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Basic notions of condensed matter physics

Tom Lancaster (

This is a 8 lecture graduate course intended primarily for new students in Durham’s Centre for Materials Physics, although all are welcome to come to the lectures.

What and when

The course is intended to be an unfrightening guide to some of the concepts and tools of modern Condensed Matter Physics. The emphasis on the course will be on understanding concepts and we’ll avoid many of the detailed calculations needed by those wanting to work in this area professionally.

The lectures will run from Tuesday 21 October 2014 as follows:

  • Tuesday, 10am venue: Physics, Room Ph4

List of topics

The structure will be fairly informal, but my aim is to cover the following topics in varying levels of detail:

  • Broken symmetry and phase transitions
  • The Landau-Fermi liquid
  • Second quantization and phonons
  • Occupation number representation, Bose and Fermi particles
  • Time evolution and the need for quantum fields
  • Some aspects of the many body problem
  • Propagators and Feynman diagrams
  • The renormalization group

Problem sets

A problem set for the course is available here: problems.pdf.

Here’s the feedback form to tell me what you thought of the course: bncmp-feedback.pdf.

Reading list

All of the material we will discuss is dealt with in detail in a new book Quantum Field Theory for the Gifted Amateur by Stephen Blundell and I. Copies should be available in the main library.
The course is based on the influential book Basic Notions of Condensed Matter Physics by Philip Anderson. It comes very highly recommended, but you may find it heavy going at first.
An easier place to start is Principles of condensed matter physics by P.M.Chaikin and T.C. Lubensky.
Condensed matter field theory by A. Altland and B Simons is a good all-round guide to quantum field theory with applications in condensed matter, but possibly quite tough for beginners.
These pages were last updated on 18/10/2013.