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Quantum Theory (Dover Books on Physics)
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299 of 303 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon December 12, 2002
Don't let the original 1950's publication date fool you. This book is as relevant and important today as it was when it was first published.
In fact, Bohm's lucid, pointed three-page preface-- in which he outlines in simple English the three exact ways Quantum Mechanics differs from Classical Mechanics (which I had never seen done before and which few physics students ever really grasp)-- that ALONE is worth the price of this book.
Let me help you understand why, without reservation, I feel this book to be a masterpiece of clarity in exposition.
When I first learned Quantum Mechanics-- and, as I have come to learn, my experience was not atypical-- it was basically axiomatic: "Here are these mathematical techniques. If we do this and that and then that to this function, then we can predict certain things about experimental results." I found this a tremendously difficult-- not to mention frustrating-- way of learning things. Mathematically intense, but with little physical understanding.
I memorized the rules, and did OK in my courses, but what I really wanted to know was: WHY was I doing these things? Where did this stuff COME from? And, most importantly, what did this stuff MEAN?
I got bits and pieces-- only hints, really-- from several other textbooks. When I got to grad school, I was excited to finally learn what it all meant. Unfortunately, my grad course was more of the same type of calculation-- just calculating more difficult things! In fact, I had almost given up at really understanding what it all MEANT, and was ready to take my graduate Quantum professor's advice to "Just learn the techniques and use the stuff" when I came across David Bohm.
In a textbook that is more wordy than most novels-- and yet, in which not a single noun is extraneous or out of place-- Bohm takes us on a clear and exciting tour of WHERE Quantum Mechanics comes from, exactly HOW it developed from Classical Mechanics, exactly how it DIFFERS from Classical Mechanics, and, finally, what it all MEANS physically.
He does this by consistantly referring to experiment, by devloping mathematical techniques as necessary, and by discussing and explaining in clear prose what such concepts as the wave function actually MEAN.
It is difficult to overemphasize how comfortable one feels reading this book--- you feel that you are being guided with a firm yet gentle hand by one who truly understands what it means to truly EXPLAIN something. (For all the praise that is heaped on such texs as the Feynman Lectures and Landau and Lifshitz, they can't shake a stick at Bohm's abilities at lucidity in exposition.)
Finally, after developing the traditional calculational techniques, in the last sections of the book Bohm discusses such alternatives as the "hidden variable" theory in balanced yet intriguing ways, and leaves you wanting more.
If I am disappointed in anything, it would be only this:
Why didn't this Shakespeare of physics authors write more?
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76 of 78 people found the following review helpful
on February 13, 2001
This is perhaps still the best way to enter quantum mechanics. This book was not written in haste: there is depth in almost every page. Yet, very little is assumed of the reader, but that he has a genuine interest in learning the subject, and patience to read it sequentially, calmly, and ponder about it. There is, then, no better guide.Do not think you will miss the computation techniques: they are all there. This is a complete book. It will teach you the orthodox view. Then, if you care, read the other books by Bohm, to learn of possible alternatives.
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108 of 117 people found the following review helpful
on December 15, 1999
The title page of this book lists Bohm as a professor emeritus at the University of London but this is actually a text developed at Princeton in the late 1940's. Not long after the book was written, Bohm had got himself in trouble for not revealing what left-wing activities he had got himself involved in with his mentor J.R. Oppenheimer. Princeton couldn't stand the political heat of having a suspected communist on its physics faculty and Bohm got booted out. He wandered off to Brazil and Israel before finally ending up in London. Ironically, Princeton had fired someone who had just written one of the greatest classics of the quantum mechanics literature. The book is outstanding for its extensive discussion of the philosophical foundations of quantum theory. Bohm at that time believed in the Copenhagen Interpretation of Niels Bohr. Only traditional mathematics, rather than the murky abstraction of the Dirac bracket, is used. Carefully selected problems are inserted into the text whenever important new material has been introduced. Although the book is a little dated, today's reader should still find the chapters on the WKB approximation, Heisenberg matrix mechanics, and perturbation theory edifying. In short, this is a book to be enjoyed.
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37 of 39 people found the following review helpful
on August 11, 2003
The age of the book is what gives it a huge advantage to today's typical QT and QM textbook. Instead of presenting the concepts in the "status quo" of physics (usually just a ridiculously brief intro to why QT started, and then presenting Operators as things almost perfectly synonymous to classical concepts and continuing from there), this book really goes through the history of where all the math came from. Bohm is very careful about teaching you what parts of the math are just convenience tricks (like Operators) versus real necessities to QM. And also what parts are just based on just experiments. Unlike today, in the 1950's, QT and QM were still suspect theories, so students were taught of the known and possible holes (no pun intended :) in the theory. Bohm points these out throughout the whole book.
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18 of 18 people found the following review helpful
on October 11, 2012
Most textbooks on quantum theory begin with the basic equations of the theory and then move rapidly into problem solving and applications. It is a mark of Bohm's unique approach here that the fundamental equation of quantum theory Schrodinger's equation, does not appear until the bottom of page 191. For almost two hundred pages Bohm takes the reader step-by-step through the same sort of experiments and arguments that first convinced physicists that classical physics could no longer adequately represent the new realities introduced by quantum physics, and thus must be replaced by something radically different. Also, to Bohm's credit, when mathematics is introduced, it never goes beyond the level accessible to any undergraduate who has completed a first year college course in physics. We can see clearly here that unlike in the case of Einstein's theory of relativity, which becomes a limiting case for Newtonian physics, quantum physics is not a limiting case to classical physics. Only in the last two chapters does Bohm turn to the difficulties of measurement, which underscores this important fact and is also where the mathematics gets much scarier. But even here he shows that quantum results must always be expressed in the language and meanings of classical physics, since it presupposes the classical paradigm, even if it is not a limiting case.

To his credit, and even though the approach he used here was severely criticized, Bohm never accepted the pedagogical orthodoxy of his Berkeley and Princeton colleagues, who insisted on introducing the quantum theory first as mathematics rather than as quantum ideas, meanings and problems that required particular mathematical solutions. Here Bohm introduces quantum theory along two tracks: first its ideas, concepts, their meanings and principles; and then the mathematical machinery needed to understand and explain them -- and that is required to solve the problems those ideas raised. In fact, as a historical footnote, his colleague and the Chairman of the Physics Department at Princeton at the time this manuscript was completed, the famous J. Robert Oppenheimer, remarked of the draft as it was being completed that "the best thing Bohm could do would be to bury it." (See page 84 of "Infinite Potential: The Life and Times of David Bohm, by F. David Peat, Helix Books, 1996).

However, Oppenheimer's comments aside, I think we must be grateful to Professor Bohm for having the patience and insight to see that the mathematics was secondary to the need for a careful introduction and explanation of the ideas, meanings and principles which are indeed primary. Taking the unorthodox approach he takes here makes this one of the most readable and understandable books on the quantum theory available, even 60 years on. Step-by-step the author shows us just how the ideas that unfolded, moved from the classical model (logically if not always directly) to the new more complex quantum model. And then, he explains why certain mathematical techniques are needed to solve the problems that arise at each juncture. For my level of understanding, this was indeed the ideal approach.

In this way, beyond a simple dependence on Fourier Analysis, which is fundamental throughout, the reader need not be worried about the mathematical techniques he will need to solve a particular problem -- at least until he gets there. When he does arrive, with this book, he will then have a firm grasp of the ideas, concepts, meanings and principles of the quantum theory to whose problems the mathematics will then be applied. It makes the study of quantum theory, more sensible, easier, and arguably, more fun. And as sensible as this approach was at the time Bohm wrote the book, it was resisted by the high priests of quantum physics. (Go figure? ) Five stars
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24 of 27 people found the following review helpful
on October 16, 2001
This is a book for you to read again and again through your whole life. When you are an undergraduate, lots of good technical information are found in this volume regarding, for instance, wave packets or the hydrogen atom. As you get more experienced and, of course, if you have some interest in the philosophical issues raised by the subject, the book turns to be a reference again.
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20 of 23 people found the following review helpful
on February 7, 2000
Bohm explains quantum mechanics at a level that gives great physical insight and understanding. It not only provides theory, but also gives detailed historical accounts of the development of the theory. A great text for undergraduates.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on December 3, 2009
I have to agree completely with Gregory Bravo's review. I feel sorry for all the poor physics students struggling through their undergraduate quantum mechanics courses without the help of David Bohm. I bought every quantum mechanics book that I could get my hands on, because I had heard so many horror stories about the difficulty of the subject. It seems that this is the only book I needed to buy. As it turns out, quantum mechanics is not so difficult, afterall.

Equip yourself with this book, Schaum's Outline on Quantum Mechanics (keeping a keen eye out for errors, mind you), and whatever pathetic excuse for a text you are given, and you should be fine, assuming you have a half-way decent professor. Don't let the fact that this is a dated book lacking Dirac notation deter you. You learn all that notation in QM courses, anyways, so a clear exposition of concepts should be what you want, and no one does it better than David Bohm.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
This is probably the best book on the Copenhagen (the standard orthodoxy) approach to quantum mechanics. It was written by the most radical theoretical physicist in the last 70 years. Bohm wrote it when he was teaching at Princeton before Oppenheimer's machination got him thrown out of the US to protect Oppenheimer's own communist background (he was also envious of Bohm's genius). In the 1940s, there were still extensive discussions about what QM means (all the theorists were comfortable with the various equivalent math approaches but were utterly confused.) The rivalry between Bohr/Heisenberg's view (subsequently called the Copenhagen Interpretation) and the views of Schroedinger, Einstein & de Broglie was brutal; each camp accused the other of producing nonsensical interpretations. Ironically, Bohm (who was a sincere admirer of Einstein and Bohr) created this masterpiece that attempted to explicate the vague, ambiguous ramblings of Bohr by using the mathematics of de Broglie and Schroedinger. In fact, as several reviewers have pointed out, all the math you need is Fourier Analysis but this approach smuggles in all the ideas of electrons as waves. So pay a lot of attention at this point.
The problem here is that (as Bohm admits in his preface) this new view requires a dramatic shift in our fundamental conceptual framework (not just of classical mechanics but ordinary language and the western model of reality as isolated things; both of which can be readily visualized and thus "understood"). Bohm believes he has presented wave mechanics in an understandable and imaginative manner. Unfortunately, this new way of looking at reality is exceedingly difficult so that QM today has regressed to its original mathematical formulation, which is now fully acceptable to math-soaked theoretical physicists.
Bohm's solution is to resurrect Heisenberg's "potentia" approach where quantum objects, no longer have fixed properties that we think about at normal times but they change their character depending on how the electron interacts with other matter. This leads to Bohm's conclusion that at the atomic level (or smaller) the world operates as a single, integrated whole. This is the jumping off point for Bohm's later investigations into the 'Implicate Order' that took the rest of his life to explore.
It was Bohm's intent to present the main ideas of quantum theory in non-mathematical terms rather than as some mysterious, axiomatic set of mathematics "that works". Although this is by far (in my personal opinion & I've been studying QM for 50+ years) the best attempt to provide an explanation he cannot overcome the contradiction (physicists call it a "paradox") that a single object (like an electron) cannot simultaneously BE a localized particle and a wave that extends across all of space.
None-the-less, I still highly recommend this book. At the very least, your head will have gone to the 'mental gym' for 12 months getting through it & you will learn all the wrinkles. QM is tough - there are no easy short-cuts as many authors imply.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on May 8, 2014
Although first published in 1951, this book is still relevant today. Bohm was one of the first physicists to believe that the reason subatomic particles are able to remain in contact with one another (called quantum entanglement) regardless of the distance separating them, is not because they are sending some sort of mysterious signals back and forth, but because their separateness is really just an illusion. At a deeper level of reality these particles are extensions of a fundamental 'something'. Bohm was an early proponent of the idea that objective reality did not exist. He believed that the world was really an enfolded state: like quantum waves that are stored on a holographic plate and projected--which creates the world we see. While the topics are carefully explained, the mathematics are quite challenging. Written by a man whom Feynman described as probably the smartest person he knew, this remains the best book on quantum mechanics ever written.
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