Quantum Physics For Dummies Paperback – Feb 3 2009
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From the Back Cover
Your plain-English guide to understanding and working with the micro world
Quantum physics also called quantum mechanics or quantum field theory can be daunting for even the most dedicated student or enthusiast of science, math, or physics. This friendly, concise guide makes this challenging subject understandable and accessible, from atoms to particles to gases and beyond. Plus, it's packed with fully explained examples to help you tackle the tricky equations like a pro!
Compatible with any classroom course study at your own pace and prepare for graduate or professional exams
Your journey begins here understand what quantum physics is and what kinds of problems it can solve
Know the basic math from state vectors to quantum matrix manipulations, get the foundation you need to proceed
Put quantum physics to work make sense of Schrödinger's equation and handle particles bound in square wells and harmonic oscillators
Solve problems in three dimensions use the full operators to handle wave functions and eigenvectors to find the natural wave functions of a system
Discover the latest research learn the cutting-edge quantum physics theories that aim to explain the universe itself
Open the book and find:
What quantum physics has contributed to daily life
The real-world impact of 3D quantum physics
The basics of angular momentum and spin
How to understand hydrogen atoms, perturbation theory, and scattering theory
Tips for figuring out complex equations
How to work with multiple-particle systems
Classic quantum physics problems
About the Author
Steven Holzner taught physics at Cornell University for more than ten years. He also taught at Massachusetts Institute of Technology and has written more than 95 books about programming. Holzner is the author of Differential Equations For Dummies.
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If you've got those basics, this is an extremely gentle introduction. Within an hour you'll understand the basics of the wave equation and bra-ket notation. But as with any math-based approach, even an informal one, the book has to be read carefully.
Without the basics outlined above, the book is a total bust. At the other extreme, anyone who's completed a college level course in QM will likely learn zip. For someone who's gained a qualitative appreciation for QM and wants to take the next somewhat rigorous step, this is THE book.
I'm self taught in most of this, so I can't say whether there are many serious errors/typos -- but I didn't see any glaring ones. There is one incredibly bizarre bit of notation in the first chapter where the author illustrates a simple state vector containing the square roots of 2, 3, 4, etc -- but uses 1/2 exponents that are almost the same size as the numbers, so it looks like 2 1/2, 3 1/2. etc., which didn't make any sense. After a bit of head scratching it clicked -- but aside from this peculiar example, I found the overall presentation to be quite readable.
The publisher could really do everyone a big favor by making "search inside" available.
It is obvious, after reading the introduction and the first chapter that this book would be better titled, "Quantum Physics For University Quantum Physics Students".
It is this reason why I rate this with a single star.
The quality of the book might be very good, and it might answer many questions, for a university student currently struggling with a quantum physics course -- but that I cannot judge, and that is, in my opinion, not the point.
The "Dummies series" has a history of providing information for the average person, which was what I expected when I ordered the book. I have no interest in becoming a physicist, but since we so often encounter references to facets of the topics, I wished to at least gain a basic working understanding of the ideas.
Without a doubt, to date, the best introductory resource I have been able to find on the topic has been the book, "The Quantum World" by Kenneth W. Ford. I have not yet reviewed Ford's book, because I have not yet completed it, but I already know that I will give it a very high review. Another fair book in this category is "Six Easy Pieces" by Richard P. Feynman -- which I have also not reviewed (because I have also not finished the book). The problem is that the topics are so complex that I have found that I have begun reading them up to a point where I could no longer follow, and then had to begin re-reading them from the beginning -- each time getting further and further into the book and understanding more and more until I reach another point where I can no longer follow, and need to begin again. Still, neither of these two books could reasonably be considered for the "Dummies series", but they do a far better job of it than "Quantum Physics For Dummies". [Both, the Ford and Feyman books I mentioned, can also be ordered here on Amazon.]
To be fair, in the "Foolish Assumptions" section of the introduction of the book being reviewed here, it specifically states:
"I don't assume that you have any knowledge of quantum phyics when you start to read this book. However, I do make the following assumptions:
* You're taking a college course in quantum physics, or you're interested in how math describes motion and energy on the atomic and subatomic scale.
* You have some math prowess. In particular, you know some calculus. You don't need to be a math pro, but you should know how to perform integration and deal with differential equations. Ideally, you also have some experience with Hilbert space.
* You have some physics background as well. You've had a year's worth of college-level physics (or understand all that's in Physics For Dummies) before you tackle this one."
But this "waiver" does not alter my rating. These assumptions should have made it very clear, to all parties involved, that this book, obviously, does not have the right to be considered for the "Dummies series".
Sadly, the concepts are so complex that I don't feel that I will ever find the perfect introductory resource in a mere book. In the mid-1990's, there was a considerable amount of activity in the realm of "multi-media" informational software for personal computers. The better titles offered a learning experience unrivaled by any other medium. With the combination of audio narration, to accompany the written text, along with still color graphics and video segments, the titles maximized the potential of properly conveying the information.
We can only hope that some software company, or education group, will recognize the need and market for such a work and hire Kenneth W. Ford to, first, update his book "The Quantum World", and use that as a basis for a collaboration with appropriate graphics artists to produce a multi-media series of computer software and video documentaries to present the information in a manner that is easily understood by any high-school graduate, with no prior knowledge of physics or calculus -- in "bite-sized Dummies-series style".
Maybe, you say, quantum physics is too advanced a subject to be a Dummies book. If true, then why this book? However, this is disproven by other books for laypersons on this topic which are very readable and approachable, such as Quantum Zoo by Marcus Chown.
I'm am in no way faulting the actual content of the book. I don't know, but it gives every appearance of being a good introduction - for upper-division physics students, maybe, not for general readers.
Well, one quibble about content - as far as I could find, there is no treatment of entanglement, which is the main reason I opened the book. Isn't that a pretty important area of quantum physics?
This book seems very close to a joke. I can see the Dummies books editors sitting around on a slow day at the office, perhaps even a little drunk, and someone says, "Hey, let's do Neurosurgery for Dummies. No, wait - Quantum Physics for Dummies!" And then they go on to produce such a book. And here's the joke - the presentation is way too advanced. Ha Ha, good one. Stupid readers, the joke's on you.