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All in all I can say that this is a book that gives a good look behind the scenes of science, in the mind of these two scientists who helped shape the world as we enter the next millennium.
Some years ago I visited Los Alamos and toured the small museum in Fuller Lodge which contains some interesting memorabilia from Oppenheimer's era. One is a letter from his secretary to the Buildings and Maintenance Department requesting that a carpenter come to Dr. Oppenheimer's office and drive a nail into the wall so that Dr. Oppenheimer could have a place to hang his hat. A second letter, dated some months later, is a repeat request for the same action. I was well aware that Oppenheimer was a theoretical physicist and not an expermental physicist never the less I marveled at the fact that he was apparently incapable of using even simple tools.I found this lack of a practical approach to a low level technical problem disconserting. If Oppenheimer had learned how to use a hammer to drive a nail perhaps things might have ended for him some what differently. We will never know.
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Chapter 1 is a brief overview of elementary quantum mechanics, and the authors set down the notation and units to be followed in the book. They state the main goal of the book, which is to solve the Schrodinger equation for an atom with nuclear charge Ze. This problem for one-electron is straightforwardly solved, but for more than one electron approximation techniques must be used, a few of which they mention. Since spin will have to be dealt with throughout the book, the authors include a description of spin 1/2 particles.
In chapter 2 the authors discuss the use of symmetry principles in quantum many-particle systems, pointing out the origin of exchange degeneracy and the Pauli exclusion principle. The authors also give an interesting discussion of the experimental determination of symmetry, particularly their argument for the absence of hidden variables.
In chapter 3 the authors give an overview of the quantum mechanics of two-electron atoms, pointing out that the calculations give six-figure agreement between theory and experiment. Perturbation and variational methods are used to solve the Schrodinger equation for this system, and show the origin of the triplet and singlet levels for the helium atom.
In chapter 4, the authors introduce another approximation technique, the self-consistent field or "Hartree-Fock" method, in order to calculate the excited states for the two-electron atom more efficiently. This approach involves using a variational trial function, called the determinantal wave function, as an ansatz, which because of orthogonality and parity considerations, results in a set of equations, called the Hartree-Fock equations, for the single electron orbitals. The "exchange term" in these equations is discussed in detail, involving a notion of a "nonlocal" potential. The physical significance of the eigenvalue in these equations is also discussed, and related to the famous Koopman theorem. It is proven also that atoms with closed shells leads to a spherically symmetric theory. The periodic table is shown to be a consequence of the Pauli principle and the Hartree-Fock calculation.
An improvement to Hartree-Fock, the Thomas-Fermi method, which does not include exchange, is discussed in chapter 5. Classified as a "statistical method", this method finds the effective potential energy experienced by a small test charge, along with the electron density around the nucleus. The authors show how exchange effects can be included using a procedure due to P.A.M. Dirac, which uses a concept of effective exchange potential, and one due to W. Lenz, which is a constrained optimization procedure, requiring that the total energy be stationary.
In order to remove the degeneracy in the atomic shells due to the Hartree-Fock approximation, the authors view it as a perturbation expansion in chapter 6, with the unperturbed Hamiltonian being the Hartree-Fock central field Hamiltonian, and the perturbation being the electrostatic interaction of the electrons minus a suitable average of it. The search for proper linear combinations of zero-order degenerate eigenfunctions to make the total Hamiltonian diagonal entails the use of the total orbital and spim angular momentum of all the electrons in the atom. Hence the authors outline in detail how to perform the addition of angular momenta in this chapter. The reader can see clearly the origin of the famous Clebsch-Gordon coefficients. This program is carried out in more detail in chapter 7, wherein the authors considers and atom which has an electron configuration distributed over several complete and one incomplete shell. The incomplete shell gives several different degenerate solutions, and this degeneracy can be removed by the assignment of angular momentum and spin quantum numbers to the orbitals in the shell. This chapter is characterized by a considerable amount of arithmetic in computing matrix elements, which can readily be handled by modern symbolic computation packages.
The contribution of the spin-orbit interaction to the level structure of atoms, ignored in the previous two chapters, is studied in chapter 8. The authors also consider the interaction of the electron configuration with an external field, such as a magnetic field. The spin-orbit interaction is not considered in a relativistic framework, but instead is given a "pseudo-derivation", in the words of the authors. The (correct) Dirac theory for spin-orbit interaction is given later in chapter 22. And here again, the matrix elements, and reduced matrix elements, considered in this chapter can best be handled by symbolic computation packages. This is particularly true for matrix elements of vector operators between states of different angular momentum, which the authors shy away from. The reader though can see the origin of the famous Wigner-Eckart theorem in the context of these computations. The Zeeman effect, resulting from the interaction of an electron with a homogeneous magnetic field, is discussed, along with the Paschen-Back effect, which results from the external magnetic field being strong enough to allow the Zeeman term in the Hamiltonian to dominate the spin-orbit interaction. Also discussed is the Stark effect, which results when an atom is placed in an external electric field. The authors show how to compute the energy shifts in this case, using, but not proving, some formulas due to Condon and Shortly.
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