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Quantum mechanics for starters

  1. Jan 4, 2012 #1
    Hey, I'm a junior in highschool and am thinking about investing in some introductory books on QM. I've delt a bit with the concepts, but I really think I have to understand some of the math to really comprehend things like spin, symmetries, etc. I havn't officially taken any calculus course or completed a physics course. I guess my real question would be where I should start. I am really enthusiastic about the particle level, and don't necessarily want to bore myself with newton's laws of motions. Which section of history should I undertake? Should I try to fully understand pre-relativity first then go in order "chronologically". Or go straight to QM and learn the other necessary prior stuff as I go along as it appears. You may think I am just crazy and need to go straight to Aristotle, but I would rather not as I am not really interested in those "macro" situations.
  2. jcsd
  3. Jan 4, 2012 #2
    It seems you want to understand QM conceptually - to the point , now this is where a university course helps , and is the only feasible way to do so. I asked a similar question once on this forum regarding QM and my interest over it.
    To really undertand QM in depth just as the pioneer of this branch of physics wished to I recommend 'Lectures on Physics'
    By sir Feynman , however let me do highlight for you one point.. you will struggle with quantum mechanics if you don't wish to grasp fundamental ideas of physics predating QM and which do seem to be true in classical view. Be it a degree or understanding QM , classical matter is just as crucial , abstract views can be dealt later when your understanding progresses.

    The book-set consists of 3 volumes, volume one is majorly classical ideas./ study of classical matter.. first and second year of degree work , second volume consists of electrodynamics and introduction of vector fields and differentials,maxwell equation , etc . Third volume is where you actually get to study Schrodinger equation,etc

    From my personal experience Q.M is not something which people have fully grasped perhaps they may never , there will always be something bringing out the uncertainty of why something is appearing to be that way.

    Take thing's slow and steady.. read online articles on wave particle duality, that's a much better start point and you may not appear so lost.

    Whatever you do stay ambitious , we are lucky in that we live in an age where sharing knowledge/ information is dealt in a matter of few clicks.

    Good luck !

    P.S: I am a first year undergraduate and apparently I won't start Q.M until second year.Just my two cents.
  4. Jan 5, 2012 #3
    Yeah, the stuff online is extremely vague and hard to come by. I understand a lot of the stuff conceptually and I am a big fan of understanding things like this first, but I just dont seem satisfied. I hate when I start reading something and they just dismiss all the various figures as being too complicated or whatever. Ive seen a couple of vid lectures with Feynman and I think I can really relate to him, as in he is usually very visual. Are there lots of pictures and diagrams?...I should assume so after all Feynman is famous for his "Feynman diagrams" Thanks man I really appreciate your response.
  5. Jan 5, 2012 #4
    You have to deal with the classical stuff and fully grasp it first from what I have seen. Without understanding the fundamental laws in physics and how to apply them properly along with the terminology associated with each you won't be able to grasp quantum mechanics or relativity.

    You might think you have a grasp of the fundamental concepts without knowing about all that crap but once you go through it all and can apply the basic concepts and be able to look at a formula formula and say to yourself "oh well that makes sense" instead of just plugging in the numbers to get the answer without really understanding why. Once you do that and revisit what you thought you grasped about QM or GR you think to yourself (or atleast I did) "holy crap, I didn't get it before, but now it all clicks." That feeling is what made me start pursuing physics as a hobby so I can hopefully soon grasp the more difficult concepts.

    Here is where I have been learning all my stuff from since I'm already out of university and this whole having real responsibilities and a job thing keep me from being able or really in want of going back to school.


    You can watch lectures from MIT courses, access class notes, tests and answers, etc. etc. It's as close to actually going to MIT as you can get, and you can do it on your own pace without the $30,000 a semester price tag.
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