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Reliability in Scientific Research: Improving the Dependability of Measurements, Calculations, Equipment, and Software

Handbook / Manual

By: IR Walker

610 pages, 64 b/w illustrations, 8 tables

Cambridge University Press

Hardback | Jan 2011 | #198245 | ISBN-13: 9780521857703
Availability: Usually dispatched within 6 days Details
NHBS Price: £47.99 $62/€53 approx

About this book

Covering many techniques widely used in research, this book will help researchers in the physical sciences and engineering solve troublesome--and potentially very time consuming--problems in their work. The book deals with technical difficulties that often arise unexpectedly during the use of various common experimental methods, as well as with human error. It provides preventive measures and solutions for such problems, thereby saving valuable time for researchers. Some of the topics covered are: sudden leaks in vacuum systems, electromagnetic interference in electronic instruments, vibrations in sensitive equipment, and bugs in computer software. The book also discusses mistakes in mathematical calculations, and pitfalls in designing and carrying out experiments. Each chapter contains a summary of its key points, to give a quick overview of important potential problems and their solutions in a given area.

The book covers a multitude of applications, from soldering to software design, including chapters on mechanical devices, vacuum systems, cryogenics, optics, electronics and even wiring. Each comprehensive chapter comes complete with references and the volume has a 24-page, double-column index. Walker, a researcher at Cambridge University's Cavendish Laboratory, is pragmatic and straight-talking from the start. in his analysis of 'simplicity' he laments that 'the imperative to keep things simple is usually well understood, but not always practised'.
- Engineering and Technology

"This very complete, thoroughly researched tome is about how to improve one's research by eliminating or lessening the impact of errors. I would recommend it to anyone involved in research that uses the equipment that the book discusses."
- Computing Reviews

"This should be compulsory reading for all embarking on a career in experimental science, for if its advice is heeded a great deal of waste of time and effort will be avoided."
- Contemporary Physics

"Having a wise mentor share his two decades of lab experience would be very helpful for a newbie researcher. The next best option is to consult this book, which distils the same advice in print. The writing is clear and succinct, and it is backed by key references."
- Optics and Photonics News


1. Basic principles of reliability, human error, and other general issues
2. Mathematical calculations
3. Basic issues concerning hardware systems
4. Obtaining items from commercial sources
5. General points regarding the design and construction of apparatus
6. Vacuum system leaks and related problems
7. Vacuum pumps and gauges, and other vacuum-system concerns
8. Mechanical devices and systems
9. Cryogenic systems
10. Visible and near-visible optics
11. Electronic systems
12. Interconnecting, wiring, and cabling for electronics
13. Computer hardware and software, and stored information
14. Experimental method.

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I. R. Walker is a researcher at the Cavendish Laboratory, University of Cambridge, where he has worked for over 20 years. He received his Ph.D. there in 1992, and was an Assistant Director of Research from 1995 to 2002. His principle line of research is the physics of superconductors and other strongly correlated electron materials at ultra-low temperatures, and the development of techniques for subjecting these materials to high pressures under such conditions.

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