The Strange World of Quantum Mechanics

This World Wide Web page written by Dan Styer, Oberlin College Physics Department;;
last updated 18 November 2009.

This World Wide Web site is devoted to the book
The Strange World of Quantum Mechanics,
by Daniel F. Styer (Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, U.K., 2000).
Purchase through CUP U.S. server or CUP U.K. server.
(ISBNs: hardback 0-521-66104-8; paperback 0-521-66780-1.)
(154 plus xiv pages.)

You may send the author computer mail at


Quantum mechanics--the rules that govern the domain of the very small--is strange and unfamiliar, but for those who open their minds to the way nature behaves (instead of to our preconceptions of how nature "ought" to behave) it is also consistent, logical, and even delightful. This book provides a honest yet non-technical introduction to quantum mechanics for a general audience. It touches upon issues ranging from classics like heat radiation to the most recent advances in quantum computers, but at its core are discussions of Bell's theorem (which shows that our classical ideas are wrong) and of quantal interference experiments (which provide guideposts for replacing those ideas). The book is useful as a textbook in topical courses for a general audience, as a supplement for technical quantum mechanics courses, and especially for individual readers seeking intellectual adventure.

Special features




Dan Styer is a Professor of Physics at Oberlin College. A graduate of Swarthmore College and Cornell University, he has published technical research papers in Physical Review, the Journal of Statistical Physics, and the Proceedings of the Royal Society. Styer is an associate editor of the American Journal of Physics, and his quantum mechanics software won the 1994 Computers in Physics Educational Software Contest. A man of lively intellect, Styer's goal in life is to keep learning new things, and to that end he invests energy into presenting science to a general audience. "I learn a lot through research and by teaching technical courses to physics majors," says Styer, "but I learn even more by distilling the essence of physics ideas into a rigorously honest yet non-technical presentation for a general audience. To reach this group, I cannot hide my ignorance behind a screen of mathematical formulas or technical jargon." Professor Styer enjoys running, backpacking, and rearing his two children as well as doing science.

Additions and revisions


Daniel V. Schroeder of Weber State University (Ogden, Utah 84408-2508) has written software named Spins to simulate the Stern-Gerlach experiment, as mentioned on page 19 of the book. It is available for free through this link. This software is described in the article by Daniel V. Schroeder and Thomas A. Moore, "A computer-simulated Stern-Gerlach laboratory", American Journal of Physics, 61 (1993) 798-805.

I have written software for the visualization of quantal wavefunctions as mentioned on page 118 of the book. It works under Micro$oft Windows (or MS-DOS) and is available for free. Simply download this program onto your Windows computer, doubleclick on QMtARC.exe to unpack the software, then doubleclick on QMValue.exe to run it. (Or, if using MS-DOS, type "QMtARC" to unpack and type "QMValue" to run.) (After unpacking, you may delete the archive file QMtARC.exe.)

Further reading

If you wish to study quantum mechanics beyond what is treated in my book, I recommend Richard Feynman's QED: The Strange Theory of Light and Matter (Princeton University Press, Princeton, New Jersey, 1985) (see page 145 of The Strange World of Quantum Mechanics).

One drawback of this book is that its admirable tight organization is not reflected through the chapter headings or by dividing the chapters into sections. To help remedy this defect, I have prepared a synoptic contents of the book.

Some points in Feynman's book that many readers find tricky are treated in "Elucidation of Some Tricky Points".