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Approach for learning Quantum Mechanics?

  1. Sep 4, 2011 #1
    So I've decided that I'm taking Quantum Mechanics this semester but I'm not sure what approach I should be taking towards learning it. Our class is using the standard Griffiths text but after reading the first chapter and a half, although I like his conversational style and think that it's an easy book to read, I don't think it does a very good job at motivating/talking about the physical consequences of the equations he's writing down. I think that's something which i definitely need, as I didn't take a modern physics class before starting Quantum. So I borrowed a copy of Shankar from the library, whom I am a fan of since I listen to his youtube lectures quite frequently. However the approach he takes is quite different, explaining the mathematical formalism first, and then going on to stating the postulates etc. Since my class is following Griffiths, would it be wise to study from Shankar, while skimming over Griffiths, just to make sure I'm not completely out of touch with what's going on in the class? Or am I better off just following what our class is doing and study from Griffiths? Are there any other good books which would be a good supplement to Griffiths? I also have access to the Feynman lectures.

    Thanks for any replies.
  2. jcsd
  3. Sep 4, 2011 #2
    If your class is using Griffiths then focus on Griffiths. However with that being said there is no harm in SUPPLEMENTING your learning with Shankar and Feynman; especially if you're having trouble grasping some concepts.

    One thing I should point out with Griffiths is that the first couple chapters may seem 'conversational' but he does go into further depth mathematically in future chapters. Give it a chance. The first 2 chapters are meant to be introductory.
  4. Sep 4, 2011 #3
    Griffith's I've found takes a bit of a weird approach to teaching quantum mechanics, though not that I've had a huge amount of experience with that anyway, it just doesn't seem typical to me. I think Feynman would be a good supplement, but when he explains his insights it typically requires some amount of familiarity with QM.

    If you'd like, you can get a novel sort of book on quantum mechanics. The first book I'd ever read specifically about physics was titled something like 'Schroedingers Kittens and the Search for Reality' by John Gribbin. Actually that was the book that got me into physics, along with Feynman's books. These types of books are really good as a primer to the concepts of quantum mechanics. Also browsing some wikipedia pages and reading some articles on QM won't hurt either.
  5. Sep 5, 2011 #4
    But the two books take a completely different approach, so should I just study both? I personally want to learn from Shankar as it seems to explain things more intuitively and also seems more rigorous, as in I feel that my class would seem like a breeze if I study from Shankar.

    I see, I might look into those suggestions.

    Any other opinions? Shankar vs Griffiths?
  6. Sep 5, 2011 #5


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    I would go with Shankar from personal experience. It treats hilbert spaces right from the begging and my god does the book explain everything clearly. If you want an intuitive introduction then go with Shankar for sure. If you want a cookbook of integration by parts then go with Griffiths. Again, I would say Shankar because learning Hilbert Spaces from the get go makes the position - space representation that Griffiths just throws at you from the start way more intuitive and I mean cmon who doesn't like to use bra - ket notation =D.
  7. Sep 5, 2011 #6
    To be honest for some reason I hate using pointy brackets :P If I'm studying from Shankar, what should my approach be towards Griffiths, since the class will be using that?

    Would you guys agree that if I study from Shankar, problem sets from Griffiths will seem easy?
  8. Sep 5, 2011 #7


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    I can't say that they will be easier in terms of computation but you will have a much better understanding of what you are actually doing with the position - space representation. Learning about Hilbert spaces doesn't make the integration problems in Griffiths any faster but at least you will know the abstract formulation. I can say though that if you study from Shankar then the concepts that Griffiths throws at you will definitely be easier so you will be able to follow the text nicely. The two complement each other nicely since, when starting QM I doubt you will be leaving the position - space representation very much, so Griffiths provides a very large and nice set of problems to reinforce whatever you learn from Shankar but restricted to wavefunctions (Shankar's text, unfortunately, doesn't have many problem sets). If you want to be safe and time - wary then go with Griffiths, you aren't hurting yourself but if you have extra time then definitely learn from Shankar even if you hate pointy brackets =p (but really how can you not like them lol). Griffiths goes into Hilbert Spaces later on in the book anyways. Its really just if you want to understanding everything deeply from the get go.
  9. Sep 5, 2011 #8
    I see, that makes sense. Also out of curiosity, how come you're giving me advice about Quantum Mechanics while you're still 17? Are you some kind of prodigy? :P
  10. Sep 5, 2011 #9


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    No I'm not lol I just like learning theoretical physics.
  11. Sep 5, 2011 #10
    That's very impressive man. I wish I was that motivated at 17 haha. You're going to have a really easy time at college, assuming you don't jump straight into grad courses.
  12. Sep 7, 2011 #11
    I want to reccomend this asian guy on youtube who does physics & maths tutorial videos.
    When I first did my introductory QM module in 2nd year of uni I was pretty much clueless the whole semester, then I watched his videos and ended up nicking a first in the exam. He speaks fast because he's got to cram every lesson into 10 minutes, but I really think he's a useful resource.

    his user name is donylee.
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