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Introduction to Quantum Mechanics (2nd Edition) Hardcover – April 10, 2004

ISBN-13: 978-0131118928 ISBN-10: 0131118927 Edition: 2nd
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Editorial Reviews

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

Unlike Newton's mechanics, or Maxwell's electrodynamics, or Einstein's relativity, quantum theory was not created—or even definitively packaged—by 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 to do quantum 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 mechanics means until one has a firm sense of what quantum mechanics does. 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 parts logically separate, 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 function—not 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 job easier, 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 exciting way to learn.) At any rate, I can assure you that there is no deep mathematics in this book, and if you run into something unfamiliar, and you don't find my explanation adequate, by all means ask someone about it, or look it up. There are many good books on mathematical methods—I particularly recommend Mary Boas, Mathematical Methods in the Physical Sciences, 2nd ed., Wiley, New York (1983), or George Arfken and Hans-Jurgen Weber, Mathematical Methods for Physicists, 5th ed., Academic Press, Orlando (2000). But whatever you do, don't let the mathematics—which, for us, is only a tool—interfere with the physics.

Several readers have noted that there are fewer worked examples in this book than is customary, and that some important material is relegated to the problems. This is no accident. I don't believe you can learn quantum mechanics without doing many exercises for yourself. Instructors should of course go over as many problems in class as time allows, but students should be warned that this is not a subject about which anyone has natural intuitions—you're developing a whole new set of muscles here, and there is simply no substitute for calisthenics. Mark Semon suggested that I offer a "Michelin Guide" to the problems, with varying numbers of stars to indicate the level of difficulty and importance. This seemed like a good idea (though, like the quality of a restaurant, the significance of a problem is partly a matter of taste); I have adopted the following rating scheme:

* an essential problem that every reader should study;
** a somewhat more difficult or more peripheral problem;
*** an unusually challenging problem, that may take over an hour.

(No stars at all means fast food: OK if you're hungry, but not very nourishing.) Most of the one-star problems appear at the end of the relevant section; most of the three-star problems are at the end of the chapter. A solution manual is available (to instructors only) from the publisher.

In preparing the second edition I have tried to retain as much as possible the spirit of the first. The only wholesale change is Chapter 3, which was much too long and diverting; it has been completely rewritten, with the background material on finite-dimensional vector spaces (a subject with which most students at this level are already comfortable) relegated to the Appendix. I have added some examples in Chapter 2 (and fixed the awkward definition of raising and lowering operators for the harmonic oscillator). In later chapters I have made as few changes as I could, even preserving the numbering of problems and equations, where possible. The treatment is streamlined in places (a better introduction to angular momentum it! Chapter 4, for instance, a simpler proof of the adiabatic theorem in Chapter 10, and a new section on partial wave phase shifts in Chapter 11). Inevitably, the second edition is a bit longer than the first, which I regret, but I hope it is cleaner and more accessible.

I have benefited from the comments and advice of many colleagues, who read the original manuscript, pointed out weaknesses (or errors) in the first edition, suggested improvements in the presentation, and supplied interesting problems. I would like to thank in particular P. K. Aravind (Worcester Polytech), Greg Benesh (Baylor), David Boness (Seattle), Burt Brody (Bard), Ash Carter (Drew), Edward Chang (Massachusetts), Peter Copings (Swarthmore), Richard Crandall (Reed), Jeff Dunham (Middlebury), Greg Elliott (Puget Sound), John Essick (Reed), Gregg Franklin (Carnegie Mellon), Henry Greenside (Duke), Paul Haines (Dartmouth), J. R. Huddle (Navy), Larry Hunter (Amherst), David Kaplan (Washington), Alex Kuzmich (Georgia Tech), Peter Leung (Portland State), Tony Liss (Illinois), Jeffry Mallow (Chicago Loyola), James McTavish (Liverpool), James Nearing (Miami), Johnny Powell (Reed), Krishna Rajagopal (MIT), Brian Raue (Florida International), Robert Reynolds (Reed), Keith Riles (Michigan), Mark Semon (Bates), Herschel Snodgrass (Lewis and Clark), John Taylor (Colorado), Stavros Theodorakis (Cyprus), A. S. Tremsin (Berkeley), Dan Velleman (Amherst), Nicholas Wheeler (Reed), Scott Willenbrock (Illinois), William Wootters (Williams), Sam Wurzel (Brown), and Jens Zorn (Michigan).


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 480 pages
  • Publisher: Pearson Prentice Hall; 2nd edition (April 10, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0131118927
  • ISBN-13: 978-0131118928
  • Product Dimensions: 7.1 x 1.1 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (204 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #34,050 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

185 of 195 people found the following review helpful By Christine E. Nattrass on April 28, 2004
Format: Hardcover
I used this text book for my undergraduate quantum mechanics class. In that class, we covered basically everything in Griffiths. I have since gone on to graduate school. I have found myself very well prepared and I still use Griffiths as a reference because it explains basic ideas and basic problems better than most other text books. More importantly, it provided me with a good foundation for further study.
This text book is a great introductory text book. It is a text book for students for whom quantum mechanics is a new subject. It is not a text book for people who already know any significant amount of quantum mechanics, nor is it a great text to use for independent study (unless you work the problems and have some way of checking yourself.)
Shankar is too advanced for most students new to the subject. It's also too much material to cover in a standard two semester course where the material is completely new. The only school I know of which uses it is Yale, and they count on students having a stronger background than most students at most schools have. Moreover, I know from personal experience that teachers at Yale focus on getting students to calculate the right answer rather than developing a solid understanding of the ideas behind the physics.
It's also too much material to cover in a standard two semester course where the material is completely new. Griffiths is designed such that it can be used for the quantum mechanics classes at most universities -- ie, if students haven't had every other physics class before they use this book or if some of their background is a little weak, they aren't screwed.
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46 of 47 people found the following review helpful By sdl;kfjjeoimv on February 3, 2005
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I liked Griffith's Introduction to Quantum Mechanics a great deal. I liked his Electrodynamics book too. What I like most about Griffiths is that if something is important he will say so, if something is difficult he will say so, if something confounds everyone who sees it he will say so. Many other authors in physics pretend to be computers, and leave any intuition or feeling about the material they introduce entirely to the reader to learn for himself. We are not computers, we all understand things in very human ways, although I think the proud like to pretend everything is obvious to them and that personal comments such as Griffiths provides just insults their prodigous intelligence.

The only problem I have with the book is that the shmucks didn't put a single answer in there. That's why I didn't give it 5 stars. How are you supposed to learn it if you don't know where you might have gone wrong in your answers?
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80 of 88 people found the following review helpful By Fabrice P. Laussy on December 20, 2000
Format: Hardcover
This introductory text by Griffiths has two major advantages: first it is exceedingly interesting to read, at such an extent one could believe the material is easy. Exercises are challenging enough to show it is just an impression. Second, the text covers a rather big amount of the (non-relativistic) theory, in a concision which is exemplar. It is a short text, which travels in the corners of the field: quantum statistics, solid state physics, perturbation theories, scattering... Of course the counterpart is those topics aren't dealt with at depth. This is a book to see things, before to work on them. For all those reasons, it is a very, very bad reference, but it is not its purpose. For example, the bra and ket formalism is introduced a bit lately, and its use is not stressed. The functional notation for what is currently referred to as |n, l, m> conceals the power of Dirac notations. Tensor product of Hilbert space are completely omitted, thus obscuring the (short but important) section on angular momenta, especially their addition. However, following the book's spirit, you have an opportunity to see Clebsch-Gordan coefficients at work, with their pretty cascading tables.
The book is accessible without serious prerequisites, not even in electromagnetism, you just need to know the basis of calculus. Therefore it is the text to get if as a beginner you want to get acquainted with this fundamental piece of physics, along with learning your first physical theories (mechanics or electromagnetism). For others, it is useless to they who ever know pretty much of the theory, even as a review.
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54 of 62 people found the following review helpful By S. D Webb on February 1, 2004
Format: Hardcover
I had previously written a review of this text based upon my experiences with it first semester, dealing mostly with chapters 1-4. Upon further reading of the book and comparison to various other texts (the Baym, Sakurai and Shankar, specifically), I have decided that I need to rewrite my review.
First off, the good side: If you're interested in a wave mechanics approach to learning quantum mechanics, this book isn't horrible. You certainly learn a lot about solving differential equations, although you are never asked to solve any yourself. Also, the problems for the students to work range from the insanely trivial to the intriguingly difficult. Now for the bad part...
Well, the problem with those worked problems is that there is a lot of important stuff in the problems, and Griffiths assumes you have worked every single problem. This wouldn't be an issue, except most of the chapters have over 50 problems, and the odds that you did the right problem you need when he references that problem three chapters later is pretty slim.
Also, he does not introduce you to the Dirac notation or the linear algebra approach to quantum mechanics until the third chapter, after which he promptly discards that powerful tool in favor of the way he had been going, which is with wave mechanics. So he deprives the readers of knowledge of a remarkably useful language to discuss quantum mechanics.
He begins with the Schrodinger equation, without any motivation at all, and proceeds from there.
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