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Archive for the 'Tech Q&A' Category

Tech Q&A: Steven S. Gubser

Describe your latest book/project.
The Little Book of String Theory is a short but searching account of modern string theory. As a practitioner of string theory, I wanted to bring it to a popular audience in a way that would cut to the main points of the subject in relatively few words.

Describe your favorite childhood teacher and how that teacher influenced you.
In seventh grade I had a math teacher named Gary Kreutzer who was fun and enthusiastic and also knew a lot of math. He was often willing to work with me by myself, and I remember learning about polynomials, systems of equations, and prime numbers with him.


Tech Q&A: Brian Cox

Describe your latest book/project.

Why Does E=mc2? is in some ways a simple book with a simple aim: we (Jeff Forshaw and myself) wanted to see whether we could actually derive E=mc2 in a way that any interested non-mathematical reader could understand. By derive, I mean follow a series of small steps that are well-motivated and hopefully obvious, or at least plausible, and arrive at the equation itself, assuming no prior knowledge and making the minimum possible number of assumptions. In other words, we behave exactly as we would in our professional life as research scientists, searching for equations that describe nature.

In doing this, we hope to do much more than simply present and describe the equation, however. If the reader follows the argument, we hope that he or she will experience the delight and awe that scientists feel when they explore nature and reveal its underlying simplicity and beauty. One often hears scientists describe equations as "beautiful," and we believe the best way to understand what this means is to actually see how the most iconic and ...


Tech Q&A: Robert Wallace

Describe your latest project.
[From the publisher:] From two men who know better than anyone how espionage really works, an unprecedented history, heavily illustrated with never-before-seen images of the CIA's most secretive operations and the gadgets that made them possible.

It is a world where the intrigue of reality exceeds that of fiction. What is an invisible photo used for? What does it take to build a quiet helicopter? How does one embed a listening device in a cat? If these sound like challenges for Q, James Bond's fictional gadget-master, think again. They're all real-life devices created by the CIA's Office of Technical Service: an ultra-secretive department that combines the marvels of state-of-the-art technology with the time-proven traditions of classic espionage. And now, in Spycraft, the first book ever written about this office, the former director of OTS teams up with an internationally renowned intelligence historian to take readers into the laboratory of espionage.

What inspires you to sit down and write?
Mortgage payments.

Describe your favorite childhood teacher and how that teacher influenced you.
My aunt Hazel taught in rural Kansas schools for more than 30 years. She presided over ...


Tech Q&A: Jo Marchant

Describe your latest project.

Decoding the Heavens is a cross between a history book and an adventure story. It starts with the discovery in 1900 of an ancient shipwreck filled with treasure. Among the precious statues and jewellery, divers found a mysterious clockwork machine, packed full of gearwheels, pointers, and inscriptions, but battered and corroded after 2,000 years under the sea. The book follows a succession of characters over the past century who became obsessed with working out what the device was and devoted themselves to discovering its secrets, no matter what the cost. When the answer was finally revealed, it turned upside down our ideas of what the ancient Greeks were capable of and where the technology responsible for our own modern world really came from. It's a story with passion, feuds, danger, battles, ancient wisdom, state-of-the-art technology, and even aliens. Oh, and it's all true.

What inspires you to sit down and write?

I'm not sure if this is going to sound pretentious, but it's the challenge of taking an idea or an insight, something intangible and fleeting that exists only in your head, and finding a ...


Tech Q&A: Lucas Mix

Describe your latest project.

What exactly do we know about life? So far we've only encountered one example — life on Earth — and we tend to be a little biased by its familiarity. Life in Space explores what science can say about the definition and history of life in the universe. The book explores the philosophical issues involved in studying life before turning to astrobiology proper — the scientific study of life spanning astronomy, planetary science, chemistry, biology, and a host of other fields. This book gave me a chance to present life as a single narrative — building up from atoms to cells to organisms and moving forward from the first stars to intelligent life. Finally, in the last chapters of the book, I explore intelligence and humanity. The book comes full circle by talking about how our biology affects our philosophy, shaping the way we look at the world and the way we do research.

What inspires you to sit down and write?

I really enjoy putting things together, particularly when I can bring together learning from a number of different areas and make things fit.

Have

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Tech Q&A: Melanie Mitchell

Describe your latest project.

My latest book is Complexity: A Guided Tour. It is my attempt to explain some of the most interesting topics in the sciences of complexity in a non-technical way, focusing on the current state of research, the intellectual history of the field, and the biggest open questions.

What inspires you to sit down and write?

I have always felt torn between two intellectual passions — literature and science — so combining these two interests seems natural. Even though I am a scientist by profession, I find that literature and writing come much more easily to me than math and science. Understanding scientific concepts at a deep level is always a struggle for me. But when I do finally grasp such concepts, I want to explain them to other people in the same terms in which I understand them, to show that these ideas are not so forbidding after all. Writing about science gives me the opportunity to do this, and in turn, it actually helps me understand the science better.

Have you ever taken the Geek Test? How did you rate?

It

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