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Thread: Question for all you professionals -

  1. #1
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    Question for all you professionals -

    I know there are some honest-to-goodness astronomers on the board, so I thought someone might be able to answer this question for me. I'm a physics major, an undergrad, and I have a friend who is majoring in astronomy and is taking Quantum Mechanics with me. Just out of curiosity, how much quantum does a research astronomer need to know/use on a daily basis? I have a feeling it's like a business major taking calculus; it's something they should take, but don't necessarily need.

  2. #2
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    It's pretty important, especially in spectroscopy applications. And well, it's the basis for much of what we see out there! So how that light forms and what processes are in effect are often at the quantum level.

    May be certain types of calculations aren't used everyday, but doing those may help you understand a concept later.

    I know, quantum's hard, but you'll get through it! Good luck!

    I just wish they'd told me Matrices were important for later work in quantum and GR - I would have had less animosity toward the class!

  3. #3
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    We're already though half of the 2-semester sequence, actually, and I understand the importance of spectroscopy to astronomers, but I guess if I were an astro major I would see that course as punishment for having done something horribly wrong in another life :wink:.

  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by CUStudent
    We're already though half of the 2-semester sequence, actually, and I understand the importance of spectroscopy to astronomers, but I guess if I were an astro major I would see that course as punishment for having done something horribly wrong in another life :wink:.
    I'm an astronomy major and I can't wait to take QM. The reason is, when i go to grad school, I want to study cosmology and theoretical astrophysics. Can't do much of that without QM.

  5. #5
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    I also had a good teacher for 400 level quantum. Unfortunately the class was at 8am when neither the teacher or the students were awake. The one time we had a make up class at 7pm, with pizza, there was actual dialog - an exchange of ideas - questions asked even!

    It was all the physics dept.'s fault - they refused to change the time of the class. grrr...

    We'd also all get together and hash out the homework problems together. That was fun.

    Our prof also took an "experiment based" approach to the class. As in - this is what they thought, they did this experiment and these were the results - then they had to change their thinking. It made more sense than other ways of teaching it.

  6. #6
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    Re: Question for all you professionals -

    Quote Originally Posted by CUStudent
    I know there are some honest-to-goodness astronomers on the board, so I thought someone might be able to answer this question for me. I'm a physics major, an undergrad, and I have a friend who is majoring in astronomy and is taking Quantum Mechanics with me. Just out of curiosity, how much quantum does a research astronomer need to know/use on a daily basis? I have a feeling it's like a business major taking calculus; it's something they should take, but don't necessarily need.
    Odd - I was having a similar conversation with a colleague not long ago.
    Daily, the only heavy use would be for some flavors of cosmology, and certain forefront applications in spectroscopy (as in working out where yet-unobserved spectral features would be). The problem I've seen is that most courses tend to be so heavily weighted toward computational and analytic techniques that it's hard to get to the philsophical underpinnings (which matter in the cosmological context). Personal example: my undergrad courses were big on properties fo Hermitian matrices, and I could briefly solve the classical hydrogen atom, but everything I know about many-worlds and tanmgled wave functions I picked up from places like Physics Today articles and following up their references. And just lately at Max Tegmark's web site, which I think was linked from ome BABB thread.

  7. #7
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    Yeah, QM is a biggie. You don't need to know everything, but understanding wave-particle duality will help alot. You also deal with a lot of the odd features of light too.


    Harvester: Your class sounds like mine. Except the Prof. got distracted from "experiments" and reality when he got to what appeared to be his favorite part, Operators! Ugh, then it turned into a math class. he kept saying we'd apply them at the end, and we did, for 1 homework assignment and 2/3 of the final.

    Seemed odd.

  8. #8
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    Ack! Hermite polynomials! It burns, it BURNS!
    I'm really very interested in QM, at least superficially. I really have no will to get into the nitty gritty of it. But my math is a little weak, and it didn't help having a really (really) bad prof for my math class this year. Both my math & QM profs just sort of skimmed over everything mathematical, almost as if they were assuming we'd learn more in the other class. Sigh.

    QM becomes more important the farther away (and further back) you look, doesn't it? And it's probably got a lot to do with whatever darkmatter is, too...

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by Harvestar
    I just wish they'd told me Matrices were important for later work in quantum and GR - I would have had less animosity toward the class!
    Wait a minute -- you mean I need to know math for astronomy?! D'oh! #-o

    To add my two cents to the topic, yeah, I hated QM, but it really turned out to be a bonding experience for the physics and astronomy majors who were juniors. We would just take our homework assignment, stake out a claim in the library, and work for about 16 hours on Saturday and Sunday. :roll:

    Oh yeah ... and then there's that #$%# PHYS GRE, where maybe 25% is QM.

    Andromeda321: Are you sure you still want to come to Case? :wink:

  10. #10
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    To add my two cents to the topic, yeah, I hated QM, but it really turned out to be a bonding experience for the physics and astronomy majors who were juniors. We would just take our homework assignment, stake out a claim in the library, and work for about 16 hours on Saturday and Sunday
    That was exactly my experience. I wasn't on a first-name basis with any other physics majors until QM. Ah, the late night physics library pizza delivery. Cheap pizza never tasted so good.

  11. #11
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    pizza good!

    The study groups my juniro year (last year, the one I just finished) helped me so much.

    (pardon me if my post is bad, I'm drunk, it's my 21st b=day!_)


    But I can still remember cut and paste! Yay me!

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