Georgia Tech Turns Stale Physics Book into Mobile Experience

University researchers start transforming The Infrared Handbook from a textbook with static graphs to an interactive lesson.

by / November 5, 2012 0

A 1,700-page physics classic is undergoing a major mobile makeover at Georgia Tech.

Researchers in the Georgia Tech Research Institute have already replaced the first chapter of The Infrared Handbook with an in-house app. And they have plans to create at least two more apps as they turn a static physics textbook into an e-book, said Leanne West, director of the Landmarc Research Center in the Electro-Optical Systems Laboratory at the institute.

That's not to say that everything in the e-book will be interactive. It's such a large book that researchers are putting much of the text in PDF format just to get the revision done — and the last time this classic physics book went through a revision was 27 years ago. The military Sensing Information Analysis Center on campus is responsible for updating it, and West suggested making it into an e-book this time.

The first chapter of the physics textbook contained radiation theory and static graphs, along with calculator programming and the radiation calculator slide rule. Specifically, students study blackbody radiation in physics and some engineering classes with this book. Blackbody radiation gives students an idea of what temperature an object is. Everything in the world emits radiation based on its temperature. That's what they're looking at in the iBlackbody app.

The app allows users to calculate blackbody radiation by changing inputs including temperature, relative humidity, visibility and range.

"That really allows you to understand how the graph changes depending on those input parameters, and just seeing it happen in real time is so much better I think than looking at static images," West said.

Not everything in the e-book will be interactive; it's such a large book that, for the short term, researchers are putting much of the text in PDF format just to get the revision done.

"The goal in the long term is to take pieces of it and do just what we did with the first chapter where you make it more up to date, user friendly, with today's world," West said.

Tanya Roscorla Former Managing Editor

Tanya Roscorla covered ed tech from 2009-2017.