J. Caleb Wherry bio photo

J. Caleb Wherry

Scientist. Engineer. Musician.

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Oh to blog again! It has been awhile… I have to admit, I’m not much of a writer. However, I really do like the idea behind blogging. It lets me write about what I feel is relevant without having to answer to any higher powers (within reason, of course). It is a great way for me to get some of my thoughts down in a more coherent fashion then just scribbling them on a piece of paper or talking to someone briefly. It’s good to be back! Anyways… let us jump into the topic for today: my first graduate course in Quantum Mechanics!

\(\text{Erwin Schr}\ddot{o}\text{dinger}\)

Time-Dependent Schrodinger Equation: \(\imath \hbar\frac{\partial}{\partial t} \Psi = \hat{H} \Psi\)

Grad Quantum Mechanics I (PHYS 5455 at VaTech) started last week. My professor is Dr. Eric Sharpe, a Mathematical String Theorist who was advised by non-other than Ed Witten at Princeton for his PhD. Dr. Sharpe seems like a pretty nice guy and so far is an extremely good teacher who knows his stuff. The only complaint I have at the moment is when someone asks a question, he usually answers it but sometimes says something like ‘This isn’t a course in Classical Mechanics/Canonical Transformations/Analysis/etc. so we won’t get into that’ which I understand completely in most cases, especially here at the beginning with a review of Classical Mechanics. I just hope he does not shake off some of the fundamental questions in quantum mechanics by saying things like ‘This isn’t a class in Foundations of Quantum Theory so we won’t get into that’ because I feel those issues are very relevant at the graduate level and are rarely taught. I, for one, am extremely interested in what main-stream interpretation he follows (Everett, Copenhagen, Consistent Histories, etc.) and why. Once the class gets more involved in actual Quantum Mechanics we will see if he brings interpretations into the picture!

As for grading, I was hoping that he would focus more on homework. However… he does not. We have homework (100 points), 2 tests (100 points each), and a final exam (200 points). I do not necessarily believe that testing at this level accomplishes much and would much rather work my ass off on crazy homework assignments than be tested on a small subset of everything we learn. This is the first time he has taught this class (he usually teaches Quantum Field Theory and higher I think) so maybe this is the reason for his grading policy. I think I would prefer a grading policy to be more like 80% homework and 20% test scores. But, as I am not the teacher, it is his ballgame! I am nevertheless extremely excited about the class and am looking forward to learning a lot!

I sat down this past weekend and made up my mind that I was going to typeset my lecture notes… This turned out to be a terrible idea! It took me most of Saturday just to get a few pages and the formatting right. The formatting was still not very good so I kinda gave up… and decided to go with just rewriting my lecture notes to reinforce the ideas and because of the my handwriting issue (it sucks)… However, because of this, I have decided to typeset my homework instead! I wrote up the first problems’ answers on Sunday and it went well. I even drew a nice little figure in paint! Doing this really let me get my ideas together and forced me to add in actual English to my solutions to make it flow nicely. So it really has turned into a nice finished product. I am hoping I can keep it up for all my graduate classes! I might periodically post solutions to some of the homework if they intrigue me but who knows…

Until then, I’m off to work.