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A pedagogical approach to the Boltzmann factor through experiments and simulations

  • Autori: Battaglia, OR; Bonura, A; Mineo, RM;
  • Anno di pubblicazione: 2009
  • Tipologia: Articolo in rivista (Articolo in rivista)
  • Parole Chiave: Education;Teaching methods and strategies; Computer in education; Laboratory experiments and apparatus
  • OA Link:


The Boltzmann factor is the basis of a huge amount of thermodynamic and statistical physics, both classical and quantum. It governs the behaviour of all systems in nature that are exchanging energy with their environment. To understand why the expression has this specific form involves a deep mathematical analysis, whose flowof logic is hard to see and is not at the level of high school or college students’ preparation. We here present some experiments and simulations aimed at directly deriving its mathematical expression and illustrating the fundamental concepts on which it is grounded. Experiments use easily available apparatuses, and simulations are developed in the Net-Logo environment that, besides having a user-friendly interface, allows an easy interaction with the algorithm. The approach supplies pedagogical support for the introduction of the Boltzmann factor at the undergraduate level to students without a background in statistical mechanics.