Paul Yates reviews this textbook, aiming to go beyond the maths

Selected problems in physical chemistry
Predrag-Peter Ilich
Berlin: Springer 2010 | Pp210 | £35.99 | ISBN9783642043260
Reviewed by Paul Yates

Cover of Selected problems in physical chemistry

This book starts from the premise that existing physical chemistry textbooks have a limited readership due to being written for those students who have "an interest in and aptitude for mathematics". The author seeks to redress this balance by providing detailed solutions to a number of problems which go rather beyond providing just a mathematical solution.

There are around fifty such problems, grouped into the broad areas of mechanics, basic thermodynamics, mixtures and chemical thermodynamics, ionic properties and electrochemistry, kinetics, and the structure of matter: molecular spectroscopy. The topics are not covered evenly, so there is variation in the number of problems per topic.

One is struck by the number of words in a book on this topic, which is perhaps not surprising given the author's perspective. Certainly, the material is likely to be less intimidating than the usual form of presentation to those who are not particularly mathematically strong.

The author uses a very informal style and I found myself smiling at the occasional humorous comments. There are detailed differences in the way solutions are set out but generally this involves separating out the strategy and calculations, and discussing any assumptions made. At the end of each chapter the material learned is summarised under the headings words and phrases and symbols, formulas and numbers.

The problems chosen tend to be very applied, with the consequence that an appreciation of American culture may be required to appreciate them completely. I was also slightly puzzled that within the intermediate steps of calculations the units were enclosed in square brackets.

Nevertheless this book is a useful addition to the repertoire of tools available to those who are both studying and teaching physical chemistry.