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A new approach to modern physics

Posted by Arjendu on June 14, 2010

A note from John Townsend, the author of “A Modern Approach to Quantum Mechanics” — that’s the only book I’ve used during my 5 year run at teaching quantum at Carleton. It is best described as an undergraduate version of Sakurai’s book (that is to say, it focused on Hilbert space through spin to get the point across), and worked really well for me and my students. It is very readable, has lots of useful worked examples, and good problems as well. I couldn’t endorse it more. Here’s what John said:
After more than thirty years of teaching physics at Harvey Mudd College, I have hit upon what I think are really good approaches to teaching quantum physics/quantum mechanics to undergraduates. I am now the author of two textbooks, A Modern Approach to Quantum Mechanics (for juniors and seniors) and Quantum Physics: A Fundamental Approach to Modern Physics (primarily for sophomores). This latter book, which was published just this past August, will I hope (somewhat immodestly) generate a sea change in the way many “modern physics” courses are taught in this country, judging from the textbooks for these courses that have preceded mine. Information about Quantum Physics, including the table of contents and the preface, where I spell out in some detail why I have written this book, is available at

I would very much appreciate your forwarding this email to the people who are teaching or are likely to teach the corresponding course at Carleton College so they are at least aware of the existence of the book. Faculty who would like to request an examination copy can go to and click on Professor Resources.
Many thanks for your help,
John S. Townsend
Susan and Bruce Worster Professor of Physics
Chair, Department of Physics
Harvey Mudd College
PS I am also preparing a new edition of my junior-senior level textbook. I am adding new sections on entanglement and quantum teleportation, on the density operator, on coherent states, and on cavity quantum electrodynamics. I am also adding numerous worked examples to the book. Since I believe A Modern Approach to Quantum Mechanics has been used at Carleton, if any of your colleagues would be interested in giving me feedback on a draft of this additional material for the new edition of this book, I would very much welcome it.

4 Responses to “A new approach to modern physics”

  1. University of Colorado also has some research-based materials for teaching modern physics that you are welcome to use:

    Research papers here:

    Also, the Physics 2000 site, though old, has some good simulations and guided tutorials:

    And the PhET simulations ( have several simulations for quantum mechanics that are super helpful (see the submitted clicker questions for use with them, they really target students’ difficulties).

  2. Melissa said

    Stephanie, I’ve used a bunch of those Colorado resources when I’ve taught our sophomore level modern physics course, and I’ve found them to be incredibly helpful. In my experience, there are lots of great physics education resources for the introductory level, but only recently has there been corresponding development of resources for the intermediate and advanced level courses.

    • I’m glad you’ve found those resources helpful, Melissa! Indeed, we started our work on upper division resources specifically because there was so much less work at that level. Low-hanging fruit!

      I’ve written some blog posts on clicker use, and if you scroll to the bottom you can see the outline of a talk that I did on upper division clicker use in physics, including some sort videos.

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