I'm trying to decide whether or not to do a project for a professor.

The project involves writing a survey paper (of high enough quality to get his research group up to speed for a peripheral project) about Quantum Monte Carlo. The application they have in mind is calculating the energy of a quantum system and comparing QMC to a different method of doing such calculations.

What sort of background knowledge is required to get a grip on QMC (enough to be able to understand the significance of foundational and some more recent papers in the field). The survey paper would be due sometime by the end of school.

Don't skip anything I really need to know - assume I only an average upper-level undergrad CS major's knowledge of physics and computer science.

Reference suggestions are very welcome.

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    $\begingroup$ You may find the books in this list and the lecture notes in this list useful. $\endgroup$ Commented Jan 27, 2011 at 11:31

1 Answer 1


Do you have a tame physicist (preferably one who is familiar with Quantum Monte Carlo techniques) that you can talk to? I don't think it's actually all that hard, but if you try to understand it by reading about it, I strongly suspect that you'll find the books all assume you understand some moderately advanced quantum mechanics/quantum field theory (time-ordered integrals, some non-obvious properties of operators) which they don't explain, and if you don't understand these, you'll find their explanations completely incomprehensible.

I also see from Google that there are lots of different variations on the Quantum Monte Carlo method, some of which will be harder than others, and deciding which one to use for a particular problem is very likely a skilled art.

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    $\begingroup$ I like the idea of a tame physicist. Do they get let out of Schrodinger's box every now and then ? $\endgroup$ Commented Jan 27, 2011 at 7:00
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    $\begingroup$ @Suresh : We are actually (|out of⟩+|inside⟩)/√2 the box. $\endgroup$ Commented Jan 27, 2011 at 11:57
  • $\begingroup$ Thanks for this answer. Can I ask, meanwhile, what people feel is a good background would be to understand quantum computation in general? I'm not aiming to do research in that area, but I'd like to be able to comprehend quantum algorithms at a level such that if quantum computers become widely available, I could program them usefully for a variety of applications. $\endgroup$
    – Elliot JJ
    Commented Jan 28, 2011 at 1:44
  • $\begingroup$ You will need linear algebra, differential equations. Also you will need wide-open-mind because I have found the subject full of simple but UNBELIEVABLE ideas.Problems and solutions in quantum computation and information should give you good background. $\endgroup$ Commented Jan 28, 2011 at 16:59

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