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Quantum Physics without taking Modern Physics

  1. Aug 23, 2012 #1
    Hello everyone!

    I recently have transferred to a 4-year institution from a 2 year community college. Unfortunately, my community college did not offer Modern Physics and so I did not take the course. I am currently trying to pursue a B.S. in Physics and it requires me to take Quantum Physics this coming semester if I am trying to graduate on time. I just want to ask -- do you guys think it's possible to take Quantum Physics without taking Modern Physics first? I can cut my course load to 12 credits and I am willing to spend the time to study a lot.

    Thanks for the input in advance!
  2. jcsd
  3. Aug 23, 2012 #2


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    Staff: Mentor

    It's impossible to say without more information. What does the Quantum Physics course cover, exactly, and what are the official prerequisites? What does the Modern Physics course cover?
  4. Aug 23, 2012 #3
    I find it somewhat amusing that "Modern Physics" is listed as a prequisite for 100 year-old physics.
  5. Aug 23, 2012 #4
    Thanks for the replies!

    Modern Physics is listed as a prerequisite for Quantum Physics. I have attached a Modern Physics syllabus and I cannot seem to find a syllabus for Quantum Physics. Here is the course description:

    Includes quantum phenomena and an introduction to wave mechanics; the hydrogen atom and atomic spectra.

    Attached Files:

  6. Aug 23, 2012 #5
    I skipped modern physics and did fine in quantum, but I think I would of gotten more out of quantum had I taken modern physics. On that note, a modern physics course will most likely attempt to give intuition for quantum and relativity and will really nail down why classical physics failed as it looks like the course will give a lot of historical perspective.

    Bottom line, I'm sure if you can cut it in quantum after taking modern physics, you can make it through without it but skipping it won't be for free.
    Last edited: Aug 23, 2012
  7. Aug 23, 2012 #6
    For me, modern physics helped to get a historical perspective on the quantum theory and bridge it to classical physics ideas. It also helped with a lot of the mathematical background...introduced some ideas from statistics and differential equations and showed how they related to quantum. If your math knowledge in areas like statistics, differential equations, and linear algebra is strong; then you'll be able to handle quantum physics without modern physics. Modern physics is also traditionally where you see special relativity for the first time.
  8. Aug 23, 2012 #7
    That sounds very reassuring!

    Yeah, I'm really bummed out that I cannot take Modern Physics before Quantum Physics but I just gotta deal with it. I might try to study Modern on my own while taking Quantum this semester.
  9. Aug 23, 2012 #8
    Self study could work. You can always ask questions here too if there are some things you don't understand.
  10. Aug 23, 2012 #9


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    Staff: Mentor

    In that case, you may not be able to register for QP unless you have the permission of the professor teaching the course. Here, if you haven't taken all the prerequisite courses, the online registration system refuses to register you for the course. You have to contact the professor, who (if he approves of you taking the course) can tell the registrar to override the registration software.

    So I recommend you contact the professor, if you want to try to take QP anyway.

    That Modern Physics course looks like a typical second-year intro modern physics course that includes a not-too-deep introduction to quantum mechanics. The Quantum Physics course is probably a full-on quantum-mechanics course using a textbook like Griffiths.
  11. Aug 24, 2012 #10
    I took Modern Physics at the same time as I took Quantum Mechanics (with Griffiths' book) as a sophomore (I really wanted to get my classes done...). Anyway, it kind of sucked, because for most of the QM class I wasn't sure what was going on. Things hadn't been explained from the beginning like they are in Modern Physics. The very first page of Griffths shows Schroedinger's equation. Ridiculous way to teach I think, at the very least there should've been some pre-intro as an appendix or something. Regardless, it was hard for me to wrap my head around a lot of it, but this may not be due to the fact that I hadn't had Modern Physics before. It was my first semester of upper level physics, I was just beginning my 2nd year, etc.

    Anyway, take from that what you will. If I could go back, I would rather have waited to take it when my brain was a little more mature and knowledgeable of the reasons for developing QM.
  12. Aug 25, 2012 #11
    Yeah, I'd recommend modern physics before quantum. I love Griffith's textbooks! :) I think his Intro to Electromagentism and Intro to Quantum Mechanics were the most readable physics texts I had in college. Like you, I took modern at the same time that I was taking a more complicated course...Solid State Physics. I think I would have benefitted much more from that class if I had taken Modern, Quantum, and Statistical Physics first. The problem was that the university I was attending only offered Solid State every other year and I was one of two students in the class...it would have taken me six years to graduate if I had waited! Still, I got a B in the course, so it's possible to pass a complicated course without the prerequisites.
  13. Aug 25, 2012 #12
    Learning modern physics is important because it gives intuition. I know because I studied the *exact same material in terms of concepts* 4 times: modern physics, physical chemistry, undergrad quantum, grad quantum.

    The only thing different was the math, but the *concepts* that you should know, basic ones like 1-D potentials of different shapes (infinite, finite, delta, step, barrier), 3-D potentials and the hydrogen atom, angular momentum, etc. are the same.

    However, because they're presented in different perspectives (especially modern physics, because it also tells you some applications of quantum mechanics in the real world, instead of being pure formalism... which you're not going to get much of in a formal quantum class) they were all useful.
  14. Aug 25, 2012 #13
    I took physical chemistry too :) the subject definitely benefits from a knowledge of modern physics.
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