Volume 17: Pages 223-244, 2004
The Fundamental Concepts of Classical Equilibrium Statistical Mechanics
Sérgio B. Volchan
Departamento de Matemática, Pontificia Universidade Católica do Rio de Janeiro, Gávea, Rio de Janeiro, 22453‐900, Brasil
A critical examination of some basic conceptual issues in classical statistical mechanics is attempted, with a view to understanding the origins, structure, and status of that discipline. Due attention is given to the interplay between physical and mathematical aspects, particularly regarding the role of probability theory. The focus is on the equilibrium case, which is currently better understood, serving also as a prelude to a further discussion of nonequilibrium statistical mechanics.
Keywords: statistical mechanics, foundations, equilibrium, ensembles, probability, phase transitions
Received: February 4, 2004; Published online: December 15, 2008