Electron Theory texts

Some books I’ve been reading to help me in my coursework:

* “Quantum Mechanics Demystified”:amazon. High ranking on amazon but really terrible as an introduction. Very little conceptual discussion, just lots of math wanking. Maybe useful as a reference.
* “Nonclassical physics”:amazon by Harris. Fine text. Good mix of concept and math. Very good at explaining relevancy of concepts
* “Electronic properties of materials”:amazon by Hummel. Good, a little stilted — I first guessed it was written in the 40s. Also terse, but some very helpful explanations of lasers, of electrons in crystals, etc.

This quarter's educational adventure

Materials Science 565 — Electron Theory of Materials. Way more quantum theory than I ever knew. Definitely getting my educational butt kicked. First homework question as an example:

bq. You were asked to design a composite material consisting of small Ag metal particles embedded into a dielectric media for laser applications. If the size of metal particles is small, electrons in the metal particles are confined as the potential barrier at the surface of the particles may be regarded as infinite. During the course of investigation, you were able to alter the shape of the metal particles into “cube” or “sphere”. You were then wondering how the shape of the particles influences on the distribution of energy levels and on the wavelength of the light at which the material would lase. You would like to answer the following questions…

So some links on lasers that seem helpful in various ways:

* Encyclopedia of Laser Physics and Technology — this particular article has some simple info on laser efficiency
* Wikipedia laser diode article is useful
* Nice article on wtec.org discussing lightly “density of state” considerations

The educational beatings continue

As I previously mentioned I’ve been taking a graduate course in MEMS design — A Little Ludwig Goes A Long Way: The ass-kicking began this weekend in my re-education process — and the analytics have been the toughest thing to recover after 20+ years out of school.

Midterm yesterday. Analytical problems on comb drives (involves mechanical and capacitive behaviour analysis), on MUMPS structures, etc. I can take some solace in the fact that I had an idea how to approach every problem, I got an answer down, and the youngsters didn’t get done dramatically before me — only 1-2 people out of 50 got done early. I know I blew 1 question at least tho on further thinking.

Fortunately no final in the class, just a team project which I am pretty excited about — good team with a set of experienced people, with expertises spanning mechanical and electrical domains.

Also looking at winter courses — Nanophotonics (EE 539c) or Electronic and Optical Structures of Engineering Materiials (MSE 565). The MSE course is a little more fundamental and probably my first choice.

The ass-kicking began this weekend in my re-education process

going back to college in your 40s is interesting. On the plus side, I am way more equipped to deal with ambiguity, and I generally don’t stress about the course.

On the minus side, my analytical skills have atrophied away thanks to 20 years of using the autosum button in excel and its ilk. So dealing with a message like the following is pretty daunting — I have to recover college calculus and physics in days.

…We’ll then move on to discuss the radioisotope powered cantilever paper. It’ll be good if you try to derive all equations in the paper and identify critical issues…

Random walk thru MEMS investment activity

In service of the course I am taking at UW, I did a random walk thru MEMs investments this morning. Not exhaustive, just work in process notes for me.


* BA Venture Partners
* Ardesta — “leading the small tech revolution”
* Mobius


* IMT — a foundry
* Xponent — surface mount photonics
* XCom — MEMS rf components
* Translume — advanced glass micromachining
* Sensicore — water quality testing
* Akustica — single chip microphone


* MEMSnet — portal

Chemistry Instruction

As I take the intro to MEMS course at UW, I am also reviewing basic undergrad chemistry because it has been a billion years since I’ve done so. I’m using Amazon.com: Principles of Modern Chemistry: Books: David W. Oxtoby,H. Pat Gillis which seems to be a fine book, but gosh do I think we teach chemistry bass-ackwords. I just don’t see the value, in 2006, of teaching first the classical bonding models and then much later reexamining from a quantum perspective. The classical models just seem brain-damaging to me. Learning things like “The formal charge on an atom in a Lewis diagram is simple to calculate…it would have a postive charge equal to its group number…from this positive charge, subtract the number of lone-pair valence electrons…and then subtract one half of the number of bonding electrons…” is just painful, it just seems like black magic alchemy when it isn’t founded on a deeper understanding of the underlying behaviour. Oh well.