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January 27, 2006

Excel Scientific and Engineering Cookbook: Add Excel to Your Analysis Arsenal

Sebastopol, CA--While fellow students were staying late at the university computing center to use Mathematica or MathCAD, David Bourg would finish his coursework and projects in the comfort of his home, on his own PC, at his convenience. When asked how he managed to pull this off (which happened frequently), Bourg would reply, "With Excel." Not surprisingly, the most common reaction to that remark was, "Can you show me how?" Around the time his professors started asking him to show them how too, Bourg began to realize to what extent the scientific and engineering communities were underutilizing Excel's computational power.

More than just a rogue Excel user, Bourg is a practicing engineer and researcher who has used Excel extensively for everything from routine data analysis to sophisticated design optimization problems. In fact, Bourg is often hired to develop custom Excel solutions for other engineers. Over the years, his observations showed him that there is a real need for a book that shows how to apply Excel to a wide variety of complex problems. His answer takes the form of the Excel Scientific and Engineering Cookbook (O'Reilly, US $44.99), a collection of focused code solutions and accompanying discussions that provides readers with the means to solve both basic and advanced problems.

"I'd thought about a book like this for a long time. I wanted to write something to show other scientists and engineers how to get things done quickly (computationally speaking) with a readily available tool," explains Bourg. "Excel is very popular and readily available. Moreover, traditional scientific computing tools like the FORTRAN language are on the decline, and newer tools like C/C++, Mathematica, and so on, require more training to learn. Plus, they are not as readily available as Excel."

As Bourg points out, it's tough to dismiss Excel as a computing tool when it's very likely sitting right there on one's work and home computers. Most scientists and engineers probably already use Excel to some extent for routine calculations. "I'd like to show them how they can leverage Excel for some calculations that are not so routine," says Bourg. "If you're new to Excel, don't worry, because I cover the basics as well."

The Excel Scientific and Engineering Cookbook is full of real-world uses of Excel, many of which Bourg has personally performed for his own work or for clients: "I try to use easily recognizable, yet real-world, examples wherever possible. To this end, I draw examples from a variety of scientific disciplines, ranging from biology and chemistry to physics and structural engineering." Readers will learn how to:

  • Perform statistical calculations, from basic summaries to confidence intervals and ANOVA
  • Work with time series data, from plotting it to adjusting it for seasonality to creating forecasts
  • Apply Excel's mathematical capabilities in a wide variety of situations, taking advantage of ordinary formulas, but also solving matrices and working with vectors
  • Fit curves, using both straight-line approaches and regressions
  • Solve equations, even nonlinear and differential equations
  • Calculate how best to optimize resource application and similar models
  • Present the results as charts and graphs
  • "These days rigorous and thorough analyses are expected. Scientists and engineers need to leverage all the tools they can to solve tough problems and Excel, being so readily available and capable, is a valuable tool," says Bourg. The Excel Scientific and Engineering Cookbook will help millions of Excel users tap into the unused power on their desktops.

    Additional Resources:

    Excel Scientific and Engineering Cookbook
    David M. Bourg
    ISBN: 0-596-00879-1, 424 pages, $44.99 US
    order@oreilly.com
    1-800-998-9938; 1-707-827-7000

    About O'Reilly

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