Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

A few questions

  1. May 22, 2004 #1
    I have a few questions about quantum physics.

    First, what is the difference between quantum physics, quantum theory, quantum mechanics, etc?

    Secondly, I have absolutely no clue about quantum physics. I talked with a friend of mine about it and it seems like something that I would like to research. However, I have no idea where to start. Could anyone here point me to some basic literature (preferably books) that I could read to get me started? I might also need a little extra prepping because Im only 15 and I only have Algebra. Could anyone give me a starting point (other than telling me to wait for college :P)?

    Also, does anyone have any information about the credibility of a Dr. David Hawkins (sp?) I believe his books are about quantum physics, such as Power vs. Force and another I cant remember.

    Any help is greatly appreciated! And I am a very curious person, so expect me to have alot more questions soon! :)
  2. jcsd
  3. May 23, 2004 #2
    Nothing at all?
  4. May 25, 2004 #3
    Yeah, it can be a bit overwhelming as you've probably noticed by now, I'll tell you this before you start - dont plan to understand it overnight, because it just downright strange. Im 16, and I recently got into this stuff so I'll see if I can help.

    1) First you need to understand what quantum means. Quantum means small - the study of the very small - elementary level, the study of the very smallest of matter. Quantum theory is what began this mess of study, Einstein in essence "invented" the quantum theory, with contributions from many other scientists. Quantum mechanics is more related to the formulas which describe quantum mechanics, and quantum physics is just....the field of studying quantum theory. Dont worry about the words too much.

    2) I dont know where your from, but in Canada, we have libraries and book stores throughout our cities, the first thing you need to do is either buy, or borrow a book on this stuff. If you are not too skilled in math yet, id recommend any of the books by Brian Greene. There are also many articles on the internet about quantum mechanics, but at this section of physicsforums.com, you will probably understand 1% of the posts...start simple man.

    Anyway, good luck, I am also trying to quantum theory, and its tough work, but strangely rewarding as it starts to become less confusing.

  5. May 25, 2004 #4


    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    Quantum does not mean "small." Quantum means "unit," as in, the smallest possible discrete bit of something, like energy or charge. There are many macroscopic (large) systems that display quantum-mechanical effects: superfluidity and superconductivity are the two most common.

    Both quantum physics and quantum theory are umbrella terms to describe any quantized physical theory, including quantum mechanics, quantum electrodynamics, quantum chromodynamics, and so on.

    Quantum mechanics is a superset of classical mechanics, which describes the position, velocity, and momentum of particles as affected by forces.

    If you want an easy book to begin learning about some quantum mechanics, try something like John Gribbin's "In Search of Schrodinger's Cat." I'd stay away from Hawking, because he tends to discuss general relativity and gravity more than quantum mechanics.

    Once you've grappled with some of the qualitative features of quantum theory by reading such a book, you might want to consider picking up a real quantum mechanics textbook. There are a number of threads here on pf about the best introductory quantum mechanics texts; my favorite is that by Griffiths. You will need quite a bit more mathematics than real algebra to understand quantum mechanics, unfortunately: you'll need vector and complex analysis, as well as quite a bit of calculus.

    - Warren
  6. May 26, 2004 #5
    You will want to start with some popular accounts of quantum mechanics/physics/theory (which are all basically the same thing by the way).

    "In Search of Schroedinger's Cat" and "Schroedinger's Kittens" by John Gribbin are very good. He also wrote a shorter book called "Quantum Physics" more recently. A recent collection of popular articles by experts is available in "Quantum: A guide for the perplexed" by Jim Al-Khalili. Finally, I recommend the New Scientist guide to the quantum world at http://www.newscientist.com/hottopics/quantum/, which is especially good if you don't have money for books and are allergic to the library.

    If you really want to understand this stuff, then you will have to take physics at college (although some math and chemistry programs will cover it as well). There's no real alternative to that I'm afraid. However, if you are really determined to learn it now, then you will need a good understanding of calculus, classical mechanics and the physics of vibrations and waves before you start. Picking up a couple of heavy books with titles like "University Physics" and "Mathematics for Scientists and Engineers" would be a good start, as would looking at the three-volume "Feynman Lectures on Physics".

    It's probably better for your sanity and social life to wait until college though, so I recommend sticking to the popular accounts and occasionaly bugging your science teacher and us with difficult questions.
  7. May 26, 2004 #6
    You got excellent answers from these guys already and I have little to add. But you may want to take a look at KingNerd04 post. I gave an extensive answer to his questions and you may find that some of it applies to your case too.
    Good Luck.
  8. Jun 7, 2004 #7
    hey everyone
    I am doing an interpretation of youngs experiment at school and I was wondering if there would be eny point in useing a cathode ray as my source. Would this even work? and if so would there be any point in this.
  9. Jun 7, 2004 #8
    it would work but y not use a laser. Theyre cheap to find and easy to buy. The monochromatic wavelength will give you a better result.
  10. Jun 8, 2004 #9
    alright thanks. I was just playing with the idea, seeing if i could test both a laser and the electron stream. but thanks
Share this great discussion with others via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook