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Archive for January 6th, 2009

This semester I am the luckiest prof. on campus. In addition to all the obvious reasons, including the finally melting snow, I get to teach the perfect course. The stars align for this one: it is an elective course for senior undergraduate students, so the students tend to be bright and well-motivated. Unlike so many other courses, this one is coherent, with well-defined and feasible objective and a focused target audience. And, best of all, it is a course in quantum mechanics.

Back in the days when I was an undergraduate student, learning quantum mechanics changed the course of my studies. Up to that point I immersed myself in down to earth topics such as set theory, mathematical logic, model theory, and all this good stuff.  Luckily, I discovered quantum mechanics before things got too abstract, which led me more or less directly to my current concrete and hands on occupation. Since then, quantum mechanics has been close to my heart, I am really happy to be able to teach it.

The course it titled “Applications of quantum mechanics”, and is covering the second half of the text by David Griffiths, whose textbooks I find to be uniformly excellent. A more accurate description of the material would be approximation methods for solving the Schrodinger equation. Not uncommonly in the physics curriculum, when the math becomes more demanding the physics tends to take a back seat, so we are going to spend quite a bit of the time on what is essentially a course in differential equations, using WKB approximations and perturbation theory and what not. To counter that, I am looking for short and sweet applications of quantum mechanics. Short topics which can be taught in an hour or less, and involve some cool concepts in addition to practicing the new mathematical techniques.

So, this is the first audience participation question of the year, what is your favorite application of quantum mechanics?

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Crackpot index redux

Ever since John Baez wrote his delightful, very funny and insightful crackpot index (which I recalled reading this post from Sean on Cosmic Variance), the genre has undergone a small revolution. There are many reasons for that phenomena; sadly some of this has to do with the blogosphere, which provides extra exposure and encouragement for those brave and unconventional thinkers, who are tirelessly blazing new paths for us followers.

As a public service, and because the occasional rant is a good way to deal with the rigors of a new semester starting in deep snow, here are a few of my additions to the crackpot index.  Apologies to all, especially to David,  I promise rants and other types of controversy will not become a frequent feature on this blog.

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