**Topics:**
This course introduces the three central concepts of quantum mechanics, namely:
(1) The outcome of an experiment cannot, in general, be predicted exactly;
only the probability of the various outcomes can be found. (2) These
probabilities arise through the interference of probability amplitudes.
(3) Probability amplitudes can be associated with two experiments done
far apart from each other ("entanglement").
The ideas are developed through the example of an intrinsically simple
system ("spin 1/2"), which is treated with complete rigor and honesty.

**Learning goals:** Through your work in this course, you will

- acquire a basic yet firm understanding of quantization, interference, and entanglement;
- apply logic and quantitative reasoning;
- understand that science involves reasoning about nature from observations and experiments, and appreciate the character and limitations of science; and
- begin to appreciate the beauty, elegance, and economy of nature and of scientific explanations.

**Teacher:**
Dan Styer,
Wright 215, 775-8183, Dan.Styer@oberlin.edu

home telephone 440-281-1348 (2:30 pm to 9:00 pm only).

My schedule grid (PDF).

**Course web site:**
http://www.oberlin.edu/physics/dstyer/StrangeQ

**Add-drop warning:** If you wish to add or drop this course, you must do
so via PRESTO by 11:30 pm on Wednesday, 4 April 2018.

**Prerequisites:** This course does not assume any background in science.
High school algebra and geometry will be used as needed without apology.

**Text:**
D.F. Styer, *The Strange World of Quantum Mechanics*.

**Tutoring:** Tutors are available for this course at no charge
through Oberlin College's office of Student Academic Success.
See Donna Young at Peters 118, weekdays 8:30 am - noon or
1:30 pm - 4:00 pm.

**Grading:** This is a second-half-of-the-semester half course,
graded on a Pass/No Pass basis.
To receive credit, you must
react to classes regularly and satisfactorily complete
six assignments. A project may be substituted for 40% of the assignment
questions. There are no exams. (I find it impossible to think up
exam questions for quantum mechanics at this level: the questions
I come up with are either too hard or else not probing.)

How do you **react to classes**?
At the end of every class, hand
in a slip of paper containing your name and a
brief (one- or two-sentence) reaction to the state of your knowledge
concerning quantum mechanics. I will use these reactions to plan the next class
and the future path of this course.
Your most useful reaction would be a specific question:
for example, "What does it mean to say that an electron
does not have a position?"
Other possible reactions would be indications of general interest
("I'd like to learn more about entanglement.")
or general questions ("Why should I care about this stuff, anyway?").
Please avoid questions of marginal relevance to this course
("How can I get that cute redhead in the second row to notice me?").

**Assignments** are due at the end of the day (11:59 pm) on each Thursday
except for the last Thursday of the course (10 May).
They will be administered and
graded through the Oberlin College Blackboard system.
You may rework an assignment as many times as you wish before the
deadline.
In working an assignment, you may consult any written or on-line material,
or you may consult your friends,
but you must complete the assignment yourself . . .
you may not, for example, copy answers from someone who has already
done the assignment.
I cannot accept late solutions.
To pass the course, you must earn at least 70% on the assignments.
(I appreciate that for some of the assignments you might be sick or
for other reasons not at the peak of your abilities. That's why the 70% cutoff is
set so low.)

The problem assignments are an opportunity for you hone your growing quantum-mechanical skills and knowledge by applying them to specific situations. It's easy to fool yourself into thinking that you understand quantum mechanics because you can follow the readings and grasp the outlines of the theory, whereas in fact understanding comes through knowing not just the theory, but also how to apply it. (Just as everyone wants a free, stable, unified, and democratic Korea, but no one seems to know how to get from where we are to this laudable goal.)

**Project:** If your assignment grade is too low, or if you wish to skip some
of the assignments, then you may make 40% of your grade through a project.
The project is usually an essay
concerning quantum mechanics, the history of quantum mechanics, or the
influence of quantum mechanics on philosophy, literature, culture, etc.
Possible essay topics are listed in appendix D of the book, but I'm
sure you will be able to come up with
other good ideas yourself.
Restrict the scope of your investigations...I would far prefer
a short, well-thought-out investigation to a long discourse that merely
parrots the opinions found in some library book.
Your project may be a creative work such as a poem, short story, or
piece of music, but it must involve quantum mechanics in some non-trivial
way! I anticipate that your essay will be relatively short
(three to six pages), but it should show evidence of considerable
analytic thought. The project is due at the last class meeting
on 10 May 2018.

**Honor code:**
In working an assignment or project,
you may consult any written or on-line material,
or you may consult your friends (or your enemies!),
but you must complete the assignment yourself . . .
you may not, for example, copy answers from someone who has already
done the assignment. In the project, you must cite and/or acknowledge
written, on-line, and friend (or enemy) resources used.

This is the standard rule for intellectual discourse:
When I write a research paper on quantum mechanics,
I consult other materials, and before publication
I always give the paper to a friend who suggests improvements.
But I always cite the materials, I always acknowledge the friend,
and I *never* copy an already published research paper.

**Course schedule:**

Relevant readings from textbook *The Strange World of Quantum Mechanics*
are listed in square brackets.

27 March | Introduction | |

29 March | Feynman on quantum mechanics (movie) [chap. 1] | |

[Movie available at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aAgcqgDc-YM.] | ||

3 April | Classical magnetic needles (demonstrations) [chap. 2] | |

5 April | Conundrum of projections; Repeated measurements [chaps. 3 and 4] | |

10 April | Probability [chap. 5] | |

12 April | Einstein-Podolsky-Rosen paradox [chap. 6] | |

17 April | Optical interference (demonstrations) [chap. 8] | |

19 April | Quantal interference [chap. 9] | |

24 April | Amplitudes [chaps. 10 and 11] | |

26 April | Quantum cryptography [appendix B and chap. 13] | |

1 May | Quantum mechanics of a bouncing ball [chap. 14] | |

3 May | History of quantum mechanics | |

8 May | Relativistic quantum mechanics (descriptive lecture) | |

10 May | Summary |

D.F. Styer, *The Strange World of Quantum Mechanics*
[Science QC174.12.S879 2000]

The course textbook is on reserve behind the science library desk.

R.P. Feynman, *QED: The Strange Theory of Light and Matter*
[Science QC793.5.P422F48 1985]

Quantum mechanics in more different situations.

R.P. Feynman, *Character of Physical Law*
[Mudd 530.04 F438C]

Includes (chapter 6) a transcript of the lecture shown in the second class.

T.F. Jordan, *Quantum Mechanics in Simple Matrix Form*
[Science QC174.12.J67 1986]

A mathematical approach to quantum mechanics.

M. Chester, *Primer of Quantum Mechanics*
[Science QC174.12.C46 2003]

Another mathematical approach to quantum mechanics.

George Greenstein and Arthur G. Zajonc, *The Quantum Challenge:
Modern Research on the Foundations of Quantum Mechanics* (second edition)
[Science QC174.12.G73 1997]

Experiments concerning the foundations of quantum mechanics.

J.M. Jauch, *Are Quanta Real?*
[Mudd 530.12 J321A]

A popularization of quantum mechanics in the form of a Galilean dialog.

J.C. Polkinghorne, *The Quantum World*
[Science QC174.12.P64 1989]

Written by a physicist turned priest.

Graham Farmelo, *The Strangest Man: The Hidden Life of Paul Dirac*
[Science QC16.D57 F37 2009b]

Helge Kragh, *Dirac: A Scientific Biography*
[Science QC16.D57 K73 1990]

Susan Strehle, *Fiction in the Quantum Universe*
[Mudd PS374.P45S77 1992]

Tom Stoppard, *Hapgood*
[Science PR6069.T6H3 1988].

A sophisticated spy play involving quantum mechanics.

- Keep following research in physics by scanning http://physicsworld.com/cws/channel/news.
- Or look at the "Astronomy Picture of the Day" at http://apod.nasa.gov/apod/.
- Or use your home computer to look for gravity waves through Einstein@Home: http://einstein.phys.uwm.edu/.
- Or participate in research by classifying galaxies at http://www.galaxyzoo.org/. "You may even be the first person in history to see each of the galaxies you're asked to classify."
- Or, if you're an amateur astronomer, make a significant research contribution by looking for supernovae: see http://snews.bnl.gov/amateur.html.