Spin Dynamics: Basics of Nuclear Magnetic Resonance

For those studying biomolecules with NMR, the unofficial bible is of course the maroon colored Cavanagh book. Though this is an excellent book, it isn’t the best suited book for beginners. This is where Levitt’s book comes in: this is by far the kindest introduction to NMR that I have seen, with heavy emphasis on understanding the concepts first and the formalism later. The book is full of useful diagrams, detailed analogies, and exercises for the reader where other books only show equations. So borrows someone’s Cavanagh first, and if you get stuck after 20 pages then order yourself a copy of Levitt and you won’t be disappointed. If you already have studied NMR and are looking at how to apply it to proteins, then Cavanagh should suit you fine.

This book could simply be stated as an excellent attempt to introduce the foundations of bench-top NMR. It is a very good primer on all theoretical aspects that are essential to an understanding of the subject.
It offers a methodical, step-by-step approach. Useful tools and consistent terminology are the most attracting feature of this volume. It is well-illustrated; and controversial issues are highlighted in the “Notes” sections at the end of each chapter. It has illustrative problems at the end of each chapter, with solutions provided at the end.
Interestingly, the appendix covers many important aspects that are needed at a more advanced stage. Useful tools for the understanding of NMR are developed at appropriate stages. These include: the box notation for coherences, populations, density matrices and transitions; the origin of NMR spectra from individual coherence terms in the density matrix; origin of 2-D NMR signals as well as many important concepts in Fourier Transform NMR are described. The origins of relaxation enjoy a very readable and simplistic approach in the last chapter.
Whenever simplistic approximations are used, the author never claims of completeness or rigour. Distinction is made between terms that are physically correct and terms that are sometimes misleading, but enjoy widespread use in the NMR spectroscopy convention. The essential tools in quantum mechanics are outlined, product operator descriptions are used frequently and repetitively, that enhances understanding and provides more practice. Pictorial representations have been given where possible, a view-point beginners like myself find very useful.
One drawback, is a careful side-lining of the very important technique of using pulse-field gradients, although their cousin technique, named pulse-cycles is quite elaborately explained. I hope, the next issue of the book would also cover up this important technique.


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