Xavier Professor Dr. Basil Davis recently published “The Basic Physics of Quantum Theory” through World Scientific Publishing. The publication is designed to help the layperson learn the intimidating subject of quantum theory. It is the latest publication by Dr. Davis, who has previously published articles and books in both science and theology.

September 17, 2020

Dr. Davis was inspired to create “The Basic Physics of quantum theory” after encountering several non-science major students while teaching a quantum theory course at Tulane. His experiences and belief that you don’t need college-level mathematics to learn quantum theory led him to take notes on ways to help his students new to the subject understand the material, which eventually turned into a full outline. 

In February of 2020, he received a contract from World Scientific Publishing to publish his book. World Scientific Publishing is responsible for publishing Nobel lectures in all subjects, and Dr. Davis is grateful that the company took note of his work. 

“They are a highly prestigious publisher, and it was a stroke of good fortune that I was able to get the contract with them and get my book published,” said Dr. Davis, “I was really happy when I got this contract to write this book so that other people could read and learn a little bit of this very fascinating branch of physics.” 

For Dr. Davis, quantum theory and the theory of relativity have always been fascinating subjects. He has taken several courses in quantum mechanics at the graduate level, as well as published multiple articles related to quantum theory and quantum optics. Because of his considerable attention to the subject, Dr. Davis was able to complete the first draft within eight months. After a bit of polishing, his publication was ready. 

Dr. Davis designed the book to be an introductory course on quantum theory accessible to anyone interested in the subject, whether they have studied physics at the college level. Dr. Davis made it so that the highest level math needed to complete the exercises provided in the book is introductory algebra. He wants the text to be used by a wide variety of students, from those doing self-study to use as a pre-collegiate coursebook. 

“To quote Richard Feynman, probably the greatest quantum physicist of the 20th century, ‘Nobody understands quantum mechanics,’ because it is a mystery… But you can learn quantum theory. You can use quantum theory. You can apply quantum theory to solve problems,” said Dr. Davis. 

One of the most challenging aspects of writing the publication for Dr. Davis was finding ways to translate the information into layperson terms. He felt that short stories, illustrated by drawings, would help readers relate to the material. For example, to keep readers engaged, the end of the first chapters features an encouraging graphic. There is also one on the front cover. Dr. Davis drew these illustrations himself. 

“I wanted to let the reader know that quantum theory is not impossible, that anyone can read this book and learn quantum theory.” 

Besides his talents in illustration, Dr. Davis has a very impressive scholastic, pedagogical, and theological history. Because of the way the college system is organized in India, he attended courses at Loyola College in the city of Chennai but received his undergraduate degree in physics from the University of Madras in India. He then earned his master’s degree in Physics through the same system by attending Madras Christian College, receiving his certificate through the University of Madras. 

He taught undergraduate physics for a few years at St. Edmonds College in Northeastern India. At the time, he was a member of the Roman Catholic religious order that ran the college. He then left the order to attend the University of Notre Dame to earn his Master of Arts in Theology. He returned to St. Edmonds to teach for another few years before going back to Notre Dame for his theology doctorate. 

After earning his doctoral degree, he taught for another few years before venturing to New Orleans, where he taught at Notre Dame Seminary. During this time, he connected with professors of physics and philosophy at Tulane. He found peers who were also interested in the dialogue between science and religion. Eventually, Dr. Davis decided to earn a doctorate in physics at Tulane. He then taught at the University for a few years.

When he saw an opening at Xavier University of Louisiana as the Physics Resource Center coordinator, he jumped at the opportunity to apply. After starting at Xavier in April of 2015, he was asked to join the faculty for a one year post in physics. However, at the end of the year, he was reappointed. At the end of each year, his contract kept getting renewed until 2020, where he was appointed to the tenure track position of assistant professor. 

Beyond his academic achievements, Dr. Davis is also a talented linguist and theologian. In total, he has competence in 11 languages. As a parishioner of St. Francis Xavier church, he has given a few talks on the link between faith and science. For Dr. Davis, he feels like the focal point of the interlock between the Christian faith and science can be found in Christ’s death. 

In an article for the Clarion Herald, Dr. Davis said “Physics is all around us. The basic premise of physics is that there is an underlying logic and intelligibility to all of nature, and that the task of a physicist is to discover that logic and express it in humanly intelligible terms. On this all physicists – whether believers or atheists – are in agreement.” 

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