Mel's Picks

Vibrationdata.com 1. Vibration Site
Many thanks to Mike Walters for recommending Vibrationdata.com, home of vibration tutorials, newsletters, training, and software executables, among other goodies. While the site isn't free ($40 gets you a year's subscription), you can take a look at the monthly newsletters—which are free—to get a feel for the types of material available. If you need to stay up-to-date with all things vibration, here's another excellent resource to add to your list.

New Scientist 2. Science Podcast
It's no secret that I'm a huge fan of New Scientist and its wonderful Web site. Recently, the people behind New Scientist started putting out weekly podcasts covering the scientific news of the week and generally including an interview with a scientist or author. They are frequently thought provoking, often funny, and always interesting. (Another plus, you can either subscribe to the podcast's RSS feed or download an MP3 version onto your computer and listen with the media player of your choice.)

Pandora 3. Internet Radio
I just want to make it clear at the outset that I am in no way espousing slacking or other forms of wasting time. (No laughing.) That said, if you're stuck doing a repetitive task and you're at your computer and you're in the mood for some music, check out Pandora. This Internet radio station is an offshoot of the Music Genome Project, wherein the elements of a song—its melody, vocal harmony, lyrics, orchestration, instrumentation and the like—are used to characterize and analyze it on a song-by-song basis. Pandora differs from more traditional Internet radio stations in that, rather than playing songs by artists you know and like, it plays songs that have similar characteristics. You can train it by telling it if you like or dislike the various songs it plays and you can create customized "stations."

New to Bookshelves

Sensors and Actuators: Control System Instrumentation

Author: Clarence W. De Silva
Publisher: CRC Press
ISBN:1-4200-4483-4
Page count: 671

Sometimes when I'm reviewing books, it's the little things that leap out at me—little niceties of design that help make it just that bit more useful. One of the first things I noticed when I opened this book, for instance, was the list of units, conversions, and metric prefixes on the inside front and back covers. Sure, other books have the same kind of handy information but they don't always place it where it's this easy to access.

Now, on to the nitty gritty: this is a hardcover book designed as an introduction to control system instrumentation, with an emphasis on sensors, transducers, and actuators. Targeted for engineering students and practicing professionals, it consists of eight chapters covering, in order, Control, Instrumentation, and Design; Component Interconnection and Signal Conditioning; Performance Specification and Analysis; Analog Sensors and Transducers; Digital Transducers; Stepper Motors; Continuous-Drive Actuators; and Mechanical Transmission Components.

The scholarly yet clear text is interspersed with tables, black and white diagrams, and black and white photographs, case studies, and examples to help illustrate the concepts discussed. Problems are available at the end of each chapter and solutions to the numerical problems are at the back of the book. If you're trying to understand sensors as an integral part of a control system, this is a great resource.

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