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Why is Griffiths not a good introduction to QM?

  1. Jul 8, 2012 #1
    I've seen quite a few people on this forum agree that Griffiths is not a good book to learn QM from.

    But I was wondering what reasons people would give for it.

    (Personally I don't feel I can give an in depth critique since I've only sampled his book. I rather liked his explanation of perturbation theory, however he lost my interest when he made a--in my opinion--fatal error in the first chapter when he stated that (all) realistic interpretations have been proven wrong. However, I don't think many people would care about such matters, so I'm wondering what other peeves people have about the book.)
  2. jcsd
  3. Jul 8, 2012 #2


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    I can see two reasons people would object:

    1) The book starts with the Schrodinger Eq. For someone who has never seen this equation, its motivation, or the historical development of QM (via old QM), this is a bit puzzling. It's not something that's 'intuitive' like F=ma, so I can imagine seeing this for the first time is not the greatest way to build intuition for QM.

    2) The formalism is skimpy. As an upper-division QM book for many schools, it feels a little light on the linear algebra and deeper mathematics, much more content to simply *do* things. But I guess this isn't really a knock against an introduction text, it just puts the book somewhere in an awkward place between an intro wave mechanics text and a book which goes much deeper into the formalism.
  4. Jul 8, 2012 #3
    These are both fair complaints. Griffiths spends one chapter on formalism then more or less drops it. I think he should, in that chapter, also presented QM from a postulate pov.

    I also think he is too chatty. I think his E&M book has a better tone. It's not super formal like a math text but it's not as nonchalant as his QM text.
  5. Jul 9, 2012 #4
    I don't like it because there's not enough information to answer the problems in the book.

    I have no idea how he got some of the answers he got, using information only presented in the book, especially in chapters 4 and beyond. There is also no complete solutions manual with explanations.

    There are also very few examples.

    However, seeing as the other choices at the UG level are probably much worse (only good one I've seen is grad level Zetilli, which has hundreds of example problems) I believe that it is the best choice.
  6. Jul 9, 2012 #5


    Staff: Mentor

    I agree its one of the best of a bad bunch. Its problem is it does not teach it in a systematic way from the math to the postulates to an interpretation to solving problems. By far the best book IMHO is Ballentine but it is at a graduate level:

    I think Griffiths is OK as a warm up to Ballentine but I would supplement it with the Structure and Interpretation Of QM by Hughes:

    However IMHO Griffiths is overpriced and I would use David McMahon's book instead:

  7. Jul 9, 2012 #6


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    Ballentine is also one of my favorites. As an undergrad text, I'd recommend to look at the Feynman Lectures vol. 3. As a more advanced book, which we have used in our first course on quantum theory in Germany, and which I still like today is

    J.J. Sakurai, Modern Quantum Mechanics.

    A good book concerning a lot of interesting applications is Landau/Lifgarbages vol. 3.

    A kind of bible in the path-integral approach is

    H. Kleinert, Path Integrals in Quantum Mechanics, Stastics, Polymer Physics, and Functional Methods
  8. Jul 25, 2012 #7
    1. The difficulty of the problems varies from quoting earlier text to problems the textbook does NOT prepare you for.
    2. Inconsistencies in definitions
    3. Little to no motivation (extremely bad when you look at the ladder operator for the harmonic oscillator section, god forbid you learn about symmetries)
    4. The phrase 'mathematicians tell us the answer is'
    5. No path integrals

    And that's just scrathing the surface..
    It's a shame because his intro to electrodynamics textbook is pretty good.

    I'd suggest Shankar's Principles of Quantum Mechanics for a more modern treatment or Landau and Lifgarbagez vol. 3 for a slightly older 'wave mechanics' based treatment. Both have just the right balance of exposition and rigor for a subject like quantum mechanics.

    I'm not sure why people reccomend Ballentine, I found Shankars book much nicer but each to their own I guess.
  9. Jul 30, 2012 #8

    Most problems in Griffiths can't be solved with ideas Grifiths gives in his book (i usually use Mahons ideas to solve them)
    Not only Shankar's book but even his video lectures on QM are superb.

  10. Jul 31, 2012 #9
    I'll quote another user from an earlier thread that got locked. I agree with pretty much everything he has to say.

  11. Jul 31, 2012 #10
    That's why I like Townsend's A Modern Approach to Quantum Mechanics. It's basically like an undergraduate version of Sakurai, so that it does a good thorough job of introducing the mathematical formalism like bra-ket, while demanding less in the way of mathematical prerequisites. But what I really like about it is that, like Feynman Lectures volume 3, it gives the physical motivation in terms of spin systems, so that you work your way through finite-dimensional Hilbert spaces before getting to time-evolution and continuous positional eigenstates.
  12. Aug 1, 2012 #11
    This. Townsend is a great book to learn QM for at the undergraduate level. It really is a baby Sakurai in many ways. Making the transition between these books was natural for me. The formalism presented and the mathematics demanded are fair and just right for an average physics major. It's mostly linear algebra and less so differential equations and to the trained eye, the book screams group theory throughout (for example see Ch.3).

    As much as I like Griffith's E&M book, the QM book just doesn't cut it. Don't get me wrong, I really enjoy his tone throughout the book (not to mention his off-hand discussions on the footnotes). However, it mostly just shows QM in one of its facets: position space. This, I feel, is it's greatest weakness. The one chapter on formalism was interesting but not enough and is vaguely used in the remainder of the text. Once you learn that all the wavefunction stuff Griffiths has been pushing at you all year, is just a, say, "subset" of what's out there, you'll be left wanting more. Simply put, there's more to the story than just the wavefunction and you won't get much more than that in Griffiths.
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