Statistical Data Analysis, by Glen Cowan, Oxford University Press, ISBN 0 19 8501560, hardback £35, paperback £16.95, 1998.

Statistics ought to be the same for everyone, but physicists are a special breed of scientists and they want a book written by one of their own. There are some perfectly valid reasons for this; for example, a physicist expects statistical methods, like physical laws, to be invariant under general co-ordinate transformations, whereas neither the mathematician nor the biologist sees the need for any such requirement. However, when a physicist writes a book on statistics, he is by definition an amateur in the field, so there is the danger that he will get something wrong.

Glen Cowan is a particle physicist who seems to have got everything right. Results are stated clearly, without mathematical proof but with enough explanation to satisfy the physicist's need to understand not only how, but also why.

The research physicist will not find explicit solutions to all his problems here, but given the limitation imposed by the modest size of the volume (197 pages), the depth and breadth of coverage is quite impressive. As the title indicates, the book is intended for data analysis so there is, for example, no chapter on decision theory which would be needed for a complete presentation of Bayesian methods. There is, on the other hand, a very relevant chapter on unfolding, which rarely appears in statistics books because mathematicians classify it as "integral equations".

Those teaching an advanced undergraduate or graduate course in statistics for physicists will find this a good textbook as well. Do not be fooled by the fact that it does not have the "textbook look" ­ the exercises have been made available separately on a Web site.
REVIEW - Fred James

New titles from World Scientific

  • Perspectives on SupersymmetryPerspectives on SupersymmetryPerspectives on Supersymmetry, edited by Gordon L Kane, 9810235534, £58, August 1998. Gordon Kane has assembled 20 contributions which provide a useful guide to this topical subject. The experimental discovery of supersymmetry might be just round the corner, and this book could help.
  • Massive meutrinos in physics and astrophysics, by Rabindra N Mohapatra and Palash B Pal, 9810233736, £33, June 1998.

    Another subject currently in the spotlight is the possibility of neutrino oscillations. This is the second edition of a book which first appeared in 1990, and has therefore been suitably updated.
  • String theory in curved spacetimes, edited by N Sanchez, 9810234392, £66, July 1998.

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Books on quantum mechanics

  • Relativistic Quantum Mechanics, by Paul Strange, Cambridge, 0 521 56271 6 (hbk £80/$110), 0 521 56583 9 (pbk £30/$49.95). This attractive text emphasizes applications in condensed matter and atomic physics.
  • Quantum Mechanics ­ A Modern Development, by Leslie M Ballentine, World Scientific 9810227078, £41.

    The first edition of this book, published by Prentice-Hall in 1990, took into account more recent developments in the foundations of quantum mechanics, so that the treatment of practical aspects and interpretation became more coherent. The new edition includes material on path integrals, phase space, Bell's theorem etc.