Brett Williams's Reviews > Optical Control of Molecular Dynamics

Optical Control of Molecular Dynamics by Stuart A. Rice
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Wonderful, edifying, and irritating. This book is about manipulating the personality of molecules. Molecules are curious things, calm and agitated, eternal and transient, dedicated to each other and more than happy to fool around. Assuming, that is, if you whisper to them just the right thing in just the right way. I’m reminded of those hours long ancient Egyptian incantations murmured during mummification of the Pharaoh. The slightest error in pronunciation or hand waving requires you start all over to do it again. No wonder it took months to pickle those guys.

Ditto molecules. With a first laser pulse you can couple the energy of light into one of a molecule’s many quantum steps up its ladder of excitement. These steps are usually very picky, but not always. Since everything in their world has a probability, it depends on how they feel at any given moment. They’re very moody these molecules. Capricious on the order of femtoseconds. That’s 10e-15 seconds, or a thousandth of a trillionth of a single second. Light at 186,000 miles per second (3e8m/s) travels just 1/100,000th of a centimeter in that time. Some mood swings happen in as small as attoseconds (10e-18s)! There are also many types of ladders to choose from: electrons that jump, vibrations that symmetric stretch, asymmetric stretch, or bend, and rotations that dance in circles. And they all communicate. They embrace, mix it up, collide, repel, and mutate into a countless array of states.

This book reveals what would have seemed like magic not long ago: the mastery of molecular behavior through tailoring of laser pulses. With the advent of femtosecond laser pulses—where just a few cycles of a light wave can be hooked into a molecule—those molecules can be directed. Pumped up over energy hills, then down the valley of choice for useful products. With properly tuned first and second pulses of specified length, shape, phase, polarization, and timing you can steer any couple of atoms that constitute a molecule into rewarding chemical reactants.

Shapiro and Brumer’s “Quantum Control of Molecular Processes,” give this text by Rice and Zhao the status of complement to their own. While Shapiro and Brumer may know what all those equation variables are, the reader doesn’t. The chronic failure to define variables, persistent equation reference errors, and plots with no labeled axes stole one star from this review. You can recover much from referenced publications, and I have. But unless you’ve got a university affiliation, that’s $40/paper, and you’ll need a bunch of them.
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Reading Progress

June 20, 2018 – Started Reading
June 20, 2018 – Shelved
June 20, 2018 – Shelved as: to-read
December 3, 2018 – Finished Reading

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