Understanding the Quantum World

Course No. 9750
Professor Erica W. Carlson, PhD
Purdue University
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Course No. 9750
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What Will You Learn?

  • numbers Reveal what distinguishes quantum physics from classical physics.
  • numbers Discover experiments that demonstrate quantum phenomena.
  • numbers Examine quantum paradoxes and their proposed resolutions.
  • numbers Take a closer look at the philosophical implications of quantum mechanics.

Course Overview

Quantum mechanics has a reputation for being so complex that the word “quantum” has become a popular label for anything mystical or unfathomable. In fact, quantum mechanics is one of the most successful theories of reality yet discovered, explaining everything from the stability of atoms to the glow of neon lights, from the flow of electricity in metals to the workings of the human eye.

At the same time, quantum mechanics does have a mysterious side, symbolized by the famous thought experiment concerning the fate of Schrödinger’s cat, a hypothetical feline who is both dead and alive in a quantum experiment proposed by Austrian physicist Erwin Schrödinger.

In Understanding the Quantum World, Professor Erica W. Carlson of Purdue University guides you through this fascinating subject, explaining the principles and paradoxes of quantum mechanics with exceptional rigor and clarity—and using minimal mathematics. The winner of multiple teaching awards, Professor Carlson is renowned for her “fantastic ability to develop and implement tools that help students learn a challenging subject”—in the words of one of her admiring colleagues. With her guidance, anyone can get a fundamental understanding of this wide-ranging field.

In these 24 half-hour lectures, you discover:

  • What distinguishes quantum physics from classical physics,
  • The major breakthroughs in the field and who made them,
  • How to see quantum “weirdness” as a normal aspect of matter,
  • Experiments that demonstrate quantum phenomena,
  • Quantum theory’s many applications and physical insights,
  • The probable fate of Schrödinger’s cat, and much more.

How to Learn Quantum Physics

Custom animations and graphics, analogies, demonstrations—whatever works to convey a concept, Professor Carlson uses it. You will begin Understanding the Quantum World by covering the central paradox of the field: the wave-particle duality of matter. One of the key ideas here is that waves can come in countable “quantum” units. Dr. Carlson demonstrates this with a slinky being oscillated back and forth, which generates standing waves that can be likened to quantum waves of electrons orbiting the nucleus of an atom.

Professor Carlson has a special affinity for analogies, and she uses them frequently, noting that while scientists prefer the precision of mathematics, for non-scientists an apt analogy is often the best route to an “aha” moment of insight. For example:

  • The Copenhagen coin: A spinning coin is neither heads nor tails until an observation is made. Similarly, the Copenhagen interpretation considers a quantum particle to lack definitive properties until it is measured. Before that, it’s a matter of probabilities, just as a spinning coin can be considered 50 percent heads and 50 percent tails.
  • Quantum gear shifter: Energy levels in an atom are quantized like the gear shifter in a car, which can go from first to second to third gear, but not to second-and-a-half. For gears, the limitation is the individual teeth in a gear wheel, while atoms are limited by the possible standing wave patterns in different atomic energy states.
  • The roller coaster that could: The uncanny ability of quantum particles to pass through potential energy barriers is like a roller coaster that doesn’t have enough speed to surmount a high hill but nonetheless appears on the other side. If a coaster had a long tail to its wavefunction, then it could!
  • Surfing electrons: Next time you turn on a light, think of the electrons in the wire as surfing on quantum waves, from the outer shell of one metal atom to the next, to carry current to the light bulb. Imperfections in the metal’s atomic lattice and other factors cause occasional “wipeouts,” giving rise to electrical resistance.

One of the hardest things to picture in the quantum world is the three-dimensional shape of atomic orbitals. These shapes reveal how electrons are bound to atoms and the probability of finding electrons in specific regions. Here, Dr. Carlson draws on the visualization software that physicists themselves use, which turns atoms into multicolored animations where the probability distribution is a gauzy cloud and shifting colors signify properties such as phase. These visualizations give an eerie look into a domain trillions of times smaller than the period at the end of this sentence. And for anyone studying physics or chemistry, Professor Carlson provides a handy mnemonic for remembering the nomenclature of the different atomic orbitals.

An Astonishing Range of Applications

Quantum physics is more than just a fun intellectual exercise. It is the key to countless technologies, and also helps to explain how the natural world works, including living systems. Professor Carlson discusses many such examples, among them:

  • Color vision: What we perceive as color has its origin in quantum events in the outside world, which produce photons of visible light. Color-sensitive cones in our eyes detect some of these photons. Depending on their wavelength, the photons trigger quantum reactions that our brains interpret as different colors.
  • Global Positioning System (GPS): GPS satellites are essentially atomic clocks in orbit, sending out very accurate time signals based on tiny transitions in energy states of cesium atoms. The time for the signal to reach Earth gives the distance to the satellite. Signals from four GPS satellites suffice to fix a position exactly.
  • Flash memory: Smart phones, solid-state hard drives, memory sticks, and other electronic devices use flash memory to store data with no need for external power to preserve information. When it’s time to erase the information, quantum tunneling allows electrons that encode the data to be quickly discharged.
  • Superconductivity: Dr. Carlson covers the crucial difference between the two classes of subatomic particles—fermions and bosons. Then, in a later lecture, she shows that, under special conditions, fermions can be induced to behave like bosons, leading to a frictionless state of zero electrical resistance known as superconductivity.

These and other successes in understanding and manipulating nature make the mysteries and paradoxes of quantum theory seem almost like a scientific detour into a strange new world. This is what Nobel Prize–winning physicist Richard Feynman had in mind when he urged, “I think it is safe to say that no one understands quantum mechanics. Do not keep saying to yourself …‘but how can it be like that?’ because you will go … into a blind alley from which nobody has yet escaped. Nobody knows how it can be like that.”

On the other hand, even as scientists invent new uses for this astonishingly powerful tool, they can’t help but speculate on how it can be like that—as you do as well in this remarkable course.

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24 lectures
 |  Average 30 minutes each
  • 1
    Particle-Wave Duality
    Begin your journey into the quantum world by focusing on one of its most baffling features: the behavior of quantum entities as both particles and waves. Following her approach of presenting analogies over equations, Professor Carlson gives a handy way of visualizing this paradox. Then she takes you further into quantum weirdness by using a slinky to show how waves can be quantized. x
  • 2
    Particles, Waves, and Interference Patterns
    Investigate one of the most famous demonstrations in physics: the double-slit experiment. See how electrons behave as both particles and waves when passing through two parallel slits in a plate and then striking a screen. Bizarrely, the wave properties disappear when the electrons are monitored as they pass through each slit, showing our inability to have complete information of a quantum state. x
  • 3
    Observers Disturb What They Measure
    Consider what life would be like if quantum effects held at our everyday scale. For instance, there would be no trouble sitting in three chairs at once! Learn what happens when a particle in such a mixed state is forced by measurement to assume a definite position—a situation known as wave function collapse. This leads to the important quantum principle that observers disturb what they measure. x
  • 4
    Bell’s Theorem and Schrödinger’s Cat
    Ponder two celebrated and thought-provoking responses to the apparent incompatibility of quantum mechanics and classical physics. Bell’s theorem shows that attempts to reconcile the two systems are futile in a certain class of theories. Next, Schrödinger’s cat is a thought experiment implying that a cat could be both dead and alive if the standard interpretation of quantum mechanics holds. x
  • 5
    Quantum Paradoxes and Interpretations
    Review the major theories proposed by physicists trying to make sense of the paradoxes of the quantum world. Look at the Copenhagen interpretation, Einstein’s realist view, the many worlds interpretation, quantum Bayesianism, non-local hidden variables, and other creative attempts to explain what is going on in a realm that seems to be governed by probability alone. x
  • 6
    The Position-Momentum Uncertainty Relation
    Heisenberg's uncertainty principle sets a fundamental limit on how much we can know about an object's position and momentum at the same time. Professor Carlson introduces this simple equation, showing how it explains why atoms have structure and come in the diverse forms of the periodic table of elements. Surprisingly, the stability of our everyday world rests on uncertainty at the quantum level. x
  • 7
    Wave Quantization
    Electrons don't just orbit the nucleus—they simultaneously exist as standing waves. Go deeper into what standing wave modes look like in one, two, and three dimensions, discovering that these shapes explain the quantization of energy states in an atom. As usual, Professor Carlson introduces useful analogies, including the standing waves produced in a vibrating drum head. x
  • 8
    Quantum Wave Shapes and the Periodic Table
    Focus on standing waves of electrons around nuclei, seeing how the periodic table of elements results from what electrons do naturally: fall into the lowest energy state given the total electric charge, existing electron population, and other features of an atom. Learn the Pauli exclusion principle and a handy mnemonic for remembering the terminology for atomic orbitals, such as 1s, 2p, 3d, etc. x
  • 9
    Interference of Waves and Sloshing States
    Watch what happens when electrons are put into wave forms that differ from standing waves. Your goal is to understand why some of these superposition states are unstable. Professor Carlson notes that the sloshing of an electron back and forth in an unstable state causes it to act like an antenna, radiating away energy until it falls to a lower energy level. x
  • 10
    Wave Shapes in Diamond and Graphene
    What accounts for the dramatic difference between diamond and graphene (a sheet of graphite one atom thick), both of which are composed of pure carbon? Study the role of electrons in molecular bonds, applying your knowledge of electron standing waves. In carbon, such waves make possible several types of bonds, which in diamond and graphene result in remarkably different physical properties. x
  • 11
    Harmonic Oscillators
    A clock pendulum is an example of a classical harmonic oscillator. Extend this concept to the atomic realm to see how quantum waves behave like harmonic oscillators. Then learn how quantum physics was born at the turn of the 20th century in Max Planck’s solution to a paradox in the classical picture of oscillating atoms. His conclusion was that the energies of oscillation had to be quantized. x
  • 12
    The Energy-Time Uncertainty Relation
    Return to the Heisenberg uncertainty principle from Lecture 6 to see how quantum uncertainty also extends to energy and time. This has a startling implication for energy conservation, suggesting that short-lived “virtual” particles can pop into existence out of nothing—as long as they don’t stay around for long. Consider evidence for this phenomenon in the Lamb shift and Casimir effect. x
  • 13
    Quantum Angular Momentum and Electron Spin
    Continue your investigation of the counterintuitive quantum world by contrasting angular momentum for planets and other classical objects with analogous phenomena in quantum particles. Cover the celebrated Stern–Gerlach experiment, which in the 1920s showed that spin is quantized for atoms and can only take on a very limited number of discrete values. x
  • 14
    Quantum Orbital Angular Momentum
    Having covered electron spin in the previous lecture, now turn to orbital angular momentum. Again, a phenomenon familiar in classical physics relating to planets has an analogue in the quantum domain—although with profound differences. This leads to a discussion of permanent magnets, which Professor Carlson calls “a piece of quantum physics that you can hold in your hand.” x
  • 15
    Quantum Properties of Light
    Among Einstein’s insights was that light comes in discrete packets of energy called photons. Explore the photoelectric effect, which prompted Einstein’s discovery. See a do-it-yourself project that demonstrates the photoelectric effect. Close by surveying applications of the quantum theory of light to phenomena such as lasers, fluorescent dyes, photosynthesis, and vitamin D production in skin. x
  • 16
    Atomic Transitions and Photons
    Dive deeper into the interactions of light with matter. Starting with a hydrogen atom, examine the changes in energy and angular momentum when an electron transitions from one orbital to another. See how the diverse possibilities create a “fingerprint” specific to every type of atom, and how this is the basis for spectroscopy, which can determine the composition of stars by analyzing their light. x
  • 17
    Atomic Clocks and GPS
    Peer into the structure of a cesium atom to see what makes it ideal for measuring the length of a second and serving as the basis for atomic clocks. Then head into space to learn how GPS satellites use atomic clocks to triangulate positions on the ground. Finally, delve into Einstein’s special and general theories of relativity to understand the corrections that GPS must make to stay accurate. x
  • 18
    Quantum Mechanics and Color Vision
    Probe the quantum events that underlie color vision, discovering the role of the retinal molecule in detecting different frequencies of photons as they strike cone cells in the eye’s retina. Also investigate the source of color blindness, most common in men, as well as its inverse, tetrachromacy, which is the ability to see an extra channel of color information, possessed by some women. x
  • 19
    A Quantum Explanation of Color
    Now turn to the sources of color in the world around us, from the yellow glow of sodium street lights to the brilliant red of a ruby pendant. Grasp the secret of the aurora, the difference between fluorescence and phosphorescence, and the reason neon dyes look brighter than their surroundings. It turns out that our entire experience of color is governed by the quantum world. x
  • 20
    Quantum Tunneling
    Anyone who makes use of a memory stick, a solid-state hard drive, or a smartphone relies on one of the most baffling aspects of the quantum world: quantum tunneling. Professor Carlson uses a roller coaster analogy, combined with your newly acquired insight into wave mechanics, to make this feat of quantum sorcery—the equivalent of walking through walls—perfectly logical. x
  • 21
    Fermions and Bosons
    Investigate why two pieces of matter cannot occupy the same space at the same time, reaching the conclusion that this is only true for fermions, which are particles with half-integer spin. The other class of particles, bosons, with integer spin, can be in the same place at the same time. Learn how this feature of bosons has been exploited in lasers and in superfluids such as liquid helium. x
  • 22
    Spin Singlets and the EPR Paradox
    Study the most celebrated challenge to the Copenhagen interpretation of quantum mechanics: the paradox proposed by Albert Einstein and his collaborators Boris Podolsky and Nathan Rosen—later updated by David Bohm. Is quantum mechanics an incomplete theory due to hidden variables that guide the outcome of quantum interactions? Examine this idea and the experiments designed to test it. x
  • 23
    Quantum Mechanics and Metals
    Analyze how metals conduct electricity, discovering that, in a sense, electrons “surf” from one metal atom to the next on a quantum mechanical wave. Probe the causes of electrical resistance and why metals can never be perfect conductors. Finally, use the Pauli exclusion principle to understand the optimum distribution of electrons in the different quantum states of metal atoms. x
  • 24
    Superconductivity
    Close with one of Professor Carlson’s favorite topics: superconductivity. As noted in Lecture 23, when electrons flow through a metal, they lose energy to resistance. But this is not true of superconductors, whose amazing properties trace to the difference between bosons and fermions. Learn how quantum stability allows superconductors to conduct electricity with zero resistance, then step back and summarize the high points of your quantum tour. x

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Your professor

Erica W. Carlson

About Your Professor

Erica W. Carlson, PhD
Purdue University
Erica W. Carlson is a 150th Anniversary Professor and Professor of Physics and Astronomy at Purdue University. She holds a BS in Physics from the California Institute of Technology and a Ph.D. in Physics from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). A theoretical physicist, she researches electronic phase transitions in quantum materials. Widely recognized for her teaching and research, Professor Carlson received...
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Reviews

Understanding the Quantum World is rated 4.3 out of 5 by 108.
Rated 5 out of 5 by from The best Great Course I have watched. Great topic. Great presentation. Although the course is comprehensive, I expected some coverage of Quantum Computers, but there was none. I would give content 5-stars if a 10 minute segment was included.
Date published: 2020-08-05
Rated 5 out of 5 by from very well done, definitely a subject of "niche" interest, but very interesting. woild heartily recommend
Date published: 2020-08-04
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Title is appropriate Dr Carlson sparkles! Of course she knows her "stuff" but her ability as a communicator is excellent! Great lectures!
Date published: 2020-06-30
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Comprehensive review Very satisfied with the video lectures, their content, accompanying book and ability to repeat chapter presentations.
Date published: 2020-06-17
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A gifted lecturer... Quantum mechanics is difficult material, especially for those who don’t understand the math. I’ve watched many attempts to present the material without the math. This is my favorite. Professor Carlson provides clear explanations accompanied by real life examples. I finally have a feel for the wave function, electrons movement around atoms, and much more. The use of the “atom in a box” app was very helpful. If you’ve heard others try to explain quantum mechanics without the math and had a hard time following it, then try these lectures. Excellent.
Date published: 2020-06-16
Rated 4 out of 5 by from The sub-atomic world in super-atomic terms Loved the attempt to explain the sub-atomic world in super-atomic terms. Although we apparently exist in both, we consciously think in the latter. Enjoyed the course. (Viewed TGC-Plus version of the course where they no longer have reviews. Come on TGC, give us back our Plus Reviews!!!)
Date published: 2020-05-15
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Start here This is a very good course. No much math but it is analogy driven. This course helps clarify this mysterious world.
Date published: 2020-04-24
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great Resource to Deepen your Understanding I came across this video series and could not stop watching it. Dr Carlson's work to take the otherwise cryptic principles of quantum theory and explain them in a way that non-specialists like me can understand is truly inspiring. In particular, I have been wanting to deepen my understanding of how electrical conduction works at the atomic level for years. This series has helpful visuals and easy-to-grasp metaphors as well as practical applications that I had not idea existed.
Date published: 2020-04-21
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Not as good as it could have been To me, the most intriguing aspect of quantum mechanics is entanglement. Unfortunately in the first quantum mechanics course I bought (Quantum Mechanics/Schumacher) the subject was essentially ignored. So this time I asked Dr. Carlsen if this subject would be covered. She assured me that it would. It wasn't, at least not in the amount of detail I was hoping to receive. She discussed the pion and how it divided into an electron and a positron and how those two particles were entangled over large distances and that's it. Nothing about how they mirror changes in each other...nothing about the experiment that was performed using a quasar to prove that there was no energy or force present that we couldn't detect to account for this phenomenon. No theories as to what this might mean (perhaps that chaos is all that exists until it is observed?) In other words it was just a cursory glance at the subject. But I have other complaints too. She does have a teacher/child attitude, perhaps it's her sing-song voice. But does she really need to tell us what a wall is and how a door allows you to go through a wall? Really? Also too much time is spent on electron configurations around an atom. This takes up a large segment of the first several lectures. Obviously this is her specialty since she constantly returns to it. The last couple of lectures seem to me to be fillers, again focusing on electron movement. On the plus side, she does a good job explaining orbital and angular momentum, which is why the electron has a spin. And she did explain tunneling. In short, this series of lecture is about electrons and there were so many other particles and phenomena she could have covered. But not up to the quality I have come to expect from The Great Courses.
Date published: 2020-04-18
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Lacking Of all the Great Courses I've purchased over the years, this was the least enjoyable. Unless you are deep into electron orbitals, this course contains little to satisfy your interest in Quantum Mechanics.
Date published: 2020-04-16
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Problem I had The first disc was damaged and I returned it for another one . I can’t wait to see this lesson on Quantum theory .
Date published: 2020-04-12
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Slow but sure wins the race This course provided much improved understanding of several different phenomena that I have learned about or worked with through the years. I found it sometimes frustratingly slow-paced, but doing one lecture a day allowed the few concepts presented in each to sink in better than they would have at a faster pace. Most of the topics had some reference to what can be observed to lend credence to the theory. One that seemed to fall a little short was the explanation of ordinary conductivity in metals. Beyond that the theory explains the temperature dependence of electrical conductivity, I was left wondering what can be measured to support the detailed conduction-electrons energy level structure that was presented.
Date published: 2020-03-02
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Feynman Would Be Pleased "Slinky", "Wiggles", "Rainbow" [to quote from Professor Carlson's presentations]: Paul Dirac would be appalled but Richard Feynman would be delighted with this non-mathematical treatment of Quantum Mechanics. As other reviewers have mentioned, this could have been renamed "An Introduction to Quantum Wave Mechanics" as that is main (but certainly not entire) focus of Professor Carlson's lectures. The presentation and illustrations of this topic are first rate and this is the first such presentation of wave mechanics that I found accessible. Professor Carlson, as also mentioned by other reviewers, is unusually repetitive--as much as 25% of some lectures include review of prior material that form a basis of the new lecture. Some reviewers found this annoying but I mostly found it helpful and reinforcing. I was first introduced to Quantum Mechanics in an intense "Introduction to Quantum Mechanics" sophomore course at MIT. I only managed to survive and eke out a C because of some skill with the mathematics although I remained flummoxed by the underlying physics concepts for 40 years until I took the Schumacher course ("Quantum Mechancis: The Physics of the Microscopic World" in The Great Courses) last summer. Richard Feynman (again) stated (as quoted by Professor Carlson) "I don't think anyone really understands Quantum Mechanics" but the Schumacher course helped a great deal. Then two months ago I purchased this course and found it both complimentary to Schumacher and even more accessible. Want to understand Quantum Mechanics? (Assuming you don't take Richard Feynman too literally) 1. Start with this course. You will get an excellent grounding in Wave Mechanics as well as the other basic concepts of Quantum Mechanics. 2. Move on to the Schumacher course. This is a better introduction to State Mechanics and includes a very nice (non-mathematical) basic derivation of Bell's Theorem--for me, the beauty of Bell's argument was the single most enlightening part of this learning experience. 3. Then, if you have some mathematics background and are a glutton for punishment--take MIT's Open Courseware Quantum Mechanics Introductory Course.
Date published: 2020-02-27
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Very good indeed When the lecturers started off by saying they would ignore formulas, I was ready to send it back. Physics without formulas is like reading a description of a painting instead of seeing one. But despite my initial hesitancy, the professor carried it off rather well. I still would have preferred seeing the equations as well as her narrative or allegory descriptions, but it was quite interesting as presented. Some areas are more amenable to this approach than others, and I wish there would have been a deeper analysis of Bell's Theorem.
Date published: 2020-02-23
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Surprising Depth of Treatment--Highly Recommend I have some familiarity with quantum mechanics and the math needed to work problems in the subject, but I'm an amateur at it. This course didn't use any math, except for one tiny equation describing the uncertainty principle. I was very surprised at the depth the Professor was able to go without really "dumbing down" the material. In fact the lack of math enabled me to more deeply understand (to the extent anyone can understand) how quantum mechanics works at an almost intuitive level. It a sign of a great teacher when she used graphics, diagrams, appropriate analogies and step by step analysis to make explain a difficult subject in a painless way.
Date published: 2020-02-22
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excelent material and the value. I want buy more courses, but they need to be $29.99.
Date published: 2020-02-20
Rated 5 out of 5 by from well presented, complex things made accessible i am very impressed with the way the course is presented and the breadth of material it covers. it openly acknowledges how much of this we still don't know and yet how much practical and amazing use we have made of the incomplete knowledge we do have. the lecture on GPS was particularly impressive in that regard.
Date published: 2020-02-12
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Understanding without walls! If you have any interest in the nature of things at the tiniest level, you will not be disappointed. Talk about bite sized pieces for the "quantum impaired" the lectures series break things down in such a way that when I think of things like color or light I can imagine the behind the scenes forces that are going on and want to learn more.
Date published: 2020-02-07
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Very good for non scientific people I will never understand it totally, but this gave me a good background for someone who is not technical or scientific.
Date published: 2020-02-05
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Worth Watching Excellent basics course.. I am enjoying watching multiple times to help imprint the material.. and catch new information with each pass.. still on the 2nd disk.. Six lessons on each of 4 dvd disks..
Date published: 2020-02-02
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent Excellent organization of topics, great videos and presentation of a difficult subject.
Date published: 2020-02-02
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Non arrival to date My order (1030055553) sent on Jan 12, has still not arrived and I am not getting much help from Fed Ex with their automated enquiry line. The tracking no is 1507 4135 6291. I phoned Great Courses on 24 Jan and assistant told me they will re-send the order but I have no e-mail confirmation of this or a tracking no. Most of the questions below do not apply to me as I have not received the courses
Date published: 2020-01-26
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Some good, some not so good. I agree with JohnAdams point that course emphasizes the application of quantum mechanics to the orbital mechanics of electrons and chemical bonds. The title and course description should reflect that. Having said that, I learned about things about those aspects of quantum mechanics that I wasn't aware of and am glad this wasn't just a repetition of other courses on quantum mechanics. However I still struggle with the different depictions of the standing waves. Generally, I enjoyed the examples the instructor used to illustrate the difficult concepts. Things I didn't like: Too much repetition. We need some repetition of these difficult concepts but the same thing was often repeated within the space of a few minutes. The instructor's presentation felt like she thought we were in about grade 6. I half expected her to say something like "and now, boys and girls. . ." And I wish she had tried to explain the quantum numbers of the periodic table. It seems that would fit with the rest of the content. Finally, I gained a greater appreciation of the slinky toy to physics. Who knew? :-)
Date published: 2020-01-21
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Exactly What I Was Looking For I've only watched 16 lessons as I write this (atmone a day, so it remains fresh in my memory). It is giving me the overview I needed so I can make basic sense of references I run into to quantum phsics.
Date published: 2020-01-20
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Vivid visualizations of the (almost) inconceivable On spite of, or perhaps because of, a deep-seated math phobia, my favorite courses are about physics and cosmology, and I would rank this among the best. These information packed lectures are some of the shortest half hours I’ve ever experienced. From spinning quarters to undulating sombreros, time after time the professor pulled an apt illustration out of her magician’s hat, yet never ever lost sight of the pitfalls of macroscopic demonstration of quantum effects. The quantum mechanics behind neon signs and fluorescent colors was memorably presented. Everything is half illustrated and half told. Sometimes I lost the thread—I still don’t get how statistical probability generates quantum orbital momentum—but these lapses are few and rare. The course felt a little rushed at the end. The process by which, under certain conditions, a fermion becomes, functionally, a boson (say what?!?!) was not adequately unpacked, but that was the exception that proves the rule: almost nothing was not graspable. I’m not sure I would have found this course as engaging as I did if I had not already taken Professor Pollock‘s Introduction to Particle Physics, which is also geared toward to the math averse. But if you have even the least curiosity about the amazing subatomic.
Date published: 2020-01-14
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Very good analogies presented Did an excellent job explaining quantum physics I would have liked to see some discussion about nuclear forces.
Date published: 2020-01-04
Rated 3 out of 5 by from I still cannot understand it I am of two minds in rating this course. On one hand I must recognize the effort going into making the course accessible to a large audience; after all Feynman himself had strongly debunked the idea that Quantum Physics could be understood at all, and any effort to translate the mysteries of Quantum Physics into everyday human experience will connect with some people. But of course the problem is that this translation is not really possible, and--in spite of the title of the course, a misnomer I believe--QM cannot be understood in terms of our everyday experience, and most attempts at doing that ends up being misleading. In reality, as far as QM goes, there is no substitute to the old “do not try to understand, just calculate”. I bought the course in the hope that I could get some nuggets that would help me get the weirdness of QM just a bit closer to my everyday experience, but I must say that this particular course did not do much in that regard. I would have preferred the opposite approach for the course: instead of taming the unfamiliar into the familiar (via questionable analogies), it would have better to accentuate the unfamiliar and force the brain (yours and mine) to adapt to a different set of physical realities, and, in so doing realize that the world is not what we think it is, and therefore gradually get used to its weirdness. And the best way of doing that would have been to present explorations, explanations, and implications of key experimental results such as: the multiple versions of the double-slit experiment; entanglement; decoherence; instances of apparent time reversal; discussion of the measurement problem; and others. A case in point is the way the EPR paradox is treated in the course. Good description of the thought experiment, but weak conclusion. Instead of shifting the discussion to the possible violation of the special relativity principle, it would have been much more productive to argue the implications of the demonstrated success of the Copenhagen interpretation (via the works of John Bell and Alain Aspect) and explore the notion and implication that two entangled particles far apart might actually be only one single physical system. Those QM phenomena are counter-intuitive and appear to negate the structure of the world as we know it. If modern physics is giving us a new and bizarre reality of the world we are living in, we should try to get an unvarnished glimpse of what it really is, and try to alter accordingly our sense of how the world works.
Date published: 2019-12-29
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great topics and presentation! I have a degree in Natural Sciences and have always been curious about Quantum Mechanics. I have a number of books, from ones that have only formulas and few supporting images, to comic book kind of references that have no formulas and cartoon type of images to explain quantum mechanics. "Understanding the Quantum World" is a fine set of lectures, with very few equations and a lot of marvelous, dynamic graphics that explain this difficult to explain topic. Professor Carlson is a very good lecturer. She is methodical in her approach, basing the next lecture on the previous material, without duplicating too much already presented material. It was a pleasure watching her lectures. As I said, above, I have read many books on quantum mechanics and I thought I knew the topic, as an advanced amateur. However, not only did I learn parts of quantum mechanics that I had not heard or read, before, Professor Carlson presented topics in a way that cleared up ideas that I could not understand prior to these lectures. Some of these topics included electron spin and how electrons move from level to level in the atom, using wave theory to explain these actions. All in all, I would recommend this course to anyone who has an interest in quantum mechanics and how tiny things work in our everyday world. It is fairly easy to follow and since there are few formulas (equations) used to explain the topics, most high school and/or college students should be able to understand the concepts.
Date published: 2019-12-27
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great instructor! The instructor really knows her stuff! I like the analogies she uses to explain some of the weirdness of quantum mechanics. Put your seatbelt on!
Date published: 2019-12-18
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Third Time Around This Subject This is my third course from The Teaching Company on the subject of Quantum Mechanics. This is not an easy subject to grasp but each course I have taken has gradually opened the door to an understanding of the probabilistic nature of the quantum world. I am half way through the course being reviewed here. The lecturer's teaching method, topic selection, and content delivery are adding greatly to my understanding of totally different views of material covered in previous courses, thus making this course valuable in rounding out my understanding of this general subject.
Date published: 2019-11-22
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