PHYS/PHIL 354.001 – Quantum Mechanics, Weirdness, and Reality

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Instructors: John T. Roberts and Jonathan Engel. This course meets MWF 11:15 a.m. – 12:05 p.m. in PH 215.

Quantum mechanics is perhaps the most empirically successful scientific theory yet produced, but it has strange implications and poses serious conceptual puzzles about what it means. This course is designed as an introduction to the theory, to its weird phenomena, and to the problem of distilling from the theory a coherent account of what the world is like. The course has as prerequisites only Math 231 and one physics course numbered 100 or above; courses in philosophy or linear algebra would be useful but are not strictly necessary. It will be helpful understand the basics of probability, which will play a major role in the course. Topics covered will include the basic formalism of quantum mechanics in Dirac’s notation, the Copenhagen interpretation, entangled states and nonlocality, the “quantum bomb factory” and other weird phenomena, the measurement problem, the Einstein-Podolski-Rosen thought-experiment, the Bell inequalities, decoherence theory, the deBroglie/Bohm pilot wave theory, spontaneous collapse theories, and the Everett (“many worlds”) interpretation.

Prerequisites: MATH 231 and any PHYS course numbered 100 or greater; permission of the instructor for students lacking the prerequisites.