Help Page

This educational module wasdesigned to help you learn about any terms or concepts related to the Maxwell-Boltzmann distribution that you may find confusing.  If  you have reached a point that is confusing, try the following suggestions:

  • Visit pages that are linkedto the page that confuses you.  Additional explanation may be found on these pages.
  • Return to the previous pagewith the left arrow.
  • Visit the Home page, and see if the outline of web pages offers any topics related to your confusion.
  • Send us (the web page authors) email feedback.  We actively revise these pages in response to student concerns.
Applet Help:
  • Once JAVA and the applet have loaded, the word GO! will appear. Click on it.
  • Before starting the simulation, choose the number of particles and temperature from pull-down menus.
  • The SIMULATION box shows atoms of a gas in a container.  The atoms are all argon atoms.  The different colors represent atomic speeds, with fast-moving atoms colored violet or blue, and very slow-moving ones colored red.
  • When the simulation starts, the atoms will move and collide with the walls and each other.
  • The container is three-dimensional, so the atoms get smaller and dimmer as they move away from you.
  • Click on "Start" to begin the simulation.  "Pause" will halt the simulation temporarily.  Click on "Pause" again to resume the simulation.  "Reset" will terminate the simulation.
  • Click on "Step" to step through each iteration slowly.  This will allow you to see the initial distribution and watch its development.  Click on "Step" again to let the simulation proceed rapidly.
  • In all simulations, one atom is colored white.  The graph below the box of atoms displays the speed of this white atom.  This makes it easy to see changes in speed for this atom.
  • The ideal Maxwell-Boltzmann distribution is shown as a magenta curve.  As the atoms move, their speeds are tabulated and the histogram is shown in blue. The histogram is continuously normalized.


This applet requires at least Netscape 4 or IE 4.   Also, please make sure that JAVA is enabled in your browser.
Here is a table listing various timings for a 1000K run with 10 atoms for 10,000 iterations:
Platform/Chip Speed
Time (s)
Macintosh 7100/66MHz
Netscape 4.5
Macintosh G3
Netscape 4.06
Pentium II
Internet Explorer 4.01
Pentium II
Netscape 4.05