Jul 31

Quantum Mechanics: The Physics of the Microscopic World, by Benjamin Schumacher ????

This was a hard series to rate, in that, while holding my interest, I fell asleep at the end of about all 24 of the lectures. Schumacher was not boring, so I couldn’t fault him. He also generated enough interest on my part to pull out some light reading books by Richard Feynman on Physics, and enquire about more substantial quantum mechanics textbooks. He brought back memories of Physical Chemistry which I took for one year in college, in which we used the essentials of quantum mechanics quite heavily for our calculations, but of which the third term was spent doing simple solutions of the Schrödinger equation for the hydrogen atom. It seemed a little strange trying to teach quantum mechanics without mathematics. So, it ended up being more a “Quantum Mechanics for Psychology Majors” class, something which nobody could really take seriously. Dr. Schumacher covered the history of quantum mechanics, some of the basic ideas, and discussion of how quantum mechanics differs from how we see and experience the macroscopic world. I found the discussion of his work in quantum informatics to be most interesting. Should he edit this course for a new edition, I would like to see him a) include more mathematics, even if it is not totally understood, b) speak more about the history of quantum mechanics, especially in the most recent several decades, and c) include more discussion of sub-atomic work, such as quarks, muons, etc. and discuss how they tie into the quantum mechanics discussion, and d) discuss more fully how relativity and quantum mechanics conflicts and interacts in understanding the universe.

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One Response to “Quantum Mechanics”

  1. Uncle Dennis says:

    Quantum mechanics without mathematics requires violent hand-waving to try to explain. Math is the language best suited for explaining the creation, and in particular the interests in it that physicists pursue.

    For the best general-audience explanations of modern physics, including muons and gluons, read Richard Feynman’s book QED (quantum electrodynamics). These are lectures he gave in New Zealand and in them he conveys some of the finer points of the basic ideas while also obviating unspoken assumptions people have about physics and physicists – about what they do and do not know. Feynman is refreshingly honest about what he knows and does not know, and if anyone knew physics, Feynman did. You might call this book “Physics without Airs”.

    There is also essentially no math in the lectures and a little added as commentary later by his physics colleague, Ralph Leighton, whose son played the bongo drums with Feynman and who transcribed his stories from those drumming sessions into a New York Times best-seller, Surely You’re Joking Mr. Feynman: Adventures of a Curious Character. This book is one of the most interesting and entertaining books I have read, though you can skip the part where he goes to Las Vegas.

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