7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
Quantity instead of quality., 23 Sept. 2010
This review is from: Atkins' Physical Chemistry (Paperback)
I have always been puzzled by the popularity of Atkins' Physical Chemistry. It is not a book that one can use to learn something properly. An enormous number of topics is discussed, but the relations between them aren't. There are paragraphs called Justifications that are supposed to indicate links, but they are much to superficial to be useful. The authors have simply tried to cram too much in too few pages. As a consequence the book promotes rote learning and not understanding. This means that students who have used this book are not capable of any useful reasoning in the field of physical chemistry.
There is also the problem of fundamental errors. This is particularly bad in the chapters using quantum theory (chapters 7 to 11). Here are some of the worse ones that I found.  The wavefunctions of the Schrödinger equations are not the only wavefunctions that can occur as claimed on page 260. In fact the book even shows other wavefunctions.  Energy is not always quantized as is suggested in chapter 7. Again the book is inconsistent. It shows examples were the energy varies continuously.  The conditions on the wavefunction on page 266 are neither all relevant for quantization, nor sufficient.  The list on page 279 of the "postulates" of quantum mechanics is far from complete, and the Heisenberg uncertainty relation is not a postulate.  Covalent and ionic bonds are not treated differently in quantum chemistry (page 371).  Section 10.3 (page 379) tries to explain chemical bonds in terms of an accumulation of charge between the nuclei. In the example the normalization of the wavefunction is ignored however. Including it shows that the opposite of accumulation occurs. The electron density in the middle between the nuclei decreases by a factor 1+S with respect to the superposition of the atomic charges.  On page 382 the destabilization of an antibonding orbital is explain using repulsion between nuclei. The repulsion between nuclei however is not even in the electronic Schrödinger equation so it is simply impossible for it to affect the energy of any orbital.  The variation principle is not the basis for all electronic structure calculations (see page 390). Perturbation theory forms another approach.  Core electrons do not have similar energy (page 393). On the contrary, their energies vary widely. It is the valence electrons that have similar energies.  The whole discussion of group theory in chapter 11 is appalling. The definition of the group is incomplete as the associative property is missing. The definition of a class is completely wrong. There are various points groups (e.g. C2v) with operations of the same type that belong to different classes. (Any Abelian group is a counterexample.) The problem is that the authors want to explain what a class is without introducing similarity transformations.  The discussion of the vanishing of the integral only holds if the integrand is symmetry adapted (page 433). In general this is not the case, and the discussion is then wrong. This is shown later, but then the damage has been done.
So if you really want to learn one of the topics discussed in the book, then do not buy this book. I honestly do not know who might really benefit from it.
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Atkins' Physical Chemistry 0199543372
Peter Atkins
OUP Oxford
Atkins' Physical Chemistry
Welcome
Quantity instead of quality.
I have always been puzzled by the popularity of Atkins' Physical Chemistry. It is not a book that one can use to learn something properly. An enormous number of topics is discussed, but the relations between them aren't. There are paragraphs called Justifications that are supposed to indicate links, but they are much to superficial to be useful. The authors have simply tried to cram too much in too few pages. As a consequence the book promotes rote learning and not understanding. This means that students who have used this book are not capable of any useful reasoning in the field of physical chemistry.
There is also the problem of fundamental errors. This is particularly bad in the chapters using quantum theory (chapters 7 to 11). Here are some of the worse ones that I found.  The wavefunctions of the Schrödinger equations are not the only wavefunctions that can occur as claimed on page 260. In fact the book even shows other wavefunctions.  Energy is not always quantized as is suggested in chapter 7. Again the book is inconsistent. It shows examples were the energy varies continuously.  The conditions on the wavefunction on page 266 are neither all relevant for quantization, nor sufficient.  The list on page 279 of the "postulates" of quantum mechanics is far from complete, and the Heisenberg uncertainty relation is not a postulate.  Covalent and ionic bonds are not treated differently in quantum chemistry (page 371).  Section 10.3 (page 379) tries to explain chemical bonds in terms of an accumulation of charge between the nuclei. In the example the normalization of the wavefunction is ignored however. Including it shows that the opposite of accumulation occurs. The electron density in the middle between the nuclei decreases by a factor 1+S with respect to the superposition of the atomic charges.  On page 382 the destabilization of an antibonding orbital is explain using repulsion between nuclei. The repulsion between nuclei however is not even in the electronic Schrödinger equation so it is simply impossible for it to affect the energy of any orbital.  The variation principle is not the basis for all electronic structure calculations (see page 390). Perturbation theory forms another approach.  Core electrons do not have similar energy (page 393). On the contrary, their energies vary widely. It is the valence electrons that have similar energies.  The whole discussion of group theory in chapter 11 is appalling. The definition of the group is incomplete as the associative property is missing. The definition of a class is completely wrong. There are various points groups (e.g. C2v) with operations of the same type that belong to different classes. (Any Abelian group is a counterexample.) The problem is that the authors want to explain what a class is without introducing similarity transformations.  The discussion of the vanishing of the integral only holds if the integrand is symmetry adapted (page 433). In general this is not the case, and the discussion is then wrong. This is shown later, but then the damage has been done.
So if you really want to learn one of the topics discussed in the book, then do not buy this book. I honestly do not know who might really benefit from it.
A. P. J. Jansen
23 Sept. 2010
 Overall: 5

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Location: Netherlands
Top Reviewer Ranking: 124,297
