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Fourteen Pounds of acoustics (Book Review)

Malcolm J. Crocker, ed., Encyclopedia of Acoustics, John Wiley & Sons, 1997, four vol., xxiv + 2,017 pp., 9 1/2" x 12" (241 mm x 306 mm), cloth, $570.First,

Fourteen Pounds of acoustics (Book Review)

Sep 1, 1997 12:00 PM,
Ted Uzzle

Malcolm J. Crocker, ed., Encyclopedia of Acoustics, John Wiley & Sons,1997, four vol., xxiv + 2,017 pp., 9 1/2″ x 12″ (241 mm x 306 mm), cloth,$570.

First, there’s acoustics. Then there’s acoustics publishing. MalcolmCrocker’s Encyclopedia of Acoustics is one of the great achievements in allof acoustics publishing. This accomplishment reflects credit on itseditor-in-chief, editorial board, contributors, and publishers. It deservesa place in every technical library: public, university, technical school,company, department, and personal, where people turn for reference orinstruction in areas of acoustics.

In the early 1980s, editor-in-chief Malcolm J. Crocker, of the departmentof mechanical engineering at Auburn University, began an ambitious outlineof a handbook that would include 160 specific subcategories withinacoustics. By the mid-to-late 1980s he had assembled an illustriouseditorial board of 28 authorities, a who’s-who ranging from Leo Beranek andPer Bruel to Thomas Rossing and Ted Schultz. In the early 1990’s 160authors were hard at work on individual chapters, carefully outlined by theeditor-in-chief to provide complete coverage with a minimum of repetitionand a maximum of cross-reference. These 2,041 pages are the diligent,coordinated work of 15 years, and they show it.

Each chapter starts in the rudiment of its field, and is written to beaccessible to educated general readers who may however not be experts inthat subcategory of acoustics. Each author was nevertheless asked to riseto “a reasonably high scientific level,” and this ambition was reached 160times.

Part I of the Encyclopedia deals with general linear acoustics. Part IItakes up nonlinear acoustics and cavitation. Part III turns toaeroacoustics and atmospheric sound. Part IV of the Encyclopedia deals withunderwater sound, a topic of little use to designers and installers ofelectronic information systems. Part V, the beginning of volume two,concerns itself with ultrasonics, quantum acoustics, and the physicaleffects of sound. Part VI (called part IV in a table-of-contents typo) isdevoted to mechanical vibrations and shock. Part VII is titled,”Statistical methods in acoustics,” and the middle chapter, by MikioTohyama of Kogakuin University in Tokyo, looks at response statistics ofrooms. This chapter deserves to be criticized for neglecting the20-year-old work of William B. Joyce. Even had the author disagreed, thisanalysis should not have been ignored, especially as the 1930 work of CarlEyring is included but misrepresented via Heinrich Kuttruff. Eyringanalyzed the case of a point source in the center of a spherical room. Inthis case, the mean free path will tend toward the diameter of the sphere,which is 6V/S, not 4V/S, as described by Kuttruff and repeated in thischapter. Neither the original Eyring nor the Joyce papers are cited here.That’s a tad surprising and disappointing, as Dr. Tohyama’s recent book,The Nature and Technology of Acoustic Space (with co-authors Hideo Suzukiand Yoichi Ando, Academic Press div. Harcourt Brace, 1995) includesEyring’s 1930 paper in its bibliography. Joyce’s papers are omitted therealso, alas. Part VII describes the effects and control of noise. Ofparticular note are the chapters “Rating measures, descriptors, criteria,and procedures for determining human response to noise,” by editor-in-chiefCrocker, and “Noise sources and propagation in ducted air-distributionsystems” by Howard Kingsbury.

Volume three begins spectacularly with part IX on architectural acoustics.A. Harold Marshall, William Cavanaugh, Heinrich Kuttruff, A. C. C. Warnock,Gregory Tocci, Ewart Wetherill, R. M. Hoover, R. H. Keith; who could askfor more stellar by-lines than those, under the editorship of Leo Beranek?

Readers will find much to praise here. They will also find one of the mostembarrassing typographical errors imaginable. On p. 1098 the Sabinereverberation equation is quoted as T = kVA, although the correct form iscited on p. 1,113 as part of a much more detailed discussion. In thechapter by Kuttruff there are several papers cited in the text for whichdetails are not listed in the bibliography, but source citation iscertainly up-to-date, with John Kopec’s 1997 book cited by Marshall andCavanaugh. Part X is spent on acoustic signal processing. Part XI dealswith physiological acoustics, ear anatomy. These 11 chapters, in 129 pages,present endless fascination to readers who want a nuanced viewincorporating the most modern research. Part XII, psychological acoustics,tackles a much more varied literature in the span of 135 pages.

Volume 4 begins with part XIII, on speech communication. Part XIV takes upmusic and musical acoustics. Parts XV and XVI deal with bioacoustics andanimal acoustics.

This four-volume set of acoustics books ends with two parts of particularinterest to systems contractors: acoustical measurements andinstrumentation, and transducers. Readers may be surprised to find chapterson measurement and instrumentation that omit TEF and MLSSA techniquesaltogether, but to be fair these chapters deal only with more elementaryaspects of pressure, gradient, and intensity measurement. The chapters ontransducers include quite theoretical discussions of basic physics, butbecome descriptive only when touching on such practical aspects of thesubject as dividing networks.

The chapter on sound reinforcement systems by David Klepper and Larry Kingis a gem of conciseness. It includes such practical topics as systemplanning and implementation.

These books have been well produced, hardbound, carefully sewn, with spineembroidery to prevent the hinges coming apart when the book is pulled downfrom the shelf with a finger. They are printed on coated paper. The graphsand diagrams have legends and callouts of proper size, and the linethickness has been re-worked so lines never break apart. One could wishmore graphs had been re-drawn with consistent style and legend font, butthat’s almost beyond hoping for. Nowadays there are $100 technical booksfrom major publishers with completely illegible graphs, clip art fromoriginalsources no one has bothered to edit, and this Encyclopedia avoidsthat sin completely.

You probably already have technical books in your specialty, and those aremuch more narrowly targeted to your immediate needs. The Encyclopedia ofAcoustics offers you a global view. You will find it open before your nosehour after hour. The most heart-stopping thrill ride is the one that takesyou from new idea to new idea, that opens understanding both deeper andwider. That’s Malcolm Crocker’s Encyclopedia of Acoustics.

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