Quantum Mechanics: The Theoretical Minimum Illustrated Edition
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"Susskind and Friedman's persuasive overview--and their insistence on explaining...exactly what it is that is strange about quantum mechanics--may be just what is needed."―Nature
"If you want to know how physicists really think about the world, this book is the place to start."―Sean Carroll, author of The Particle at the End of the Universe
About the Author
Art Friedman is a data consultant who previously spent fifteen years at Hewlett-Packard as a software engineer. A lifelong student of physics, he lives in Mountain View, California.
- Publisher : Basic Books; Illustrated edition (May 12, 2015)
- Language : English
- Paperback : 384 pages
- ISBN-10 : 0465062903
- ISBN-13 : 978-0465062904
- Item Weight : 14.2 ounces
- Dimensions : 5.45 x 1.2 x 8.2 inches
- Best Sellers Rank: #35,407 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
Top reviews from the United States
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A little background about me: As an undergraduate, I took Modern Physics and received an A; I also took Quantum Mechanics at the graduate level and received an A. Then, in my Ph.D. program, I took Nuclear Physics and received an A. That was several years ago, so I decided to dive back into the topic to refresh my understanding. So while I'm no expert, there certainly was a time in the not-too-distant past in which many university professors would say that I had at least some basic understanding of QM. That said...
I seriously struggled through this book. I read it very slowly to the end, did the problems, re-read it, and still failed to learn anything new from it. In contrast, I also used several other resources to learn QM (including a free online MIT course on QM, lectures and a book by Feynman, and even a few "philosophy" books on QM by Tim Maudlin and Peter Lewis) and found them incredibly helpful.
As it turns out, there are several things in Susskind's book that I did understand, but they were things that I learned from other sources. In other words, I learned literally nothing new from his book.
The book contains very few (if any) fundamental explanations of anything -- the book is mostly equations riddled with text written in a language that you'd only understand if you were already intimately familiar with QM. For example, he never explains why complex numbers are required in QM (although he promises to on p. 21!). Turns out it's a pretty important reason, not to mention very interesting, relating to how probabilities combine. He never explains why it matters that an operator acting on an eigenvector simply multiplies the vector by a number (eigenvalue). He never explains what a Hermitian operator fundamentally is, or why this all takes place in Hilbert space (or what that is). He never explains the relationship between discrete QM (which utilizes matrices) and continuous QM (which utilizes integrals), or why that would matter (representing spin versus position, for example).
He never -- and this is KEY -- NEVER explains where the heck QM came from. QM came, in part, from the realization that the probability distributions we would expect from a particular experiment did not fit classical predictions. The normal means of combining probabilities by AND and OR rules didn't work in certain cases: for example, by adding a second possible path for a particle to pass, it became possible to REDUCE the number of particles that landed in certain places (an effect called "interference"). However, if instead possible events were designated by characteristic numbers (we call them "complex amplitudes"), such that individually their probabilities were just the square of the amplitude's magnitude, then we CAN make the right experimental predictions if we combine the amplitudes according to the rules of probability. Anyway, this is a long way of saying that QM was a huge GUESS, and it has turned out, after uncountably many experiments, to be confirmed. But Susskind never discusses this. Same for the Uncertainty Principle. He "derives" the uncertainty equation without ever mentioning that Heisenberg's formulation was based on a thought experiment regarding measurement, and that the Uncertainty Principle wasn't empirically confirmed until decades after it was assumed to be true. The mathematical "proof" that Susskind puts forth depends on the assumption that a particle has a wavelength and that the Fourier transform of a particle's position yields its momentum. But that's circular, since if you've already assumed that the particle's position function contains information about its momentum, then obviously the more information you have about one, the less you have about the other. That doesn't mean the proof or assumptions are wrong, but without knowing them, the curious and skeptical reader will simply be frustrated by Susskind's failure to offer any kind of context.
If you are a neophyte, this book is not for you. If you are educated and have already taken several courses in QM and want a refresher, this book is not for you. I'm not sure who it's for -- someone who's already an expert?
I can't recommend this book with any less enthusiasm.
* Not loosing the reader in the math
* Not dropping so much math, that it all becomes abstract bullsh*t
Great introduction, or review if you've had quantum.
Also, if you are learning quantum for the first time, it's highly recommended, since it emphasizes the CONCEPTS and CONSEQUENCES, rather than getting you lost in lengthly (and not terribly useful) derivations.
The book starts by considering how to think about states of a system and measurement. In particular ideas about intrinsic spin are more or less the starting point of discussing quantum mechanics. This is a different track to most other introductory QM authors but the point is to introduce the most simple quantum mechanical Hilbert space, namely the space where spin vectors reside. The author goes through things like Pauli Matrices and commutating operators. The author discusses the postulates of quantum mechanics and results from Hermitian operators as well as the uncertainty principle. The author introduces time dependent Schrödinger equation naturally by first looking at the eigenstate solutions and then the superposition. The author then gets into the concept of entanglement. Another concept that usually comes later in quantum mechanics but is introduced naturally in the book. The basics of tensor products are considered and the authors work through canonical examples of entangled states and the uniqueness of them to quantum mechanics. There are aspects of this part which can be challenging to follow but watching the lectures online can help the reader who might feel a bit lost. The authors then discuss particle wave duality and the collapse of the wave function. And finally the authors get to the harmonic oscillator and discuss ladder operators and the solutions to the harmonic oscillators with the Hermite polynomials. This chapter I found more readable than most quantum mechanical texts so think they did a good job making intuitive a difficult set of ideas.
Quantum Mechanics- the theoretical minimum largely achieves its goals of introducing the reader to quantum mechanics when they have little background and are absent a teacher to guide them. It still is a hard subject and this book uses more the simpler toy models than the typical arbitrary wavefunction. I prefer Bowman Essential Quantum Mechanics as a first introduction to the subject which I think is at the same level but I do like this and am glad I read it to get a different flavor of the subject, challenging for the uninitiated, but readable.
Top reviews from other countries
Leonard Susskind obviously knows the theory as well as anyone, intimately, and has evidently taught it often enough to know exactly know to optimize his approach. He prepares the ground carefully and uses the qubits representing spin as his main running example, which lets him avoid murky issues around particles and waves for most of the discussion. He also works in Dirac algebra from the start, which is far and away the clearest approach for my money and provides a solid base to discuss the respective approaches and main results of Heisenberg and Schrödinger, when he gets that far. I found his treatment far more enlightening than that in volume 3 of the Feynman lectures, where Feynman made a mess of presenting Dirac algebra and failed to motivate either matrix mechanics or wave mechanics with sufficient mathematical or philosophical care.
Susskind has properly taken on board the depth of the foundation work needed to present quantum theory intelligibly, so as not to be shipwrecked on the rocks of the paradoxes that lead weaker heads to despair about ever making sense of their challenge to what used to pass for common sense about physical reality. His discussion of states and state vectors, basic principles, entanglement, uncertainty, nonlocality, dynamics and so on is always spot on, with a confident mathematical grip on the issues and a calm refusal to be ruffled by the difficulties they present to intuitive comprehension. His approach is ideally suited to showing how and where quantum logic defies classical logic, how far you can go before deep issues about spacetime need to be confronted, for example by going from discrete sums to continuous integrals, and how little you need to fuss about particle and waves before the new foundations are in place.
A modern introduction to quantum mechanics needs to go beyond Dirac's elegant but dated and difficult textbook, both in terms of approach to set things up for new work in quantum computation and high energy physics and in terms of content to touch on such topics as the Bell inequalities, the trials of Alice and Bob, and the creation and annihilation operators of quantum field theory. Susskind does all this with masterly cool, as well as a warm appreciation of the excitement in wait for people who go on to tackle those further topics. Art Friedman has made sure the text remains accessible to plodders like me, though perhaps some of his humorous additions might be trimmed or deleted in future editions of what seems to me to be a core text with a long and glorious potential afterlife.
Having said this, if you wan't to start understanding science; real science that is, not like the science of pop science books where you're told a few vague ideas and some rough history. Rather, this book takes you into the mathematical framework of quantum mechanics and allows you to do the calculations and discover the true beauty of the equations.
Before reading this book my background in mathematics and physics were as follows: GCSE and AS level maths and physics, had read the first book. I don't think you will struggle to read this provided that you're willing to work fairly hard at understanding what's going on and that you have a working knowledge of calculus and a basic knowledge of matrix operations and knowledge of complex numbers.
The book covers a variety of topics and by the end of it you will understand the basics of the Schrödinger equation, general uncertainty, the Heisenberg uncertainty principal, using quantum mechanics to calculate probabilities of certain outcomes and also quantum entanglement and why it's such a strange phenomena. These ideas are not made readily available, you will have to do a fair bit of work in understanding in order to fully appreciate these ideas.
It took me about 3 months to read and understand this book and I feel that I have a basic grasp on some fundamental ideas in quantum mechanics. If you have no serious understanding of the maths of physics or have no interest in learning it then this book is not for you. If you do not want to have to think about the ideas presented in order to grasp their importance then this book is also not for you. However if you want an invitation into the world of real quantum mechanical theory then this is the book for you.
Overall, I'd recommend this book to a complete newcomer to quantum mechanics. If you have some experience with QM, I'd guess you can skip it safely.
If you want to build a good working knowledge of Quantum Mechanics I recommend the following:
1) Read this book first, it's a nice introduction.
2) Read Dirac's book - The Principles Of Quantum Mechanics
3) Read a university level book such as Binney's The Physics of Quantum Mechanics
Now, after this you'd have gathered nice grasp of QM. But this ain't enough - go into the applications such as Solid State Physics, Atomic Physics, Nuclear... Only when you've applied the machinery of QM you would "understand it". Not that anyone can.
Get the book ( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)
You won't learn anything about bosons versus fermions, or anything at all about three dimensional solutions or anything about the Hydrogen atom or nucleus.
You will not be able to follow the book unless you understand basic calculus and some of classical physics, such as the formulae for kinetic energy, momentum and the energy of a spring -- basic A level stuff. Though integration by parts is spelled out for you.
The book is aimed at quite a low level, it works very slowly and step by step, and it is reasonably rigorous. I particularly like the presentation of entanglement and the non nonsense approach to the interpretation of quantum mechanics. It would be hard to read this book and end up thinking that consciousness, mysticism or wave-function-collapse have anything to do with quantum mechanics.
This book leads you to Many Worlds by the back door, without ever making that explicit, but I don't see that as a bad thing. At the moment, it is the only consistent theory out there.
There are a very few typos in the text, but rather more in the exercises. The exercises are mainly very easy, but a few are difficult and a few do not make sense at all, because of mistakes in them. A little more proof reading would help here.
I read the Kindle version as it is cheaper. It's OK, but a bit of a pain to leaf back to find formulae that are referred to. I much prefer the way this is done in the online Feynman lectures, where formulae pop up in a box when you click on them.
Overall, I recommend this book. If you've not done any quantum mechanics before you'll find it pretty hard going, but probably no harder than any of the other books out there and easier than many of them.