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New student with questions

  1. Mar 18, 2014 #1
    I am a sophomore in highschool and am very, very interested in learning about quantum physics.

    I would like to know good courses to take in highschool and college so that I will be able to learn as much as I can about it. I am especially interested in quantum entanglement, but I've read that a lot of media we see is all "wow factor"

    With that said, I'd also like to know credible sources for learning about this topic that I can access now. Would TV shows like "nova" be credible or useful to me? If not, are there other sites that I can check out?

    Thanks a million! :)
  2. jcsd
  3. Mar 18, 2014 #2
    TV-shows like "nova" are known as pop-sci (or popular science). They should always be taken with a huge grain of salt. Most of them present information that might not be wrong, but is taken heavily out of context. They will probably get you interested in the material though.

    Now, if you want to learn QM "for real", then you have some work to do. It's not a very difficult subject in my opinion, but it requires some prerequisites. Sadly enough, I'll have to say that it will take you over a year (and perhaps several years) to master the prerequisites. Here is some of the stuff you will have to know:

    1) Calculus I, II, III. The study of derivatives and integrals is essential to QM because it forms the language in which it is formulated. As a sophomore in high school, you perhaps already took trig. If you have, then you can start learning calculus right now! (no need for classes like precalculus). I recommend Lang's "A first course in calculus" for Calculus I and II. His follow-up book present multivariable calculus.

    2) Linear Algebra. This studies matrices, vector spaces, inner products, etc. This is again part of the language in which QM is formulated. I know that many physics majors don't take LA, but I highly recommend it. If you took a course in geometry already, then you can probably start learning LA right now. I recommend Lang's "Introduction to Linear Algebra" (opposed to "Linear algebra" which is more advanced)

    3) Differential Equations. They pop up everywhere in physics. Luckily, you will not be required to solve the hardest ones if you're interested in QM. I recommend Simmons "Differential Equations with Applications and Historical Notes". You can skip large parts of the book though.

    4) Classical Mechanics. This is very important because it is the foundations of most of physics. In particular, QM is a generalization of classical mechanics. It makes no sense to directly go to QM without knowing classical mechanics, it would make little sense to you. The idea is to at least understand the Hamiltonian formalism of Classical Mechanics, since that is what is generalized in QM. For a first course, I recommend Halliday & Resnick. You will have to know a little bit of calculus for this though. Halliday will not be enough though, so you will have to do another book later.

    5) Electricity & Magnetism. This too is something you will eventually need to know. You can probably start learning a bit of QM without it, but you'll need it sooner or later. Start with the Halliday & Resnick book.

    These 5 things are the prereqs to QM. It sounds like a lot, and it is. But you can't seriously study QM without these things. If you want to do QM now then you will have to resort to pop-sci things, and these will not give you the actual knowledge (although they are highly entertaining).
  4. Mar 18, 2014 #3
    I figured "nova" was probably not totally accurate, just double checking :)

    I know it's going to be a lot of work, but this is one of the first subjects that actually interests me, so I'm prepared to really put years of work towards this.

    Thank you for all this information, it will defiantly help me out a lot!
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