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Book Review Transuranium Elements A Half Century. Edited by L. R. Morss and J. Fuger

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physicist and chemist who wishes to learn about computer
animation in surfiace research should buy this little book,
despite the risk that parts of it may be overtaken by computer developments within a few years. Moreover, the affordable price for this well produced book (containing many
colored figures) should have an aniniating effect on readers.
Kluus Clir~sini~nn
Institut fiir Physikalische und Theoretische Chemie
der Freien Universitgt Berlin (FRG)
The Meaning of Quantum Theory. By J. Baggoit. Oxford
University Press, Oxford. 1992. XIV. 230 pp.. hardcover
.f 11.95. ISBN 0-19-855575-X
In recent years there has been a growing trend towards the
publication of books on technical aspects of quantum mechanics and quantum chemistry for chemists with theoretical
interests. Although these differ greatly in emphasis and degree of difficulty. most of them follow a common pattern.
Their central theme is to provide the reader with quantum
theoretical methods-- thus they present quantum theory in
the form of a technological toolkit. Any reader who approaches J. Baggott’s book expecting something of this kind
will certainly be disappointed. The author’s purpose here is
to examine the meaning of quantum theory as a conceptual
structure from a scientific and philosophical standpoint. The
most important message can be summarized in one succinct
statement: the central elements of quantum theory are open
to more than one possible interpretation. Baggott illustrates
this by the example of the old controversy between, on the
one hand, the positivist school of Bohr and the young
Heisenberg. and on the other hand the realistic interpretation based on wave mechanics, as put forward by Einstein
and Schrodinger. The positivist approach to quantum theory
is a conceptual structure of a puristic kind. Baggott describes
positivism as a view based on the premise that any observation on a quantum-mechanical system involves a disturbance
of the system, and therefore the description requires a
Hamiltonian operator that includes both the quantum-mechanical system itself and the spectrometer or observer.
Baggott characterizes the realistic viewpoint by the concept of “local realities”. In this framework an experimental
system can also be described by restricting the treatment to
localized subfrdgments. Baggott explains the scientific con4roversy in terms of certain imaginary experiments of historical importance, such as the Einstein-Podolsky-Rosen theorem, the Bell inequality, and the intellectual construction
known as Schrodinger’s cat.
The book is divided into five chapters. In Chapter 1 the
author summarizes the historical facts that led to the development of quantum mechanics, and discusses in detail the
wave-particle duality hypothesis of de Broglie. This chapter
provides an easily readable introduction to the theoretical
ideas, and also introduces a number of novel relationships.
Chapter 2 begins with an explanation of the operator concept of quantum mechanics. Here Baggott also describes
lucidly the considerations that led to the formulation of the
Schrodinger equation. In this chapter. which is orientated
mainly towards mathematical techniques and formalisms,
the author explains in an easily understandable way the elements of quantum mechanics, such as state vectors in Hilbert
space and the Pauli exclusion principle. Chapter 3 moves on
from the technical background to an examination of the
meaning of the quantum theory. The reader learns that the
controversies between the positivists and the realists were
often emotional and heated. Chapter 4 takes up the subject
of the conceptual “experiments” mentioned above, that were
put forward in support of either the positivist or the realist
interpretations.
Unfortunately, after about the first 100 pages, the book
loses some of its initial excitement and conciseness. In the
opinion of this reviewer, the last part could have been tightened up and condensed to about half its length. In Chapter
5 Baggott moves away from the themes of the previous chapters and focuses attention on the relationships between
quantum theory and philosophy. He also discusses, among
other topics, the ideas of Karl Popper and of Rene
Descartes. The chapter concludes with some metaphysical
considerations. The question of the existence of a deity,
which is introduced carefully and dicreetly at this point, rests
on the same philosophical basis of the debate between determinism and indeterminism as do the fundamentals of quantum theory-hence the excursions into matters of religion.
The merit accorded to this part of the book will no doubt
vary from reader to reader.
Some of the comments that Baggott includes are trenchant
and worthy of attention. One of the best passages is that on
page 79: “It would, perhaps, be very difficult for high-energy
physicists to justify the financial investments ... if they were
not convinced of the reality of the objects on which they wish
to make measurements”.
In this book Baggott presents a skillful analysis of those
concepts of quantum mechanics with which we have, in the
course of time, learned to be “comfortable”. He succeeds in
opening the reader’s mind to new questions about quantum
mechanics and thereby taking a fresh look at hitherto accepted conceptual models. The book can be recommended for
readers interested in the philosophical aspects of quantum
theory. Large parts of it are stimulating to work through.
However, this requires a good deal of concentration, apart
from the “technical information” parts. Unfortunately Baggott’s treatment is not at a consistent level throughout, but
against this it must be said that the aim was very ambitious.
The minor criticisms above should not deter anyone from
buying this interesting and stimulating book. It is desirable
that as many chemists and physicists as possible should concern themselves with aspects of quantum theory other than
technological applications. and this book offers a good introduction to the subject.
Michael C. Bolm
Institut fur Physikalische Chemie
der Technischen Hochschule Darmstadt (FRG)
Transuranium Elements: A Half Century. Edited by L. R.
Mows and .
I
Fuger. American Chemical Society, Washington, DC. 1992. XXIV, 562 pp., hardcover, $99.95.lSBN 0-842 2-221 9-3
When news of Otto Hahn and Fritz Strassmann’s discovery of nuclear fission in 1939 reached the University of California, scientists at Berkeley began experiments to reproduce
the unexpected results. By May, 1940 Edwin M. McMillan,
an assistant professor of physics, and Philip H. Abelson, a
recent Berkeley physics alumnus, succeeded in producing the
first transuranium element (at. no. 93) by bombarding uranium (at. no.92) with neutrons from Ernest 0. Lawrence’s
cyclotron. They named it neptunium after Neptune, the next
planet after uranium. A mere seven months later, on December 14, 1940, Berkeley chemistry instructors Glenn T. Seaborg and Joseph W. Kennedy and graduate student Arthur
C. Wahl synthesized the second transuranium element (at.
no. 94) by bombarding uranium with deuterons from the
same cyclotron. They named it plutonium after Pluto, the
planet beyond Neptune. Seaborg and McMillan shared the
1951 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for their accomplishments.
As is well known, the discovery of plutonium led to the
second nuclear bomb (“Fat Man”), while the discovery of
these first two transuranium elements added a new dimension to the Periodic Table and changed forever the world in
which we live. A half century later the discovery was celebrated by articles, books, conferences, and meetings. One of
the most prominent of the meetings, a Symposium to Commemorate the 50th Anniversary of the Discovery of
Transuranium Elements, was sponsored by the Divisions of
Nuclear Chemistry and Technology, the History of Chemistry, and Inorganic Chemistry of the American Chemical
Society and was held at the 200th National ACS Meeting,
Washington. DC, August 26-31,1990. The volume reviewed
here, dedicated to Glenn T. Seaborg “in recognition of his
inspiring leadership in the discovery of the transuranium
elements and in the elucidation of their chemical properties”,
contains 51 of the 67 papers presented at the symposium by
109 internationally renowned authorities from the United
States (many from nuclear research centers such as the Los
Alamos. Argonne, Brookhaven, and Oak Ridge National
Laboratories, the Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory, and the
University of California. Berkeley) as well as from Australia,
Belgium, China, Finland, France, Germany, India, Japan.
Portugal. Russia, and Switzerland. Many of the chemists,
physicists. materials scientists, and engineers who pioneered
the historic research on transuranium elements during the
1940s are among the contributors.
The book is divided into eight sections- ~ ( 1Introduction:
)
Transuranium Elements: Their Impact on Science and Technology. by the editors; (2) Historical Viewpoints (12 papers
by Seaborg. Abelson, Connick, Katz, and other early pioneers); (3) Spectroscopy, Photophysics, and Photochemistry
(7 papers); (4) Chemistry (7 papers); ( 5 ) Separations and
Thermodynamics (6 papers); (6) Materials Physics (4 papers); (7) Materials Chemistry (10 papers); and (8) Analytical Chemistry (4 papers). Each paper is prefaced by an abstract. and the volume is replete with 310 tables, figures,
reaction schemes, and photographs of great historical significance, such as portraits of the discoverers and crucial pages
from laboratory notebooks.
The papers reflect the unique and challenging nuclear.
spectroscopic, physical, chemical, and solid-state behavior
of the transuranium elements and present predictions and
perspectives for the conduct of future research. including
that on the “superheavy” elements (atomic numbers above
111). They discuss the impact of fundamental and applied
physical research on the characterization and properties of
elements caused by the filling of the 5f electron subshell.
Seaborg’s celebrated actinide concept, postulating that
transuranium elements constitute a second rare earth series.
which accounted for their position in an expanded Periodic
Table and predicted conditions for their synthesis and isolation, is featured prominently in many of the contributions,
but important differences between the actinides and lanthanides are not neglected.
A judicious balance is struck between papers presenting
first-hand historical accounts and anecdotes, review papers,
and reports describing the most recent contemporary research (synthesis of new derivatives, corrosion studies, thermodynamic interpretations, and methods for detecting and
disposing of radioactive fuel waste, both on a laboratory
scale and plant scale). Despite the multiplicity of authors
from various laboratories, which often results in the inconsistent format, uneven appearance, and large number of mis
spellings usually associated with symposium proceedings.
the book is most attractive and virtually error-free, thanks to
the efforts of the editors and the staff of the ACS Books
Department, which maintains exacting editorial and production standards. A detailed name and subject index (27 pp.. 2
columns per page) makes the contents readily accessible.
In reflecting the dynamics and trends of research on the
actinides, this excellent collection of papers of historical and
contemporary value is a major contribution to the scientific
community. I recommend it highly to historians of science
and technology, practicing chemists, physicists, and engineers, as well as to anyone interested in this family of fascinating elements whose unusual and complex chemical, physical, and nuclear properties pose a multitude of challenging
problems for scientists and whose control has created thorny
issues for the world’s politicians and statesmen.
George B. K m f f m a n
California State University
Fresno, CA (USA)
New Books
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