course.

Mid semester Feedback form

Thanks to those of you who filled these in at the tutorials, especially for all the nice comments and, yes, for your jokes too.

I reintroduced the pre-lecture quiz this year, which was the most commonly praised part of the course. I shall overlook the fact that its also the part with least connection to thermodynamics.

The only request which came up more than once was to release the hand-ins sheet earlier. The short timescale was introduced to address the problem of people spending far too much time on the hand-in to the detriment of the tutorial sheets. I see no evidence that this has gone away: the only questions I had at the tutorial before the hand-in 1 deadline were angling for hints about the handin: an entire tutorial wasted. In previous years this started as soon as the handin was released. The purpose of the course is to learn thermodynamics, and overfixation on one version of the Brayton cycle doesn't help that purpose.

Lecture Notes


Weekly tutorials will be available here, taken from the free online ebook.
Sheet 1: ( PDF )   Properties of materials: Mainly revision
Sheet 2: ( PDF )   Temperature scales, work, equations of state
Sheet 3: ( PDF )   Work and heat, the First Law, expansion processes
Sheet 4: ( PDF )   Cycles and the Second Law
Sheet 5: ( PDF )   Entropy
Sheet 6: ( PDF )   Thermodynamic potentials
Sheet 7: ( PDF )   Expansion processes again
Sheet 8: ( PDF )   Other Systems
Sheet 9: ( PDF )   Phase transitions
Sheet 10: ( PDF )   Chemical Potential

  • Problem solving is an integral part of the course and you are strongly encouraged and to work through the problems on the tutorial sheets and then to attend the class. Prof Ackland and a team of postgraduate students will act as course tutors. Prof Ackland is easily distracted by discussions of other interesting aspects of physics. This year's demonstator team is.

    Jana Pasztorova

    Christopher Clark

    Shegy Parsa

    Ana Fialho

    Solutions to Exercises

    Answers Detailed solutions to the hand-ins are not provided. You are welcome to discuss the work in the Tutorials but nitpicking over the marking is discouraged.

    Examination Papers

    The "Thermal Physics" examination is at the end of SECOND semester, in a combined paper with Statistical Mechanics. Single-semester visiting students and Geosciences students have a bespoke "Thermodynamics" paper at the end of the first semester. There is a resit paper in August for those who qualify.

    Previous Examination Papers can be found via the central University Library site. This requires an Edinburgh University login. Although there will always be some rote-learnable sections, the examination questions will probe whether you understand what you've been taught, not simply whether you can remember it. The purpose of this course is to teach you some physics, not to help you pass the examination. But if you are interested in passing the examination, it is a good idea to practice with some past papers.
    2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015
    There will be additional sessions prior to the examination period in which you can ask for feedback on your attempts at previous examination papers. Remember that while a tutorial problem gives you practice at testing you own understanding, an examination answer also requires you to communicate that information to another human being who marks the paper. A very instructive way to check this is to attempt a paper under exam conditions and then get a friend to mark it

    The overall mark is split between Coursework, 20% and Degree Examination, 80%

    Recommended texts:

    (1) Finn, 'Thermal Physics' ; New Version 2017 "Finn's Thermal Physics" by Andrew Rex
    (2) Ackland 'An inverted textbook on Thermodynamics' Questions and Answers


    There is nothing of use in the lecture overheads which is not already contained in the notes. They are subject to random, unpredictable changes and not intended to make any sense whatsoever without the soundtrack. In short: use the notes.
    Lecture 1
    Lecture 2
    Lecture 3
    Lecture 4
    Lecture 5
    Lecture 6
    Lecture 7
    Lecture 8
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    Lecture 10
    Lecture 11
    Lecture 12
    Lecture 13
    Lecture 14
    Lecture 15
    Lecture 16
    Lecture 17
    Lecture 18
    Lecture 19