- Scott H Young - https://www.scotthyoung.com/blog -

Let’s Learn Quantum Mechanics: Week Two Update

Last week was the second week of my month-long project to get a foundation in quantum mechanics [1], with the entire project being livestreamed [2].

Why I’m Tackling This Project

The inspiration for this project came about a year ago. I stumbled upon 8.04 [3], MIT’s first class in quantum physics and watched some of the lectures. While I could follow it at a very high level, the math went totally over my head, despite having done a number of math classes during the MIT Challenge [4].

Ultralearning, intense and self-directed learning, is probably the only way to really get an intuition. Just watching videos and reading books isn’t enough. I would actually have to work through hard problems to wrap my head around what’s going on. Just watching videos wouldn’t cut it.

Thoughts on Livestreaming

The other motivation for this project was to try doing a project livestreamed. Documenting my previous ultralearning projects was always an additional chore. After every week of MIT classes, I would have to create update videos, scan and upload exams, update pages. During the Year Without English [5], documenting the project became almost involved as learning the languages themselves as my friend and I made mini-documentary videos about the experience.

Despite the effort of trying to document everything realistically, it always felt like I was leaving 99% of it out. Deciding what to show and what to omit makes it feel less authentic, yet there was only so much I could realistically do without jeopardizing progress in the project itself.

Livestreaming interested me because it seemed to solve both problems at once. One, because almost everything is visible, there’s no risk of omitting something important or possible bias about what I choose to show and what to leave out. It’s all there.

Second, because the recording is generated automatically, it’s not much more work to do a project live on camera than in isolation. I will probably need to do work to condense and summarize the project in the end (since nobody will watch the whole thing), but that can happen later when I don’t need to deal with the simultaneous workload of learning a lot of new things.

Where I’m at Now

As of right now, I’ve finished watching all 24 lectures, putting me one day ahead of schedule in initial plan. In addition, I’ve finished the majority of the first five problem sets (there are ten total). Although most of these questions have required hints and feedback with considerable struggle, so even after I finish these, there will remain a lot of work to be done.

Matching my expectations, the class is tough. It’s always tricky anticipating how hard one of these projects are going to be, and in this case I definitely underestimated the difficulty. But with greater challenge, learning is also more satisfying. I’m just going to have to work harder to compensate.

Since my next week is a little lighter on outside work, I’d like to double down and try as many days I can at a schedule similar to the one I used in the early part of the MIT Challenge. Therefore, I might be going beyond the two, three-hour chunks that I had planned for.

Feel free to drop by the livestream [6], even if just for a few minutes to check in!