Lectures on Quantum Mechanics (Weinberg)

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Lectures on Quantum Mechanics is a book by Steven Weinberg

2nd ed. (2015)[edit]


  • The development of quantum mechanics in the 1920s was the greatest advance in physical science since the work of Isaac Newton. It was not easy; the ideas of quantum mechanics present a profound departure from ordinary human intuition. Quantum mechanics has won acceptance through its success. It is essential to modern atomic, molecular, nuclear, and elementary particle physics, and to a great deal of chemistry and condensed matter physics as well.

Ch. 1 : Historical Introduction[edit]

  • The principles of quantum mechanics are so contrary to ordinary intuition that they can best be motivated by taking a look at their prehistory.
  • Perhaps the most important immediate consequence of Planck’s work was to provide long-sought values for atomic constants.
  • Planck’s quantization assumption applied to the matter that emits and absorbs radiation, not to radiation itself. As George Gamow later remarked, Planck thought that radiation was like butter; butter itself comes in any quantity, but it can be bought and sold only in multiples of one quarter pound. It was Albert Einstein (1879–1955) who in 1905 proposed that the energy of radiation of frequency ν was itself an integer multiple of hν.
  • In this derivation Bohr had relied on the old idea of classical radiation theory, that the frequencies of spectral lines should agree with the frequency of the electron’s orbital motion, but he had assumed this only for the largest orbits, with large n. The light frequencies he calculated for transitions between lower states, such as n=2 → n=1, did not at all agree with the orbital frequency of the initial or final state. So Bohr’s work represented another large step away from classical physics.
  • Heisenberg’s starting point was the philosophical judgment, that a physical theory should not concern itself with things like electron orbits in atoms that can never be observed. This is a risky assumption, but in this case it served Heisenberg well.

Ch. 2 : Particle States in a Central Potential[edit]

  • To start, we will consider a single particle moving in three space dimensions under the influence of a general central potential. Later we will specialize to the case of a Coulomb potential, and work out the spectrum of hydrogen. One other classic problem, the harmonic oscillator, will be treated at the end of this chapter.

Ch. 3 : General Principles of Quantum Mechanics[edit]

  • My own conclusion is that today there is no interpretation of quantum mechanics that does not have serious flaws. This view is not universally shared. Indeed, many physicists are satisfied with their own interpretation of quantum mechanics. But different physicists are satisfied with different interpretations. In my view, we ought to take seriously the possibility of finding some more satisfactory other theory, to which quantum mechanics is only a good approximation.

Quotes about Lectures on Quantum Mechanics[edit]

  • There’s something I’ve been working on for more than a year — maybe it’s just an old man’s obsession, but I’m trying to find an approach to quantum mechanics that makes more sense than existing approaches. I’ve just finished editing the second edition of my book, Lectures on Quantum Mechanics, in which I think I strengthen the argument that none of the existing interpretations of quantum mechanics are entirely satisfactory.