A primer for those set to enter the matrix

November 27, 2008

Wave Propagation: From Electrons to Photonic Crystals and Left-Handed Materials

Authors: Peter Markos and Costas M. Soukoulis

Edition: First

Publisher: Princeton University Press

Pages: 376

Price: £38.95

ISBN 9780691130033

Starting with an introduction to the transfer matrix method, the authors of this textbook drop in a long string of references to its well-founded use with quantum particles, as well as electromagnetic, acoustic and elastic waves, thereby captivating the minds of physicists and engineers from a wide range of backgrounds.

The particular route to understanding this wonderful tool, starting with one-dimensional simplicity, is laid out along with a clear indication that this will be expanded upon and extended. A few simple facts are given before the text dives straight in with the maths. It feels fluid to read, with many terms, functions and constants being defined in an unobtrusive manner. The layout is clear and easy to follow. Lengthy steps in a derivation are condensed into exercises, with the solutions in full at the end of each chapter.

Having introduced the reader to the transfer matrix method, the authors go on to give specific solutions to a variety of problems, including rectangular potentials, surface waves and resonant tunnelling through double-layer structures. These are covered in a similarly well-presented and digestible form. The text provides two appendices covering matrix operators and summarising electrodynamics formulae, which spare the reader from having to reach for another book to clarify details - which is useful if you have not just finished a course on them.

When it comes to navigating the book, the contents shows the clear approach of each of the chapters, allowing one to dive into a subject for a detailed 20 pages and gain a real insight. For a more specific question, the index is one of the more detailed I have seen, but once again the reader does not have to labour over using it. The referencing method throughout the book is much like that of a journal, with only a number contained within the body of the text and with the full citations to the 168-strong bibliography provided at the back.

But despite the book's accessibility and its apparent all-round applicability, I struggle to see a place for it. The depth of information is not sufficient to make it a superb reference material, and it lacks the overall breadth of examples and methods for an undergraduate wave course.

Who is it for? Advanced undergraduates and postgraduates.

Presentation: The layout and presentation are clear and accessible.

Would you recommend it? I would recommend this as a very good second book on the subject of waves, but don't expect to read more than half of its pages.

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