Science for Everyone – Electrons and Crystals – Wolkenstein

The mission of a popular science writer is to reawaken in the 
reader his feelings of astonishment and curiosity.

The aim is not so much to supply the reader with knowledge about
 a subject, but to kindle his interest in it. If a reader, having 
read the book, reaches for another book on the same or a similar 
topic, then the popular science writer has fulfilled his task.

In this post we will be seeing another wonderful book in the Science for Everyone series. Electrons and Crystals by Theodore Wolkenstein helped me understand many physical concepts, in solid state physics.

The book is very interesting in many ways, for example, the book doesn’t have a Preface. You would say what’s great in that, but wait, there is a section Instead of  Preface: On the Laws of Popular Science !

Now something about the book:

This book tackles some of the problems of solid-state physics. We are going to discuss the behaviour of electrons in metals, semiconductors,
and dielectrics (insulators), and some of the properties of solids affected by this behaviour. We do not pretend this is an exhaustive review of the latest achievements in solid-state physics, but we hope we have described some of the fundamental concepts in the physics of metals, semiconductors, and dielectrics. The book is a supplement to appropriate parts of a physics course in secondary schools and is intended for someone who is finishing secondary school or who has finished it and remembers his school physics. We do not expect a reader to know anything and remembers his school physics. Moreover, sometimes a topic is tackled somewhat differently than it might be treated in school. The mathematics used in the book does not go beyond elementary algebra and the mathematical analysis that should be familiar to anyone finishing secondary school.

The back cover of the book says:

The increasingly important field of solid-state physics concerns the behavior of electrons in various crystals. Problems of solid-state physics, which include specific differences between metals and dielectrics and the remarkable properties of semiconductors, are particularly topical in todays `electronic’ society.

Electrons and Crystals by Dr. Theodore Wolkenstein covers fundamentals of solid state physics in an engaging way. Written in an easy, readable style, the book is intended as a supplement to textbook in secondary school physics courses, and the approach to certain topics in the volume is, therefore, unique. The material is presented in terms of models and required no special additional knowledge.

Suitable for general reader with a good command of elementary physics and mathematics, this book can also serve as a useful study guide for high-school students.

The book was translated from the Russian by Michael Burov and was edited by R. N. Hainsworth, first published by Mir in 1985.

Thanks Anish.Dot for this book.

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Updated: 15 January 2019

As the title suggests the section is an excellent piece of Do’s and Don’ts for a science popularizer.

A popular science writer must translate from the scientific language into everyday language. The popularization of science like the translation of verse into another language is an art in itself requiring special skills.

The Rules:

First, a popular science writer has to be abso lutely accurate in his presentation.

The second rule is that each new term or concept should be explained immediately, otherwise the text will become unclear for the reader, and the most terrible thing for a writer will happen: the reader will put his book aside.

An author (be he a professional writer or a scientist) should always ‘see’ his reader as no one can write into a void. The reader is always in front of him, and an author should be aware of what the reader knows and what he does not. This defines the language the author uses to communicate with the reader, and will define the boundary between what is clear and what is not.

The whole book (except perhaps certain points) has to be written a t the same level. This is the third (quite obvious) rule of popular science writing.

Many science writers think it necessary to insert some fictional digressions. Metaphors, analogies, associations are warranted and even desirable, but fictional excursions that are not related to the subject-matter do not make a text clear, they only dilute it , like a glass of water poured into a bowl of soup.

There is no harm in repeating the material several times in different parts of the book. Of course, if the light is thrown differently on the material, like theatre floodlights can colour the same stage differently, it is more deeply ingrained on the mind of the reader.

The art of the popular science writer is to turn the ‘uninteresting’ into the ‘interesting’.

A well-known French physicist, and one of the founders of quantum mechanics, Louis de Broglie, once said that ‘science is the daughter
of astonishment and curiosity’. The mission of a popular science writer is to reawaken in the reader his feelings of astonishment and curiosity.


Instead of Preface: On the Laws of Popular Science 5
Introduction 11
I.1. Which Electrons? 11
I.2. Which Crystals? 15
Chapter 1. Electrons in Metals 23
1.1.’Free’ and ‘Bound’ Electrons 23
1.2. ‘Electron Gas’ in Metals 30
1.3. The Successes and Failures of the Classical Theory of Metals 40
1.4. Electron Emission from Metals 47
1.5. Electrons in the Periodic Field. Conductors and Insulators 55
Chapter 2. Electrons in Semiconductors 64
2.1.’Order’ and ‘Disorder in Crystals  64
2.2. Free Electrons and Free Holes in Semiconductors 69
2.3. ‘Energy Bands’ and ‘Localized Levels’ 76
2.4. Semiconductor Conductivity 82
2.5. Electrons and Quanta 91
Chapter 3. Electrons on a Semiconductor Surface 99
3.1. Semiconductor Surface Phenomena 99
3.2. Adsorption on a Semiconductor Surface 104
3.3. The Hole o Electrons and Holes in Adsorption 110
3.4. Interaction of the Surface with the Bulk 115
3.5. Chemical Reactions on a Semiconductor Surface 120
Chapter 4. Electrons in Dielectrics 127
4.1. Dielectric Conductivity 127
4.2. Dielectric Breakdown 133
4.3. Crystal Colouration 141
4.4. Crystal Luminescence 147
4.5. Electrets 154
4.6. Dielectric Constant 158
4.7. Ferroelectrics and Piezoelectrics 166
Remark in Conclusion: Theory and Experiment 173

I first came to know about the Electrets from this book.  Also the last section Theory and Experiment reads like Philosophy of Science, though more like Logical Positivists.

To conclude this book, let us glance at the ground we have covered. We have presented a variety of experimental facts and patterns and interpreted some of these patterns theoretically. The union of theory and experiment is the wonderworking alloy of which the modern physics is constructed.
Experiment is the culture medium in which theory sprouts. The theory is like theatre floodlights for t h e experiment. A theory divorced from experiments is nonsense. An experiment without a theory is a blind alley. Experiment is the origin we always come back to, and it is the natural judge of the theory. The theorist always follows the experimenter while at the same time showing him the path. But we must not forget that nature is far more complicated
than any theory and it will never tire of challenging our perception.
Any physicist, like any researcher, is forever confronted by ‘how’ questions and ‘why’ questions. How does a physical phenomenon develop, and what are the laws it obeys? Why does it develop the way it does, and not in another way? To answer a ‘how’ question is to describe the phenomenon. To answer a ‘why’ question is to explain it. The first sort of questions is answered by the experimental physicist, and t h e theoretical physicist is called in t o answer the second one. In the course of time some of ‘how’ and ‘why’ questions are answered but then new ‘how’ and ‘why’ questions emerge. This is the cause of the continuous evolution of science, ‘the daughter of astonishment and curiosity’. I will be very glad if the feelings of astonishment and curiosity are aroused in you as you
read this book.

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13 Responses to Science for Everyone – Electrons and Crystals – Wolkenstein

  1. sanits591 says:

    Nice work D,

    I have uploaded a Russian magazine containing Physics and Mathematics problems. Unfortunately I do not know russian language. Can you help us in getting this in English?.

    I have several books like this, but due to my illiteracy, i am not able to get any meaning out of it.

    You are requested to help us. The link is

    Anticipatory thanks!


    • damitr says:

      Yes, I know about the Kvant (Quantum) magazine. The entire magazine with excellent articles have been put up online. I future I am thinking of devising an interface which would help us to do the translations, but thats for the future. It would be a good idea to archive these, if at all they might disappear. Along with this the entire Little Mathematics Library and Library of Kvant (Science for Everyone) is available, with innumerable other works in science and mathematics.


  2. sanits591 says:

    Thanks for replying back! There is a good translation tool, which i have come across for converting from Cyrillic to english, i.e. a software Systran6. But that too requires a hectic exercise.

    Need your support in this, as we can make this a valuable one for others too.


  3. damitr says:

    What I meant was a web based solution, which you can translate to _any_ language from _any_ language. The advantage would be that we can do this as a community project, where people can contribute to the translation, instead of just a few of us doing the job. Think of more it like a wiki-solution.


  4. Muthuvel says:

    What about google translation


  5. sanits591 says:

    I have some doubts with google translation, like:

    1. Google translation is not a workable solution with *.pdf, *.djvu, and image (*.jpg,*.bmp) files.
    2. With google translation, the formula or the mathematical equations get changed to some other fonts or formats.
    3. The images on the document (*.doc etc.) to be translated get wiped off after translation.
    4. The size of the document to be uploaded for translation has got certain limits in terms of kb.

    Probably these are the problems which needs to be resolved, and we need to look for some sort of solution which can overcome from these hiccups.



  6. damitr says:

    You are exactly correct about all these points; hence it cannot be used directly. But as for the main text is concerned we can use it for mass translations [not everyone knows Russian], and we as humans can do the fine tuning like formatting, diagrams and mathematical equations. So for this reason it cannot be completely automated, but at the same time cannot be completely manual.

    What I have in mind is following:

    Let us consider that we have a OCRed [in Russian] pdf document, of lets say 50 pages. Our tool should have at least 3 windows. The original pages from this document will be shown in one window. In the second window the plain text, harvested from google translator will be present. And in the third window we will have the actual translation, with human formatting and editing. And when one page is done for editing and translating it can be marked as done. Also this _must_ be a wiki-like platform where in better versions can be put, finer tuning. In this way a lot of people can contribute a little and as a whole we have the complete document translated. Another advantage of using wiki would be that we can generate output as pdf.

    Any inputs are welcome!


  7. André says:

    Hi Guys.

    Please repost link.



  8. Neeraj says: link is dead.


  9. Hitesh Sharma says:

    Hello Amit,
    Here is the English Translation of Selected Articles from the Russian Magazine “KVANT”.
    Published as “Quantum: The Magazine of Math and Science” by National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) from 1990 -2001.
    Archives available (free) for download as pdf’s


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