Quantum Mechanics

May 24, 2012

Author: David H. McIntyre

Edition: First

Publisher: Pearson Education

Pages: 592

Price: £49.99

ISBN: 97803217985

Quantum Mechanics: A Paradigms Approach starts with the woeful tale of poor Erwin, who has socks of two colours and two lengths and is teased by other boys for wearing socks that don't match. Erwin tries hard to solve this problem by sorting his socks according to colour (with one drawer for white socks and one for black socks), but when choosing two long socks out of the white socks drawer, he finds that there is a 50 per cent chance of any one sock being black or white. As he chooses socks of a given length, the socks seem to have "forgotten" the colour that Erwin had determined previously.

This prologue gets at the heart of quantum measurement and incompatible observables, and sets the stage for the first three chapters, which discuss two-level systems through the analysis of multiple Stern-Gerlach spin experiments. This "spins-first" approach allows an immediate introduction of key elements of quantum theory using simple experiments that have no classical explanation, and may be less mathematically challenging than the traditional approach of wave mechanics. The linear algebra needed for this approach is developed in the text.

Here, David McIntyre covers the quantum mechanics curriculum typical of first- and second-year UK university courses (UK educational levels 8 and 9). While it is mathematically rigorous, the text emphasises the visualisation and interpretation of results and a multiple-representations approach, for example with calculations done using both bracket and matrix notation.

Concepts and terminology are explained carefully and clearly, and common conceptual errors are emphasised and corrected. Although the text uses analogies with classical systems to help build conceptual understanding, the limitations of classical models are made clear. Flow charts are added at key places to help students understand the structure in lengthy calculations. Key ideas are stressed repeatedly and highlighted in the text using boxes and bold text.

While many texts sidestep the interpretative problems of quantum mechanics, the spins-first approach allows McIntyre to discuss them in chapter four, with an accessible but rigorous account of the EPR paradox and Bell's inequalities.

McIntyre emphasises quantum spookiness, but also takes the view that "when you are given lemons, make lemonade", and the text discusses a wide range of modern applications and experiments, including the scanning tunnelling microscope, magnetic resonance, quantum dots, laser cooling and Bose-Einstein condensates, as well as the emerging field of quantum information processing.

Students will appreciate the substantial number of worked examples and end-of-chapter problems. Each chapter links to activities (available at www.physics.oregonstate.edu/qmactivities) for students to explore and visualise key ideas. Instructors will appreciate the instructor guides for these activities and the links to pedagogical journal articles at the end of many chapters.

Among quantum mechanics textbooks, this text stands out through its ordering of the material, its careful and clear explanations, its use of multiple representations and pedagogical underpinning.

Who is it for? Physics undergraduates studying quantum mechanics in years 1 through to 3, and quantum mechanics instructors.

Presentation: Careful and accessible explanations, stressing multiple representations, visualisation and interpretation of mathematical calculations.

Would you recommend it? Highly recommended: it is a key text.

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