x-ray physics books


book review score+5

Soft X-Rays and Extreme Ultraviolet Radiation: Principles and Applications
by David Attwood
reviewed by T.J. Nelson

What better way to spend your Christmas vacation than by reading a textbook on x-ray physics? Chipmunks roasting on an open fire ... thermal gradients nipping at your nose ... deriving the Maxwell-Klimontovich equations ... oh, what fun. But there are several outstanding books on x-ray physics to choose from. Which is best?

Soft X-Rays and Extreme Ultraviolet Radiation: Principles and Applications is divided into practical applications. There are chapters on propagation, synchrotron radiation, and physics of hot dense plasmas, which are of interest to astrophysicists. Chapters on multilayer interference coatings, EUV and x-ray lithography, and x-ray lasers are of interest to people in industry. And the chapter on soft x-ray microscopy will be interesting to those in the life sciences. There is a big appendix on atomic scattering factors and photoionization cross-sections, and lots of references, diagrams, and grayscale photographs. So it's comprehensive, which means a typical reader will fall asleep in one chapter and be fascinated by another. There is actually relatively little about UV except in the chapter on lasers. The coverage of hot dense plasmas is useful here, since EUV and x-ray lasers rely on highly ionized plasma.

Each section starts out with a conceptual description followed by a more mathematical treatment. The math is pretty standard—it mostly deals with calculating screening distances and suchlike. The chapter on plasma has a little MHD, and a little relativity is needed for synchrotron radiation, since undulators use relativistic electrons. It teaches just enough plasma physics to get by, so astrophysicists and fusion researchers will need to go elsewhere for a more specialized treatment.

Cambridge University Press reprinted this from the 1999 original. Some of the technology is dated, and the color images are missing, but the principles are still valid.

dec 23, 2014

book review score+5

Elements of Modern X-ray Physics
by Jens Als-Nielsen and Des McMorrow
reviewed by T.J. Nelson

Elements of Modern X-ray Physics by Als-Nielsen and McMorrow is beautifully printed on high quality paper. Almost every graph and diagram is in color. It starts out the same as Soft X-Rays, with propagation, undulators, and x-ray optics, but its principal focus is on diffraction and scattering.

The treatment is also more mathematical, and the emphasis on diffraction means it will be of interest to crystallographers, geologists, and biochemists. It covers things like the phase problem, EXAFS, and x-ray dichroism, and of course since its focus is x-ray crystallography, you'll get lattices up the wazoo (by which I mean you'll get a lot of them in the two big chapters on kinematical diffraction). The appendix has several Matlab programs and some refreshers on FFTs, absorption cross sections, and similar topics.

So these two books are complementary. As for which is better, if you're an astrophysicist or chip designer you need the first one. If you're a protein guy, you need the second. If you work with x-rays for a living you probably already have both.

Disclaimer: I have not finished reading this one.

dec 23, 2014