Sciences and Mathematics, College of
Chemistry and Physics, Department of
BURS Faculty Advisor
For introductory physics students seeking to form a sophisticated, complete understanding of the foundations of statistical mechanics, the variation theory of learning1 suggests that many representations of the material, in addition to traditional mathematics-based approaches, are necessary. To provide one such alternate representation, an interactive, educational simulation of a 2-dimensional gas was developed using the VPython 3-D animated physics library. This simulation models the gas as a system of many hard spheres that undergo ballistic collisions. It shows the natural evolution of the expected Maxwell-Boltzmann speed distribution from the initially random motions of the particles. The simulation predicts the qualitative behavior of the theoretical system accurately and includes several interactive features for hands-on learning and experimentation.
Lewis, Josh and Robinson, Steve, "An Interactive Simulation for Teaching Maxwell-Boltzmann Statistics" (2022). Belmont University Research Symposium (BURS). 149.