So this week, we’re following a US Thanksgiving theme, about what we’re thankful for, or other Thanksgiving related topics. When I talk to physicists considering making the switch to engineering, one of the regular jokes is “Engineers don’t think they have to know everything. They just need to know where to look it up”. And so I’m thankful for my favorite place to look things up: my bookshelf.
I’ve never sold back a textbook (and yes, I’m lucky to have been able to do so), and there are many I still refer to regularly. I’m also lucky that my family considers textbooks totally reasonable birthday/holiday presents, and so I have several books for classes I never took.
Despite being a “digital native”, there are just certain things which are easier to find in a textbook. Looking for that one equation about crack growth, but can’t remember who it’s named after? Good luck using Google. On the other hand, even if the index fails you, it takes less time to flip through a book than read half of Wikipedia.
I’m also TAing a lab class this semester, and my bookshelf has saved my bacon on a few occasions. It helps me check that I’m not skipping major concepts between what they already know and what I’m trying to explain, I can double check my terminology before lecture, and when I’ve forgotten exactly how ferroelectricity works, I can just re-read the chapter to brush up and answer student questions. Sure, the Wikipedia article is good, but textbooks often are more coherently organized in conveying concepts in a logical order.
It may not be as portable as an internet connection, but it’s one of the things I’m thankful to have.
Is there a textbook you’re thankful to have around?