A New Method for Studying the Atom

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Science  21 May 1965:
Vol. 148, Issue 3673, pp. 1047-1053
DOI: 10.1126/science.148.3673.1047

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The new spectroscopy is in its infancy, and many fascinating aspects are yet to be studied. The properties of thin films may be studied by means of the excitation they induce in a given kind of beam. The production of ions with but a single electron offers a means of carefully mapping the nuclear charge distribution without the complications introduced by the normal complement of electrons. The study of high-purity, multiply ionized particles should make for better temperature determinations in hot plasmas. Possibly the data on lifetimes and modes of decay of excited energy levels may assist in the quantitative assignment of element abundances in the stars. One can even attempt to use the glowing beams as sources for absorption spectroscopy. The method seems to permit study of every stage of excitation for every stage of ionization for every element in the periodic table. Practical problems may interfere with so complete a study, but a major extension of our knowledge of atomic structure seems to be at hand.