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Foundations of Quantum Physics

Foundations of Quantum Physics

Author: Charles E. Burkhardt

Publisher: Springer


Publish Date: September 19, 2008

ISBN-10: 0387776516

Pages: 530

File Type: PDF

Language: English

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Book Preface

This book is meant to be a text for a first course in quantum physics. It is assumed that the student has had courses in Modern Physics and in mathematics through differential equations. The book is otherwise self-contained and does not rely on outside resources such as the internet to supplement the material. SI units are used throughout except for those topics for which atomic units are especially convenient.

It is our belief that for a physics major a quantum physics textbook should be more than a one- or two-semester acquaintance. Consequently, this book contains material that, while germane to the subject, the instructor might choose to omit because of time limitations. There are topics and examples included that are not normally covered in introductory textbooks. These topics are not necessarily too advanced, they are simply not usually covered.We have not, however, presumed to tell the instructor which topics must be included and which may be omitted. It is our intention that omitted subjects are available for future reference in a book that is already familiar to its owner. In short, it is our hope that the student will use the book as a reference after having completed the course.

We have included at the end of most chapters a “Retrospective” of the chapter. This is not meant to bemerely a summary, but, rather, an overviewof the importance of the material and its place in the context of previous and forthcoming chapters. For example, the Retrospective in Chapter 3 we feel is particularly important because, in our experience, students spend so much time learning about eigenstates that they get the impression that physical systems “live” in eigenstates.

We believe that students should, after a very brief review of salient experiments and concepts that led to contemporary quantum physics (Chapter 1), begin solving problems. That is, the formal aspects of quantum physics, operator formalism, should be introduced only after the student has seen quantum mechanics in action. This is certainly not a new approach, but we prefer it to the alternative of the formal mathematical introduction followed by problem solving. More importantly, we believe that the students benefit from this approach. To this end we begin with a derivation (read: rationalization) of the Schr¨odinger equation in Chapter 2. This chapter continues with a discussion of the nature of the solutions of the Schr¨odinger equation, particularly the wave function.We discuss at length both the utility of the wave function and its characteristics. It is our observation that the art of sketching wave functions has been neglected. We are led to this conclusion from discussions with graduate students who have had the undergraduate course, but are unable to sketch wave functions for an arbitrarily drawn potential energy function. We think that such a skill is crucial for understanding quantum mechanics at the introductory level and, thus, we spend a good deal of Chapter 2 discussing qualitative aspects of the wave function.

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