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Nuclear physics textbooks

  1. Jan 13, 2010 #1


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    I am soliciting opinions for a choice of textbook in a graduate nuclear physics class. I am woefully uneducated in such things. I know of Das and Ferbel (my own textbook when I was a student), which is really not appropriate for a graduate course I think; and Sam Wong's textbook, which is old and probably way too advanced. I noticed a book "Nuclear Physics in a Nutshell" by Carlos Bertulani, does anyone know if it is any good?

    The course is to cover nuclear structure (binding energy, shell model, etc), nuclear scattering theory (both low and high energy), and more modern topics like QGP, CGC, finite temperature, etc, time permitting.

    I welcome comments from students and teachers alike.
    Last edited: Jan 13, 2010
  2. jcsd
  3. Jan 13, 2010 #2
    I think this is a pretty good up-to-date book, if the level is appropriate for your class. It does not include QCD/CGC, however it does have a chapter on astrophysics.

    At a similar level, my own favorite is Walecka's "Theoretical nuclear and subnuclear physics", which does include some finite temperature hadrodynamics and a little sketch of QGP and transport, but nothing recent. Also, the style in Walecka's book is old fashioned compared to Bertulani's.

    I am unaware of a single book which does cover from introduction up to QGP/CGC at a graduate level. Maybe you'll write one once you're done with these class ? :smile:
  4. Jan 13, 2010 #3


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    I feel very out of date, because my PhD was in nuclear physics, but I had to google QGP and CGC :-)

    When I took my graduate class in nuclear physics (this was in 1987), the instructor declared that there were no good textbooks, so we made do with his lecture notes, some photocopies, and a smattering of books that we only used one or two chapters from. I hated the course, learned virtually nothing.

    Haven't seen the Bertulani book. It's too bad that amazon has the "look inside" deactivated.

    I would start by getting your students to the level where they can give intelligent answers to the kind of beginner's questions that are answered (and sometimes mis-answered) in this forum. What physical factors determine the average shape of the line of stability? What do we know and not know about the fundamental nuclear interactions? Why do nuclei have the sizes they do? Why can we give good theoretical accounts of the low-energy nuclear structure of some nuclei, but not others? What are the fundamental reasons why we use certain isotopes in nuclear power plants? This kind of thing can be done in 3 weeks, but it has to be done well.

    After that, I would suggest a "less is more" approach. Better to understand a few things deeply than a lot of things at a shallow level. It almost doesn't matter what topics you pick, as long as the students really learn them. The field is very different from, e.g., general relativity. In a graduate GR course, it's clear that there's a certain body of ideas and techniques that you need to learn. If there are one or two students in the class who are going to do GR research, they just need to do more of the side-tracks in MTW. Nuclear physics, on the other hand, is kind of a mish-mash. Low-energy nuclear structure (my field) has virtually nothing in common with relativistic heavy ion physics. Nuclear astrophysics is its own field. Weak-interaction physics, WIMP searches, etc. are their own field.
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