Dresden, Max Formerly, Institute for Theoretical Physics, State University of New York, Stony Brook, New York.
- Additional Readings
The statistical description of particles or systems of particles whose behavior must be described by quantum mechanics rather than by classical mechanics. As in classical, that is, Boltzmann statistics, the interest centers on the construction of appropriate distribution functions. However, whereas these distribution functions in classical statistical mechanics describe the number of particles in given (in fact, finite) momentum and positional ranges, in quantum statistics the distribution functions give the number of particles in a group of discrete energy levels. In an individual energy level there may be, according to quantum mechanics, either a single particle or any number of particles. This is determined by the symmetry character of the wave functions. For antisymmetric wave functions only one particle (without spin) may occupy a state; for symmetric wave functions, any number is possible. Based on this distinction, there are two separate distributions, the Fermi-Dirac distribution for systems described by antisymmetric wave functions and the Bose-Einstein distribution for systems described by symmetric wave functions.
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