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Studying What path should I take to eventually understand QFT?

  1. Jul 8, 2017 #1
    I'm now graduated as a secondary school educator, having studied a physics minor at university.

    During that time, I didn't go any further than second year physics, studying basic quantum mechanics, thermodynamics, and special relativity.

    Much of it I've forgotten, however I keep the basics sharp, having to teach it at school.

    I'm intrigued by the ideas of particle physics, however I don't think I know enough to fully grasp the concepts behind it.

    Could anyone provide a path that one might take through university (with a textbook reference if possible) from first year undergrad up to the level required to begin QFT?

    Thank you!
  2. jcsd
  3. Jul 9, 2017 #2


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    In condensed matter physics, the language of quantum field theory is used to describe the non-relativistic quantum mechanics of many identical particles.

    Non-relativistic quantum mechanics is usually introduced using "first quantized" language, while quantum field theory to describe the non-relativistic quantum mechanics of many identical particles uses "second quantized" language. You can find the translation between the two equivalent descriptions in many textbooks, eg. A Guide to Feynman Diagrams in the Many-Body Problem by Mattuck.
  4. Jul 9, 2017 #3
    First of all there is a difference between Elementary Particle Physics (or High Energy Physics) and Quantum Field Theory (QFT), of course. Although there is certain connection and overlapping between them, they both extend beyond eachother. Also the former has both Experimental and Theoretical components (divisions or domains), while the latter (QFT) is only theoretical. I think, practically and adequetly enough, one can say that Theoretical Particle Physics (or Theoretical High Energy Physics) is basically almost the same with, or strongly connected to, QFT.

    I say these because understanding the structure first (e.g. of what you're about to study) is always very important.

    I think the best way is to first study, understand and be good at undergraduate level Mechanics, Electromagnetism, Relativity and Quantum Mechanics, as well as some basic notions of Particle Physics (and Standard Model). At the same time start looking at an introductory level book on Field Theory (Classical and Quantum).
    Then you can do them all again at the graduate level, especially if you want to get into research.

    I'll give you examples of good textbooks on a later post.
  5. Jul 9, 2017 #4
    That's not a good idea for introducing Quantum field theory.
    That's indeed essential, but he will inevitably meet it along the way.
    However, what you say about non-relativistic (vs relativistic, I assume) quantum mechanics and quantum field theory is not as essential or requirement to the two types of quantization. E.g. relativistic quantum field theory (e.g. QED) also involves second quantization. Similarly, relativistic quantum mechanics (e.g. Dirac equation ang Klein Gordon equation) also can be looked at in terms of first quantization (for observables), just like the Schrödinger equation.
    Thus the textbook that you mention is not introductory to general QFT, but rather specialized, IMO.
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