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Is Dirac's Principles of Quantum Mechanics a good way to learn?

  1. Sep 10, 2013 #1
    I have heard about its significance to science and my university's library has a few copies but I also notice it's a rather old book so I'm wondering whether or not it is still relevant. If I wanted to learn about quantum mechanics is that a good place to start? The reason I ask is because I am very curious about it but I don't have room in my schedule either this or next semester to fit the intro to quantum physics class in.

    Also, regarding the maths involved, will the things I've learned in calculus III, elementary linear algebra, and differential equations be enough? Those, along with University Physics 1 and 2, are listed as the prerequisites for the intro to QM course on my school's website.
  2. jcsd
  3. Sep 10, 2013 #2

    Jano L.

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    Gold Member

    Dirac's book is a slightly arcane monograph rather than a textbook. If you want to study the basics of quantum theory, my advice is to start with more elementary books and then as questions arise, search answers in others, more advanced books.

    There is no one single very good book on the subject, different people like different books and all have some serious omissions or other flaws. That makes it important to read as much different sources as you can.

    For intro, these are nice (easy to go through):

    David Griffiths: Introduction to Quantum Mechanics
    John Slater: Quantum theory of atomic structure
    - this is the best book on the basic wave mechanics, in my opinion.

    More advanced:

    David Bohm: Quantum theory
    - from the Copenhagen viewpoint

    Ballentine: Quantum mechanics - a modern development
    Steven Weinberg: Lectures on Quantum Mechanics
    - more modern books

    .. and plenty more.
  4. Sep 10, 2013 #3


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    Staff: Mentor

    If you're at a university but just don't have time to schedule the class, there's a lot to be said for the answer that's under your nose: Use the textbook that the class you can't fit in uses. It'll be easier to get help, and if you can fit the class into some later semester, you'll be far ahead of the game.
  5. Sep 11, 2013 #4
    Dirac's book is a worthy read, but I don't think it should be the first thing you read about QM
  6. Sep 11, 2013 #5


    Staff: Mentor

    Indeed not.

    I leaned proper QM from Dirac's book and Von Neumann's. But having been through that I would not recommend it - to start with Griffiths is much better (if a bit expensive) then Ballentine for the best treatment.

    Along the way to get to grips with interpretation issues I like Hughs:

    After going through those three books in the order Griffiths, Hughs then Ballentine you will have a very good understanding of QM and, IMHO, that is the time to undertake Dirac.

  7. Sep 17, 2013 #6
    somehow JJ Sakurai Modern quantum mechanics appeals well to me!, may be you should try it. Good introduction about history and development is presented in Feynmann lectures and David Bohm`s book
  8. Sep 20, 2013 #7
    Why read the book when you can watch the movie. The quality of the information in Dirac's lecture makes up for the poor quality of the movie.

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