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Strange snobby comments from professor

  1. Oct 21, 2014 #1
    I'm taking (undergraduate) Nuclear Physics this semester and while it's going well the kind of comments and attitude I'm getting from my professor confuse me. He dismissed Kenneth Krane's Nuclear Physics book when I told him I was studying from it. When talking about the Dirac equation and Pauli equation he'd basically compare them to a "lucky guess". He has told me that Dirac's book on quantum mechanics has many mistakes (I understand it might be outdated in some parts, but it seems he doesn't want to recommend it).

    He goes on about angular momentum, and starts talking about Homeomorphism and homomorphism, rotation groups, and a D matrix in coordinate transformations for the spherical harmonics functions. I happen to have read a bit about that in Sakurai's "Modern Quantum Mechanics" and asked him if those were the Wigner D-matrices I read on Sakurai's and he said they were but he doesn't like the way it's taught in that book.

    Whenever he recommends a book it's usually by some hard to find russian author and it's very dense material. I mean, I want to learn about this stuff, it's interesting to me. But when he explains it is barely understandable (even the professor will refuse to explain further saying we won't understand him) and when I try to read by myself it's difficult. My professor thinks we should have more advanced algebra courses in undergrad, but I can't imagine that if undergrad in my country is already 5 years (and many people finish it in 6-7 years).

    Is it just me or is that stuff just brutal? Does anyone else see that in their undergrad physics?
    If so I feel I need to catch up to what people are doing in other countries!
  2. jcsd
  3. Oct 21, 2014 #2
    Some folks think that the only way they can appear big is to make others look small.
  4. Oct 21, 2014 #3


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    Staff: Mentor

    It sounds like he is disappointed in the educational system and has little faith anything he says or does will make a difference anymore. I've seen it happen. Or he could just be an unpleasant person. ;)
  5. Oct 21, 2014 #4


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    There's some truth in that, though I'd say "educated lucky guess". Neither Dirac nor Pauli were guessing in complete darkness.

    I'm not sure how many mistakes it has, but I certainly wouldn't recommend it for initially learning QM. Maybe study it later to get some additional insights (i.e., when you're more able to detect and autocorrect any typos or errors).

    It's probably possible to find something to dislike in every textbook. Quantum angular momentum is a very important topic, so it would be in your interests to try and read it from different perspectives. I.e., try other textbooks (e.g., Ballentine). Not everyone learns the same way.

    I know what you mean. Those ruskies sure demand a lot from their readers. But probably it just means you're not yet ready to study the material at that level, and you need something more introductory.

    That's another indication that you probably need a different textbook (or maybe more than 1). There's plenty of people in the PF quantum forum who would help with that.

    Your professor is probably correct, in principle, but wrong in the sense that one must respond to the world as it is, not how one thinks it ought to be.

    My u'grad physics lecturers were (mostly) quite sloppy in their math and it quickly became very frustrating. But many students were happy with it because it wasn't "too difficult". It sounds like you're in the opposite situation. OK, so you need to catch up on some aspects of the math? That's doable. People here on PF will help you, if you ask coherent questions.

    BTW, another truism (which I had to learn the hard way) is this: if you really want to learn something difficult, first stow your ego in the basement for the duration.)
    Last edited: Oct 21, 2014
  6. Oct 22, 2014 #5
    Thanks to all and especially strangerep :) My ego is thankfully under control, I've also had learn how to do that and will swing by here more frequently.
    I guess I was just venting a little because I really want to learn this stuff because I love it, it's mighty fun, I just don't feel I'm getting a very encouraging or directing message from the professor.
    I do try to read from as many books as I can whether the prof likes it or not. I just wish there were more hours in a day :D
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