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How to go about learning Quantum Mechanics?

  1. May 23, 2004 #1
    Ok, I'm out for the summer, but we never covered all the quantum dynamics chapters. I am interested, but am having a bit of a hard time in self study i.e. understanding the schrodinger equation. Any recommendations? Any books?
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  3. May 23, 2004 #2
    Honestly the best way I think to understanding quantum mechanics is to take course on it because you will have a professor as a guide and can ask him or her any questions you desire. I would recommend take a physical chemistry course or any physics course that does QM. Most of the books you will find out there are extremely technical and you may have a hard time understanding the basics behind QM and the shrodinger equation because the books assume you have knowledge of the mathematics required to solve the schrodinger eq. etc. You may or may not be familiar with some of the math I don't know. An undergraduate text book may be your best bet since it is geared towards an introduction to QM for students. Try searching amazon.com for some good texts.
  4. May 24, 2004 #3
    The Schrodinger equation is a partial differential equation. The best book on PDEs is Partial Differential Equations for Scientists and Engineers by Farlow. You will also need a good understanding of Dirac ket-bra notation. An excellent source is Nouredine Zettili's Quantum Mechanics.
  5. May 24, 2004 #4


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    Some study of normed vector spaces, of which Hilbert space is an example particularly useful to quantum theory, would pay off. The mathematics of Fourier transforms also fits in nicely with that concept, and these transforms have a use in quantum theory, as when translating between wavefunctions on configuration space and wavefunctions on momentum space.
  6. May 25, 2004 #5


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    I used Cohen-Tannoudji and Sakurai. I wouldn't recommend either as a first text.
  7. May 25, 2004 #6
    How about P.A.M. Dirac's Principles of quantum mechanics? You will get the firsthand materials about "Bra" and "Ket".
  8. May 25, 2004 #7


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    Dirac is not good as a first book either. One, it's too deep for a beginner, and two, it's dated. If you want bras and kets and their algebra, Sakurai starts right out with them and does a pretty good job of both motivtion and presentation. The Schaum guide on quantum mechanics also has a chapter on them.
  9. May 25, 2004 #8
    Do you think that high school student can learn quantum mechanics ? Actually, I'm in the first class so... whatever. Anyway, I have good maths background (enough to begin with QM) and my question is as follow: How can I learn it ? What books shall I buy (already have Feynman's lectures) ? I have heard neither about any QM course near me, nor any good teacher - so what's the best way to self-study it ? Just sit down reading and making some notes ?

    Thanks in advance for help
  10. May 25, 2004 #9
    Is there an "accessible" "popularization" of QED and/or QCD that is intuitive with maybe a little math? Thanks.
  11. May 25, 2004 #10
    Feynman's lectures are an excellent way to start. I can't remember how heavy the math gets, but I'm sure you can skip the bits where it gets too hairy.

    A good book for first year undergrads is:
    Quantum Mechanics ~ Alastair I.M. Rae
    This is the one we used, but I can't recall how difficult it is. I would strongly suggest starting with Feynman though.

    My advice would be simply to read as much as possible and just try to think about it as much as possible. When I was doing my A-levels (which is sort of the same as High school I think) I just read all the books on QM I could find at my school library. Looking at lots of different sources is also a very good thing to do because everyone has their own interpretation of the theory. This is especially important to realise at this level because most of what you will read will be interpretation as opposed to real formalism.

    The only other thing I can advise is stay on top of your school studies so you will be able to go to college and study it properly. That's when it gets really exciting!

    Last edited: May 25, 2004
  12. May 25, 2004 #11
    I find math in Feynman's lecture quite simple if compared to some other books i've found

    Absolutely no problem with school - anyway I want to start learning QM during vacations so it won't disturb my school grades

    Obviously I'm going to use many sources.
    Last edited: May 25, 2004
  13. May 25, 2004 #12
    Sakurai and Shankar are good. Both very down to earth (they refer to actual physical systems and experiments). The problem I found with Sakurai is that it has a lot of mistakes. The book was printed after Sakurai died, so probably these errors are typografical errors that were never caught.
    I am myself struggling to understand the meaning of some of the math in quantum mechanics. I usually go to the school's library and bring home a bunch of books on quantum mechanics. I think most of the time you can't learn from only one book, unless you find one author whose style an philosofy is very compatible with your way of learning (not my case).
    Feynman (lectures on physics, third volume) is nice, but very long. For every topic it takes a long time to read all the material. But it may be good to have it as a reference (I do).
    Megus and Mike:
    A good way to get an overview of quantum mechanics, to take a look at some of the problems involved, some of the paradoxes, interpretations, history of the subject, etc. is to read some popularizations on the subject. There are many. I recall reading "Thirty years that shook physics" by Gamow, " In Search of Schrodinger's Cat" by John Gribbin. A friend just lent me "The quantum World" by Kenneth Ford, but I don't think it is very good. I think John Gribbin more recently wrote "Scrodinger's Kitten".
    There are some newer popularizations that get into Quantum Gravity and Super Strings, but if you wan to understand quantum mechanics, those subjects are not going to help. I would stay away from those topics untill I understand quantum mechanics proper.
    Mike: With respect to QED, you can try "QED" by Richard Feynman. It is a little book with almost no math, and it is cheap.
    Megus: I think it must be hard for a high school student to learn quantum mechanics, but if you like the subject, trying to understand it can give you motivation to learn the math needed. (Linear Algebra, Differential Equations, etc.) But I think a popularization is a good starting point, before you get into the math-based books.
    Last edited: May 25, 2004
  14. May 25, 2004 #13
    The problem is I don't want to read popularizations anymore. I just have enough of them and I can't stand text about something without explanation everything in a vivid detail (math included). So popularization won't help.

    I love the subject anyway
  15. May 25, 2004 #14
    So try Sakurai and /or Shankar.
    Feynman's third book also gets into all the math and is good.
  16. May 25, 2004 #15
    ...And, of course, when you get stuck, this forum is a very good place to get help.
  17. May 25, 2004 #16
    I just remembered one more popularization:
    "Quantum Reality" by Nick Herbert. It is good.
  18. May 25, 2004 #17
    One other resource I have sometimes found useful is trying to find lecture notes for undergrad courses on the web. Many lecturers put their stuff on the web these days and now and then you can find some real gems. (recently I found an excellent introduction to elasticity by Kip Thorne!)

    You should be a little careful though. Due to the nature of the web you may come across things which are completely wrong, or at least simply a load of rubbish. Check who wrote the stuff before you read it!

  19. May 25, 2004 #18
    Does it get into second quantization of QFT? Thanks.
  20. May 25, 2004 #19
    The Fabric of the cosomos, read like crazy, and you will eventually understand it, brian greene is good at explaining
  21. May 26, 2004 #20
    Obviously - be ready for my questions :biggrin:

    baffledMatt: In order to find some good lecturers' notes you use google ? How do you look for them ?
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