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Book Review

Wave Physics: Oscillations, Solitons, Chaos, 3rd ed.
Stephen Nettel
Springer-Verlag, Berlin, Heidelberg, New York, 2003 289 pp.
ISBN 3-540-44314-2

Reviewed by Andrew Sheppard

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Wave Physics coverIn its third edition, Wave Physics: Oscillations, Solitons, Chaos by Stephen Nettel is a mature textbook. Well laid out and well presented, the book covers its subject in a concise and understandable way. Its intended audience of second-year undergraduates in physics and engineering, particularly those who go on to study electromagnetic theory and quantum mechanics, will find it highly useful. It can also be recommended for a wider readership—anyone who wants a solid understanding of basic classical and quantum wave behavior or who wishes to gain a more general understanding of solitons and chaos.

As to be expected from a textbook in its third edition, there are few, if any, rough edges or wrinkles, so what remains is a solid text that covers its subject matter well in eight short chapters. Problems (more than 100 in all) and further reading at the end of each chapter serve to reinforce and complement what the reader has learned. The Hints for Solution section helps without detracting from the challenge of the problems. It would have been better, however, had the author labeled the problems on a graduated scale from easy to hard, particularly highlighting those problems on a par with examinationtype questions for second-year undergraduates. Such labeling would better serve the book’s intended audience.

Particularly practical is the introduction to the Green’s function early in the book (in the second chapter) and its subsequent use throughout. This served to join wave mechanics with classical wave physics in an intuitive and clear way. As a result, the chapter on wave mechanics flows smoothly from, and interfaces nicely with, the earlier chapters on classical wave physics. Also of particular note are the final chapters on solitons and chaos. Both are topics about which any physicist or engineer should have at least a passing understanding, and these chapters serve well in this respect. Indeed, they may well whet the reader’s appetite for more and deeper study of these phenomena.

Andrew Sheppard is a principal at Prescient Financial Systems, working on financial derivatives and quantitative finance. He holds a B.Sc. (Hons) in astrophysics, an M.Sc. in astronomy, and an M.B.A.

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