Student Review: Molecular Quantum Mechanics

November 3, 2011

Authors: Peter W. Atkins and Ronald S. Friedman

Edition: Fifth

Publisher: Oxford University Press

Pages: 560

Price: £39.99

ISBN 9780199541423

For many, the mere mention of quantum mechanics will conjure up hazy memories of operators and integral signs, observed in a confused daze from the back of the lecture theatre. The mathematical nature of this field is highly off-putting to some students, but many textbooks, by attempting to create a purely qualitative approach, lose both clarity of explanation and the very beauty of this subject.

This is why the authors' unapologetic approach to the mathematical content represents such a refreshing change for enthusiasts and provides a much richer understanding of the subject. While this tactic may be intimidating for less confident students, the text is still an ideal purchase for undergraduates as it gives a comprehensive coverage of all the topics at this level, offering a great deal of additional insight for those captivated by the quantum world.

"Mathematical background" chapters have been included, with brief explanations of all the techniques required. However, while these serve as comprehensive and excellent refreshers, they do not contain sufficient detail to give a thorough understanding for those new to the topics. Although the explanations are very high quality, a good familiarity with A-level mathematics is essential for getting the most out of this text.

One outstanding feature of the book is that, for more complex derivations, an in-depth explanation of each step of the proof is included. Gone are the days of staring at the book in confusion, wondering what mathematical trickery has occurred before you. Unfortunately, the solutions included for the problem questions lack the same level of mollycoddling, with only numerical solutions included in the text. The only guidance offered is in the inclusion of a few worked examples and additional online answers.

Every effort has been made to make the text simple to use as a reference and to preserve the utmost clarity in the content. The extensive contents and index make locating even the most obscure of topics an effortless exercise. The layout has been carefully arranged to avoid indigestible blocks of text, and well-labelled diagrams are used, where appropriate, to support textual explanations.

Sadly, the colour scheme is a melancholy palette of blue, black and grey, and although it is fairly easy on the eyes, it isn't very helpful in highlighting important information. However, the generous spacing given to equations and text means that the functionality of the text is not greatly impaired. Although the authors spend little time attempting to engage undergraduates with no real love for mathematics, for those enthusiastic about this field and looking for a more rigorous approach, this text is absolutely superb.

Who is it for? Mathematically literate undergraduates and postgraduates.

Presentation: Very clean and functional layout, if a little dull.

Would you recommend it? The impressive range and depth of topics covered make it a very worthwhile purchase.

Highly recommended

Computational Chemistry: Introduction to the Theory and Applications of Molecular and Quantum Mechanics

Author: Errol G. Lewars

Edition: Second revised

Publisher: Springer

Pages: 664

Price: £144.00 and £62.99

ISBN 9789048138609 and 8616

This text offers a vast and insightful overview for beginner and expert alike. Some pages can require patience and effort to wade through, but the majority of the book is concise and easy to understand, with example solutions and diagrams used effectively to support explanations. The author does an outstanding job of balancing theoretical background with practical application to keep the text engaging and relevant. The layout is simple, with only two pages in colour, but this does not detract from the text. This is an excellent introduction and reference book for anyone with an interest in the subject.

Highly recommended

Mass Spectrometry

Author: Jurgen H. Gross

Edition: Second

Publisher: Springer

Pages: 774

Price: £81.00

ISBN 9783642107092

While undergraduates might find the exemplary explanations of the many varieties of mass spectrometry helpful, this text is really aimed at researchers who wish to better understand their equipment or look into alternative approaches for analysing samples. It is a fantastic reference guide, with many schematics and photographs of equipment. It also contains useful guides on how to search reference libraries. The layout is perfectly functional, and a detailed table of contents and index make the text a delight to use.

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