Unlike Newton's mechanics, or Maxwell's electrodynamics, or Einstein's relativity, quantum theory was not createdor even definitively packagedby one individual, and it retains to this day some of the scars of its exhilarating but traumatic youth. There is no general consensus as to what its fundamental principles are, how it should be taught, or what it really "means.
" Every competent physicist can "do" quantum mechanics, but the stories we tell ourselves about what we are doing are as various as the tales of Scheherazade, and almost as implausible. Niels Bohr said, "If you are not confused by quantum physics then you haven't really understood it"; Richard Feynman remarked, "I think I can safely say that nobody understands quantum mechanics." The purpose of this book is to teach you how todoquantum mechanics. Apart from some essential background in Chapter 1, the deeper quasiphilosophical questions are saved for the end. I do not believe one can intelligently discuss what quantum mechanicsmeansuntil one has a firm sense of what quantum mechanicsdoes.But if you absolutely cannot wait, by all means read the Afterword immediately following Chapter 1. Not only is quantum theory conceptually rich, it is also technically difficult, and exact solutions to all but the most artificial textbook examples are few and far between. It is therefore essential to develop special techniques for attacking more realistic problems. Accordingly, this book is divided into two parts; Part I covers the basic theory, and Part II assembles an arsenal of approximation schemes, with illustrative applications. Although it is important to keep the two partslogicallyseparate, it is not necessary to study the material in the order presented here. Some instructors, for example, may wish to treat time-independent perturbation theory immediately after Chapter 2. This book is intended for a one-semester or one-year course at the junior or senior level. A one-semester course will have to concentrate mainly on Part I; a full-year course should have room for supplementary material beyond Part II. The reader must be familiar with the rudiments of linear algebra (as summarized in the Appendix), complex numbers, and calculus up through partial derivatives; some acquaintance with Fourier analysis and the Dirac delta function would help. Elementary classical mechanics is essential, of course, and a little electrodynamics would be useful in places. As always, the more physics and math you know the easier it will be, and the more you will get out of your study. But I would like to emphasize that quantum mechanics is not, in my view, something that flows smoothly and naturally from earlier theories. On the contrary, it represents an abrupt and revolutionary departure from classical ideas, calling forth a wholly new and radically counterintuitive way of thinking about the world. That, indeed, is what makes it such a fascinating subject. At first glance, this book may strike you as forbiddingly mathematical. We encounter Legendre, Hermite, and Laguerre polynomials, spherical harmonics, Bessel, Neumann, and Hankel functions, Airy functions, and even the Riemann zeta functionnot to mention Fourier transforms, Hilbert spaces, hermitian operators, Clebsch-Gordan coefficients, and Lagrange multipliers. Is all this baggage really necessary? Perhaps not, but physics is like carpentry: Using the right tool makes the jobeasier,not more difficult, and teaching quantum mechanics without the appropriate mathematical equipment is like asking the student to dig a foundation with a screwdriver. (On the other hand, it can be tedious and diverting if the instructor feels obliged to give elaborate lessons on the proper use of each tool. My own instinct is to hand the students shovels and tell them to start digging. They may develop blisters at first, but I still think this is the most efficient and exciThis book first teaches learners how todoquantum mechanics, and then provides them with a more insightful discussion of what itmeans.Fundamental principles are covered, quantum theory presented, and special techniques developed for attacking realistic problems.The book's two-part coverage organizes topics under basic theory, and assembles an arsenal of approximation schemes with illustrative applications.For physicists and engineers.
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