PHYSICS 405: ADVANCED QUANTUM PHYSICS
Fall 2008
Teacher: Alfred Scharff Goldhaber
Yang Institute (Math 6-113, 2-7975, goldhab@insti.physics.sunysb.edu)
Office Hours: By appointment or drop in
Class meetings: TuTh 5:20-6:40 PM
Texts: `Introductory Quantum Mechanics', 4th Edition by Richard L. Liboff
Three Short Midterm Exams during class time, but No Final Exam
Term Paper (10-20 pages) (may be applied to upper division writing requirement)
The main prerequisite for this course is PHY 308, Quantum Physics. My new course, PHY 390 Physical and Mathematical Foundations of Quantum Mechanics TuTh 650-810 PM, would be helpful if taken simultaneously, but is NOT required. Except for sketchy discussions under the heading of Modern Physics, PHY 308 is the only introduction most students have seen to quantum mechanics. Considering the important part quantum mechanics plays in physics and technology today, this rather late exposure of students stands in sharp contrast to the situation for mechanics and electrodynamics, which form the backbone of first-year physics and then are repeated at a more advanced level, typically in junior year. For that reason I believe that students can benefit from a course that covers again much of the material in the introductory course, but in a deeper way. The appearance of 390 this semester, allows a more conventional treatment of Advanced Quantum Physics than I have given in recent years. However, I still believe it is more beneficial to return for a deeper treatment to some of the topics in PHY 308, because past experience shows it is very hard for students to absorb this material in a single go-round. This should mean that students will have a good foundation for learning some of the many additional topics in this subject, anyway too numerous be covered entirely in such a limited time. The term paper, and a session or sessions at the end when students have the chance to present their topics to each other, should help increase the breadth of coverage.
Quantum mechanics describes everything that goes on at atomic length
scales, and thereby much that goes on at even larger scales, such as
the strength of ordinary materials, and other properties such as
specific heat. The subject has various layers, starting with the fact
that there are far fewer degrees of freedom than for classical
mechanics. In the latter, any value of position and momentum is
allowed, but in quantum mechanics there is only a single state
corresponding to a box in phase space ofr each degree of freedom
(e.g., position in x direction and momentum and momentum in x
direction) of area h, where h is Planck's constant. That fact also
underlies the Heisenberg uncertainty principle, which implies that
the more precisely we know a particle's momentum the less well we
know its position, and vice versa. The probability interpretation,
that the absolute square of a (generally complex) wave function gives
the probability density for finding a value of some observable in a
given range, leads directly to the importance of having a complete
description of all possible states of a system, and of how these
states evolve in time. The problem of prediction in quantum mechanics
is to determine probabilities of measuring particular values of
observables at one time, given values determined at an earlier time.
This is the basic problem of all physics, but in quantum physics it
may involve probability distributions rather than specific values. At
the same time, quantum mechanics has an exactness and specificity
unmatched in classical mechanics. For example, the energy of the
ground state of a hydrogen atom in vacuum is universal, exactly the
same for all such systems. This combination of fuzziness and
exactness makes quantum mechanics an exciting challenge for
developing intuition, because it is so different from classical
mechanics and familiar experience at human-size scales. In this
course we continue the adventure of trying to master this challenge.
Teacher
Alfred Scharff Goldhaber
Ph.D., 1964, Princeton University
Fred Goldhaber represents the second of three physics generations in
his family. Collaboration with his parents led to what may have been
the first mother-son publications in physics. Among his research
publications are articles on magnetic monopoles, elementary
particles, nuclei, condensed matter, and, recently, cosmology. Themes
that help to bind these topics together include the principle of
gauge invariance, the use of classical limits and the correspondence
principle, and the study of long-distance, low-energy constraints on
objects that may have quite high-energy internal structure. He is
co-author of three review articles, "Terrestrial and Extraterrestrial
Limits on the Photon Mass," "Hypothetical Particles" (with Jack
Smith), and "High-Energy Collisions of Nuclei," as well as an
annotated bibliography, Magnetic Monopoles. He enjoys hindsight
heuristics, asking why people made discoveries later than they might
have; understanding this better could aid future discoveries.
Course Outline
Review of particular subjects in PHY 308
Entangled states and quantum information
Course Policies and Grading
We shall make use of the Blackboard system for communication and student comments, including anonymous comments which are most welcome. Stony Brook course evaluation forms give feedback when the course is all over. Anonymous comments at any point during the term can lead to improvements right away. There will be weekly homework assignments. Students who work in groups of 2 to 5 will get the equivalent of 1 perfect problem extra credit for each homework which has been done together with the group. There will be one extra credit point for emailing to me the following information during the first week of classes, in response to an email from me through the Blackboard system:
Grading allocation: Homework 40%, Term Paper 36%, Midterm Exams 24%
Term paper schedule:
Maximum point allocations: Topic 3 points, Abstract-Outline 5 points, First draft 8 points Second draft 8 points Final draft 8 points.Homework sessions: Students are encouraged to work in groups, and to schedule time as groups with me in my office for me to help out with difficulties.
Possible paper topics: