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Anyone here study quantum mechanics for fun?

  1. May 3, 2017 #1
    Just curious if any of you out there who have completely different fields study this topic just for the joy of it. It seems like you would have to be pretty motivated or extremely intelligent to master these concepts for leisure.
  2. jcsd
  3. May 3, 2017 #2


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    Last edited by a moderator: May 8, 2017
  4. May 3, 2017 #3
    well my math skills are pretty good up through calculus, differential equations, and linear algebra. So, I don't mind the math. It's the physics part that is hard haha
  5. May 3, 2017 #4


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    Yes. I did a double major in biology and physics. The physics was for fun, as I felt I too stupid to be a physicist,

    But to understand quantum mechanics is not so hard mathematically nor conceptually. The problem is finding someone who will simplify it for you, as there are not ideal texts out there for the beginner. Rather one would need the clear statement of intellectual structure in say Sakurai and Napolitano, simple examples in say Taylor and Frank, and a discussion of the philosophical problems in say Landau and Lifshitz or Weinberg.

    Another problem is that there are terrible books out there that many think are good, eg. Ballentine.
    Last edited: May 3, 2017
  6. May 3, 2017 #5


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    We used Schiff and was a great compact book but it was hard to follow the steps as he'd skip simpler steps and we the student were left with how did he do that. I guess if he had explained it more it would've become the Merzbacher book.

    Another book that was popular was Rojansky I think because he once taught at our school.
  7. May 4, 2017 #6


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    I have found the following pdf on the subject. I don't know whether this fits your expectations, but it looks pretty good:


    (I assume there are no copyright issues, as it is on the regular homepage of Columbia NYC.)
  8. May 4, 2017 #7
    It Kinda lost me off the bat at complex vector space. I guess my linear algebra isn't that strong. Would anyone say that quantum mechanics is harder than other focuses of physics or even the hardest?
  9. May 4, 2017 #8
    Let's say I wanted to begin to understand it, where should I start? and getting a degree is out of the question at the moment. In the middle of getting my civil engineering degree. This is one of those topics that I feel like it is worth learning. I mean YOLO right?
  10. May 4, 2017 #9
    Yes, I'm studying QM for fun.
    I have no background at all(I'm a programmer and even that I learned by myself), and I'm struggling with every piece of information I'm reading,
    but I believe it's worth it, and would payoff later.
    Currently I'm reading Dirac's "Principles of Quantum Mechanics" - seems like a good starting point if you are into QM, you should definitely try this one.

    Actually I'm looking for someone to learn with, so if you would like to, we could learn together.
  11. May 4, 2017 #10


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    That looks like QM for serious mathematicians!
  12. May 4, 2017 #11


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    You don't need a degree, but to learn QM would be like an additional course on top of your current courses. You could try learning it during the summer break.

    There are lots of recomendations for text books on this site if you search for them. Personally, I think Griffiths is the most accessible, although not everyone like his book.

    Given your limited time, you want a book that gets down to the nitty-gritty as soon as possible. Griffiths certainly does this.
  13. May 4, 2017 #12


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    Probably the reason I like it :smile:. As the OP said
    I thought it would be a good (and cheap) source of information.
  14. May 4, 2017 #13
    Hmm I'm actually interested in that. I have some of the math required and have taken a lot of dynamic physics classes because I'm a civil major so that could probably benefit you in some way
  15. May 18, 2017 #14
    Dirac's book is good.
  16. May 20, 2017 #15
    It is a pure hobby for me, I am an engineer by education (BSEE), I just find it very interesting, but I don't claim to understand any of it past a very high level, think QED video's on YouTube.
  17. May 20, 2017 #16
    A physicist was once asked, how much math would you like a physics student to know before you start teaching him physics. He answered, "All of it.". I'm starting to understand that answer. It sounds like a joke, but it isn't.

    I've just finished reading chapter 3 of Peter Woit's book, Quantum Theory, Groups and Representations: An Introduction. There's a lot there. But most of what I got out of it isn't in the text. It's in the other math I've learned on my own after my University degrees in the 60's. Things like a smattering of category theory (just a smattering; I'm starting to thing category theory on coextensive with mathematics) really give context to what he says, such as groups on one space induce operations on another.

    He never even mentioned categories. But just knowing about them gives me additional motivation for his definitions.

    Overall, so far I'm enjoying the book. He doesn't try to motivate QM from examples and failings of classical physics. He jumps in with state spaces and groups at the start, and begins with quantum systems that have *no* classical counterpart.

    I'm having fun.
  18. May 20, 2017 #17
    Other fields I'm jumping into for fun: category theory, mathematical constructivism, algebraic topology. Getting little bits of each now and then (including QM, of course), but they all seem to reinforce each other.
  19. May 20, 2017 #18
    I don't entertain it much, but does anyone even understand quantum physics yet?

    Can't have fun learning something I can't understand (don't really try, though). On another note, I find it one of the most interesting topics to learn about, which is why it's one of the most frustrating.

    Nevertheless, challenge can be addicting.
    Last edited: May 20, 2017
  20. May 20, 2017 #19
    Yes, there are people who understand quantum mechanics.
    You do have to change your understanding of reality, though.
  21. May 20, 2017 #20
    I don't buy into the notion that quantum mechanics informs more about reality than other frameworks, so I don't think that changing my understanding of reality is enough to accept that one actually gains some kind of understanding from it. One gains, but not as definitive as one would hope, imo.

    One lives in a discrete world... yes, I think one can figure that out without grasping quantum. I won't deny its usefulness, though.

    *Philosophically*, quantum mechanics is a perfect example of the more I know, the least I understand kind of paradox. Essentially, "anything is possible" mixed with a bunch of miraculously accurate wild guesses thrown into the mix to sculpt some wishfully intelligible order. The observations are too difficult to interpret.

    ...which should be expected.

    Still in the Cowboy age of science we are.
    Last edited: May 20, 2017
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