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used bookstores and some links

PostPosted: Wed Aug 25, 2010 12:27 pm
by Doug Coulter
I've been lucky to find two decent used bookstores within driving range from here, and made some really decent scores at them from time to time. I find that for the basics, physics books (not necessarily textbooks) from the WWII era till maybe the 60's are a good find. It seems that back when the discoveries were new, there was more emphasis on sharing them in language you can understand, with details more often than not completely so left out of more modern literature I'm beginning to think the authors of the new stuff simply do not know themselves. The constant flow on the science blogs on the 'net of "new discoveries" that are documented in 50-60 year old books tends to reinforce that belief. It seems very few modern professional scientists actually know very much and a PhD is now just a testament to patience, not knowledge or the ability to do real things that mean much. Not to insult academia too much, there are of course exceptions to that -- those that really love their field tend to go out on their own and really learn it a lot better than they did while in school, and in fact, when I hire people that is one of the first things I ask them -- what do they do when not at work? Do they have a lab? Do they do cool things in it? If I get a blank stare, that's it for that candidate -- and the practice has paid off quite well in the businesses I've run.

Here's some books to look for:

Electrical Engineer's Handbook, by Fredrick Terman -- about the best there is, all the basics from zero up, little on semiconductors as it was printed at the end of WWII. The concepts are all still correct, and he has electron optics that no other source really has. A steal at any price.

On that same idea, here's a freebie for you, the RCA electron tube design book. They wrote this inhouse to bring the new guys up to speed on the technology they used. Some of it is useful for fusor builders too. After all, with scaling for charge/mass, one charged particle is a lot like another and tube were worked out quite thoroughly. I've often wondered why this kind of thing hasn't been more mined by physicists, especially amateur ones.
It's like tossing nearly 100 years of good work in the trash. That's just ignorant. Here is the classic paper on beam power tube design -- it covers space charge effects that can work for or against you which is a very serious effect in fusors -- more there than in any electron tube due to slower flight times of ions.

Old ARRL handbooks. There is a sweet spot from the times when most amateur radio operators built their own gear, and usually the basic electronics sections in the older ones is about the best beginner's tutorial out there anywhere. Collect a few from different periods so as to span the range of what can be done fairly easy by a true home experimenter, and again, the same concepts that apply there will help you out on things like signal generation and instrumentation. Here is one to get you started, not the best, but again, found online and presumably not in copyright. As with other book links here -- it's too big to get on a slow connection.

Fast Neutron Physics (two volumes, often expensive even used), and Progress in Fast Neutron physics. Hardly ever found cheap, but again, worth it for anyone doing fusors for the instrumentation and tables alone. These are selected papers by people who actually do this stuff, not the usual BS that is trying to impress some thesis advisor with bafflegab.
ISBN (original two volume set) Oops, doesn't exist -- these are Rice university publications.

Rev Sci Ins -- sometimes someone dies with a nice library, and of all the normally high priced journals, this one is closest to worth it, though if you're lucky you may need a truck to haul away a collection. Rent one if you need to and throw something else away to make space for it. Last I checked, a subscription with access to back issues for this taxpayer funded research cost an amateur about 60 grand -- yes, that's with the discounts for small outfits, but in a bundle that would make most cable TV outfits green with envy. The only other way to get this stuff is to know some college students who can download it from their libraries and steal you a copy of this or that, piecemeal. But they often won't follow their noses the way you might follow yours...which results in getting some "interesting papers" and can be good in its own way.

Anything by Walter H Kohl on vacuum tubes, materials. The newest one is titled Handbook of Materials and Techniques for Vacuum devices, which we bought new at a very high price, and it was worth it anyway, but he wrote a total of three versions, and they are all good. Probably the most important book you can own if you make fusors and want to know how the experts in vacuum devices really did things, full of practical hands-on details on just about every topic related to that. Rarely, you'll find a scanned version out there on the web of one of the older more specialized versions, and it's worth the download, maybe even the wear and tear on a printer. Again, this guy was there and did that, and tells all about that stuff you'd miss, unexpected consequences, what really works every time, all the good stuff. Here is a link to an older version of his stuff that I think is not copyright -- warning, its a lotta megabytes. I also mention this in materials with info on how to buy the new version. It's really worth it.

John Strong's Procedures in Experimental Physics -- a classic, and what was hard then is easy now, but this gets to the nitty gritty of how it's done and really isn't obsolete at all. I learned a lot by simply going through it and duplicating his results on the things I found interesting. You can get this one from Lindsay publications, the lost technology series, new. It's not expensive, and that outfit deserves to get money for what they are doing so we don't lose the cool older stuff.

Instrumentation in High Energy Physics edited by Fabio Sauli -- bought new here (at extreme price) but there ought to be some used out there too. Higher energy than fusor types, but again, a good survey with concepts on detector designs of all kinds -- you just have to read it knowing that a lot of it cuts off at energies higher than the max a fusor operator will be seeing. ISBN: 981-02-1473-1

If you ever wanted to really understand the math behind that little symbol physicists toss around when talking about wave equations (which I suspect most don't understand themselves), get
Practical Quantum Mechanics, by S. Flugge -- that little symbol means about 20 pages of dense equations I don't think are free of flaws....nuff said, but it's nice to know the dirty undersides of things sometimes. Got this in the used store. ISBN: 3-540-07050-8, or 0-387-07050-8 Why there are two on this book I don't have a clue.

Building Scientific Apparatus by Moore, Davis, Coplan is a good intro to a lot of topics, despite the execreble section on electronics -- that part is often wrong and out of date at the time of publishing, but the other half is good. Kind of the next step after the John Strong book. ISBN 0-8133-4006-3

Here's a link to some documents I've found useful, mainly about gas tubes and their uses. A fusor has a lot in common... Chapter 8 of the Phillips book describes a borehole neutron generator in enough detail to make one -- with impressive specs, as well as a gas triode I laughed about when about 6 months ago it was "invented" at MIT by someone evidently ignorant of history. As seems to be the case with most outfits -- science has become far too specialized, resulting in a lot of duplicated effort, and no one bothers with the old stuff (to their peril). MIT probably even patented their version....and our patent office is broken by design re prior art (depends on the submitter to find it, which they have zero incentive to do), so it probably went through.

Last for now, but probably very far from least, Introductory Nuclear Physics by DAvid Halliday for an Asian publishing division of WileyTuttle is a must have indeed. Not only does he give both the simple math and in real units you can use, but real examples you can check your math against. This guy worked in an earlier time (before quarks etc) but his predictions were prescient indeed -- impressive. I like this sort of thing where "we did this, and then we saw that" without the crap you so often see in modern work, which tends to say "we did an experiment, but the details would bore you, and saw some data, which we are not revealing in raw form, because it's to noisy to mean anything, and we say it means this -- with little or no justification or even math that you can use to make useful predictions.
This is the other extreme -- good stuff.

More later -- you all chime in now and give us your goodies on this topic. We have to stand on some giant shoulders to be good at what we do -- which ones do you stand on?

Re: used bookstores and some links

PostPosted: Fri Aug 27, 2010 2:34 am
by johnf
Doug et al

Very old semiconductor databooks are also a must have ie old GEC SCR etc type books
they tend to have all the formulae for heatsinks ie not only radiation but conduction and (very rare) convection including chimney effect.
The early solid state days especially when germanium was prevalent all of this was extremely important.

Unfortuneatly today any modern manuscript tends to hide the obvious and even worse leaves important parts to superscipt numbers that relate to references at the end of the chapter that are only available through the pay per view a#$holes that tend to hog any google search for the first 3 screen fulls of search results
sometimes you are lucky to find the original institution that has it available on their web site--albeit after many pages of the former

dont get me started --Grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr!!!!

Re: used bookstores and some links

PostPosted: Fri Aug 27, 2010 7:54 am
by Doug Coulter
I think that topic has enough of us bent we could start a flame thread about just that should we want to -- don't get me started either :evil: . I agree, I'm lucky to have collected some really good old books there myself, though they were "new" at the time I got them as part of the engineering practice. I particularly like the old Motorola MECL design handbook, which mentions all the issues of controlling interconnect impedance and time skews in some detail for common PCB materials. They put out an RF book as well, and though the semiconductors are now obsolete, the teaching of concepts isn't. I backed into Smith chart reading by knowing what was going on first (I do things backwards often enough) then seeing the chart, which for me, finally made it clear how the charts work. The National Semiconductor Application books taught me quite a lot -- including all the errors in many of the schematics, kind of a treasure hunt. LTC also put out some really nice stuff. And there's always the old TI TTL data books. I sometimes long for the time when a fairly small bookshelf -- a mere 8 or so feet, described the world of what you had to design with, now it's so out of control (heft a digikey or mouser catalog) and so unsure that a part will be made next year if it doesn't turn out to move volume, it's a zoo out there for anyone designing things where the design is supposed to have a long useful life.

Of course, not everyone got this right, and I made my first half million as a consultant redesigning product for a nice outfit named Valcom so they could continue to sell their line of products in paging and telephony. They are one of the last real manufacturers of electronics in this country, a very impressive, well run robotic factory that is truly awesome -- and huge -- acres of robots and smiling people, because they are treated right by the owner. Wish it were a publicly traded outfit, I'd buy their stock, but I've also noticed that most of the best run businesses I deal with aren't public. Not having to answer to shareholders means that at least the nice guys can be nice to their people.

Similar to the case of Microsoft's flaws getting me paid to fix them for this and that customer. You don't know whether to thank these guys or call them idiots in such a case -- after all, if not for their "issues", I'd not have the bucks now :) It was sure fun being in such demand that I haven't had to work for "a boss" for a number of decades, and got to bring a few other good engineers along for the ride. Our little skunk works was one of the most fun experiences I've ever had -- and we all miss it now.

So, I'm beginning to realize that this is an epidemic of the blind leading the blind when it comes to teaching documents -- the more recent they are, the less good they are, in general.
I have a college chemistry textbook that confidently states that a mechanical vacuum pump is an oil aspirator....just like the water aspirator the authors were familiar with...gollee, last time I took one apart that's not what I saw in there. And that's a big part of why this forum was created -- to preserve the knowledge of those who actually know this stuff, because they DO it.

I would add that though it's worse now, any engineer reading data sheets quickly learns about "specsmanship" and to look for the things they don't mention as that's going to be the weak spot of that device. If noise isn't mentioned, count on it being noisy, ditto drift, power efficiency, linearity, common mode range, or any other spec you'd care to name.

Re: used bookstores and some links

PostPosted: Fri Aug 27, 2010 9:06 am
by Bill Fain
Hi, John summed it up on that subscript thing on papers. When I search Google for stuff, I tend to use the following modifier : . This gets me past a lot of that pay per view junk. There is an open source journal place somewhere; maybe Italy, that provides free journals (journals that are free, not brand name Ieee stuff etc.).
For books I use Google book search and then buy them usually from Alibris. Usually the more scientifically esoteric they are, the higher the price. Old books are a profit center for a lot of folks. Price "The Handbook of Ion Sources" sometime. I almost got it the other day for less than three bills, but got outbid at the last moment. -bill

Re: used bookstores and some links

PostPosted: Thu Sep 02, 2010 2:50 am
by Jerry
I live near one of the greatest used bookstores in the world, Powells Books. They also have a separate store devoted to technical books. I have picked up some nice books on thin films there. Prices vary on condition but are usually pretty decent. Tektronix used to have a excellent library in its heyday, a lot of the book have ended up there. Thats were a couple of mine ended up, check out cards and all.

Re: used bookstores and some links-- really good one

PostPosted: Sat Sep 11, 2010 7:59 pm
by Doug Coulter
I just rediscovered this. I'd gotten one of the pages in a google search long back (it's in the online library) but this is the master page.

Might be the the best primer on basic (and not so basic) physics I've ever encountered, which is not to say it's simple -- it's not, it's very information-dense.

Which to me means -- no chaff, all wheat. Very worth checking out. Good ordering of concepts so you can run through and will know more at the end than many who think they know physics, without needed anything much in the way of supplemental material.

Re: used bookstores and some links

PostPosted: Wed Jan 25, 2012 6:58 am
by Roberto Ferrari
Nice to learn you enjoy books!
Not being a fundamentalist, I agree with Doug' views about academics today.
I wish to mention a really exciting book:

Espe, Werner
Materials of High Vacuum Technology (Three vols.)
Originally wrote in German, there is an out of print English version.

Born in the vacuum tube era, the author was active part of that industry. The volumes are full of info!!!!!