The wave function essays in the metaphysics of quantum mechanics
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This is simply the most fascinating course I have done with the OU to date. One where you make a key transition in your study of physics: from relying on your physical intuition to inform the maths; to relying on the mathematics to tell you what your intuition should be!
Starting with wave mechanics, you get taken step-by-step up to using the formalism to analyse in full the energy levels in 'real' atoms, molecular bonding, tests of fundamental parts of quantum theory that fly in the face of normal experience and how electron behaviour in solids accounts for conductivity, appearance and physical attributes. The course is, necessarily, heavily mathematical and a solid understanding of MST209 is a real must.
This course includes an extended section on the fascinating area of quantum information. It also covers the Dirac notation, which is often listed as a pre-requisite for post-graduate courses in physics with the caveat that it is absent in many undergraduate programmes.
The teaching on this course is excellent - and there are features that I believe were new for 2009. The computer marked assignments, whilst only formative, are excellent for testing and correcting your understanding. Quantum mechanics is a very counter-intuitive field and so opportunities to test your grasp of it are golden. The computer system is very good at assessing what you've done and giving you appropriate hints to allow you to reach the solution yourself, rather than passively looking it up when you don't get it fully correct. There is also an extensive package of e-tutorials, both national and within your tutor group, where the excellent course tutors really draw out, emphasize and clarify the main concepts, themes and methods. These tutorials are live, so you can ask questions and discuss the material with the tutors and students (by text) whilst they are taking place. There are also a selection of face-to-face tutorials and a couple of fantastic day schools.
My only criticism of the course is that perhaps too much has been squeezed into it for a 30pt course. I understand why this is so - quantum mechanics forms the backbone of modern physics. Indeed, I am glad that I got to learn so much about the subject, which will be essential as I intend to pursue postgraduate study. It's just that I'd like to have seen it made into a larger course (or split into two smaller ones), keeping everything in it and extending a little more into solid-state physics. This is a key area of physics (usually expected in an undergraduate degree) and is sadly, other than a few chapters in SM358, missing from the OU's physics offering.
All-in-all a fascinating, well-delivered course. Be prepared for a voyage into the fantastic!
CiteSeerX — Extended quantum mechanics
"Geometry is a mathematical language close to our intuition built on our experience of the world. As such, it induces a feeling of familiarity, at least for many mathematically motivated people. And though this familiarity might be a source of misleading ideas, it makes various technical tools more understandable and practical than abstract mathematical constructions. But also, as a language, geometry is often able to express mathematical ideas at various levels of rigor, depth and concreteness. A book written in this language can be a combination of forms. It can be a rigorous essay, a historical account, a story and even a poem. The present book is all of these. The authors write with the same enthusiasm and mastery that an experienced novelist could use to express his life experiences, with passion, memories and novelty. The material in the book is closely related to the extensive research of the authors, if not directly emanating from this. The subjects covered have a common theme—the geometric ideas, concepts and tools that are deeply related to and strongly provide the framework of classical dynamics and quantum mechanics. For the whole presentation, reference points are linearity, symmetry, invariant structures and integrability...
The general impression given is that, as an old mathematician once said, the book contains everything and a little more. It is offered for a comprehensive exposition of the use of geometrical tools in the study of both classical and quantum systems. It would be very useful to a motivated student or a researcher wishing to adopt the geometrical framework in his/her work. Each chapter contains an extensive bibliography, old and current, doing justice to the various possible directions of study."