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Thread: Prerequisites for quantum mechanics

  1. #1 Prerequisites for quantum mechanics 
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    I know this question has probably been asked before but I've never really found a suitable definate answer. At the moment I'm studying algebra II and trig. Can someone tell me the best or most logical path to take in order to end up studying quantum mechanics?

    This is the path I imagine: Algebra II > Trig > Calculus > ? > ? > ?

    I know math is a huge field but I want to take the best route, the best modules which will give me the greatest chance at tackling quantum mechanics. I'm studying at home by myself. If you could recommend a book relavent to the topic at hand that would be great.

    Also if you know of anything in particular within a certain field that would be perfect. I'm looking for advice from people who actually study or have studied quantum mechanics. Thanks.
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  2. #2  
    KJW
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    Linear algebra.
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  3. #3  
    KJW
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    Sorry, I can't offer any advice on course study. Maybe you should consult the physics department where you are studying. I offered "linear algebra" only because it is so central to QM. You'll no doubt also need to study group theory.
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  4. #4  
    KJW
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    Nobel laureate Gerard 't Hooft offers advice on how to become a good theoretical physicist at the following website:

    Gerard ’t Hooft, Theoretical Physics as a Challenge
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  5. #5  
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    Quote Originally Posted by KJW View Post
    Sorry, I can't offer any advice on course study. Maybe you should consult the physics department where you are studying. I offered "linear algebra" only because it is so central to QM. You'll no doubt also need to study group theory.
    I am not studying at university or anything, I'm just studying at home by myself so I want to try and stay on a track that will lead me to QM. With maths it's easy to get dragged of course by other fields and before you know it you've found yourself studying chemistry lol
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    mvb
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    Quote Originally Posted by MathJacob View Post
    I know this question has probably been asked before but I've never really found a suitable definate answer. At the moment I'm studying algebra II and trig. Can someone tell me the best or most logical path to take in order to end up studying quantum mechanics?

    This is the path I imagine: Algebra II > Trig > Calculus > ? > ? > ?

    I know math is a huge field but I want to take the best route, the best modules which will give me the greatest chance at tackling quantum mechanics. I'm studying at home by myself. If you could recommend a book relavent to the topic at hand that would be great.

    Also if you know of anything in particular within a certain field that would be perfect. I'm looking for advice from people who actually study or have studied quantum mechanics. Thanks.
    You will need differential equations after calculus. After that I would think that you could usefully start the quantum mechanics. Linear algebra is useful but probably not essential, depending on what you use for studying quantum. Group theory would normally come later, depending on what parts of physics you got interested in. Make sure you know classical mechanics and at least the basics of electricity and magnetism reasonably well before you tackle quantum. [I was for many years academic advisor for undergraduate physics majors.]
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    KJW
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    Quote Originally Posted by mvb View Post
    Linear algebra is useful but probably not essential
    The way I see it, linear algebra represents the difference between understanding and not genuinely understanding quantum mechanics. It's true that one doesn't need linear algebra in order to apply quantum mechanics to (for example) molecular orbital calculations. But knowing linear algebra enables one to have a deeper understanding of the Schrödinger equation (and quantum mechanics in general). I'm guessing that because MathJacob is studying this at home rather than formally, an understanding of the subject is more important than being able to apply it to some specific situation that might occur in an academic setting.


    Quote Originally Posted by mvb View Post
    Group theory would normally come later, depending on what parts of physics you got interested in.

    I am of the view that even if group theory is never used in a quantum mechanical context, just knowing it will be good for the soul . Symmetry is such an important notion insofar as the inner workings of reality that not knowing group theory would be missing a big part of the picture.
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    Thanks guys this helps. Now this is where I get a bit confused, should I learn every sub topic within Calculus for example and then every sub topic within differential equations. For example if you said study algebra, look how how many smaller topics fall within algebra. Is there anything in specific within those fields that I should focus on.
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  9. #9  
    KJW
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    Quote Originally Posted by MathJacob View Post
    Thanks guys this helps. Now this is where I get a bit confused, should I learn every sub topic within Calculus for example and then every sub topic within differential equations. For example if you said study algebra, look how how many smaller topics fall within algebra. Is there anything in specific within those fields that I should focus on.
    Maybe you should get a textbook on Quantum Mechanics, find out what you don't understand, and work backwards from that.
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  10. #10  
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    Quote Originally Posted by KJW View Post
    Maybe you should get a textbook on Quantum Mechanics, find out what you don't understand, and work backwards from that.
    That's not a bad idea, thanks.
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