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Physical chemistry stands at the intersection of the power and generality of classical and quantum physics with the minute molecular complexity of chemistry and biology. Any molecular process that can be envisioned as a flow from a higher energy state to a lower state is subject to analysis by the methods of classical thermodynamics. Chemical thermodynamics tells us where a process is going.
Chemical kinetics tells us how long it will take to get there. Evidence for and application of many of the most subtle and abstract principles of quantum mechanics are to be found in the physical interpretation of chemical phenomena. The vast expansion of spectroscopy from line spectra of atoms well known in the nineteenth century to the magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) of today’s diagnostic procedures is a result of our gradually enhanced understanding of the quantum mechanical interactions of energy with simple atomic or complex molecular systems. Mathematical methods developed in the domain of physical chemistry can be successfully applied to very different phenomena. In the study of seemingly unrelated phenomena, we are astonished to find that electrical potential across a capacitor, the rate of isomerization of cyclopentene, and the growth of marine larvae either as individuals or as populations have been successfully modeled by the same first-order differential equation.
Many people in diverse fields use physical chemistry but do not have the opportunity to take a rigorous three-semester course or to master one of the several ∼1000-page texts in this large and diverse field. Concise Physical Chemistry is intended to meet (a) the needs of professionals in fields other than physical chemistry who need to be able to master or review a limited portion of physical chemistry or (b) the need of instructors who require a manageable text for teaching a one-semester course in the essentials of the subject.
The present text is not, however, a diluted form of physical chemistry. Topics are treated as brief, self-contained units, graded in difficulty from a reintroduction to some of the concepts of general chemistry in the first few chapters to research-level computer applications in the later chapters. I wish to acknowledge my obligations to Anita Lekhwani and Rebekah Amos of John Wiley and Sons, Inc. and to Tony Li of Scientific Computing, Long Island University. I also thank the National Center for Supercomputing Applications and the National Science Foundation for generous allocations of computer time, and the H. R. Whiteley Foundation of the University of Washington for summer research fellowships during which part of this book was written. Finally, though many people have helped me in my attempts to better appreciate the beauty of this vast and variegated subject, this book is dedicated to the memory of my first teacher of physical chemistry, Walter Kauzmann.