Quantum mechanics is an advanced branch of physics about the smallest elements and particles of our universe. While it’s a common choice in university, you may decide that you want to or need to opt to self-learn quantum mechanics instead. It can seem overwhelming, but you can do it all on your own.
Here is how you can learn quantum mechanics on your own:
- Understand what quantum mechanics is.
- Learn the basics of physics and math.
- Read books about quantum mechanics.
- Utilize online resources.
- Practice quantum mechanics.
No matter why you want to self-learn quantum mechanics, it’s completely doable on your own. Just follow these simple steps, and you’ll be learning quantum mechanics in no time.
1. Understand What Quantum Mechanics Is
Quantum mechanics is an advanced branch of physics that focuses on the smallest parts of our world.
According to the Merriam Webster dictionary, quantum mechanics is “a theory of matter that’s based on the concept of the possession of wave properties by elementary particles, that affords a mathematical interpretation of the structure and interactions of matter on the basis of these properties, and that incorporates within it quantum theory and the uncertainty principle.”
In simpler terms, quantum mechanics is the study of small, physical elements like atoms, molecules, and particles and how they interact with energy and matter.
The three most basic, conceptual parts of quantum mechanics are quantized properties, particles of light, and waves of matter.
There are many reasons why you may want to study quantum mechanics, and specifically, self-learn it. But, no matter your reason, you’ll better understand our world and the smallest elements that make it when you’re done learning quantum mechanics.
2. Learn the Basics of Physics and Math
You can’t learn calculus without knowing basic addition, and you can’t perform Shakespeare without knowing how to read. Similarly, you won’t be able to learn quantum mechanics unless you understand basic physics. Even if you took a physics class that you think prepared you to learn quantum mechanics, you should still brush up on your knowledge of basic physics.
You also need to know some basic math if you want to learn quantum mechanics. While a lot of what you’ll be teaching yourself is conceptual, there are many mathematical elements that you need to understand as well.
This section has the best books about physics and math to prepare you to learn quantum mechanics. Make sure you’re familiar with the topics covered in these books before trying to self-learn quantum physics.
Important Math & Physics Subjects
Here are some of the most important math subjects that you need to know before you learn quantum mechanics:
- Mathematical Physics
After learning math, you should learn basic physics. Here are some of the most important physics topics you need to know:
- Laws of Motion
- Vectors and Projectile Motion: 2D and 3D
- Basic Equations
Books About Basic Physics
Here are some of the best books available on Amazon.com for learning or refreshing your basic physics knowledge.
Steven Holzner Physics I For Dummies
The dummies book for physics is an easy and fun way to learn new information. You’ll learn the most important principles and formulas of physics. Examples and explanations are updated with the latest physics discoveries and various teaching techniques from this book.
DK The Physics Book: Big Ideas Simply Explained
This book explains the most basic physics concepts that you need to know. You’ll learn more than eighty critical theories for understanding physics, both in general and for quantum mechanics. There are seven chapters in this book covering energy, matter, electricity, and magnetism.
Karl F. Kuhn & Frank Noschese Basic Physics: A Self-Teaching Guide, 3rd Edition
If you want to self-learn basic physics before you start self-learning quantum mechanics, you should utilize this book. You’ll learn Newton’s Laws, energy, electricity, and magnetism, among other subjects. You’ll also learn the mathematical side of basic physics for each concept that you learn.
Jennie Hall All Physics Formulas Collection
Finally, you need to know a complete collection of physics equations before learning quantum mechanics. The book has examples for each equation, and you can utilize this book as you’re learning quantum mechanics if you need a refresher.
Books About Math for Physics
Unless you solely want to learn the most basic quantum mechanics concepts with no real-world applications or equations, you need to know some math to fully comprehend quantum mechanics as you teach yourself. Here are books available on Amazon.com that will teach you the essentials without overwhelming you with math before you even begin learning quantum mechanics:
K.F. Riley Mathematical Methods for Physics and Engineering: A Comprehensive Guide
This textbook teaches essential mathematical concepts for all sciences at an undergraduate level. As you work through the book, there are more than eight hundred exercises for you to work through. There’s also an introduction to math you need specifically for quantum operators.
James Nearing Mathematical Tools for Physics (Dover Books on Physics)
This book is great for learning any type of mathematical physics. It starts with the basics then has sections on series, algebra, differential equations, vectors, and advanced calculus concepts. It’s great to have this book with you as you learn quantum mechanics as a reference for any math concepts you need help with.
Chris McMullen Essential Calculus-Based Physics Study Guide Workbook: The Laws of Motion (Learn Physics With Calculus Step-by-Step)
This book focuses on the calculus you need to know specifically for physics. It’s a study guide that’ll teach you the skills and strategies you need to know, along with examples, terms, and concepts, all of which have explanations, hints, and answer keys to help you grasp them.
Frederick W. Byron & Robert W. Fuller Mathematics of Classical and Quantum Physics
This is another great math book focusing on physics and starts with two chapters about basic physics and math together. Then, you’ll learn the theory of vector spaces, analytic function theory, and the essentials of theoretical physics. There are also problems and examples at the end of each chapter to help you understand the subjects even better.
3. Read Books About Quantum Mechanics
Reading books is one of the best ways to learn something new, including quantum mechanics. Quantum mechanics isn’t the easiest subject to learn, so you’ll likely need multiple to help you self-learn the subject. Here are the best books available on Amazon.com for beginners self-teaching themselves quantum mechanics:
Steven N. Fulmer Quantum Physics for Beginners
This book has easy-to-understand language that makes learning quantum mechanics easy for any beginner. The book focuses on theories, fundamental principles, waves, atoms, and the greatest discoveries by some of the best physicists. You’ll also learn applications of quantum mechanics in technology and the modern world.
Carl J. Pratt Quantum Physics for Beginners: From Wave Theory to Quantum Computing
This book is made for quantum mechanics beginners who want to focus more on conceptual learning than the mathematical side. You’ll learn about famous experiments, particles, and many theories like quantum fields and string theory. Additionally, there are some real-world examples and applications of quantum mechanics.
Travis Norsen Foundations of Quantum Mechanics: An Exploration of the Physical Meaning of Quantum Theory
If you’ll self-learn quantum mechanics but find that you benefit from having notes from a classroom, this book of lecture notes is perfect for you. This book goes deeper into quantum mechanics than most books and explains the most commonly confusing concepts.
Nouredine Zettili Quantum Mechanics: Concepts and Applications
This textbook-style book gives a clear overview of quantum mechanics. The first part of the book gives an overview of the concepts and foundational basics of quantum mechanics. Then, you’ll learn the mathematical aspects of quantum mechanics. There are also chapters on dimensional potentials, time approximation methods, and the theory of scattering.
4. Utilize Online Resources
There are many online resources that you can utilize when you are self-learning quantum mechanics. Some of these resources are online classes that’ll help guide you through the subject. Others include videos so you can watch and learn at your own pace with a visual guide.
Here are some great online resources that’ll help you self-learn quantum mechanics.
Online videos are a great way to learn quantum mechanics. You can watch them at your own pace, rewatch them when you are confused on a subject, and there are thousands of videos you can watch until you find one that makes sense to you. Here are some great videos from YouTube to get you started:
This academic lesson has a full quantum mechanics course over eleven hours and will teach you everything you need to know about quantum mechanics. You’ll learn key, basic concepts, wave functions, Schrodinger equation, oscillations, functions, and momentum. Watch the YouTube video below:
Another great video is from Geek’s Lesson, another full-length course with nine and a half hours of content. Watch this YouTube video course that covers fundamentals and numbers, particles, states, formalism, and momentum:
This two-part, short course from Crash Course explains the most important concepts of quantum mechanics. Here’s Part 1 of the YouTube video that’ll teach you how quantum mechanics explains light and ultraviolet catastrophe:
Here’s Part 2 of the YouTube video that dives deeper into the subject, and you’ll learn about one of the most important equations in physics:
This short and easy-to-understand Tedx Talk by Dominic Walliman explains the four principles. Watch this YouTube video:
Finally, a documentary on quantum theory from Advexon Science Network explains atoms and physical, nanoscopic matter in our world. The documentary also gets into some more advanced topics like macroscopic energies and temperatures. Watch the YouTube video below:
You can also enroll in an online course as a way to learn quantum mechanics. Here are some great online courses that you use:
EDX has a quantum mechanics course that’s equivalent to a full semester course. Before you begin this course, make sure you have a complete understanding of calculus and basic physics.
An instructor leads this course over eighteen weeks, and you’ll need to dedicate at least eight hours per week to learn the material. Here are the four parts that the course is broken into:
- Conceptual ideas
- Technical developments for working with operators
- Applications to experiment
- Applications to sensing
Another great way to learn quantum mechanics online is with Khan Academy. They have multiple courses about physics and math that you may find useful in addition to this quantum physics course. Here are the main topics covered in this course:
- Photons: the particles of light
- Atoms and electrons: wavelengths, jump orbitals, emitting photons
- Quantum numbers and orbitals: energy levels
- Nuclei: radioactive decay, nuclear stability, and nuclear reaction
Each topic has multiple subsections that dive deeper into each topic.
5. Practice Quantum Mechanics
Once you start learning quantum mechanics, you should practice problems of the subject to help you retain what you’re learning. Here are some great books available on Amazon.com that will give you practice quantum mechanics problems.
Steven Holzner Quantum Physics Workbook for Dummies
This book has some simple problems to work through as you learn quantum mechanics and some of the most commonly confusing equations. You’ll have explanations for all the equations that you need to know. There’s a focus on Harmonic oscillator operations, angular momentum, spin, and scattering theory.
D. Ter Haar Problems in Quantum Mechanics: Third Edition
The problems in this book cover a wide range of quantum mechanics topics. They’re focused on a graduate-level of physics, so you should have a good foundation before starting the book’s problems. Some problem topics include motion, waves, angular momentum, spin, force, and atoms.
Leonardo Angelini Solved Problems in Quantum Mechanics
The problems in this book focus on problems you can solve in a short period and with a bigger focus on physics instead of math. There’s a full answer key that gives a step-by-step explanation for every problem in the book.
Quantum mechanics isn’t easy to learn, whether you do it on your own or not. You need to understand basic physics and math before attempting to grasp the most important concepts of quantum mechanics.
To self-learn quantum mechanics, you need to read books, watch videos online, and maybe even do a fully online course. Finally, you should practice mathematical problems that are crucial in fully understanding quantum mechanics and not just the conceptual side.