Outstanding Academic Titles 2022: Engineering

Enjoy five selections from the Choice Reviews 2022 Outstanding Academic Titles list. This week we highlight, in no particular order, Outstanding Academic Titles regarding engineering.

1. Thicker than water: the quest for solutions to the plastic crisis
Cirino, Erica. Island Press, 2021

Science writer Cirino engagingly describes her global journey pursuing firsthand knowledge about plastic production and pollution. On the road, she investigates possible solutions and resolves various misconceptions. Sailing from Los Angeles, her first destination is the eastern side of the North Pacific Gyre to see the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. Alongside observations of trawling for samples of microplastic, Cirino vividly recounts helping to free a turtle trapped in “ghost” fishing gear. In part 2, “Little Poison Pills,” she visits scientists who explain links between plastic manufacture and hazardous chemicals and how risk magnifies in the food chain. Especially compelling are Cirino’s interviews (part 3, “People and the Plastic Industry”) with environmental activist Sharon Lavigne and others opposing construction of a Taiwan-owned plastics factory in St. James Parish, Louisiana, a largely Black community where existing petrochemical plants are linked with high rates of cancer, cardiac illness, and autoimmune disease. Part 4 (“Solutions”) finds Cirino attending a plastic litter removal event (Hawaii) and investigating new mechanical devices designed to remove plastic from aquatic environments. View on Amazon

2. Impacts of future weather and climate extremes on United States infrastructure: assessing and prioritizing adaptation actions
by Mari R. Tye and Jason P. Giovannettone American Society of Civil Engineers, 2021

This crucial report examines the scientific details of global climate change impacts on US infrastructure. The report was commissioned by the Subcommittee on Future Weather and Climate Extremes under the auspices of the American Society of Civil Engineers and its Committee on Adaptation to a Changing Climate. Chapter 1 introduces terminology, then proceeds to general background concerning various meteorological extremes, e.g., drought and high temperatures. Chapter 3 considers infrastructural impacts in five key areas: energy, transportation, water/wastewater, flooding, and navigation. Each examines current vulnerability and rapidly approaching future consequences in light of increasingly extreme weather events and rapid environmental changes. An important feature is the highlighting of interdependencies among different infrastructural components, as shown by their respective reliance on the expected functionality of all other parts of the system to operate well. Final chapters offer possible considerations for prioritization and suggestions for further research. This text is nicely populated with supporting graphs and maps; the index is very helpful, and each chapter includes an extensive list of references. The report will be an important addition, and especially useful as an e-book reference, for any library actively collecting in the areas of civil engineering, urban planning and policy, environmental sustainability, and climate change. View on Amazon

3. Remote sensing applications in environmental and Earth system sciences
Dalezios, Nicolas R. CRC Press, 2021

Remote sensing has captured the attention and imagination of humankind because it enables “seeing” the environment from many different perspectives. This work presents one of the most comprehensive treatments of remote sensing available, beginning with an overview of all the remote sensing platforms in current use and their potential applications with respect to a range of problems. This analysis not only provides an inventory of such systems but also explains the portion of the electromagnetic spectrum their sensors utilize to derive their data products. The application scenarios covered in the book range from agriculture to ocean waves and coastal marine environments, with two chapters devoted to various aspects of weather forecasting. The main text is organized into two parts: Applications in Environmental Sciences (part 2) and Applications in Earth System Sciences (part 3). Within each chapter, case studies demonstrate how various platforms are used in a particular context. Overall, Dalezios (Univ. of Thessaly) shows that remote sensing platforms will continue to evolve and expand their applicability to real-world problems, providing information that helps people understand their environment and contributes to the protection of natural resources, safety from natural disasters, and sustainability for the future. View on Amazon

4. A clouded leopard in the middle of the road: new thinking about roads, people, and wildlife
Jones, Darryl N. Comstock Publishing Associates, 2022

In this well-written, engaging book, Jones (Griffith Univ., Australia) discusses the dangers that road-based transportation systems pose to biodiversity around the world, particularly in Australasia, Europe, and North America. Jones is a professor of urban ecology and deputy director of Griffith’s Environmental Futures Research Institute. Here he describes the research behind current approaches to reducing vehicle-based mortality for many kinds of animals and assesses how well these approaches work based on site visits around the world. Underpasses and culverts provide passage under roads to allow smaller animals to cross safely; large, vegetated overpasses and overhanging structures and poles allow larger animals and arboreal species to cross overhead. Jones provides examples of solutions from New Zealand and Australia to address driver behavior, including flashing signs that alert drivers to crossing animals when detected by sensors and tagging devices. This book will be an engaging read for general readers, and the references and notes provide helpful information for students and researchers who wish to dive more deeply into the foundational research. In keeping with his overall approach, Jones ends the narrative with a short but sweet story of daylighting an urban stream in South Korea after it ran out of sight underneath a highway for decades. View on Amazon

5Beyond the code: a philosophical guide to engineering ethics
by Heidi Furey, Scott Hill, and Sujata K. Bhatia Routledge, 2021

In this companion to The Content, Impact, and Regulation of Streaming Video (CH, Jun’22, 59-2760), media economist Noam (Columbia Univ.) draws attention to the “bones” of streaming video services, such as the evolution of the hardware and software that has allowed the platform to grow since the earliest days of terrestrial television broadcasting. Many are familiar with Moore’s Law (related to the processing power of devices), but Noam focuses on what he calls “Sarnoff’s rate” as an homage to early media pioneer David Sarnoff and, more important, refocuses on the speed and volume of sending information, the “bit rates” of transmission. Although some introductory information and early chapters (such as chapter 2) include material from the companion volume (noted above), from chapter 3 on, the importance of IT and the “death of distance” take center stage. The book is well-cited and includes critical reference information—one sure to be dog-eared is Table 3.1, illustrating the ever-decreasing “cost of information storage per gigabyte.”  Noam reminds readers where technologies have come from and where they are likely going, suggesting that video clouds are the latest representation of the effort to send more information for less cost. View on Amazon

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