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Book Suggestions for Teaching Conceptual Modern Physics

  1. Sep 10, 2015 #1
    It appears that I will be assigned to teach a modern physics course centered on quantum mechanics for those with almost no math background and I am searching for a suitable book. Essentially, this would be the modern physics equivalent of Paul Hewitt's Conceptual Physics book.

    I thought of using Gronick's Cartoon Guide for Physics, but it is light on quantum mechanics. I also thought about Modern Physics for Dummies, but assigning students a book with that name would be rather insulting and I would rather avoid starting off the semester on the wrong foot.

    Any ideas? Again, there would need to be a preponderance of discussion on quantum mechanics with the least emphasis on mathematics as possible.

    Thanks in advance.
  2. jcsd
  3. Sep 10, 2015 #2


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  4. Sep 10, 2015 #3
    Thanks for the suggestion. I had forgotten all about that book. I will see if it will serve my students' needs.

    I want to keep the math at the arithmetic level. I can do this in many cases by not asking them to solve for anything, but simply use arithmetic to verify the results of an equation. The students have all had algebra, but many of them are very rust and I would rather avoid any sort of algebraic manipulation. They can also interpret charts, which I plan to lean on heavily in the class.

    Any other suggestions would be most appreciated.
  5. Sep 11, 2015 #4


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    Why not teach the math? One can convey the key ideas using only finite dimensional linear algebra. It's easier than classical mechanics.

    And the Bell test provides an example of key features of quantum mechanics.

    Sean Carroll gives an overview that is a bit in this spirit in chapter 11 of his book "From Eternity to Here"


    I've read bits of these books after being introduced to them by StevieTNZ, and they might be worth looking at.

    Anton Zeilinger, Dance of the Photons

    Giancarlo Ghirardi, Sneaking a Look at God's Cards
    Last edited: Sep 11, 2015
  6. Sep 11, 2015 #5

    Andy Resnick

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    This seems very odd... is this some sort of 'general elective'? Can you provide some context and details about the students- grade level, typical major...?

    One significant thrust of this course could simply be teaching the students how to detect 'not even wrong' quantum-labeled pesudo-science.
  7. Sep 11, 2015 #6
    Aaty, thanks for the suggestions. I think Carroll's work would make for great supplementary reading. How well I can get across the concept of the wave function remains to be seen. I have what I think is a clear way of presenting it, but we'll see. The book Sneaking a Look at God's Cards appears to be the most promising of the three you offiered.

    Andy, it's an upper-division general elective. The students will hail mostly from non-science majors, especially the liberal arts. It's designed for students to get reasonably accurate idea of what quantum mechanics is all about. In a sense, it does for modern physics what Hewitt did for general physics. I do like the pseudo-science angle. I have done a lot of teaching of pseudo-science in the past, and this would be a good vehicle for that. Thanks for the suggestion.

    DEvens suggestion to include Feynman's QED has prompted me to order a desk copy to review. I am also looking at:

    • The Cartoon Guide to Physics by Larry Gonick
    • The Quantum World: Quantum Physics for Everyone by Kenneth Ford (Probably too technical based on reviews. I have not seen the book.)
    • Quantum Physics: A Beginner's Guide (Beginner's Guides) by Alastair Rae
    • Quantum: A Guide for the Perplexed by Jim Al-Khalili
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