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Mel's Picks

May 1, 2007 By: Melanie Martella, Sensors Sensors

1. Part Number Search

I've been a fan of GlobalSpec for a long time. This specialized search engine, designed by engineers for engineers, just got better. The newest addition is called Part Number Search and, as the name suggests, it allows you to search for a part number, perhaps to find a replacement or to locate an alternative supply. To access this capability, click on Advanced Search to the right of the Search box and a box will pop up. Enter your search term, click on Part Number Search, and hit return. Isn't that easy?

HyperPhysics Concepts
2. Physics Tutorial

Georgia State University maintains an excellent Web site called HyperPhysics Concepts. Here you'll find information on mechanics, electricity and magnetism, relativity, sight and vision, heat and thermodynamics, and relativity and quantum physics (this is not a complete list). What's most interesting is how the material is arranged. Rather than imposing a hierarchy, it uses concept maps of subtopics. For example, clicking on the Mechanics bubble will take you to a concept map of topics such as physical units, equilibrium, torque, Newton's laws, and so on. While the site was originally developed to help high school Physics teachers, it's a handy place to go to brush up on basics.

TED conference
3. Videos of Smart People Talking

So, every year, very smart people from the world of technology, entertainment, and design gather to share their ideas at the TED conference. While TED has been going since 1984, it's only in the last year or so that the videos of the talks have been made available online. If you have a spare moment or seven, I urge you to take the time to watch some of these talks. You'll hear from technologists, visionaries, educators, artists, and scientists on a myriad of topics. If life seems particularly beige and unexciting, then listen to some of the TED prizewinners, as they talk of their plans to change the world for the better.

New to Bookshelves

Understanding New Developments in Data Acquisition, Measurement, and Control: A Practical Guide to High Performance Test and Measurement

Publisher: Keithley Instruments Inc.

Page count: 231

This softcover book is divided into nine sections and three appendices, and is intended to help you understand the elements of high-performance DA, control, and measurement equipment. Section 1 is a DA and measurement overview, listing some basic types of relevant hardware. Section 2 discusses computer buses, protocols, and hardware; Section 3 is a software overview.

Once you're familiar with these basics, you can move on to the next four sections: basic component theory, including passive components, filters, and digital I/O; basic analog and digital I/O; temperature measurement and the different types of sensors used; and strain measurement, including discussion of strain gauges, error sources, signal conditioning, and other types of sensors. Section 8 covers related topics of interest, such as current measurements and connection theory, while Section 9 includes application examples.

Appendix A includes selection guides for DA equipment, Appendix B is the glossary, and Appendix C lists safety considerations.

This book is not intended to be exhaustive but it is designed to be useful. The text is clear, and there are many figures to help illustrate the concepts discussed. At the very least you can use it to identify areas for more in-depth study.

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