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# Poisson Distribution: In the Drude model the probability of an electron suffering a collision in any

## infinitesimal interval dt is just / dt ,

Pr(collide [ , ]) (1/ ) t t dt dt + = [I.1]

(a) Show that an electron picked at random at a given moment had no collision during the preceding t seconds
with probability
/ t
e

. Notice the prime I put on the preceding t seconds. Also, let lim
t
n n
dt

= . Then,

/
/
lim(1 ) lim(1 [ / ]) lim(1 Pr(collide [ , ])) (Pr( collide [ , ]))
Pr( collide [0, 0 ])
t n n n n
t
n
n n n
e dt t t dt not t t dt
not t

= + = = + = +
= +
[I.2]
Show that it will have no collision during the next t seconds with the same probability.

/
/
Pr( collide [ , ]) lim(1 Pr(collide [ , ])) lim(1 )
n n t
t
n
n n
not t t t t t dt e

+ = + = + = [I.3]

b) Show that the probability that the time interval between two successive collisions of an electron falls in the
range between t and t + dt is
/
( / )
t
dt e

.
Because of the independence of velocity from collisions, the act of travelling for some certain time without a
collision and the event of collision itself are independent events. Therefore,

/
travel for t seconds collision in
Pr Pr Pr ( / )
a collision time [ , ]
t
e dt
without t t t dt

| | | |
= =
| |
+
\ \
[I.4]

(c) Show as a consequence of (a) that at any moment the mean time back to the last collision (or up to the next
collision) averaged over all electrons is .

The time back to the last collision has the probability distribution [I.2], and the time until the next collision
similarly has the probability distribution [I.3]; computing the mean time,

/ 2 /
2
0 0
/ /
0 0
( / ) ( / )
0!
(0 1)
( / )
t t
t t
te dt t e d t
t
e dt e d t

= = =

[I.5]

d) Show as a consequence of (b) that the mean time between successive collisions of an electron is .

Finding the first moment of the probability distribution [I.4], the average,

/
0 0 0
Pr ( / ) 0!
t x
t t t e d t xe dx

= = = = =

[I.6]

(e) Part (c) implies that at any moment the time T between the last and next collision averaged over all
electrons is 2 . Explain why this is not inconsistent with the result in (d). (a thorough explanation should
include a derivation of the probability distribution for T).

Qualitative reasoning: Notice that the electrons trajectory, with collisions, appears as,
[I.7]

Consider each X in [I.7] to denote a collision. Notice that probabilistic bins are formed, then. To pick an
electron from all electrons is to pick from one of these bins. But that means you are more likely to pick a wider
bin. Thus, your selection of a random electron is biased towards longer-Ts between collisions.

Quantitative reasoning: to put this more rigourously, consider the out-journey and in-journey of the electron
as independent events. Then, the probability distribution for T is found from the product rule,

2
2 / 2 /
2 2
4
2 / 0 0
2 / 2 /
2
2
0 0
( )
Pr no collision Pr no collision
( )
in t seconds in t seconds 2
( )
t t
t t
t
t t
t
te dt e d
T T t e t
last next
e dt e d

= = = = = =

[I.8]

/ /
( )
2 2 2
0 0 0 0
( ) ( ) 1
( ) exp ( ) 2
T T
T T
t t T
p t p T t Te Te
P T dt dt T T P T dT T dT

+

= = = = =

[I.9]

A failure to appreciate this subtlety led Drude to a conductivity only half of Eq. (1.6). He did not make the same
mistake in the thermal conductivity, whence the factor of two in his calculating the Lorenz number (see p. 23).