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Griffiths´ Quantum Mechanics prerequisites

  1. Sep 9, 2015 #1

    I am a math major, currently in my 3rd year of undergraduate studies, majoring in measure theory / probability / mathematical statistics. I am in the dubious situation that I will be taking a course on QM while having so far only studied classical mechanics (i.e. all chapters on classical mechanics in the book by Young and Freedman, including waves). The QM course will begin two months from now, so I have some time to prepare. Since I will later be taking electromagnetism (following the book by Griffiths), Im considering two ways of preparing:

    1. the QM course will be based on the QM book by Griffiths, up to chapter 5. One option for preparation would be that I read this book in advance.

    2. Or I might read Griffiths´ electrodynamics before taking QM, in order to achieve "maturity" in physics.

    Do you think that option 2 would be a big advantage, or perhaps even necessary condition, to studying QM? Officially, EM is not a prerequisite for taking the QM-course. I would prefer to do option 1, due to lack of time.

    I very much hope to hear from you. Many thanks.
  2. jcsd
  3. Sep 9, 2015 #2


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    EM is not a prerequisite for QM if you only aim to stop before the time-dependent Schrödinger equation.

    EDIT: Upon a second thought, it may be very helpful if you have someknowledge on at least electrostatics and magnetostatics as most quantum systems considered in that book deal with those two basic topics in EM.
  4. Sep 9, 2015 #3


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    I too am a math graduate and took the courses you mentioned in measure theory and probability, although I sub majored in Hilbert spaces and applications. I self studied physics in general and QM in particular from sources more advanced than Griffiths eg Dirac and Von Neumann.

    You have suffcient preparation for Griffiths.

    In fact you have sufficient preparation for Ballentine - but start with Griffiths then move onto Ballentine which will give you a much better mathematical foundation to QM than Griffiths eg Ballentine introduces the important issue of Rigged Hilbert Spaces which justifies the usual math found in a book like Griffiths that with your math background you will immediately recognise as a crock of the proverbial (its the use of the dreaded Dirac Delta Function).

    As an aside, and it will also help in your probability studies, I recommend studying the following to understand Dirac Delta function''s etc:

    From your major's viewpoint it covers the interesting Bochner's Theorem:

    IMHO up to chapter 5 is fine without EM. You do need a little bit - but its basic ie the inverse square coulomb law and its associated Hamiltonian.

    Last edited: Sep 9, 2015
  5. Sep 9, 2015 #4
    Griffiths is a good book to start your QM education with, but I'd try to study some basic quantum physics principles on your own first. I'd recommend reading the first few chapters and seeing which topics give you the most trouble then review from there.

    Since you're a moth student, you shouldn't have any trouble with the math. In Griffiths, the author mostly focuses on trying to develop a new intuition for working with the "different" behaviors of QM rather than going all-in with math.

    I took a year of somewhat basic "quantum physics" before taking intro to QM, and we covered the entirety of the Griffiths text in a semester. It was hard, but doable.

    You have a stronger math background than I did and your class will only cover the first 5 chapters, so I think you will be okay!
  6. Sep 10, 2015 #5
    if its been a while since youve done ode and pde, u might want to brush up if youve been doing probability and statistics for a while. mostly boundry value problems and differential equations. also, eigenvectors and other linear algebra stuff.
  7. Dec 30, 2015 #6
    thanks a LOT for your answers. I wasn´t sure if it is "bad habit" to bump the thread by saying thank you, so I didn´t.

    Anyway, I am now almost through the first 5 chapters, and everything has been completely fine withouth knowledge of EM, as you said it would be. I have decided to take part 2 of the course, in which we will study the second part of Griffiths. I now suspect, and can see from the index of the book, that EM will now be used. I have very limited time to prepare, but will be reading as much as I can in Griffiths EM-book.

    Do you think it will be sufficient to study the chapters on electrostatics and magnetostatics? He orders the chapters in the following way, 2. Electrostatics , 3. Potentials , 4. Electric fields in matter , 5. Magnetostatics . Is it possible to skip 3 and 4, and read only 2. and 5.?

    Hope to hear from you.
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