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Quantum Physics for a twelve-year-old

  1. Oct 17, 2012 #1

    As my title suggests, I want to know about the difficulty of quantum mechanics and several of the prerequisites I should know before I begin such a venture. The following is the path of college courses that I will be taking over the next two years.

    Year 2013-2014

    Mathematics: S1 Differential Equations,
    S2 Mathematical methods for Physics

    Physics: S1 Physics 181 - Electricity and Magnetism with calculus
    S2 Physics 182 - Optics, relativity, basic quantum mechanics, radiation

    Year 2014-2015

    Mathematics: S1 Linear Algebra
    S2 Multivariable Calculus

    Physics: S1 Classical Mechanics - Newtonian mechanics, methods of Lagrange and Hamilton
    S2 Quantum Mechanics

    Are the above courses sufficient before I start Quantum Mechanics? I will be fourteen when I take the course, and would the above prerequisites be enough for learning the topic. My college lists the prerequisites as Physics 182 and "Mathematical Methods for Physics". By that time I would have completed those courses, but would that keep me sufficiently prepared for the class. After all, I do not want to struggle.

    Thank You.
    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 1, 2013
  2. jcsd
  3. Oct 18, 2012 #2


    Staff: Mentor

    Mate you are an advanced 12 year old for sure. I thought I was advanced when I taught myself calculus at 14.

    Yea mate they are more than enough. I don't know what textbooks where you are taking the courses from use but with that type of preparation I would use QM Demystified By David McMahon (I have some issues with its contents but its fine to start with):

    Then Ballentine - QM A Modern Development (it fixes all the issues with the other book):

    Last edited by a moderator: May 6, 2017
  4. Oct 18, 2012 #3


    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    As bhobba said, those are more than enough. I think the most important things are the basics of complex numbers, calculus, linear algebra and Newtonian mechanics. Some experience with differential equations is useful too.
  5. Oct 18, 2012 #4
    Hello! Thank You - I thought much more would be required! After all, to me, Quantum Mechanics has always sounded like its extremely difficult. However, I can slightly understand why they say it is hard- the uncertainity principle sets it apart from from mathematics from the very beginning itself. This was sort of mind-blowing for me to start with, and I would assume that this will be the case for many other principles of quantum mechanics.
  6. Oct 18, 2012 #5
    They look like enough but the sequence doesn't look right to me... I'd do it like this (assuming you already master single variable calculus, obvs.)

    -Diff. eqs.
    -Multivariable calc.

    -Linear algebra

    -Math. methods
    -PHYS 182

    -Classical mechanics
    -Quantum mechanics

    Idk what the fuss about learning quantum mechanics is all about though. Just remember to take it easy for you will have to deal with middle school and this... unless you're already done with highschool. In that case, go for it but I'd rather focus on doing a complete BSc than taking random courses for the sole purpose of learning QM.
  7. Oct 18, 2012 #6

    I am doing this just to learn Quantum Mechanics, that would be a rather pathetic motivation. I do have to deal with highschool classes along with this, but I only have to deal with English, History, and Chemistry. I take my math and physics courses at the college.

    Your organization is rather different from my college's. The science track is Physics 180, then 181, and 182. Then, you move on to classical and Quantum Mechanics. As for math, I could have gotten the classes mixed up, if it doesn't make sense.

    The school I go to is strange - you can take almost any class you want (as long as it meets certain requirements). If you're a middle schooler, and you like biology, you would have a wide selection of middle-school, high-school, and college classes provided to you. So, the college classes would actually be part of my schedule - not an extracurricular activity I do outside of school.

    Also, the college-level classes that I am taking in math/physics are actually easier than the classes I am taking in my own-level. (I am currently having a hard time in English.) :bugeye:

    Thank You for the tips.
    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 1, 2013
  8. Oct 18, 2012 #7


    Staff: Mentor

    Mate I flunked HS English yet got straight honors in a math degree. Go figure - I think its the left right brain thing.

  9. Nov 23, 2012 #8
    You want to build a cyclotron, learn quantum mechanics and rush the foundation so quickly. You do understand Lagrange mechanics is third year, it's harder than quantum mechanics. And you're going to take differential equations before multi-variable calculus? You're also missing vector fields, vector calculus, etc. TBH, after reading your threads I don't actually believe that you're doing all of this for the pleasure of understanding something. It seems like you're panicing and trying to plan everything since you're freaking out subconsciously.

    I really recommend to go have a bath, relax and think about what you're trying to accomplish, and if it's physics, you should not be rushing it. Have a good read of a pdf of Goldstein mechanics.
    Last edited: Nov 23, 2012
  10. Nov 25, 2012 #9

    The main reason I'm doing this is to learn. But behind this
    I also have to take a science class next year. My two options
    are Advanced Chemistry or a Physics class. So I thought it
    would be nice to set some goals.

    Based on the replies, I guess I should slow down and get my
    Physics basics down before I rush into other stuff. Do you know
    what are some of the basics I need to have? These are some of
    the ones I think might be some of the basics.

    E and M
    Some Relativity?

    I probably missed a lot and left out a few important ones. It would
    be helpful if you pointed these out. I also happened to make a wrong
    sequence, as cesaruelas said. I think this is the correct one.


    Calculus 3 - multivariable calculus
    Differential Equations
    Intro to Logic Sets and Proofs
    Linear Algebra


    E and M (Physics 181)
    Optics (Physics 182)
    Mathematical Methods for Physics - (Vector Calculus)
    Classical Mechanics
    Quantum Mechanics

    My college gives the course Classical Mechanics before Quantum Mechanics.
    I suppose that's strange, considering what Cbray said. Anyway, as a whole
    I will slow down - no point in taking classes without really understanding anything.

    Thank You for your help.
    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 1, 2013
  11. Nov 25, 2012 #10
    I think lagrangian mechanics is better to do first then basic quantum mechanics, just some universities don't do it that way. It all depends on what you want to learn, I'm learning everything how I want to learn it because I think it's the best way. If you want to do the maths you've stated, mechanics three times (year 11-1st year uni form, 1st year more formal, then goldstein), do EM twice (each more formal than before), and try and get a really in-depth look into physics when it isn't necessary for getting an A on your test then do it. You do what you want to do, we can only offer what we've done, and all of us are and ,still are, learning differently.

    I could give you millions of different ways of studying, but you have to find one you enjoy the most, what you want to do is the whole point of life.

    The reason I'm doing so much in-depth in physics and maths and not advancing to QM as fast as I could if I didn't take an in-depth look is because that's what I enjoy doing! I enjoy learning in-depth since I can have so many perspectives and have so much information and knowledge about a concept, and that's what I enjoy doing.
  12. Nov 25, 2012 #11
    I don't know why but your posts feel like it's some parent posting trying to get information to teach their unenthusiastic 12 year old advanced physics and pretending to be them. Some sentences just sound too over the top. If this isn't the case, then damm, go enjoy life for a bit, you can do this stuff later. I wish I did...
  13. Nov 25, 2012 #12
    Simplifying my text, I'm trying to get the message across that you do what you want to do. If you don't want to do physics don't do it, simple as that.
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