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Good beginner book for quantum mechanics

  1. Aug 14, 2014 #1
    I am at my first year of engineering and the syllabus include QM. Chapters covered are:

    Fundamentals of QM - Wave particle duality, matter waves, phase and group velocities, Heisenberg's uncertainty principle and its applications, physical significance of wave function, probability density and normalization of wave function.

    QM and simple systems - 1D time independent Schrodinger's wave equation, potential steeps and barriers - reflection and transmission coefficients at steps. tunneling through potential barriers and transmission probability, application of radioactivity. Solution of a particle on an infinite potential well and its Eigen values and Eigen functions(Similarly for finite potential well).

    Suggested book is "Concepts of modern physics" by Arthur Beiser, 6th edition, TMH publication

    But I see on the internet that "Introduction To Quantum Mechanics" by David J. Griffiths is a very popular book for beginner.

    Regarding my mathematical skills, I am good with differential and integral calculus and linear algebra.

    Which book is recommended

    P.S.:I am also very much interested in learning QM and not just for the sake of passing out the exams.

    Thank you.
  2. jcsd
  3. Aug 14, 2014 #2
    The books by Ballentine and Weinberg are very good. For mathematical significance, I would always prefer Ballentine. It provides an overview of the needed mathematics, which is functional analysis. However, the mathematics of quantum mechanics is similar to linear algebra of Hermitian spaces and you will have no difficulties if you know about the spectral theory of endomorphisms. Mathematics in Weinberg's book is close to a disaster, in my opinion, but it is good at presenting the actual physical concepts and includes a historical introduction as well as interesting modern topics.
    Griffiths does not go very deep, but is perfectly written.
    Feynman is (as always) interesting. The mathematics is (as always) a disaster, the physics (as always) perfect.
  4. Aug 14, 2014 #3
    So is Feynman not suitable as a text book? How about the QM part of Fundamentals of physics by Halliday, Resnick and Walker? Does it have good explanation?
  5. Aug 14, 2014 #4
    I've read Beiser's book. I liked it a lot at the time, but it's at a very elementary level. It's a nice book to get acquainted with the subject but if you need the real beef, perhaps you should look further (oh, wait, that is what you are doing).
    I don't think Feynman's third volume is the best choice here, either. I would read the first chapters because they are enlightening, but if I were you I'd choose a more 'traditional' approach to QM.
    You'll come back to Feynman later... (Oh, by the way: you know that all three volumes are freely readable online, right?)

    A book I have not seen mentioned in this thread and that in my opinion is very good is

    Eisberg, Resnick
    "Quantum Physics of Atoms, Molecules, Solids, Nuclei and Particles"
    2nd Edition

    Some think is too verbose and it sometimes puts you in front of real walls of text, but those walls are really worth reading. You can find a "used" Indian edition at little more than 25 bucks on the Amazon marketplace (but be warned: I have one and the paper is very thin, and the printing is somehow imprecise - let aside the fact that the ink st...inks).

    Another good introduction with lots and lots of examples and cases examined is

    Cohen-Tannoudji, Diu, Laloe
    Quantum Mechanics
    2 volumes

    But that might be too much beef :-)
    Last edited: Aug 14, 2014
  6. Aug 14, 2014 #5


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    Staff: Mentor

    Those two books are very different. For many years, we used both of them here, for different courses.

    Beiser is for a second-year "intro to modern physics" course which comes right after the typical two-semester intro course to classical mechanics, E&M, optics and thermo. It has an introduction to both relativity and QM, and chapters on applications to atomic, molecular, solid-state, nuclear and particle physics.

    Griffiths is for a pure upper-division QM course, focuses on the mathematical formalism of QM (more deeply than Beiser), and not much if any on the application areas. We used it in a course that third- and fourth-year students took, after having taken the second-year course with Beiser.

    If your course suggests Beiser, then Griffiths would be overkill for it.

    That's Eisberg & Resnick, not Halliday & Resnick.

    It definltely takes some slogging to get through. I used it when I was a grad student, for reviewing for my comprehensive exam.
  7. Aug 14, 2014 #6
    Thanks, I corrected my original post.
    It was a lapsus, Halliday was mentioned some post nearby :-)
  8. Aug 14, 2014 #7
    Is that part of a chem class out a full on separate physics class? I'm guessing more like the former.

    Anyway the first book sounds like it will probably only cover it to the detail of a General Intro to Modern Physics class (which tend to survey modern physics and go over special relativity in detail and hit up the beginnings of QM general from a more wave based viewpoint than bra ket stuff.) so a sort of first semester second year kind of class or perhaps second semester first year if you either placed out and the school has out of sync course offerings in addition or sometimes gone over in a very brief superficial way at the end of second semester physics II.

    Griffiths is the sort of book that is often used right after that for sometime during the second year or first semester third year (of course it all depends a bit the timing). It might help a bit to see a bit more about it all and get a second exposition on the matter taking a peek at that or some other such book. It's not needed though (particularly if it's just some little tack on to the end of a physics 2 class and nothing more, the other book would already probably present it in more than enough detail for sure).
  9. Aug 14, 2014 #8
    This might be good as supplementary reading :Malcolm Longair-Quantum Concepts in Physics An Alternative Approach to the Understanding of Quantum Mechanics.
  10. Aug 14, 2014 #9
    That depends. Feynman is possibly the guy with the greatest and deepest understanding of quantum mechanics ever. The third volume of the Feynman lectures might be suitable for an engineering or beginner physics course. That what it was made for, so one should not expect more. Feynman was always aware that he is not presenting the most suitable text for mathematically minded students - he directly addresses that point in his other QM book "Quantum Mechanics and Path Integrals" (which is a must for anyone who ever wants to understand quantum mechanics physically! Gives insight into the most fundamental things that appear from nowhere in other texts). If you can live with ugly mathematics, consider Feynman as the best book ever. If you want to understand the mathematical aspects of quantum mechanics (which I would strongly recommend, because they are not trivial at all!), look for another book (at least as a complement).

    I can't imagine that you are going much into detail in your engineering class, so Feynman would probably more than suitable. I just addressed the point of mathematical rigor because you said that you would really want to learn QM. Strictly speaking, operators in QM are no matrices! Linear algebra is not the adequate theory to treat QM.
  11. Aug 14, 2014 #10
    Alright so, I ordered Feynman's book hoping to begin QM without much mathematical knowledge. I currently have Halliday, Rensick and Walker text book. Will the little QM in it be sufficient or should I go for Arthur Beiser for the fundamentals?

    Also, I would be thankful if anyone told me the prerequisites and where I can learn them(maths topics and in what order to learn them and from which books, websites etc) to get into books like Griffith's.(I currently know differential calculus and integral calculus in one variable, linear algebra etc highschool topics. No complex maths)
    Thank you
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