The Theoretical Minimum : Quantum Mechanics – Review

Quantum Mechanics: The Theoretical Minimum (Theoretical Minimum 2 ...

This is the second entry into the trilogy of “The Theoretical Minimum” by Leonard Susskind and Art Friedman. Obviously, it is intended to read the trilogy in order but one of my university modules this year is “Quantum Mechanics and Special Relativity”. Therefore, it makes sense that I have prioritised Volumes 2 and 3 (which covers Special Relativity). If you do not come from a Physics background I would recommend that you read volume 1 first to gain a reasonable understanding of Linear Algebra and Calculus before beginning this book.

This book is the best intro to Quantum Mechanics I’ve ever seen for the average enthusiast and I would very much recommend it to any of my colleagues looking to learn something new. It is worth mentioning however that this book is not light bedtime reading! It covers concepts that defy our natural logic of the universe, therefore it requires attention and focus.

I would also suggest that you read the book while following the online exercises. At times, concepts can be very difficult to comprehend immediately. Never mind following on to an even more difficult topic straight away without giving yourself time to digest. Also, it is enjoyable to follow along with the online lectures (also The Theoretical Minimum) while reading.

Quite often, when Quantum Physics is discussed by the media for the average citizen, it is sensationalised to the point of gibberish. I don’t know how many times I’ve read about how cutting-edge Quantum Artificial Intelligence in my mobile phone is going to purify the energy levels in my blood cells and deliver Quantum healing powers into my life. “Quantum” has became a buzzword that makes anything sound like it must be true.

However, Susskind and Friedman have done a brilliant job of discussing the really cool concepts in an accessible manner while also deep diving into the actual mathematics behind the concepts and actually educating the reader.

I think the authors sometimes wrestled between trying to frame complex problems to a complete beginner while also trying to appeal to experts in the topic. At times there was a feeling that the target audience wasn’t clearly defined in that sometimes knowledge was potentially assumed. This means that I may have absolutely loved the book with a decent previous understanding of Quantum Mechanics, but it may not be as easy for a complete beginner to follow. Moreover, it assumed knowledge of Volume 1: which could seem a bit unfair in that it forces the reader to purchase another book to understand this one.

One thing I would have appreciated more from the author is a more thorough explanation of what a wavefunction is – perhaps earlier in the book – as I was relying on that knowledge from my own studies to understand what was being explained in the early chapters.

In summary, The Theoretical Minimum Vol.2 is a wonderful read. It is perfect for someone with basic mathematical knowledge who is looking to dive in to the world of Physics. You don’t need a Physics or Mathematics degree to understand as the concepts are framed intuitively and accessibly for the reader yet still outlined in a very interesting manner for those with prior Quantum Mechanical knowledge from education. You should read this book!

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