I'm a junior undergraduate and have taught myself grad-level quantum mechanics. But when I read those papers on atomic, molecular, and optical (AMO) or condensed matter physics, all kinds of terminologies always bother me throughout the reading. Besides trying to figure them out using Wikipedia or Google, is there any book or material that can help with this a lot?

  • $\begingroup$ Especially the terminology related to experiment. $\endgroup$
    – Jason Tao
    Oct 2, 2016 at 4:37
  • $\begingroup$ I think it is quite hard to write a book on experimental condmat or learn experiment through reading books . I usually dig through google scholar for terminology. But for condmat theory Altland and Simons is a very important book. But beware of extensive field theory used there. $\endgroup$ Oct 2, 2016 at 4:47
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    $\begingroup$ What is AMO? Please define uncommon acronyms. (I have a PhD in condensed matter physics, and I've never seen this acronym.) $\endgroup$
    – garyp
    Oct 2, 2016 at 5:12
  • $\begingroup$ AMO-Atomic,Molecular,Optical $\endgroup$
    – AHusain
    Oct 2, 2016 at 5:42

1 Answer 1


If you have graduate level understanding of quantum physics, make sure you have an advanced understanding of statistical mechanics as well. Pathria is a classic, as is Huang, although the latter can get a little technical. My personal favorite, though, is Cowan. In these books and others, focus on things like low-temperature Fermi and Bose systems, phase transitions, and excitations in solids (i.e., phonons and the Einstein model). From these books, you will be able to understand a lot of the terminology.

To begin a solid state education, the classic undergrad book is Kittel. For something more advanced, go to Ashcroft and Mermin. Once you have these under your belt (and you understand the basic terminology), you can focus on a specific topic. If you are reading papers on STMs (scanning tunneling microscopy), you might need different reading material then, say, you were reading about ARPES (angle-resolved photoemission spectroscopy). Condensed matter physics, whether theoretical or experimental, is a huge field, and it's easy to get lost in the terminology of the subfields. At this point, I would suggest you look at Reviews of Modern Physics--they have many good reviews on a lot of very specific subjects. You could also ask the people in your department for any suggested readings or the names of big people in your field of interest. I wouldn't be surprised if one or two of them wrote a good review of subject of study.

  • $\begingroup$ I would also add Mahan's book for advanced condensed matter theory. $\endgroup$
    – Dimitri
    Oct 3, 2016 at 12:05

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