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Physics Self Study

  1. Jan 2, 2009 #1
    I would like to know the best way to go about learning Quantum Physics. I have read a little here and there over the years, and it is a subject that greatly interests me. I have never had the motivation until recently to put some effort into learn more about it. If anyone out there can give me a few suggestions as to what books I should read and what I should educate myself in, I would greatly appreciate it.
  2. jcsd
  3. Jan 2, 2009 #2
    Hello Deinon!

    First off, what i your physics and mathematics background?
  4. Jan 2, 2009 #3
    Absolutely none what so ever. Probably should have mentioned that.
  5. Jan 2, 2009 #4
    Are you looking to learn the math/physics behind quantum mechanics or do you want to read a general-audience book about physics?
  6. Jan 2, 2009 #5
    Since I was once in your "shoes," I'll give truthful advice.

    If you just want to learn the "conceptual nature" of Quantum physics, read all the "general public" books you can find on the subject. There are many good, non-mathematical books on the subject. John Gribbin's "In Search of Schrodinger's Cat," Feynman's QED, maybe even his "6 not so easy pieces."
    There are plenty of books that paint a very enjoyable picture on the subject.

    If you "really" want to learn quantum physics, you need to boost your Math and Physics background. Gerard 't Hooft has a site: http://www.phys.uu.nl/~thooft/theorist.html that literally allows you to go from layman to physicist without ever leaving that site. Expect to spend the better part of a decade with that site on your computer though.

    I'm not a Quantum "expert" by any means, but here is what I'd recommend as a potential quickest path to really "learning" Quantum mechanics.

    Basic Math: (you probably have at least some understanding of all of this and could get a decent "grasp" over a weekend of hard studying)

    Beginnings of "cool" maths:
    Calculus (differential and Integral)
    -I used "teach yourself Calculus" by P. Abbott to literally "learn" Calculus in a week.
    You can use a book like Mary Boas' "Mathematical Methods in the Physical Sciences" to cover just about everything else you'll need.

    Physics prep:
    Get at least a "grasp" of all the Physic concepts from a book like Halliday or Serway's textbooks.

    Start with a basic "Modern Physics" book like Tipler's, Serway's, etc., etc

    By that point you won't need to ask where to go next, you'll know what you want to focus on.

    If you are highly motivated, intelligent and focused, I would say you could cover all of this in a year. You'll find out very quickly if you "really" want to learn quantum.
  7. Jan 2, 2009 #6
    Well after you have taken the steps to at least learn the neccessary calculus- I would suggest Eisberg and Resnick's Quantum Physics of atoms, molecules, and solids. I like it because it works itself up to quantum mechanics, the first 5 chapters are standard "modern physics" fare.
  8. Jan 2, 2009 #7
    Thanks Troponin that helps out alot. I have even put alittle though about going to college for the subject, but i have that its to late for me attitude, and cant see trying to spend the money for something that i well would just use as personal knowledge.

    It the math/physics part that i wish to learn qntty, i have always like numbers.
    Last edited: Jan 2, 2009
  9. Jan 2, 2009 #8

    I took the same attitude as you for a while. Eventually I reached the point of diminished returns. I'd spend hours and hours scouring the internet and books trying to figure out the answer to something I found confusing....something that could easily be answered with 30 seconds of speaking to a professor or tutor center.

    I finally decided to return to school. It was the best choice I've ever made. It may not be an option for everyone, but if you really do enjoy the material and have the time/ability to attend College, I hope you'll consider it.

    I earned a degree in Kinesiology in 2001. I have a family with two children and a 3rd on the way. I have a business that allows me as much free time as I choose. My wife is graduating from Dental school this spring. I have no "logical" reason to be in an undergraduate program. lol

    But...I'm back in school anyway. I'll complete my degree with an Applied Math major and Physics minor next fall. I'm hoping to attend a PhD program in Theoretical Physics following that. I don't have any concrete plans to use my degree for income when I'm finished.

    I'm very happy I returned to school. I absolutely love what I study and can't wait until classes resume in a few weeks. If you're really thinking about returning to school, maybe you could try taking a class at a local community college. You could take a math or physics course there. At the very least, it will give you an opportunity to talk to like-minded people about physics.
  10. Jan 2, 2009 #9
    Thats a good idea never though about a community college. Refreshing myself on basic algebra, and I just realized how much i have missed math, as well as how easy it is to make the simplest mistakes.
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