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I taught from this text in a class on Vibrations, Waves, and Optics
on August 21, 2012
I really want to give this text 4.5 stars; but, the amazon form doesn't allow one to do that...
Anyway, I taught a college sophomore-level class on Vibrations, Waves, and Optics for three years. For such a class, my department likes to teach with a mathematical background which makes use of complex variables and basic linear algebra (i.e. the ability to manipulate matrices and the ability find and use eigenvectors and eigenvalues). In my view, a class (and text) like this should fulfill two objectives: (1) it should teach applied Fourier analysis (and Fourier analysis's application to as wide a spectrum of examples as possible); and, (2) it should prepare the students for their first serious course on Quantum Mechanics. As much as possible, the course and text should introduce the mathematics and concepts that the students will encounter in quantum mechanics in a classical context. This second objective makes the transition to quantum mechanics as lucid as possible so that students are grappling with the parts of Quantum Mechanics which are truly surprising and not the parts that are just due to the wave nature of the wave functions. Walter Fox Smith's text achieves both of these objectives and does so well.
I spent the first couple of years that I taught the class looking for a text which fulfilled these objectives and did so with the level of mathematical sophistication that I wanted in my class. In general, the texts that I found before the publication of Smith's text were terrible: the students (and I) found the texts hard to read and hard to learn from. Smith's text organizes the material in a way that is easier to learn than from the books that I found previously. In fact, the rather vociferous complaints that I had received about the texts in previous years fell silent (well, there was one complaint that one student didn't like the aesthetics of the formatting in Smith's text... but, that seems like a minor complaint).
My only complaint (the reason that I would want to give this text 4.5 stars) is that, as with any first edition, there are typos in the text. A comprehensive list of the errata for the text may be found at the book's companion website. In my class, the first problem on the first assignment was to download the errata and correct the text. Compared to my experiences with other texts, this is a minor annoyance.