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The Art of Doing Science and Engineering: Learning to Learn

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Highly effective thinking is an art that engineers and scientists can be taught to develop. By presenting actual experiences and analyzing them as they are described, the author conveys the developmental thought processes employed and shows a style of thinking that leads to successful results is something that can be learned. Along with spectacular successes, the author al Highly effective thinking is an art that engineers and scientists can be taught to develop. By presenting actual experiences and analyzing them as they are described, the author conveys the developmental thought processes employed and shows a style of thinking that leads to successful results is something that can be learned. Along with spectacular successes, the author also conveys how failures contributed to shaping the thought processes. Provides the reader with a style of thinking that will enhance a person's ability to function as a problem-solver of complex technical issues. Consists of a collection of stories about the author's participation in significant discoveries, relating how those discoveries came about and, most importantly, provides analysis about the thought processes and reasoning that took place as the author and his associates progressed through engineering problems.


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Highly effective thinking is an art that engineers and scientists can be taught to develop. By presenting actual experiences and analyzing them as they are described, the author conveys the developmental thought processes employed and shows a style of thinking that leads to successful results is something that can be learned. Along with spectacular successes, the author al Highly effective thinking is an art that engineers and scientists can be taught to develop. By presenting actual experiences and analyzing them as they are described, the author conveys the developmental thought processes employed and shows a style of thinking that leads to successful results is something that can be learned. Along with spectacular successes, the author also conveys how failures contributed to shaping the thought processes. Provides the reader with a style of thinking that will enhance a person's ability to function as a problem-solver of complex technical issues. Consists of a collection of stories about the author's participation in significant discoveries, relating how those discoveries came about and, most importantly, provides analysis about the thought processes and reasoning that took place as the author and his associates progressed through engineering problems.

30 review for The Art of Doing Science and Engineering: Learning to Learn

  1. 4 out of 5

    ☘Misericordia☘ ⚡ϟ⚡⛈⚡☁ ❇️❤❣

    Q: The unexamined life is not worth living. (c) Q: The use of FORTRAN, like the earlier symbolic programming, was very slow to be taken up by the professionals. And this is typical of almost all professional groups. Doctors clearly do not follow the advice they give to others, and they also have a high proportion of drug addicts. Lawyers often do not leave decent wills when they die. Almost all professionals are slow to use their own expertise for their own work. The situation is nicely summarized b Q: The unexamined life is not worth living. (c) Q: The use of FORTRAN, like the earlier symbolic programming, was very slow to be taken up by the professionals. And this is typical of almost all professional groups. Doctors clearly do not follow the advice they give to others, and they also have a high proportion of drug addicts. Lawyers often do not leave decent wills when they die. Almost all professionals are slow to use their own expertise for their own work. The situation is nicely summarized by the old saying, “The shoe maker’s children go without shoes”. Consider how in the future, when you are a great expert, you will avoid this typical error! (c) Q: There is a clever proposed method whose effectiveness I do not know in practice. Suppose you want to measure the amount of murder which escapes detection. You interview people and tell them to toss a coin without anyone but themselves seeing the outcome, and then if it is heads they should claim they have committed a murder, while if tails they should tell the truth. In the arrangement there is no way anyone except themselves can know the outcome of the toss, hence no way they can be accused of murder if they say so. From a large sample the slight excess of murders above one half gives the measure you want. But that supposes the people asked, and given protection, will in fact respond accurately. Variations on this method have been discussed widely, but a serious study to find the effectiveness is still missing, so far as I know. (c) Q: In closing, you may have heard of the famous election where the newspapers announced the victory for President to one man when in fact the other won by a land slide. There is also the famous Literary Digest poll which was conducted via the telephone, and was amazingly wrong afterwards—so far wrong the Literary Digest folded soon after—some people say because of this faulty poll. It has been claimed at that time the ownership of a telephone was correlated with wealth and wealth with a political party—hence the error. (c)

  2. 5 out of 5

    Nick Black

    Hamming's essay, "The Unreasonable Effectiveness of Mathematics" (together with Eugene Wigner's precursor piece, "The Unreasonable Effectiveness of Mathematics in the Natural Sciences", is one of the four or five most important papers I've ever read:Prologue. It is evident from the title that this is a philosophical discussion. I shall not apologize for the philosophy, though I am well aware that most scientists, engineers, and mathematicians have little regard for it; instead, I shall give this Hamming's essay, "The Unreasonable Effectiveness of Mathematics" (together with Eugene Wigner's precursor piece, "The Unreasonable Effectiveness of Mathematics in the Natural Sciences", is one of the four or five most important papers I've ever read:Prologue. It is evident from the title that this is a philosophical discussion. I shall not apologize for the philosophy, though I am well aware that most scientists, engineers, and mathematicians have little regard for it; instead, I shall give this short prologue to justify the approach. Man, so far as we know, has always wondered about himself, the world around him, and what life is all about. We have many myths from the past that tell how and why God, or the gods, made man and the universe. These I shall call theological explanations. They have one principal characteristic in common-there is little point in asking why things are the way they are, since we are given mainly a description of the creation as the gods chose to do it. Philosophy started when man began to wonder about the world outside of this theological framework. An early example is the description by the philosophers that the world is made of earth, fire, water, and air. No doubt they were told at the time that the gods made things that way and to stop worrying about it. From these early attempts to explain things slowly came philosophy as well as our present science. Not that science explains "why" things are as they are-gravitation does not explain why things fall-but science gives so many details of "how" that we have the feeling we understand "why." Let us be clear about this point; it is by the sea of interrelated details that science seems to say "why" the universe is as it is. Our main tool for carrying out the long chains of tight reasoning required by science is mathematics. Indeed, mathematics might be defined as being the mental tool designed for this purpose. Many people through the ages have asked the question I am effectively asking in the title, "Why is mathematics so unreasonably effective?" In asking this we are merely looking more at the logical side and less at the material side of what the universe is and how it works.As G. H. Hardy said in A Mathematician's Apology:What is the proper justification of a mathematician’s life? My answers will be, for the most part, such as are expected from a mathematician: I think that it is worthwhile, that there is ample justification. But I should say at once that my defense of mathematics will be a defense of myself, and that my apology is bound to be to some extent egotistical. I should not think it worthwhile to apologize for my subject if I regarded myself as one of its failures. Some egotism of this sort is inevitable, and I do not feel that it really needs justification. Good work is not done by "humble" men. It is one of the first duties of a professor, for example, in any subject, to exaggerate a little both the importance of his subject and his own importance in it. A man who is always asking "Is what I do worthwhile?" and "Am I the right person to do it?" will always be ineffective himself and a discouragement to others. He must shut his eyes a little and think a little more of his subject and himself than they deserve. This is not too difficult: it is harder not to make his subject and himself ridiculous by shutting his eyes too tightly.Every schoolboy, of course, knows Hamming's Codes, without which tkis 2es7age woz7d 333 uNintel3siblke due to 434rror5 (or at least would have aarrrrrriiiiiivvvveeeedddd mooooooreeeeeeee sllllooooooooowwwwllllllllllyyyy). Van Roy highly recommends this slim volume in Concepts Techniques and Models of Computer Programming, and who am I to reject a book by Hamming? Hoping for fun.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Sandy Maguire

    Hamming invented a lot of cool stuff, but he is best known for sitting down and asking people why they weren't working on the most important problems in their domain. Presumably he didn't make a lot of friends with this strategy, but his is the name we remember, not theirs. This book is excellent excellent excellent. The thesis is that a life lived without producing excellent work isn't one worth living. Hamming describes the book as a manual of style; while university is good at teaching technic Hamming invented a lot of cool stuff, but he is best known for sitting down and asking people why they weren't working on the most important problems in their domain. Presumably he didn't make a lot of friends with this strategy, but his is the name we remember, not theirs. This book is excellent excellent excellent. The thesis is that a life lived without producing excellent work isn't one worth living. Hamming describes the book as a manual of style; while university is good at teaching technical skills, it's not very good at teaching the important stuff that falls /between/ the discrete subjects. Like how to choose important problems to work on, or where insight comes from, or how to stay ahead of the trend and not become obsolete. To this extent, Hamming talks about his own successes and failures (though mostly his successes --- he says it's more important to study success than failure, since you'd like to replicate only the former.) He's obviously proud of his accomplishments, which is a refreshing note from most technical autobiographies, in which the authors present a cool, modest description of their work. Hamming provides commentary behind each of his wins, describing the circumstances that lead to it, and how having a "prepared mind" helped him jump on it before others did. He further notes how he could have done better, and gives explicit advice to the reader for how to do a better job than he did. This is a wonderfully insightful book, and is chocked full inspiration and interesting technical topics. If you're in a technical field and you'd like to do great work, this is mandatory reading.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Sergiu Ciumac

    A book full of wisdom from an engineer and scientist who spent his entire life in computing and research. Richard Hamming discusses why scientist do things they do, how leaders are different from followers, how to spot trends and focus on the core, what changes are going to take place in the near future and how do we adapt to them. "Luck favors the prepared", indeed a quote that is the main theme of this book. Recommend to anyone in the search of the meaning of work, research and generally life. A book full of wisdom from an engineer and scientist who spent his entire life in computing and research. Richard Hamming discusses why scientist do things they do, how leaders are different from followers, how to spot trends and focus on the core, what changes are going to take place in the near future and how do we adapt to them. "Luck favors the prepared", indeed a quote that is the main theme of this book. Recommend to anyone in the search of the meaning of work, research and generally life.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Morgan

    Hamming's goal with this book is to teach style and creativity to people who do engineering or research. He primarily does this using a ton of anecdotes from his own research career. He'll give a story about doing something or other, then explain how it relates to the broader picture of being a top notch researcher. The book itself is organized into separate chapters, each focusing on a technical area that Hamming was interested in. He gives enough information to understand the topic (assuming y Hamming's goal with this book is to teach style and creativity to people who do engineering or research. He primarily does this using a ton of anecdotes from his own research career. He'll give a story about doing something or other, then explain how it relates to the broader picture of being a top notch researcher. The book itself is organized into separate chapters, each focusing on a technical area that Hamming was interested in. He gives enough information to understand the topic (assuming you know calculus) and then dives into various proofs. He does a lot of back of the envelope calculations, and they sometimes aren't motivated until afterwards. There were multiple times where I had no idea why he was doing some derivation until a while after it was done. The derivations are also sometimes not the most clear. Interspersed in each chapter are the anecdotes about engineering style, and Hamming tries to use the technical content to illustrate his examples. This works pretty well, but it does mean that it's harder to read the book and just pick out his advice for being a good scientist. Overall I thought the book was great. It's full of good advice and interesting histories about the discoveries of various theorems.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Nick Black

    there's a lot of wisdom here. there's a lot of wisdom here.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Mark Mulvey

    "Man is not a rational animal, he is a rationalizing animal." "Learning a new subject is something you will have to do many times in your career if you are to be a leader and not be left behind as a follower by newer developments." "When you know something cannot be done, also remember the essential reason why, so later, when the circumstances have changed, you will not say, "It can't be done."" "More than most people want to believe, what we see depends on how we approach the problem! Too often we "Man is not a rational animal, he is a rationalizing animal." "Learning a new subject is something you will have to do many times in your career if you are to be a leader and not be left behind as a follower by newer developments." "When you know something cannot be done, also remember the essential reason why, so later, when the circumstances have changed, you will not say, "It can't be done."" "More than most people want to believe, what we see depends on how we approach the problem! Too often we see what we want to see, and therefore you need to consciously adopt a scientific attitude of doubting your own beliefs." "What you learn from others you can use to follow; What you learn for yourself you can use to lead." "There is another trait of great people I must talk about-and it took me a long time to realize it. Great people can tolerate ambiguity; they can both believe and disbelieve at the same time. You must be able to believe your organization and field of research is the best there is, but also that there is much room for improvement!"

  8. 5 out of 5

    Romeo Stevens

    Lots of skippable stuff for non technical audiences, but the first few and last few chapters are goldmines for anyone.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Denis Romanovsky

    A sort of a good leadership book, and I keep feeling I'm not fond of leadership books. The author is a respected person with lots of experience and wisdom. He explains how computing changed science and engineering, how such changes may continue, how new paradigma in science may replace the old one and what obstacles it gets on the way. It was quite interesting about the role of experts, systems engineering, work with data and measuring, some good notes on creativity and focus in your career. The A sort of a good leadership book, and I keep feeling I'm not fond of leadership books. The author is a respected person with lots of experience and wisdom. He explains how computing changed science and engineering, how such changes may continue, how new paradigma in science may replace the old one and what obstacles it gets on the way. It was quite interesting about the role of experts, systems engineering, work with data and measuring, some good notes on creativity and focus in your career. The author also focuses on "your own style", but it did not feel explained well through the book. What I also missed is how to make author's advices usable for myself. Obviously, I should have my own style, anyway. :) In the end, a very good book worth reading!

  10. 5 out of 5

    Amin

    The book was a nice read and had a lot of interesting ideas. I skipped a few chapters that were too technical for me (like Quantum Mechanics) but the first few and the last few chapters were less technical and full of insights. I learned more about the history of computing and how little many aspects of computer science have changed during the last 30 years.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Isaac Perez Moncho

    It is difficult to classify the book. In theory, it's a textbook, in practice, it's more on a collection of thoughts and approaches to do science, engineering and live your life. The background of the author is impressive, to say the least, having worked at Los Alamos and shared office with Claude Shannon at Bell Labs should say enough on its own. The book has many gold nuggets, and some math filled pages I skipped. Hamming explains how to make your work visible, how to approach what kind of work y It is difficult to classify the book. In theory, it's a textbook, in practice, it's more on a collection of thoughts and approaches to do science, engineering and live your life. The background of the author is impressive, to say the least, having worked at Los Alamos and shared office with Claude Shannon at Bell Labs should say enough on its own. The book has many gold nuggets, and some math filled pages I skipped. Hamming explains how to make your work visible, how to approach what kind of work you take on, how to work with others and many more topics that are relevant to any engineer and probably any person when thinking about work in a broader sense. Some quotes I really liked from the book are: In forming your plan for your future you need to distinguish three different questions: What is possible? What is likely to happen? What is desirable to have happen? Moral: when you know something cannot be done, also remember the essential reason why, so later, when the circumstances have changed, you will not say, “It can’t be done”. “There is never time to do the job right, but there is always time to fix it later.” Change does not mean progress, but progress requires change. Again, you should do your job in such a fashion others can build on top of it. Do not in the process try to make yourself indispensable; if you do then you cannot be promoted because you will be the only one who can do what you are now doing

  12. 5 out of 5

    Lei Wang

    Very systematic view of doing science and engineering. Very inspiring book for researchers in more principled way to do research and self-development.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Brendan

    This is a fairly niche book which presents itself as Hamming teaching a meta class on how to be successful in your scientific and engineering focused career. Taking a brief glance around the classroom, it seems that many people have pretty unqualified praise for this work. I’m not sure they are quite accurate. While all books are read by a self-selected group, BooksWithMath™are an even more hyper-selected group. Thus, there is going to be a propensity for them to inflate the overall score of the This is a fairly niche book which presents itself as Hamming teaching a meta class on how to be successful in your scientific and engineering focused career. Taking a brief glance around the classroom, it seems that many people have pretty unqualified praise for this work. I’m not sure they are quite accurate. While all books are read by a self-selected group, BooksWithMath™are an even more hyper-selected group. Thus, there is going to be a propensity for them to inflate the overall score of the book just due to the nature of who they are. Enough about the other reviewers, let’s look at the book. Hamming starts out by presenting what he is going to teach you in this “class”. He purports to teach them the idea of creativity and the style of doing engineering. “There really isn't this course any technical content, although I'm going to talk about digital fillers and all kinds of things. There are things you presumably know. I am concerned about style. I have studied great scientists, ever since I was at Los Alamos during the war. What is different between those who do and those who do not do significant things? Mainly, it's a manner of style.” As you’ll come to learn later, this isn’t explicitly true. Hamming spends four whole chapters discussing relatively useless information concerning Digital Fillers—by far the worst chapters in my opinion—and only one on the error correcting codes which he is most known for. In these chapters, which thoroughly dissuade you of the notion that there will be little mathematics in this book, there seems to be much more bragging than there is actionable information. Interesting if you want an analysis of what it was like to work around the best scientists of that era, but not quite relevant to the thesis. Personally, I didn’t feel like the book started revealing secrets until Hamming was able to write through all of his personal triumphs. Sure, there are important sentences scattered around, but nothing really compares to the chapters from 25 on. “A long gestation period of intense thinking about the problem may result in a solution, or else the temporary abandonment of the problem. This temporary abandonment is a common feature of many great creative acts. The monomaniacal pursuit often does not work: the temporary dropping of the idea sometimes seems to be essential to let the subconscious find a new approach.” He drops a few short lines, like an engineering poet: “Society will not stand still for you,...” Longer asides, which aid in the orienteering of a career when times are fruitless: “If, on the average campus, you asked a sample of professors what they were going to do the next class hour, you would hear they were going to: “teach partial fractions”, “show how to find the moments of a normal distribution, “explain Young’s modulus and how to measure it”, etc. I doubt you would often hear a professor say, “I am going to educate the students and prepare them for their future careers.” You may claim in both cases the larger aim was so well understood there was no need to mention it, but I doubt you really believe it. Most of the time each person is immersed in the details of one special part of the whole and does not think of how what they are doing relates to the larger picture. It is characteristic of most people that they keep a myopic view of their work and seldom, if ever, connect it with the larger aims they will admit, when pressed hard, are the true goals of the system. This myopic view is the chief characteristic of a bureaucrat. To rise to the top you should have the larger view—at least when you get there.” And then a restatement of his true purpose throughout the book: to create better scientists. To introduce and cement in his students the notion that the biggest ideas do not come to the smallest thinkers. “I strongly recommend this taking the time, on a regular basis, to ask the larger questions and not stay immersed in the sea of detail where almost every one stays almost all of the time. These chapters have regularly stressed the bigger picture, and if you are to be a leader into the future, rather than to be a follower of others, I am now saying it seems to me to be necessary for you to look at the bigger picture on a regular, frequent basis for many years.” I could probably share another 5+ quotes from the final chapters, but I’m afraid that you would be better off reading those final chapters in full. However, despite my praise, I’m not falling into the trap of rating something on the strength of its ending vs. the strength of the whole. Overall, the work was chaotic, messy, and without cogent direction. I suppose one could make an interesting analogy between the construction of the book and the often winding path of an engineering career, but I may be veering into the cliche with that comparison. I can only hope that I do work that is good enough to have people complaining about my lack of direction one day on some random review on the internet.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Tom Lee

    It would be absurd to call this book a work of genius if not for the fact that Richard Hamming was one. A key part of Bell Labs’ heyday, Hamming was a mathematician’s mathematician: the guy called in to help a researcher punch up their equations or, as his department came to employ and manage computers, the guy who could translate your problem into one the machine could ponder (he also seems to have been the guy who could allocate you the machine time to have the pondering performed). This put Ha It would be absurd to call this book a work of genius if not for the fact that Richard Hamming was one. A key part of Bell Labs’ heyday, Hamming was a mathematician’s mathematician: the guy called in to help a researcher punch up their equations or, as his department came to employ and manage computers, the guy who could translate your problem into one the machine could ponder (he also seems to have been the guy who could allocate you the machine time to have the pondering performed). This put Hamming in a position to collaborate with a huge range of insanely talented luminaries, and he made numerous contributions along the way. The most famous is “Hamming Codes,” a method for reliable communication across noisy channels. Imagine a staticky telephone connection: you can still manage to get your message across by yelling it repeatedly, at the cost of taking up transmitting time that, absent the noise, could have been used for sending other messages. Hamming’s approach is a mathematically pristine version of this, by which digital signals can trade some content for error-correcting codes, allowing messages to be reliably transmitted across arbitrarily noisy channels. It’s a critical accompaniment to the Information Theory insights of Claude Shannon (with whom Hamming shared an office), and a fundamental feature of how digital communications actually work in circumstances ranging from your home wifi to interplanetary probes. This book is a collection of adapted talks from a course Hamming taught to select students at the U.S. Naval Postgraduate School. It’s a bit of a victory lap. The idea seemed to have been: here’s a impeccably accomplished titan of the field. Let’s stick our brightest students in a room with him and see what happens. The results are a bit uneven. Although he spares you its full fury, one can’t read this book without developing a sense of the mathematical genius that must lurk inside its author. But that’s not what these essays are about. They’re general observations about scientific progress and professional life, made by a mind that is clearly intelligent, but not unreachably so. He modestly recounts some triumphs; he speculates; he pats himself on the back; he grinds some long-rusty axes (he really thinks Shannon should have picked a different, less grandiose name for his theory). And he makes a bunch of mildly cynical observations about human organizations and bureaucracies that, while not exactly revelatory, are still nice to hear coming from someone who achieved so much. There are two aspects of this that are genuinely useful. First is Hamming’s work ethic. I don’t think the man was a genius at the kinds of sociological observations that fill much of this book. But he is diligent. He clearly spent a lot of time thinking about creativity and research, considering them methodically, and with a firm sense of his own talents and shortcomings. He thinks carefully about his work and why he’s doing it. This is the primary lesson that he’s trying to convey, and I think he does a pretty good job of it. The second aspect is perhaps more interesting. We often hear about mathematics as a language. But it’s rare for non-practitioners to see how this really works. If you get your hands on this book, skip to the chapter on n-dimensional space. Hamming elegantly explains a few simple results, their application to generalized problems, and what they reveal about the limits of human cognition and intuition. It’s a way of thinking about problems that is very different--and powerful--compared to the economic and legal frameworks for reasoning that most of us tend to absorb involuntarily through professional culture. I wish I had a better grasp on it; I wish I saw a better way into it. I am left convinced that we should find ways to admit more people who can do it into our wider discourse. For me, that’s the highlight (the less said about his chapters on theory of mind, the better; also, it's mildly amusing to see him predict so much about the digital age but miss packet-switching). This book is a tour of a great mind, and if the book itself does not achieve that same greatness, it still provides a useful journey.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Samuel

    " It soon became evident to me one of the reasons no theorem was false was that Hilbert “knew” the Euclidean theorems were “correct”, and he had picked his added postulates so this would be true. But then I soon realized Euclid had been in the same position; Euclid knew the “truth” of the Pythagorean theorem, and many other theorems, and had to find a system of postulates which would let him get the results he knew in advance. Euclid did not lay down postulates and make deductions as it is common " It soon became evident to me one of the reasons no theorem was false was that Hilbert “knew” the Euclidean theorems were “correct”, and he had picked his added postulates so this would be true. But then I soon realized Euclid had been in the same position; Euclid knew the “truth” of the Pythagorean theorem, and many other theorems, and had to find a system of postulates which would let him get the results he knew in advance. Euclid did not lay down postulates and make deductions as it is commonly taught; he felt his way back from “known” results to the postulates he needed ... Here you see a blend of the logical and formalist schools, and the sterility of their views. The logicians failed to convince people their approach was other than an idle exercise in logic. Indeed, I will strongly suggest what is usually called the foundations of Mathematics is only the penthouse. A simple illustration of this is for years I have been saying if you come into my office and show me Cauchy’s theorem is false, meaning it cannot derived from the usual assumptions, then I will certainly be interested, but in the long run I will tell you to go back and get new assumptions—I know Cauchy’s theorem is “true”. Thus, for me at least, Mathematics does not exclusively follow from the assumptions, but rather very often the assumptions follow from the theorems we “believe are true”. I tend, as do many others, to group the formalists and logicians together. " A collection of notes directed toward aspiring scientists and engineers. Of particular interest were the chapters on AI, Computer history, Mathematics, "You and your research". A wealth of wisdom, insight, knowledge derived from thet experience of THE Richard Hamming!

  16. 4 out of 5

    Michael Knolla

    Accruing the benefit of this text required me to trust the author when he said that the importance of the examples he was providing was not in the theories themselves but in how they were derived - the art of doing science and engineering NOT the science or engineering in and of itself, to borrow from the title. With my pure mathematical glory days too far behind me and the examples too far out of my current competencies that still meant taking an intellectual beating for the first 200+ pages to Accruing the benefit of this text required me to trust the author when he said that the importance of the examples he was providing was not in the theories themselves but in how they were derived - the art of doing science and engineering NOT the science or engineering in and of itself, to borrow from the title. With my pure mathematical glory days too far behind me and the examples too far out of my current competencies that still meant taking an intellectual beating for the first 200+ pages to extract the initial value add. But for me, with Chapter 18 Simulation - I, the value add turned from panning for gold in a raging river to hitting the mother lode. For me personally Chapter 26 Experts and Chapter 29 You Get What You Measure were such rich seams that on their own they returned my investment in both time and money for this text but truthfully every page from 18 on seemed to provide me with insight or perspective. For those outside it’s core audience then my recommendation is either to not be discouraged (many of those nuggets you had to work so hard for in the first half are compounded in the second) or to give yourself permission to jump ahead to the “good stuff” (you can always go back if you feel you’re missing something) because it would be a shame to miss out on what this book has to offer all readers.

  17. 5 out of 5

    John

    I read this because Bret Victor really likes it. There's a lot in here and I will probably get a lot out of it if I read it again later. What did I expect going in? Some sort of philosophy or method that Hamming synthesized through his own experience - how Hamming thinks about doing meaningful technical work. What did I get? A sense of the man himself, and how he went about thinking about various fields. I think each set of lectures has an interesting insight. The subject matter, although interes I read this because Bret Victor really likes it. There's a lot in here and I will probably get a lot out of it if I read it again later. What did I expect going in? Some sort of philosophy or method that Hamming synthesized through his own experience - how Hamming thinks about doing meaningful technical work. What did I get? A sense of the man himself, and how he went about thinking about various fields. I think each set of lectures has an interesting insight. The subject matter, although interesting and applicable in its own right, is strictly illustrative (as he indicates in the intro). It's also provided an interesting framework for thinking about general direction of work, and a reminder of how much I enjoy math (and how it can provide important perspectives!). I read it kind of skipping around - first the intro and the more obviously general closing chapters, then the middle, then skimmed the closing chapters again. I felt like that gave me a bit more of a framework for understanding what was important and not important in the middle - so if you feel like the technical stuff is getting to be a slog try taking a break and reading some of the more philosophical stuff in the back.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Phil

    A very inspiring read. Richard gives many stories that feel very familiar to me, having made similar mistakes or learned similar lessons in my technical career. This book convinces me that early computing was very different in its capabilities ~50 years ago, but not too different in the problem solving it asked of practitioners. I still don't live my life by Richard's biggest lesson: To set high goals where you believe important work must be done and to then make slow, steady, and compounding pro A very inspiring read. Richard gives many stories that feel very familiar to me, having made similar mistakes or learned similar lessons in my technical career. This book convinces me that early computing was very different in its capabilities ~50 years ago, but not too different in the problem solving it asked of practitioners. I still don't live my life by Richard's biggest lesson: To set high goals where you believe important work must be done and to then make slow, steady, and compounding progress towards them. My grandfather, who I am quite similar to, took quite a liking to the movie Forest Gump and thought that it summarized his life and career. He felt he rode the random winds of fate and bounced from thing to thing without making many plans. He felt very fortunate to land where he did without much forethought. I feel like I'm doing the same thing and things have worked out very well. But I'm always driven by the question of "should I be doing more?" and Richard has stirred some of that up by suggesting I set large goals towards important work.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Mayur Sinha

    "The unexamined life is not worth living" is a famous dictum apparently uttered by Socrates at his trial for impiety and corrupting youth, for which he was subsequently sentenced to death. Hamming is a genius who is explaining to us through this book that it is your life you have to live and he is just only one of many possible guides you have for selecting and creating the style of the one life you have to live. Most of the things Hamming has been saying were not said to him; he had to discover "The unexamined life is not worth living" is a famous dictum apparently uttered by Socrates at his trial for impiety and corrupting youth, for which he was subsequently sentenced to death. Hamming is a genius who is explaining to us through this book that it is your life you have to live and he is just only one of many possible guides you have for selecting and creating the style of the one life you have to live. Most of the things Hamming has been saying were not said to him; he had to discover them for himself. In this book he tells you in some detail how to succeed, hence you have no excuse for not doing better. Scientific research is hard but if people put the same hard work as Newton then they will get the same results. As Edison eloquently quoted, "Genius is one percent inspiration, ninety-nine percent perspiration". I'll also suggest watching his lectures on YT - pure gold.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Bill Lovegrove

    A hard book to read quickly because I found myself constantly stopping to think; this is a thought provoking book. Hamming was a brilliant engineer who went into education later in his career, and this book is a collection of essays to engineering students. However, the thoughts are profitable, maybe more profitable, for people further along in their careers. The book is not about engineering content, it is about life, and especially life as an engineer. I don't agree with everything he said, bu A hard book to read quickly because I found myself constantly stopping to think; this is a thought provoking book. Hamming was a brilliant engineer who went into education later in his career, and this book is a collection of essays to engineering students. However, the thoughts are profitable, maybe more profitable, for people further along in their careers. The book is not about engineering content, it is about life, and especially life as an engineer. I don't agree with everything he said, but I found it all worth thinking about. The math and engineering content, which is in the book to illustrate the author's ideas about life, is quite advanced and will stretch the thinking of the most knowledgeable of readers.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Stano

    I would recommend this book to anyone seeking inspiration or advice about their engineering career. It’s full of useful thoughts and ideas on how to approach problems. Don’t expect a well designed recipe. Instead, the core is in separate anecdotal stories and the insights the author got from them. The first 1/3rd may seem hard to follow (e.g. why am I reading about these stories?) and the middle - filled with too many math details but I’d encourage you to stick with it for the final 1/3rd of the I would recommend this book to anyone seeking inspiration or advice about their engineering career. It’s full of useful thoughts and ideas on how to approach problems. Don’t expect a well designed recipe. Instead, the core is in separate anecdotal stories and the insights the author got from them. The first 1/3rd may seem hard to follow (e.g. why am I reading about these stories?) and the middle - filled with too many math details but I’d encourage you to stick with it for the final 1/3rd of the book. This is where it got really interesting to me - full of insights, that kind of confirmed my view on how to approach my job(s). And of course, a lot of new ideas. It was both inspirational to keep doing stuff and also guiding how to look at the matter.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Jeremy

    I thought this was a really great book. Hamming has a lot of good thoughts when it comes to the philosophy of doing science and engineering (what he calls "style"). There are a bunch of gems hidden in this book, and it was a pleasure to read through it. The reason I only gave this book four stars was because it was riddled with errors and typos. Seriously, I can't believe how this got to press (though I know it's an old edition). I imagine the newer editions are better, because the number of typo I thought this was a really great book. Hamming has a lot of good thoughts when it comes to the philosophy of doing science and engineering (what he calls "style"). There are a bunch of gems hidden in this book, and it was a pleasure to read through it. The reason I only gave this book four stars was because it was riddled with errors and typos. Seriously, I can't believe how this got to press (though I know it's an old edition). I imagine the newer editions are better, because the number of typos and errors was incredible. Probably the book I've seen with the most errors ever.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Ask Franck

    Holy f'ing shit!! I thank the forces I finally read this book. Spent the last 4-5 days reading carefully through this, taking over 14500 words total of notes. This book unified so many threads of my life, profession, intellectual pursuit and education so far. My brain is too tired to write a proper review right now. I've been reading and writing from this for literally about 12 hours today. Might come back to this review later. Will definitely re-read and review my notes later on. Richard Hamming Holy f'ing shit!! I thank the forces I finally read this book. Spent the last 4-5 days reading carefully through this, taking over 14500 words total of notes. This book unified so many threads of my life, profession, intellectual pursuit and education so far. My brain is too tired to write a proper review right now. I've been reading and writing from this for literally about 12 hours today. Might come back to this review later. Will definitely re-read and review my notes later on. Richard Hamming was a legend! RIP

  24. 5 out of 5

    Ben Scheirman

    This book dares you to consider the big picture and what impact you want to have in your career and life. It's very math dense, which was often over my head, but some of the concepts triggered some understanding of concepts I hadn't considered deeply since university. It dispels the notion of being "lucky" and instead emphasizes showing up to do the hard work and thinking deeply. Big things can arise from these situations. This book dares you to consider the big picture and what impact you want to have in your career and life. It's very math dense, which was often over my head, but some of the concepts triggered some understanding of concepts I hadn't considered deeply since university. It dispels the notion of being "lucky" and instead emphasizes showing up to do the hard work and thinking deeply. Big things can arise from these situations.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Andrew Shulaev

    Really good book tackling the problem of how to come up with new scientific and engineering ideas. Chapters on information theory and digital filters are quite bad though: they do not explain the topic in sufficient detail for someone without background knowledge to understand. Probably other more technical chapters suffer from the same problem, but I did have some prior exposure to topics discussed there, so it's hard for me to tell. Really good book tackling the problem of how to come up with new scientific and engineering ideas. Chapters on information theory and digital filters are quite bad though: they do not explain the topic in sufficient detail for someone without background knowledge to understand. Probably other more technical chapters suffer from the same problem, but I did have some prior exposure to topics discussed there, so it's hard for me to tell.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Richard Meadows

    Not sure how this is a cult classic. There were quite a few interesting insights in the first couple of chapters and some vaguely interesting historical stuff, although none of it was all that coherent due to the structure as lecture notes. I guess it was kind of cool to see how predictions about AI held up. Then the rest was just a bunch of math. Overall, it was underwhelming. Perhaps my expectations were too high, or maybe it's just not really intended for non-technical people. Not sure how this is a cult classic. There were quite a few interesting insights in the first couple of chapters and some vaguely interesting historical stuff, although none of it was all that coherent due to the structure as lecture notes. I guess it was kind of cool to see how predictions about AI held up. Then the rest was just a bunch of math. Overall, it was underwhelming. Perhaps my expectations were too high, or maybe it's just not really intended for non-technical people.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Mikhail

    "An old man talks about science and engineering". Richard discusses multiple aspects of his past work with the idea of illustrating how great science and engineering are born. Brilliant anecdotes from the professional life of the inventor of correction codes. There were several math-heavy chapters there - I gave up on two of them, I guess the book would be better without it. I'll probably re-read at some point. "An old man talks about science and engineering". Richard discusses multiple aspects of his past work with the idea of illustrating how great science and engineering are born. Brilliant anecdotes from the professional life of the inventor of correction codes. There were several math-heavy chapters there - I gave up on two of them, I guess the book would be better without it. I'll probably re-read at some point.

  28. 5 out of 5

    J.B.

    This book provides some of the best nuggets of advice if you work in a large research environment. It is also the only book I have come across that beautifully uses mathematics as a second language to convey topics that aren’t usually thought of as technical. Hamming’s insights are practical and measured (see chapter on measurements) as only someone with such a long storied career can have.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Pablo Weremczuk

    This book resonates with me very well. Starts a little slow, and ends with high notes. I think most people will read it until the middle, actually, it starts talking about calculus. It's more like a "history book", it will not teach you how to learn but is very inspiring. Or at least was for me. I'm not sure if everybody will enjoy it. This book resonates with me very well. Starts a little slow, and ends with high notes. I think most people will read it until the middle, actually, it starts talking about calculus. It's more like a "history book", it will not teach you how to learn but is very inspiring. Or at least was for me. I'm not sure if everybody will enjoy it.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Patrick Sermont

    Without any doubt The Art of Doing Science and Engineering by Richard Hamming. I have accomplished more in 5 years after reading it than I did in 15 years before. Much of it I attribute to the change of perspective the book brought about for me and to the fact that I have a vision of my future now. It also helped develop my own style. https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=... Without any doubt The Art of Doing Science and Engineering by Richard Hamming. I have accomplished more in 5 years after reading it than I did in 15 years before. Much of it I attribute to the change of perspective the book brought about for me and to the fact that I have a vision of my future now. It also helped develop my own style. https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=...

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