Favorite Science & Technology Books
July 15, 2021
Looking for a good science or technology read? While this list is by no means exhaustive, here are some books
that I've enjoyed.
If you are a fan of the web comic XKCD (and if you are not
a fan, go check it out!), you will enjoy this book. Randall Munroe takes ridiculous questions (If we hooked
turbines to people exercising in gyms, how much power could we produce?) and answers them using serious
science. I found myself constantly laughing out loud through this book, and the scenarios and answers
presented here are quirky and hilarious!
This is a young adult book, that I enjoyed for the intricate way that it mixed code and poetry and music.
When I first learned how to program, I remember thinking that if I could write down my thoughts, I could
write them down in code. This book does exactly that, in a beautiful way.
This is a fascinating historical read about young American women who were recruited to help break Axis codes during World War II. These women were sworn to secrecy about their codebreaking work, so many of their stories have not been told until recently. One memorable anecdote from the book was how they recruited women. Since many women had never worked in codebreaking or mathematics before, they put in newspaper ads for women that enjoyed solving crossword puzzles, and they found that people who were good at crossword puzzles were excellent codebreakers!
This is another historical read, telling the story of the invention of the personal computer and the Internet. While I am very familiar with the technologies described in the book, I had no idea about some of the history behind them, and I was fascinated to learn about the cultural moment that contributed to the first personal computer. This is a book full of lively personalities and stories, and it gave me a deeper appreciation of how we got the technology that we are so used to today.
Both the book and movie of Hidden Figures are excellent! I loved reading the story of the courageous African-American women who worked at NASA and played a critical part in the space program. These women were "human computers", people who did mathematical computations by hand. As computers were introduced, some of them learned the new technology and became computer programmers as well.
This is a dystopian novel where the world has been destroyed by a nuclear war, and only a little bit of knowledge of preserved, by a group of monks. One of the reasons that I love this novel is that it explores how we got our human knowledge, what knowledge is worth preserving, and the dangers that can come with knowledge.
This book makes the argument that when a technology becames an integral part of a culture, it begins to
the cultural landscape in important ways. Neil Postman focuses on communication technologies (e.g., print,
telegraph, television), and analyzes how the mode of communication changes what can be communicated, and how
things are communicated. This subsequently changes the thought patterns of a culture. While the book was
written in the eighties and primarily talks about television, much of the analysis is very relevant for the
age of the internet and social media.
This book is especially important reading for developers of technology. Technology has the power to change
world - we should be thoughtfully thinking about how our technology will change things, and whether those
changes are for better or for worse.