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Propagation and Radio Science

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Propagation and Radio Science

There are countless ways for radio signals to travel from transmitter to receiver, and understanding how radio waves interact with their environment is an important factor in successful radio communications. While amateurs can maximize station performance and reliability with the right equipment, knowledge and skill, we cannot control propagation. Through scientific exploration and experimentation, we can improve our understanding of propagation and how it affects radio signals.

Propagation and Radio Science presents a comprehensive overview of one of the most fascinating and rewarding activities in Amateur Radio. Author Eric Nichols, KL7AJ, uses his lively, engaging approach to present the complex subject of radio propagation in simple, easy-to-understand terms. This book covers topics ranging from theoretical exploration to practical application. It explains the phenomena we observe on the amateur bands and invites you to embark on the journey through the still-unknown radio propagation universe.

Publication Details

  • Softcover: 256 pages
    Publisher: The American Radio Relay League, Inc.; First Edition (May 2015)
    Language: English
    ISBN: 978-1-62595-027-7
    Product Dimensions: 7 1/4 x 9 inches
    Shipping Weight: 1.0 pound


  • Table of Contents


    Preface: The Invisible Journey

    Introduction: A Wide World for the Technician Class Amateur

    About the ARRL

    1          Matters About Matter

    2          The Optical Factor

    3          Polarization, Gain and Other Antenna Matters

    4          The “Reflection” Process

    5          The Ground Wave

    6          Demystifying the Ionosphere

    7          The Anomalous Ionosphere

    8          Magnetic Personality

    9          Instrumentation and Interpretation

    10        Free Electron Propagation

    11        Neutral Propagation

    12        Cheaper Than Dirt

    13        Diversity Methods

    14        WWV and Channel Probes

    15        Software and Other Tools

    16        Keeping Up with Kepler and Friends

    17        Your Friend the S Meter

    18        Loads of Modes

    19        Sea Shanty

    20        NVIS Modes and Methods

    21        Unexplored Territory


    Epilogue: The Art of Being There

    Appendix 1 — Walking the Planck

    Appendix 2 — Understanding AM

    Appendix 3 — Diversify Your Options


  • Foreword

    One of the most fascinating and rewarding activities in Amateur Radio is studying the often baffling and sometimes frustrating phenomenon of radio propagation. Actually, radio propagation is not just one phenomenon, but rather many phenomena, all of which add up to an intriguing journey of radio waves from transmitter to receiver through the voids of space.


    Unlike sound, radio waves travel without the need for a medium, a truly amazing property that has intrigued physicists and philosophers for over a century. Understanding how radio waves interact with their environment is an important factor in achieving effective Amateur Radio communications. Amateur frequencies span the entire electromagnetic spectrum, at least in chunks, and each portion of the radio spectrum has unique advantages and potential pitfalls.


    A dedicated and skillful radio amateur may take great pains to assure that the station’s transmitter, receiver, and antennas are functioning at their optimum potential, yet once a radio wave leaves the antenna, it is at the mercy of the ether.


    Because we have no control over the ether, our only option is to understand what it is doing and accommodate its often fickle behavior. This can be a ham’s greatest joy or a source of great frustration. And yet, as unpredictable as propagation can be at times, there is a great deal that we do know. And that is what this book is about.


    In Propagation and Radio Science, author Eric Nichols, KL7AJ, puts radio propagation front and center. In his lively and engaging writing style, Eric explains many of the phenomena we observe on the amateur bands and encourages us to learn more and experiment using readily available tools. We hope you will make use of the wealth of information found here.


    David Sumner, K1ZZ

    Chief Executive Officer

    Newington, Connecticut

    March 2015

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