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Difficult or Hard? - Apr 20, 2005 at 12:43PM
Dave Avatar
San Marcos, Texas
420 Posts

I'm teaching senior level quantum mechanics this semester, and it's been a fun class to teach.  One of the reasons is that it's a subject that most students are not familiar with, and which is somewhat counterintuitive.  While this makes it fun to teach, it can be difficult for students.  I would like to hear from other students on this matter.  Did you enjoy your quantum class?  Was it easy or hard for you?  Did you like the text you used, and what text was it?  Feel free to make any comments you want.  I will chime in where appropriate.


Try not to become a man of success, but rather try to become a man of value -- Albert Einstein

Replies to Difficult or Hard?

Re: Difficult or Hard? - Apr 24 2005 10:31PM
1 Posts

Hello Dave,
I did Quantum Mechanics last semester, and we used Introduction to Quantum Mechanics by David J. Griffiths. I think Griffiths does a great job of explaining things, and he also has a good sense of humor.

Re: Difficult or Hard? - May 05 2005 2:57PM
23 Posts

"Noone understands QM".......attributed to Richard Feynman.
I enjoyed QM when I was young physicist in 1975.
It was fun to study.
I have had a chance to read about QM outside the academic setting(the only thing remotely close to QM that I deal with is drilling for oil and gas which reminds me of Schrodinger's cat and decoherence ....do not know if this makes sense), and found Feynman's least action path approach very interesting.
Dr. Edwin Taylor(MIT) offered a long distance course on this subject which was very refreshing.

Books: QM and path Integrals  By Feynman
           QM by Merzbacher

Re: Difficult or Hard? - May 06 2005 12:46AM
truth_quarke8e8 Avatar
3 Posts

unfortunatly I will not be able to enjoy Qm until next spring semster. However, I actually already like it. While I have not been able to get into the math, due to just now getting the skills needed, I have read a few diffrent things about QM. I am a bit nervouse in that I generally like to conceptulize the topics on my head, which sometimes you can't do with quantum. I still think that I will enjoy it, as there are many strange and awsome things that I will be learning. I think it might help if you are just blunt with the students. Just say  'hey, this is quantum, there are things that just won't make sense, and you will just have to deal with it.'

Re: Difficult or Hard? - May 13 2005 5:42PM
Steve Avatar
Sacramento, CA
7 Posts

As some one who is just finishing senior level QM, I can say that, in terms of the joy of learning something that is totally new, it has been great. Very few subjects have tested my ability to truly learn like QM. Having said that, I find that sometimes my professor lost the class in the algebra. What I mean by this is the fact that a great deal of the derivations are very tricky and full of a number of algebraic steps that are less than obvious. Obviously these are important to the course, so the best cure that I can see is a well-organized lecture. If the algebra in the lecture is easy to follow, it makes it all so much better. The book we used, Liboff, was pretty good at this, although he did make a number of strange typos and logical jumps.

The funniest part about this message is that by the time you realize that it doesn't say anything, it's too late for you to stop reading it.

Re: Difficult or Hard? - Sep 30 2006 11:45PM
Steve Buckley
5 Posts

I'm done now with my classes, and I'd say that the first of a two semester QM class was the more challenging of the two. Admittedly, the 3d spherical harmonics were intimidating from the second semester.
I think the hardest part to deal with was getting my mind around the equations defining the statistical properties involved.
There were definitely a few times that I felt that I'd become the unstoppable object hitting the immovable wall.  
However, here I am on the back side, just trying to finish up my senior thesis.
As to my enjoying it-- that would take far too long to reply to as I am a cancer survivor trying to find a new life at 46. The physics overall offered me a chance to do something I never would've done otherwise. That I did indeed enjoy!  Some even think it had a positive affect in my longevity as well.
Now I just need to find a means by which I can pursue graduate studies.

Re: Re: Difficult or Hard? - Apr 28 2007 10:56PM
zhou dahua
1 Posts

I'm  a  Chinese  student, QM  is  so  hard  for  us  too!

Re: Difficult or Hard? - Jul 19 2008 12:15PM
Felix Lin
24 Posts

One thing that I personally found helpful was taking a philosophy of physics course separate from my actual quantum mechanics course.  (Such a course deals with the conceptual framework of physics, the different interpretations of relativity and quantum mechanics, and the standards applied to determine which interpretations are valid.)

While some physicists find the philosophy of physics frustrating due to its employing very few actual equations, those who feel they could benefit from an opportunity to sit back and think about the implications of everything without doing math might benefit from the course.

quantum text comments - Sep 29 2009 11:41AM
Society of Physics...
293 Posts

..just thought I'd point out that if you have a comment about a particular quantum text, say Griffiths, you can also leave it in the textbook section of the Nucleus:

there are a lot of other texts there also...

Post edited September 29, 2009 at 11:30 AM EST.

Adjunct Professor of Physics, Editor of The Physics Teacher, and GWU SPS Chapter Advisor

Re: Difficult or Hard? - Oct 19 2013 8:46PM
2 Posts

I didn't find it that hard. It was a lot easier when my professor basically told me to stop trying to understand it (my words, not his) and understand that what we do in QM is to use the Schrodinger equation to make predictions about what we'll measure in the lab. It's basically a "shut up and calculate." When he told me this I immediately understood that I wasn't missing anything (which I thought I was) and that I really did get it.

Not enough teachers are able to say "I don't know." and that's a very important answer sometimes. In this case it was the most important answer anyone could give.

Physicist (currently disabled)

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