Atomic structure and lifetimes. A conceptual approach

Atomic structure and lifetimes. A conceptual approach
Lorenzo Curtis
Cambridge: CUP 2003 | Pp 267 | ?30.00 (SB) | ISBN 0521536359
Reviewed by Dennis Rouvray

Modern technology now enables us to make exquisitely accurate optical measurements on the light emitted from atoms. Indeed, in most instances, it is possible to determine either the wavelength or the frequency of radiated light to within a few parts in 108.

Moreover, current techniques allow us to make precise evaluations of the energy shifts in isotopes of the same element that arise from their comparatively small differences in nuclear mass and the size and shape of the charge distributions.

These notable accomplishments have in turn provided us with an extremely valuable tool for assessing and validating physical models of atomic systems. This is because the calculated accuracy of atomic properties, even when the most sophisticated ab initio methods are used, is always lower than that experimentally obtainable. For instance, in the case of electronic population levels, lifetimes, transition probabilities and oscillator strengths, accuracies better than to within one per cent of the measured values are seldom achieved.

The author has set himself the task of modelling the spectral properties of atoms more complex than either hydrogen or helium atoms. He attempts to do this as optimally as possible by means of semi-classical methods and parametrisations in most cases with single particle models.

His foundational procedure is based on the Maslov-indexed Einstein-Brillouin-Keller quantisation method, though to make his approach viable for highly complex atoms, he has supplemented it with an updated version of the semi-empirical data systematisation developed by Edl?n. The overall result is successful in that he is able to attain some surprisingly accurate predictions of atomic properties.

This work is also satisfying in several other respects because the author takes the trouble to elucidate the foundations of his subject and points out the evident limitations of the conceptual pictures that might be drawn to represent the formalisms he employs.

This is a carefully written monograph that could be used to advantage in more advanced courses on the physics of atoms.