Acquired The Perfectionists: How Precision Engineers Created the Modern World by Simon WinchesterSimon Winchester (Harper)

The revered New York Times bestselling author traces the development of technology from the Industrial Age to the Digital Age to explore the single component crucial to advancement—precision—in a superb history that is both an homage and a warning for our future.

The rise of manufacturing could not have happened without an attention to precision. At the dawn of the Industrial Revolution in eighteenth-century England, standards of measurement were established, giving way to the development of machine tools—machines that make machines. Eventually, the application of precision tools and methods resulted in the creation and mass production of items from guns and glass to mirrors, lenses, and cameras—and eventually gave way to further breakthroughs, including gene splicing, microchips, and the Hadron Collider.

Simon Winchester takes us back to origins of the Industrial Age, to England where he introduces the scientific minds that helped usher in modern production: John Wilkinson, Henry Maudslay, Joseph Bramah, Jesse Ramsden, and Joseph Whitworth. It was Thomas Jefferson who later exported their discoveries to the fledgling United States, setting the nation on its course to become a manufacturing titan. Winchester moves forward through time, to today’s cutting-edge developments occurring around the world, from America to Western Europe to Asia.

As he introduces the minds and methods that have changed the modern world, Winchester explores fundamental questions. Why is precision important? What are the different tools we use to measure it? Who has invented and perfected it? Has the pursuit of the ultra-precise in so many facets of human life blinded us to other things of equal value, such as an appreciation for the age-old traditions of craftsmanship, art, and high culture? Are we missing something that reflects the world as it is, rather than the world as we think we would wish it to be? And can the precise and the natural co-exist in society?

One of my favorite all-time writers and somehow I had missed any news about its pending release and hadn’t seen it despite having just been to the bookstore. What a fantastic surprise!

Received as the most perfect gift. Originally purchased at Vroman’s.

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🔖 An Introduction to APIs | Zapier

Bookmarked An Introduction to APIs by Brian Cooksey (Zapier)
APIs (application programming interfaces) are a big part of the web. In 2013 there were over 10,000 APIs published by companies for open consumption 1. That is quadruple the number available in 2010 2. With so many companies investing in this new area of business, possessing a working understanding of APIs becomes increasingly relevant to careers in the software industry. Through this course, we hope to give you that knowledge by building up from the very basics. In this chapter, we start by looking at some fundamental concepts around APIs. We define what an API is, where it lives, and give a high level picture of how one is used.

I found this downloadable e-book a while back at Zapier’s resource page, which has some other interesting things, but this overview and layout of APIs seemed fairly simple but powerful for folks interested in the topic.

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🔖 Most Likely to Succeed: Preparing Our Kids for the Innovation Era by Tony Wagner and Ted Dintersmith

Bookmarked Most Likely to Succeed: Preparing Our Kids for the Innovation Era by Tony Wagner, Ted Dintersmith (Scribner)

From two leading experts in education and entrepreneurship, an urgent call for the radical re-imagining of American education so that we better equip students for the realities of the twenty-first century economy.

Today more than ever, we prize academic achievement, pressuring our children to get into the “right” colleges, have the highest GPAs, and pursue advanced degrees. But while students may graduate with credentials, by and large they lack the competencies needed to be thoughtful, engaged citizens and to get good jobs in our rapidly evolving economy. Our school system was engineered a century ago to produce a work force for a world that no longer exists. Alarmingly, our methods of schooling crush the creativity and initiative young people need to thrive in the twenty-first century.

In Most Likely to Succeed, bestselling author and education expert Tony Wagner and venture capitalist Ted Dintersmith call for a complete overhaul of the function and focus of American schools, sharing insights and stories from the front lines, including profiles of successful students, teachers, parents, and business leaders.

Most Likely to Succeed presents a new vision of American education, one that puts wonder, creativity, and initiative at the very heart of the learning process and prepares students for today’s economy. This book offers parents and educators a crucial guide to getting the best for their children and a roadmap for policymakers and opinion leaders.

Marked to read after seeing reference in Venture capitalist visits 200 schools in 50 states and says DeVos is wrong: ‘If choice and competition improve schools, I found no sign of it.’ by Valerie Strauss.

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🔖 Neural Networks and Statistical Learning by Ke-Lin Du,‎ M. N. S. Swamy | Springer

Bookmarked Neural Networks and Statistical Learning 2014th Edition by Ke-Lin Du,‎ M. N. S. Swamy (Springer)

Providing a broad but in-depth introduction to neural network and machine learning in a statistical framework, this book provides a single, comprehensive resource for study and further research. All the major popular neural network models and statistical learning approaches are covered with examples and exercises in every chapter to develop a practical working understanding of the content.

Each of the twenty-five chapters includes state-of-the-art descriptions and important research results on the respective topics. The broad coverage includes the multilayer perceptron, the Hopfield network, associative memory models, clustering models and algorithms, the radial basis function network, recurrent neural networks, principal component analysis, nonnegative matrix factorization, independent component analysis, discriminant analysis, support vector machines, kernel methods, reinforcement learning, probabilistic and Bayesian networks, data fusion and ensemble learning, fuzzy sets and logic, neurofuzzy models, hardware implementations, and some machine learning topics. Applications to biometric/bioinformatics and data mining are also included.

Focusing on the prominent accomplishments and their practical aspects, academic and technical staff, graduate students and researchers will find that this provides a solid foundation and encompassing reference for the fields of neural networks, pattern recognition, signal processing, machine learning, computational intelligence, and data mining.

h/t

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🔖 The Theory of Quantum Information by John Watrous

Bookmarked The Theory of Quantum Information by Tom Watrous (cs.uwaterloo.ca)

To be published by Cambridge University Press in April 2018.

Upon publication this book will be available for purchase through Cambridge University Press and other standard distribution channels. Please see the publisher's web page to pre-order the book or to obtain further details on its publication date.

A draft, pre-publication copy of the book can be found below. This draft copy is made available for personal use only and must not be sold or redistributed.

This largely self-contained book on the theory of quantum information focuses on precise mathematical formulations and proofs of fundamental facts that form the foundation of the subject. It is intended for graduate students and researchers in mathematics, computer science, and theoretical physics seeking to develop a thorough understanding of key results, proof techniques, and methodologies that are relevant to a wide range of research topics within the theory of quantum information and computation. The book is accessible to readers with an understanding of basic mathematics, including linear algebra, mathematical analysis, and probability theory. An introductory chapter summarizes these necessary mathematical prerequisites, and starting from this foundation, the book includes clear and complete proofs of all results it presents. Each subsequent chapter includes challenging exercises intended to help readers to develop their own skills for discovering proofs concerning the theory of quantum information.

h/t to @michael_nielsen via Nuzzel

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🔖 Suicide of the West by Jonah Goldberg

Bookmarked Suicide of the West: How the Rebirth of Tribalism, Populism, Nationalism, and Identity Politics is Destroying American Democracy by Jonah GoldbergJonah Goldberg (Crown Forum)

With his trademark blend of political history, social science, economics, and pop culture, two-time NYT bestselling author, syndicated columnist, National Review senior editor, and American Enterprise Institute fellow Jonah Goldberg makes the timely case that America and other democracies are in peril as they lose the will to defend the values and institutions that sustain freedom and prosperity. Instead we are surrendering to populism, nationalism and other forms of tribalism. 

Only once in the last 250,000 years have humans stumbled upon a way to lift ourselves out of the endless cycle of poverty, hunger, and war that defines most of history—in 18th century England when we accidentally discovered the miracle of liberal democratic capitalism. 

As Americans we are doubly blessed that those radical ideas were written into the Constitution, laying the groundwork for our uniquely prosperous society: 
·         Our rights come from God not from the government.
·         The government belongs to us; we do not belong to the government.
·         The individual is sovereign. We are all captains of our own souls. 
·         The fruits of our labors belong to us.

In the last few decades, these political virtues have been turned into vices. As we are increasingly taught to view our traditions as a system of oppression, exploitation and “white privilege,” the principles of liberty and the rule of law are under attack from left and right.

At a moment when authoritarianism, tribalism, identity politics, nationalism, and cults of personality are rotting our democracy from within, Goldberg exposes the West’s suicidal tendencies on both sides of the ideological aisle. For the West to survive, we must renew our sense of gratitude for what our civilization has given us and rediscover the ideals that led us out of the bloody muck of the past – or back to the muck we will go. 

Suicide is painless, liberty takes work.

I’ve seen this coming via other sources including Goldberg himself, but h/t to @jaketapper for the reminder to bookmark this for later.

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🔖 [1803.08823] A high-bias, low-variance introduction to Machine Learning for physicists | arXiv

Bookmarked A high-bias, low-variance introduction to Machine Learning for physicists by Pankaj Mehta, Marin Bukov, Ching-Hao Wang, Alexandre G.R. Day, Clint Richardson, Charles K. Fisher, David J. Schwab (arxiv.org)
Machine Learning (ML) is one of the most exciting and dynamic areas of modern research and application. The purpose of this review is to provide an introduction to the core concepts and tools of machine learning in a manner easily understood and intuitive to physicists. The review begins by covering fundamental concepts in ML and modern statistics such as the bias-variance tradeoff, overfitting, regularization, and generalization before moving on to more advanced topics in both supervised and unsupervised learning. Topics covered in the review include ensemble models, deep learning and neural networks, clustering and data visualization, energy-based models (including MaxEnt models and Restricted Boltzmann Machines), and variational methods. Throughout, we emphasize the many natural connections between ML and statistical physics. A notable aspect of the review is the use of Python notebooks to introduce modern ML/statistical packages to readers using physics-inspired datasets (the Ising Model and Monte-Carlo simulations of supersymmetric decays of proton-proton collisions). We conclude with an extended outlook discussing possible uses of machine learning for furthering our understanding of the physical world as well as open problems in ML where physicists maybe able to contribute. (Notebooks are available at this https URL )
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🔖 The True Believer: Thoughts on the Nature of Mass Movements by Eric Hoffer

Bookmarked The True Believer: Thoughts on the Nature of Mass Movements by Eric Hoffer (Perennial Classics)

A stevedore on the San Francisco docks in the 1940s, Eric Hoffer wrote philosophical treatises in his spare time while living in the railroad yards. The True Believer -- the first and most famous of his books -- was made into a bestseller when President Eisenhower cited it during one of the earliest television press conferences.Completely relevant and essential for understanding the world today, The True Believer is a visionary, highly provocative look into the mind of the fanatic and a penetrating study of how an individual becomes one.

The famous bestseller with “concise insight into what drives the mind of the fanatic and the dynamics of a mass movement” (Wall St. Journal) by Presidential Medal of Freedom recipient Eric Hoffer, The True Believer is a landmark in the field of social psychology, and even more relevant today than ever before in history. Called a “brilliant and original inquiry” and “a genuine contribution to our social thought” by Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., The True Believer is mandatory reading for anyone interested in the machinations by which an individual becomes a fanatic.

h/t

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Acquired A New Kind of Science by Stephen Wolfram (Wolfram Media)
Starting from a collection of simple computer experiments illustrated by striking computer graphics Stephen Wolfram shows in this landmark book how their unexpected results force a whole new way of looking at the operation of our universe. Wolfram uses his approach to tackle a remarkable array of fundamental problems in science, from the origins of apparent randomness in physical systems, to the development of complexity in biology, the ultimate scope and limitations of mathematics, the possibility of a truly fundamental theory of physics, the interplay between free will and determinism, and the character of intelligence in the universe.

Gifted to me by my friend Dave Snead who picked up a copy from the Wolfram booth earlier today at the APS Conference in downtown Los Angeles. Thanks Dave!

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Acquired Japanese from Zero! 1: Proven Techniques to Learn Japanese for Students and Professionals (Volume 1) 6th Edition by George Trombley,‎ Yukari Takenaka (From Zero!)
Japanese From Zero! is an innovative and integrated approach to learning Japanese developed by professional Japanese interpreter George Trombley and co-writer Yukari Takenaka. The lessons and techniques used in this series have been taught successfully for over ten years in classrooms throughout the world.Using up-to-date and easy-to-grasp grammar, Japanese From Zero! is the perfect course for current students of Japanese as well as absolute beginners. In Book 1 of the Japanese From Zero! series, readers are taught new grammar concepts, over 800 new words and expressions, and also learn the hiragana writing system. Features of Book 1: * Integrated Workbook with Answer Key * Over 800 New Words and Expressions * Learn to Read and Write Hiragana * Easy-to-Understand Example Dialogues * Culture Points about Japan * Bilingual Glossaries with Kana and Romaji ...and much more!

Purchase price: $30.08
Paperback: 338 pages
Product Dimensions: 7.4 x 0.7 x 9.7 inches

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🔖 Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress by Steven Pinker

Bookmarked Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress by Steven Pinker (Viking)
Is the world really falling apart? Is the ideal of progress obsolete? In this elegant assessment of the human condition in the third millennium, cognitive scientist and public intellectual Steven Pinker urges us to step back from the gory headlines and prophecies of doom, which play to our psychological biases. Instead, follow the data: In seventy-five jaw-dropping graphs, Pinker shows that life, health, prosperity, safety, peace, knowledge, and happiness are on the rise, not just in the West, but worldwide. This progress is not the result of some cosmic force. It is a gift of the Enlightenment: the conviction that reason and science can enhance human flourishing. Far from being a naïve hope, the Enlightenment, we now know, has worked. But more than ever, it needs a vigorous defense. The Enlightenment project swims against currents of human nature--tribalism, authoritarianism, demonization, magical thinking--which demagogues are all too willing to exploit. Many commentators, committed to political, religious, or romantic ideologies, fight a rearguard action against it. The result is a corrosive fatalism and a willingness to wreck the precious institutions of liberal democracy and global cooperation. With intellectual depth and literary flair, Enlightenment Now makes the case for reason, science, and humanism: the ideals we need to confront our problems and continue our progress.

I’ve got almost all of his works, this one portends to be very interesting as well. Potentially a nice chaser to his last book.

🔖 The Future Is History: How Totalitarianism Reclaimed Russia by Masha Gessen

Bookmarked The Future Is History: How Totalitarianism Reclaimed Russia by Masha Gessen (Riverhead Books)
The essential journalist and bestselling biographer of Vladimir Putin reveals how, in the space of a generation, Russia surrendered to a more virulent and invincible new strain of autocracy. Award-winning journalist Masha Gessen's understanding of the events and forces that have wracked Russia in recent times is unparalleled. In The Future Is History, Gessen follows the lives of four people born at what promised to be the dawn of democracy. Each of them came of age with unprecedented expectations, some as the children and grandchildren of the very architects of the new Russia, each with newfound aspirations of their own--as entrepreneurs, activists, thinkers, and writers, sexual and social beings. Gessen charts their paths against the machinations of the regime that would crush them all, and against the war it waged on understanding itself, which ensured the unobstructed reemergence of the old Soviet order in the form of today's terrifying and seemingly unstoppable mafia state. Powerful and urgent, The Future Is History is a cautionary tale for our time and for all time.

Bookmarked after listening to an episode of The Atlantic Interview.

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🔖 Lower Ed: How For-Profit Colleges Deepen Inequality in America by Tressie McMillan Cottom

Bookmarked Lower Ed: The Troubling Rise of For-Profit Colleges in the New Economy by Tressie McMillan Cottom (The New Press)
More than two million students are enrolled in for-profit colleges, from the small family-run operations to the behemoths brandished on billboards, subway ads, and late-night commercials. These schools have been around just as long as their bucolic not-for-profit counterparts, yet shockingly little is known about why they have expanded so rapidly in recent years—during the so-called Wall Street era of for-profit colleges. In Lower Ed Tressie McMillan Cottom—a bold and rising public scholar, herself once a recruiter at two for-profit colleges—expertly parses the fraught dynamics of this big-money industry to show precisely how it is part and parcel of the growing inequality plaguing the country today. McMillan Cottom discloses the shrewd recruitment and marketing strategies that these schools deploy and explains how, despite the well-documented predatory practices of some and the campus closings of others, ending for-profit colleges won’t end the vulnerabilities that made them the fastest growing sector of higher education at the turn of the twenty-first century. And she doesn’t stop there. With sharp insight and deliberate acumen, McMillan Cottom delivers a comprehensive view of postsecondary for-profit education by illuminating the experiences of the everyday people behind the shareholder earnings, congressional battles, and student debt disasters. The relatable human stories in Lower Ed—from mothers struggling to pay for beauty school to working class guys seeking “good jobs” to accomplished professionals pursuing doctoral degrees—illustrate that the growth of for-profit colleges is inextricably linked to larger questions of race, gender, work, and the promise of opportunity in America. Drawing on more than one hundred interviews with students, employees, executives, and activists, Lower Ed tells the story of the benefits, pitfalls, and real costs of a for-profit education. It is a story about broken social contracts; about education transforming from a public interest to a private gain; and about all Americans and the challenges we face in our divided, unequal society.
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The Bread Baker’s Apprentice, 15th Anniversary Edition: Mastering the Art of Extraordinary Bread by Peter Reinhart

Bookmarked The Bread Baker's Apprentice, 15th Anniversary Edition: Mastering the Art of Extraordinary Bread: Peter Reinhart: 9781607748656: Amazon.com: Books by Peter ReinhartPeter Reinhart (Tenspeed Press)
Co-founder of the legendary Brother Juniper’s Bakery, author of ten landmark bread books, and distinguished instructor at the world’s largest culinary academy, Peter Reinhart has been a leader in America’s artisanal bread movement for more than thirty years. Never one to be content with yesterday’s baking triumph, however, Peter continues to refine his recipes and techniques in his never-ending quest for extraordinary bread. In this new edition of the award-winning and best-selling The Bread Baker’s Apprentice, Peter shares bread breakthroughs arising from his study in France’s famed boulangeries and the always-enlightening time spent in the culinary college kitchen with his students. Peer over Peter’s shoulder as he learns from Paris’s most esteemed bakers, like Lionel Poilâne and Phillippe Gosselin, whose pain à l’ancienne has revolutionized the art of baguette making. Then stand alongside his students in the kitchen as Peter teaches the classic twelve stages of building bread, his clear instructions accompanied by more than 100 step-by-step photographs. You’ll put newfound knowledge into practice with fifty master formulas for such classic breads as rustic ciabatta, hearty pain de campagne, old-school New York bagels, and the book’s Holy Grail—Peter’s version of the famed pain à l’ancienne, as well as three all-new formulas. En route, Peter distills hard science, advanced techniques, and food history into a remarkably accessible and engaging resource that is as rich and multitextured as the loaves you’ll turn out. In this revised edition, he adds metrics and temperature conversion charts, incorporates comprehensive baker’s percentages into the recipes, and updates methods throughout. This is original food writing at its most captivating, teaching at its most inspired and inspiring—and the rewards are some of the best breads under the sun.
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Energy and Civilization: A History by Vaclav Smil

Bookmarked Energy and Civilization: A History by Vaclav SmilVaclav Smil (MIT Press)
Energy is the only universal currency; it is necessary for getting anything done. The conversion of energy on Earth ranges from terra-forming forces of plate tectonics to cumulative erosive effects of raindrops. Life on Earth depends on the photosynthetic conversion of solar energy into plant biomass. Humans have come to rely on many more energy flows -- ranging from fossil fuels to photovoltaic generation of electricity -- for their civilized existence. In this monumental history, Vaclav Smil provides a comprehensive account of how energy has shaped society, from pre-agricultural foraging societies through today's fossil fuel--driven civilization. Humans are the only species that can systematically harness energies outside their bodies, using the power of their intellect and an enormous variety of artifacts -- from the simplest tools to internal combustion engines and nuclear reactors. The epochal transition to fossil fuels affected everything: agriculture, industry, transportation, weapons, communication, economics, urbanization, quality of life, politics, and the environment. Smil describes humanity's energy eras in panoramic and interdisciplinary fashion, offering readers a magisterial overview. This book is an extensively updated and expanded version of Smil's Energy in World History (1994). Smil has incorporated an enormous amount of new material, reflecting the dramatic developments in energy studies over the last two decades and his own research over that time.

h/t Bill Gates

 

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