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Suggested topics for a beginner in QP? What got you hooked?

  1. May 22, 2015 #1
    Hi all. Been reading this forum for a few days. A bit overwhelming. Ive been studying quantum physics on my own for about a year. My learning started out with youtube docs, and mostly still is. Alot of Michio Kaku. You guys are probably laughing at me here.

    I started my search for knowledge when i heard the same electron could be in two places at once. I found the double-slit experiment and it got me hooked. I guess what i like about quantum physics is that i can just contemplate on it and new knowledge or understanding pops out at me on good days.

    Ive done alot of research on the double slit, relativity, quantum entanglement, dimensions, the large hadron collider and how it works. Watched the Brian Green and Einstien docs, wormhole...any show with universe in the title...lots of general QP docs.

    I like the rules that dont apply to the little things in the universe. I dont have any friends in the real world that have any idea what im talking about when i try to start physics convos. I'm an intelligent guy, but have never taken a physics class or even algebra. I quit school at 15 and went to job corps, but i did get the highest GED score in their history. No making fun of me please, i got moved to a tiny backwoods town as a young teen.

    Can you guys point me in a direction for something new to learn about that i might not know about? Something like the double slit? Im not really into string theory, except im interested by the 11 dimension thing. Spooky action at a distance is cool.

    I guess im asking what you guys thought was cool when you started getting into quantum physics. Theres so much out there, i need some direction for something new and exciting.

  2. jcsd
  3. May 22, 2015 #2


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    If you really wish to learn quantum physics, the first step is to put away all of those popularised texts and videos and pick up some real textbooks. While popular texts are often captivating, there is only so much they can tell you and most often they are oversimplifications at best. You simply cannot learn physics from a popular text, what you can do is to learn about physics. If you want to learn physics, pick up some basic textbooks. You will probably also need some mathematics textbooks. Advanced concepts like GR and QFT will be out of your reach for quite some time.
  4. May 22, 2015 #3


    Staff: Mentor

    Here is a reading list to learn the real deal:

    I have deliberately chosen books at an increasing level of difficulty, and are relatively cheap. It will give the necessary background for what I think is THE book on QM - Ballentine:

    It will take time, remember its not a race, and we will help with any problems. To compensate you will understand QM at a level way beyond popularisations.

    Last edited: May 22, 2015
  5. May 22, 2015 #4
    Thank you - I knew thats what someone would say. I am getting some ebooks now
  6. May 22, 2015 #5

    Thanks for the reading list bill - much appreciated. I got the calculus book already. Thank you for the direction
    Last edited: May 22, 2015
  7. May 22, 2015 #6
    The mathematical skill sets fascinated me and kept the initial interests for QM alive for me since I was 16, now if only I can get my head around quantum field theory :P

    Mathematical Prerequisites for QM:


    Calculus (single variable) - Important (should know before studying classical mechanics)

    Calculus (multivariable) - Important

    Linear Algebra - Very Important

    Differential Equations - introductory/foundation understanding enough

    Partial Differential Equations - basic understanding enough

    Approximation Theory - good to know some

    Probability and statistics - good to know some
    Last edited by a moderator: May 7, 2017
  8. May 22, 2015 #7
    You're obviously confident in your aptitude, so you should definitely spend time gaining a complete understanding of high school maths and physics. You should decide the best way to gain this knowledge. It's far too easy for us to underestimate the usual learning procedure, but in theory you could learn this alone, from just one or two books. The truth is, virtually all of us would have been thrown off if we'd just been given a book at age 15 or 16 and left to our own devices to gain the necessary knowledge to start a university physics course. This will be invaluable to you, for many possible routes, but all topics in high school maths and also an essential prerequisite for serious QM texts.

    My advice, is to bypass the links in this thread and find out how others in your situation gain this knowledge. I suspect that you'd be best off in an adult learning program or correspondence course. There's a lot more wisdom to education than the knowledge that it imparts.

    Beyond this, there are modules, which are used as stepping stones in university physics courses, which would expose you to important concepts. A typical route would be:

    Classical Mechanics
    Wave Mechanics
    Special Relativity
    Quantum Mechanics

    All of this sounds like years of work, before you should realistically expect tackle a serious QM text. In the meantime, what you can learn is the key experiments and how the results are interpreted, which you can find in less technical books. This is a fascinating approach in itself and is likely to motivate you to do all the groundwork to approach it more seriously. In fact, a good university course should recommend reading at least one of the less techinical books in conjunction with the more technical book.

    For online resources for some key experiments, search for:

    Young's double-slit
    black-body radiation
    photoelectric effect
    Millikan's oil drop
    Bell tests

    For online resources for interpretations of QM start with:

    Copenhagen interpretation
    objective collapse theories
    many worlds interpretation
    Last edited: May 22, 2015
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