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Building Inclusive STEM Collections: Books by BIPOC Authors (October 2022): Physics & Engineering

By Hilary Dorsch Wong, Katherine A. Hicks, and David Kornreich

Physics & Engineering

Two books included here are intended as introductory guides. Julius Yellowhair’s Field Guide to Solar Optics is an excellent, clear, and readable review of solar energy and optics at the advanced undergraduate level, covering the physics of solar radiation at Earth elevations, solar astronomy explaining the position and motion of the sun throughout the year, energy transfer in atmospheres, solar telescopes, lenses, mirrors, and solar energy system engineering. Applications concentrate on systems for collecting and using solar energy at home and at larger scales. This would be an excellent reference and guide for college students in astronomy or alternative energy programs, or for any scientist considering studying the field for the first time. Another introduction, Fundamentals of Aerospace Engineering (Beginner’s Guide), by Ali Baghchehsara, Francisco López, Jens Strahmann, and Edward Gibson, is written for a high school audience.6 So many young students want to build spaceships, but there are no spaceship building classes in school! This handbook introduces aerospace design and engineering principles to the student who is curious about the physics of flight and space flight. From the four fundamental forces of lift, weight, thrust, and drag the book proceeds to the history of the first Wright flyers and the Zeppelin airships and extends to introducing control principles of modern spacecraft. The text makes principles of suborbital flight mechanics understandable for a tenth grader and explains how readers can become engineers or even astronauts. This book can inspire young people to study and get involved in space flight.

Our project identified two more advanced physics books addressing plasma. Alongside his 1600 logged hours in space aboard the Space Shuttle and International Space Station, Franklin Chang-Diaz has been engaged in designing an alternative means of spacecraft propulsion. In To Mars and Beyond, Fast! he explains the VASIMR® plasma propulsion engine, offering a detailed history and description of the engine, adding the personal touch of a person who has dedicated his life to this research. Although the text reads at times as if it is addressing a funding agency, it would likely appeal to scientists and engineers interested in entering this field as it includes technical details of the engine’s design, history, and tests. Meanwhile, David Burgess and Manfred Scholer address space plasmas directly in Collisionless Shocks in Space Plasmas. They offer a thorough, technical review of current knowledge on the propagation of disturbances in astrophysical media, with particular emphasis on the solar system, including planetary bow shocks and interplanetary shocks caused by changes in the solar wind source. Data include recent spacecraft observations of the heliosphere. The book will be of great interest to astrophysicists who study these phenomena, but also should be useful to astronomers studying shocks in the interstellar medium. The text covers observational data and theoretical modeling, beginning with introductory theoretical material on magnetohydrodynamics, then moving on to the specific structures of shocks under a variety of conditions. Subsequent chapters cover accelerations of particles in shocks and their observational effects. At each step, current observations, models, and theory are discussed, with specific examples including the solar wind and atmosphere. The book includes an appendix full of useful techniques for programming one’s own computational models.

Turning finally to engineering topics, our project identified two books coedited and coauthored by David Bradley that consider acoustical design in various public spaces. Worship Space Acoustics, co-edited by Bradley with Erica Ryherd and Lauren Ronsse, is a beautifully illustrated oversize compilation on the design of religious acoustical spaces. The book features full-color photographs, architectural drawings, and textual descriptions of sixty-seven modern churches, synagogues, mosques, and cathedrals constructed between 1985 and 2015. Six essays by leaders in acoustical design are included. While most of the text is readable for a general audience, contributors also include quantitative acoustical data from which professional architects could benefit. Similarly, Acoustical Design of Theatres for Drama Performance (coedited by Bradley with Ryherd and Michelle Vigeant) is built around stunning photographs and diagrams of more than fifty modern theatres. Five essays offer readable guidance on designing, building, and maintaining such spaces. Although intended as a guidebook for consultancy, the text is accessible and possibly of interest to general audiences.

6. Note that there are several publications with the same or a similar title, but by different authors. Note carefully which book you are purchasing.