Most helpful positive review
26 of 27 people found the following review helpful
Intermediate QM text with lots of worked examples
on May 20, 2010
I am a graduate student of materials science and engineering and used this book as textbook in an undergraduate QM course last semester. My comments next go first to its content level and readability, followed by a summary of its key contents and end with its strengths and weaknesses comparing to other QM books I have read.
This book is an intermediate level treatise aimed at audiences of undergraduates of physics and astronomy and graduate students of non-physics majors (e.g., chemistry and engineering), with a prerequisite of at least university general physics, linear algebra and differential equation. Some topics in it require advanced knowledge of classical mechanics and classical electrodynamics, for example wave packet and Zeeman effect, but one can easily pick them up through self-study of relevant chapters in classical undergraduate physics textbooks like the Berkeley Physics Course Series and the MIT Introductory Physics Series. Except the above, the book is self-contained and very easy to read, even for me!
It starts with experiments that historically invalidated classical mechanics in the microscopic world and presents key concepts which differentiates quantum mechanics from its classical counterpart (chapter 1), proceeds with fundamental postulates that the whole quantum formalism is based on and develops it with Dirac notation (chapter 2 and 3). These fundamentals are applied in one dimensional problems of potential step, barrier, well and harmonic oscillator (chapter 4), and further extends to three dimensional in both Cartesian and spherical coordinates, especially, the hydrogen atom QM model is developed and solved exactly(chapter 6). Chapter 5 and 7 treat angular momentum and its addition separately. All these applications are essentially for the single particle case, which is followed by quantum statistics for many identical particles in chapter 8. Since only harmonic oscillator model can be solved exactly, approximation methods are introduced in chapter 9 and 10 with emphasis on time independent and time independent perturbation theory. The whole book ends with the advanced topic of quantum mechanical description of scattering.
As mentioned in my comment title, the major strength of the book is that it has many worked examples. Besides, it is self-contained and very easy to read. The contents are just right, neither too redundant, nor does it skip major derivation steps that affect the ease of reading. I would definitely recommend it to everyone that needs a more or less rigorous introduction to QM!
With all the above being said, I want to point out several problems I had using it. Note my point is totally from a non-physics majored engineering grad. First, the book could treat the connection between quantum mechanics (QM) and classical mechanics (QM) better. I mean the author could mention how the Lagrangian and the Hamiltonian formalisms could be applied to both mechanics and their only difference is that CM assumes the fundamental elements of matter is particle while QM assumes it is wave (called matter wave) subject to uncertainty principle and the macroscopic particle-like behavior is only a statistical result. Both the physical concept and the mathematical theory could be brought more clear if the author specifically make the conceptual and theoretical transition from classica mechanics to quantum mechanics more natural. Unfortunately, this book and many other elemental QM books tender to develop this part in an ambiguous tone, and students often go ahead with an impression that QM is mysterious with odd internal logic--it is definitely not! Also, it would be nice to introduce some of the most exiting real world applications of QM like quantum computing. Right now, the contents are pretty much all quite traditional and well established like harmonic oscillator and hydrogen atom; adding some latest examples would make QM more exiting. For this I recommend Harrison's Applied Quantum Mechanics. Last, it is not the author's fault by the publisher's--the binding is really flimsy, as was also mentioned by other reviewers. My experience was that it didn't even last for a whole semester before it physically broke into two parts from the middle... Mine is a paper back one BTW.