on 18 April 2003
Quantum Theory is never going to be an easy, non-mathematical subject to study. Having said that, the first part of Prof Bohm's work, consisting of some 170 pages, makes a concerted effort to not only explain the experimental basis of quantum theory, but also to explain why it is reasonable compared to classical physics. Whilst all books claim to be able to pull off this feat using "the minimum of mathematics", Prof Bohm does a much better job than most.
The text is actually dated as 1951, this being a Dover reprint. That should not discourage you, however. This material will never be old and out of date since it covers the basics of the subject, as well as more advanced material.
Prof Feynman is renowned for his ability to present Physics in a simple and understandable manner. He achieves this well with his "Lectures on Physics" volumes I and II. However, volume III on Quantum Mechanics falls well short of the mark, and in many respects Bohm's "Quantum Theory" is a much better introduction to the subject. For further contrast one could consider Prof Heitler's "The Quantum Theory of Radiation" which, by comparison with Bohm, seems to use the maximum of mathematics and the minimum of explanation!
Bohm's Quantum Theory can be appreciated at two levels. Firstly, Part I of the book can be read without any particular regard to the mathematics. It is easy enough to read around the equations as if they were not present. There are in fact large tracts where mathematics is shunned in favour of descriptive prose. Now you should understand that this is something that most authors studiously avoid. Quantum Theory is usually presented as being incomprehensible except in terms of mathematics and Prof Bohm proves that this is not necessary.
Secondly, one could dive into the mathematics and discover the remaining two thirds of the book; I for one am content with the "easy" third and consider the book good value for money on the basis of this part alone.
Leslie Green CEng MIEE
on 29 April 2009
Maybe the best introduction there is for physicists, but it would not do for a mathematics course. The first part is useful in that it explains a lot of the philosophy behind quantum theory, and the second part is a pretty standard quasi-mathematical treatment of the bare bones of the classical theory, ie, with none of the particle interaction applications.
Unfortunately, the thinking reader will still come away from it wondering what an observer really is, ie, can an observer be another particle or a bit of apparatus? Still, the book does more than most in explaining how phase changes cancel wave interactions and so destroy interference patterns. Most books wave their authors' hands at this point.
It would have been good to have seen more on the relationship between quantum probabilities and Bayesian probabilities in the observation process. Also, the usual treatment of the hydrogen atom with a drawing of the probability clouds of the first few orbitals makes the universal mistake of confusing the arbitrary direction in which the author pointed his z-axis with the physical direction in which one of these clouds has symmetries.
Still the best of a bad bunch after all these years, though.