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 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 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 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 methodsI 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 mathematicswhich, for us, is only a toolinterfere 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 intuitionsyou'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).