Quantum Physics World

Monday, April 17, 2006

Quantum Mechanics Review: Schaum's Outline

Schaum's Outline of Quantum Mechanics
The Schaum's Outline of Quantum Mechanics promises the reader that this is the perfect supplement for the classroom. Whether or not this is true turns out to be a yes and no answer. The book has 16 chapters that cover everything from spin and the Schrodinger equation to scattering and the semi-classical treatment of radiation. Each chapter begins with a brief overview of the subject covered, with quick definitions and statements of equations and theorems. There is very little explanatory text. This is followed by solved examples, and each chapter concludes with a set of problems you can try on your own.



Strengths
Quantum mechanics is a tough course for anyone to get through, so supplements to the ridiculously expenseive and often impenetrable textbooks on the market are welcome. This book is helpful for two main reasons. The first is that it is very thorough. It covers every topic that you are going to see in either a senior level undergraduate course on quantum mechanics or a first year graduate course. Second, it has a good selection of solved problems, pretty much exposing you to the standard batch of problems you're likely to encounter in the standard textbooks.

Weaknesses
The book does suffer from several problems. The first is just the basic presentation style used in the Schaum's outlines. Granted these are not meant to replace a textbook, they are just supposed to be a classroom aid. Even so the extremely terse presentation leaves the reader hungry for more help. Difficult topics are presented in a mere page or two. There could be more explanatory text in the solved problems as well. Again the presentation seems to terse to be of use to students who are really struggling.

Conclusion
My advice is buy every quantum mechanics book you can since its a hard subject to master. The Schaum's Outlines are cheap, so you will only set yourself back maybe $17 picking up this title. So go ahead and add this one to your library. The best use I see for this book is in preparing for a preliminary or comprehensive exam in graduate school, after you've already gone a fair distance toward mastering quantum mechanics. If you are currently taking a course and find yourself hopelessly confused, then look elsewhere - in my opinion this book is not going to be that helpful.

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