Learning about electricity, the bright and colorful but not completely dumbed-down way?
February 11, 2006 5:55 PM   Subscribe

I'm looking for a book that teaches electricity well. The Mims book definitely doesn't cut it - I want something more along the lines of "The Way Things Work" in clarity and accessibility, but I still want it to actually teach the underlying math; i.e., I want it to show me the material in pictures and equations.

The seminar course I'm taking is using an absolutely awful textbook that I'm failing to learn anything of use from. (It's chock full of bad analogies, outright errors, and "magic numbers" that appear out of nowhere because it attempts to use just enough math to get by without "scaring people"... so numbers like 0.707 and 0.632 just appear out of nowhere without explanation all the time ... whereas if they were properly derived as sqrt(2)/2 and 1-e-1, they'd make sense in context...)

I want to learn the underlying physics of electricity, and continue on and learn about RC and RLC circuits, semiconductors, diodes, FETs, Op-Amps, gates, flip-flops, and assorted other components. Basically, in other words, I'm looking for a good electronics textbook.
posted by dmd to Science & Nature (10 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
The Art of Electronics is very well spoken of. I have a copy but I purchased it after I'd graduated and worked in the field for 8 years so I can't really tell how good it is as an introductory text.
posted by substrate at 6:19 PM on February 11, 2006

The Art of Electronics was also what was recommended to me when I asked a prof "How can I learn electronics?"
posted by epugachev at 6:31 PM on February 11, 2006

Best answer: Well... Based on the way it is taught in engineering school, you are actually looking for about four textbooks.

The physics of electricity is taught in an electricity and magnetism course (sometimes even from a physics textbook). RC and RLC circuits is taught in a circuit theory course. Op-Amps diodes and FETs are taught in an electronics course. Flip-flops and gates are taught in a computer organization course.

All of the courses include more topics than you mention, but many topics can be ignored depending on your goals. Circuit theory is really a one course topic, the other three can be taken to great depth, even at the under-grad level. Finally, circuit theory is a prerequisite to electronics, and calculus is a prerequisite to all but the most basic understanding of any of it, otherwise they are actually quite independent topics.

I duno if that is helpful, but I thought I would offer some context. Finally, similar questions have been asked before:

fundamental understanding of AV electronics

I'm interested in learning electronics/electronics repair

I want to learn how to make simple electronics

Do Radio Shack's "50 in 1" electronic kits really teach EE skills?

what are some good resources to learn about basic electricity

And a couple of related, but more specific questions (well I've decided this doesn't really belong here, but since it is already typed out...):

Why are Capacitors so common in electrical circuits?

Why so many AC adapters?
posted by Chuckles at 8:31 PM on February 11, 2006 [1 favorite]

I feel like eventually I will be called on to make the following more clear...

Yes, I know dmd isn't looking for a complete undergrad program. I think it is worthwhile understanding how the topics mentioned fit into a bigger picture, hence the above.
posted by Chuckles at 8:34 PM on February 11, 2006

I think you're going to be disappointed either way. If you want the no-holds-barred math and theory behind circuits you will need to get a college level text -- and believe me, there are a number of these. But none of them will have hardly any pictures, except for line drawings of schematics and graphs. I certainly wouldn't expect anything full-color. On the other end if you want pretty pictures of things you will have to expect it to be dumbed down considerably.
posted by Rhomboid at 9:02 PM on February 11, 2006

I like "Practical Electronics For Inventors" by Paul Scherz
posted by Triode at 10:57 PM on February 11, 2006

Thanks for collecting these threads, Chuckles. I've added the info to the Wiki.
posted by russilwvong at 11:04 PM on February 11, 2006

Ditto on Scherz's "Practical Electronics For Inventors". I only got it after 3 years of being an electrical engineering major, and I found it still made a bunch of concepts much simpler than they had originally been explained to me.

I also really like the pair of "Basic Electricity" and "Basic Electronics" from the naval training bureau. They're definitely out of date, but they've got a lot of good information, and go about things from a less math-intensive way (good for getting an intuitive feel for circuits).
posted by PaperDragon at 7:46 AM on February 12, 2006

This thread reminded me of something, I promised to review a book for the past year. I'm not ready to do a full review on it but I browsed through it last night. Introduction to Electrical Engineering provides an overview of many topics within electrical engineering. It's not going to go into huge depth but the chapters seem reasonable. It's composed of 5 parts that cover the bulk of the material most ee's are exposed to:
  1. Electrical Circuits
  2. Electronic Analog and Digital Systems
  3. Energy Systems
  4. Information Systems
  5. Basic Control Systems
I'll read through a couple of sections when I get some free time so I can really review it, but from glossing through it I wish I'd had this book as an additional resource when I was in undergrad.
posted by substrate at 7:48 AM on February 12, 2006

"I do not understand electricity and I do not wish to have it explained to me." -- James Thurber
posted by neuron at 7:24 PM on February 13, 2006

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