Course Meeting Times

Lectures: 2 sessions / week, 90 min / session

Recitations: 2 sessions / week, 1 hour / session


Students must have completed 8.03 Physics III: Vibrations and Waves (or 6.013 Electromagnetics and Applications) and 18.03 Differential Equations (or 18.034 Honors Differential Equations) with grades of C or higher.


This course covers the experimental basis of quantum physics. Topics include: photoelectric effect, Compton scattering, photons, Franck-Hertz experiment, the Bohr atom, electron diffraction, de Broglie waves, and the wave-particle duality of matter and light. Introduction to wave mechanics: Schrödinger's equation, wave functions, wave packets, probability amplitudes, stationary states, the Heisenberg uncertainty principle, and zero-point energies. Solutions to Schrödinger's equation in one dimension: transmission and reflection at a barrier, barrier penetration, potential wells, the simple harmonic oscillator. Schrödinger's equation in three dimensions: central potentials and introduction to hydrogenic systems.

Who Should Take 8.04

This class is a first introduction to quantum mechanics aimed at students with a good grasp of Newtonian mechanics, electricity & magnetism, and waves at the level of 8.01 Physics I, 8.02 Physics II, and 8.03 Physics III. While the topic is not hard, developing an intuition for quantum phenomena demands concerted effort.

Required Texts

There are many good texts on introductory quantum mechanics. Which text is most appropriate for you depends on your interests and goals. To give you some choice, equivalent readings will be assigned each week from each of the following four texts:

Buy at Amazon Eisberg, Robert M., and Robert Resnick. Quantum Physics of Atoms, Molecules, Solids, Nuclei, and Particles. Wiley, 1985. ISBN: 9780471873730.

Buy at Amazon Liboff, Richard L. Introductory Quantum Mechanics. Addison Wesley, 2002. ISBN: 9780805387148.

Buy at Amazon Gasiorowicz, Stephen. Quantum Physics. John Wiley & Sons, 2003. ISBN: 9780471429456.

Buy at Amazon Shankar, Ramamurti. Principles of Quantum Mechanics. Springer, 2008. ISBN: 9780306447907.

Note that this provides a great opportunity for collaboration - if you work on your problem sets in a study group with three classmates, each with a different text, you'll get the benefits of four different approaches and descriptions as you solve the problems. When these books do not adequately cover the salient material, I will post additional readings on the class webpage.

In addition, I recommend the following as useful and entertaining references:

Buy at Amazon Dirac, Paul Adrien Maurice. The Principles of Quantum Mechanics. Clarendon Press, 2011. ISBN: 9780198520115.
A beautiful text, strongly recommended.

Buy at Amazon Griffiths, David J. Introduction to Quantum Mechanics. Upper Saddle River, Pearson Prentice Hall, 2005. ISBN: 9780131118928. [Preview with Google Books]
A very popular undergraduate text.

Buy at Amazon Feynman, Richard P., Robert B. Leighton, and Matthew L. Sands. The Feynman Lectures on Physics. Addison Wesley, 1989. ISBN: 9780201500646.
Read again and again.

Buy at Amazon Albert, David Z. Quantum Mechanics and Experience. Harvard University Press, 1994. ISBN: 9780674741133. [Preview with Google Books]
Chapters 1–3 provide an elegant introduction for philosophers; avoid the later chapters.

Problem Sets

Problem sets will be due on Tuesdays at 11 a.m., at which time solutions will be posted on the class website. Late problem sets will not be accepted. For conflicts that are known in advance, such as religious holidays or travel, arrangements should be made to turn in problem sets before the deadline. To account for unforeseeable circumstances such as illness or emergencies, your lowest problem set score will be dropped when calculating your homework average. Graded problem sets will be returned in recitation.


There will be two in-class exams and a final exam.


We will occasionally use clickers (student response system) in lecture to provide a real-time check of your understanding and to help the teaching staff identify points that need further clarification. While clicker use is optional, correct answers to clicker questions will earn bonus points which can nudge up your final grade (see the grading policy below).


The final grade for the course will be based on the following equation:

Final Grade = Exam Average * (1 + .2 PSet Average + .05 Clicker Average)

The exam average will be 50% Final and 25% for each mid-term exam.

For example, if you ace the exams, you will get an A regardless of your problem set or clicker averages.

However, if your exam average is low, a strong problem set average can bump you up by a letter grade or more.

If you answer most of the clicker questions correctly, too, you could get nudged up further, e.g., from a B to a B+.