Physics 116 - Quantum Mechanics

Quantum mechanics describes the strange and marvelous behavior of matter on the smallest scales of length, mass, and energy. In this course we explore the structure and behavior of atoms and subatomic particles.  
There was a time when the newspapers said that only twelve men understood the theory of relativity. I do not believe that there ever was such a time. There might have been a time when only one man did, because he was the only guy who caught on, before he wrote his paper. But after people read the paper a lot of people understood the theory of relativity in some way or other, certainly more than twelve. On the other hand, I think I can safely say that nobody understands quantum mechanics.

Richard Feynman, BBC Publications, 1965, p. 129.


Feynman's remark notwithstanding, the course will follow Professor Townsend's text A Modern Approach to Quantum Mechanics, which begins with Dirac bra-ket notation for quantum states and explores the fundamental particle-wave duality of matter beginning with several versions of the Stern-Gerlach experiment. Over the semester we shall endeavor to cover the material in the text through perturbation theory, with the exception of path integrals in chapter 8. In addition, I recommend Richard Feynman's QED to provide a broad and nonmathematical background for the ideas expressed more abstractly and mathematically in Townsend's text.

Reading Assignments and Quizzes

I have prepared a series of reading quizzes to accompany Prof. Townsend's text. These quizzes serve a variety of purposes.
  1. They help guide you in reading the day's assignment by suggesting points of interest and importance; quizzes are open book.
  2. They help me determine what concepts require extra attention in class.
  3. They encourage you to struggle with technical reading independently.
  4. They permit me to devote greater attention to concepts and understanding in class.
  5. They encourage you to formulate your own questions about the material.

© 2004-5 Peter N. Saeta • saeta (at) hmc (dot) edu
Last modified 2006-03-26 14:54