Faculty Sponsor: John Yukich
There are two parts of statistical mechanics—the mechanics of particles, which deals with the state that a system is in, s(t), and the statistics of states, which deals with the probability of the state, Ps. The most basic statistical mechanics experiment is one in which you directly measure s(t) and Ps. The most well known type of experiment for doing this is Brownian motion, described as the random motion of particles as a result of continuous collisions with each other and their medium. This experiment explores the Boltzmann machine, an apparatus that gives a macroscopic view of a microscopic dynamical system whose mechanical, s(t), and statistical, Ps, properties can be measured. It involves adjustable wooden platforms that represent energy levels, ping-pong balls that act as particles, and Squiggle BallsTM that provide random motion. The objective is, given the mass of a ping-pong ball (m), the height of the step between the two surfaces (h), the area of level 0 (a0), and area of level 1 (a1), to find the time that the ping-pong ball spends on level 0 (t0) and the time it spends on level 1 (t1), and then analyze this data to see if the motion of the ping-pong balls obeys Boltzmann statistics.