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Some advice to become a quantum physicist

  1. Dec 19, 2011 #1
    some advice to become a physicist

    hey all
    i am from england so some of the posts here dont really apply to me as things are quite a bit different over here in terms of education, i am currently at college which is equivalent to high school in america i believe. i plan on doing physics maths and chemistry. but in my own time i wish to learn most of these things as i am very interested in this field and so i can get top grades and get on the university course i want to, which is either high energy physics or quantum theory.
    i would like to know where to start as my maths is currently at school level, i have ordered a calculus for dummies book but i feel this is not enough.
    any information on theories and maths that would be useful to me would be a great help.

    oh also i watched a program with brian cox last night and he said the exclusion principle applies to every electron not just to electrons in a single atom? meaning every electron in the universe has a different energy level, is this correct? as i was under the impression it was electrons in ONE atom had different energy levels

    Last edited: Dec 19, 2011
  2. jcsd
  3. Dec 19, 2011 #2


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    Becoming a 'quantum physicist' might sound impressive to the layperson, but it's not really a hot field of research anymore, and hasn't been for a long time. And it's one, maybe two classes at the undergraduate level. If you want to study physics, work on your math skills. You really can't learn much 'real' physics without a solid calculus background.
  4. Dec 19, 2011 #3
    thanks for your reply eri,
    i was under the impression as it was still a unfinished theory there is still lots of research in this area?
    could you suggest a better option or would a normal physics degree be acceptable for most areas of research?
    at the university near me they have a physics course or astrophysics or a mix of both.
    i would like to have the best chance in getting a job in research or any other area of physics as i have been told only about 5% of people with a science degree actually work in a science industry.
  5. Dec 19, 2011 #4


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    Just get a physics degree, and if you decide you want to go to grad school, you can figure out what you want to study at that point. Don't attempt to lock yourself into any particular field of study in physics before you've figured out what kind of job you want and who they are hiring. There are a lot more jobs in industry than there are in academia.
  6. Dec 19, 2011 #5
    Quantum mechanics is used as a tool in research by physicists. You could say every physicist is a quantum physicist.
  7. Dec 19, 2011 #6
    thanks for your replies, so i shall have to edit post name to a 'physicist'.
    so as far as maths go i was going to read up on linear algebra and calculus, can you point me in the direction of some physics that are a must? i guess things such as thermodynamics?

  8. Dec 19, 2011 #7
  9. Dec 19, 2011 #8
    couldn't agree more.
  10. Dec 19, 2011 #9
    wow..... lots of reading to do then!
    thanks shackleford
  11. Dec 19, 2011 #10
    I saw that program too, and was a bit irritated at these statements about the Pauli principle too... The more correct statement is something like "no two electrons are allowed to be in the same quantum state", i.e. have the same wavefunction. While the energy level depends on the quantum state, so do for example the spin, but also the expectation value of the position. So in order to have the exact same quantum state, two particles will have to "be in the same position" as well as have the same energy level.

    I thought these bits were encouraging that exact wishy washy new age nonsense he was speaking out against in other parts of the show...

    As for quantum theory being a topic of current research, it's true that quantum mechanics is pretty much a finished subject. However, in quantum field theory (the mathematical framework in which the Standard Model of particle physics is formulated, pretty much the attempt of making quantum mechanics compatible with special relativity), there are lots of open issues to be resolved. But to get there you obviously need to study all the basics of physics first until you get to those issues...
  12. Dec 19, 2011 #11
    niklaus i think i understand what your saying, an electron can have the same energy level as another as long as its "position" is different, regardless of the atom the electron is part of? i was only confused by his statement because everything i have read on the pauli exclusion states for one atom such as;
    this is what i was talking about not quantum mechanics, sorry for being misleading, i am half way through feynmans QED strange theory of light and matter and it has got me very interested in the path integral theory and other aspects of quantum field theory
  13. Dec 19, 2011 #12


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    I would totally disagree that quantum mechanics is a 'finished field'. There's a huge quantum group at my university. Their cry is "All physicists may (ab)use quantum mechanics, but we use it properly!"

    Current areas of quantum research? Bose-Einstein condensation, vortexes, Atom lasers, Feedback control of quantum systems, Quantum field simulations, Entanglement, Computational Physics. And that's just for one of the theorists in the quantum department at my university!

    In other areas, quantum is used in quantum-optics experiments, in understanding the nucleus, etc etc.
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