Owing to the ubiquitous nature of technology, it wouldn’t be wrong to say that Engineering is no longer restricted to the interest of nerds. Earlier we talked as to how movies based on true events have enlightened us so much about Science & Technology. This time we are going to list down some books that deserve all your attention if you have an inclination towards the world of machines or if you are intrigued about some of the most interesting and informative theories introduced in the world of Science.
Presented here is a list of all such Non-Fiction books that define some of the most inspiring and enlightening stories of the personalities who made significant contributions to the world of Science & Technology and some mind-blowing explanations of concepts that any Science lover would love to explore.
Let’s take a look at the 10 nonfiction books for engineers and tech enthusiasts:
1. The Universe and Dr. Einstein
Author: Lincoln Barnett
Published in: 1948
Goodreads Rating: 4.2/5
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This book is the layman’s version of Einstein’s relativity theory and easily explains his achievements in a way that anybody can understand it. Undoubtedly, Albert Einstein’s contribution to the world of Physics and his Science Philosophy form the basis for most of the concepts that have been explained in the modern physics. This book provides an insight into his achievements where you can actually understand his work while appreciating it.
It’s the most readable expositions of relativity theory and talks about the problems he faced, the experiments that lead to his theories, and his findings of the forces that govern the universe. It unfolds relativity and the fourth dimension with a vivid excitement of research.
2. The Soul of a New Machine
Author: Tracy Kidder
Published in: July 1981
Goodreads Ratings: 4.27/5
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This is a nonfiction book that describes the experience of a computer engineering team racing to design the next generation computer under tremendous pressure. It’s the story of 35-year old “veteran” engineers at Data General Design who built a new 32-bit minicomputer at a superb pace of just 1 year. They hired college graduates and encouraged them to work harder and meet the impossible deadlines on complex and difficult projects giving way to a new kind of work ethics.
The engineers are challenged to bring a minicomputer to the market in a very short time and are bound to cut corners on design. The work environment described in this book is quite opposite to the traditional management and similar to the present scenario in the organisations. However, at that time when the book was published, it was found to be surprisingly motivating and the work of the engineers was considered heroic.
3. The Code Book: The Science of Secrecy from Ancient Egypt to Quantum Cryptography
Author: Simon Singh
Published in: August 2000
Goodreads Rating: 4.27/5
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This book by Simon Singh narrates the first sweeping history of encryption tracing backs its origin, evolution, and the effects it has had on wars, nations and the individual lives. It would change the way you think about History and would enlighten you about the significance of encryption. It points out that the most powerful intellectual weapon ever known is ‘Secrecy’.
Throughout the book, you will be entertained by technical and mathematical explanations and portrayal of some famous personalities who wrote and broke the world’s most difficult codes. It includes the story of Mary, Queen of Scots, who was trapped by her own code; the Navajo Code Talkers who helped the Allies win World War 2 and the logistical breakthrough that made internet commerce secure.
4. Martians of Science: Five Physicists Who Changed the Twentieth Century
Author: István Hargittai
Published in: January 2006
Goodreads Rating: 3.69/5
Image Courtesy: Barnes and Noble
As the name itself suggests, the book narrates the story of a group of five physicists who were referred to as “Martians”. These five Physicists were:
• Theodore Von Karman: Became the first director of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, providing the scientific basis for the U.S. Air Force.
• Leo Szilard: He was the first person to see that a chain reaction based on neutrons was possible. He also initiated the Manhattan project but left physics to restrict nuclear arms.
• Eugene Wigner: Won a Nobel Prize in theoretical physics.
• John Von Neumann: He could solve difficult problems in his head and developed the modern computer for more complex problems.
• Edward Teller: The father of the Hydrogen Bomb.
All of them were politically active, fought against totalitarianism, had fierce opinions and influenced each other’s works throughout their lives. Since Istvan Hargittai was a Hungarian physical chemist, he had the opportunity to know all these personalities, their families, and contemporaries in the later years of their lives. This imparts the depth of information and his interest in the Martians, making the book more realistic for the readers.
5. Packing for Mars
Author: Mary Roach
Published in: August 2010
Goodreads Ratings: 3.9/5
Image Courtesy: Medium
Packing for Mars is a humorous take on how humans handle themselves in space when they are subjected to so many challenges like not being able to walk, eat, or do anything in a normal manner. The book advocates that space exploration, to a certain extent, is an exploration of what it means to be human. Through this masterpiece, Roach takes the readers on an entertaining journey to space covering topics like space shuttle training toilet, a crash test of NASA’s new space capsule, etc.
The book would interest all those who are space geeks and like spending time at Science Centers or watching space documentaries. However, it would not inform you about the rocket details or working of the life support system; rather it talks about challenges in space regarding hygiene, safety devices, nutrition, waste disposal, etc. Interestingly, by the end, it would also convince you as to how all this stuff is cool and one must surely go to Mars.
6. The Hidden Reality: Parallel Universes and the Deep Laws of the Cosmos
Author: Brian Greene
Published in: January 2011
Goodreads Ratings: 4.05/5
Image Courtesy: Science Blogs
The Hidden Reality is Brian Green’s most expansive book answering the biggest question: Is ours the only universe? Various discoveries and theories in Physics and cosmology have concluded that ours in not the only universe, rather it’s among one of the many universes. Through this book, Brian explains the different “multiverse” proposals arising out of theories of subatomic particles and the dark depth of space. He explains the various interpretations of multiverse where each of us has an infinite number of doppelgangers; a place comprised of a vast ocean of bubble universes, that hovers millimeters away yet remains invisible and endlessly cycles through time; where every possibility allowed by quantum physics is brought to life or where a multiverse is purely made of math.
With this exploration of the parallel worlds, Greene explains how much reality is still hidden and points out the fact that fundamental Science can’t progress when there is so much of reality lying beyond our reach. This book is quite enlightening as well as entertaining, particularly for those who like analogies.
7. The Making of Prince of Persia: Journals 1985-1993
Author: Jordan Mechner
Published in: October 2011
Goodreads Ratings: 4/5
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Much before becoming a hit video game or a Hollywood blockbuster, ‘Prince of Persia’ was an Apple II computer game created by Jordan Mechner. This book is actually a collection of the journal entries that Jordan created while he was developing the game. The journal covers the whole journey starting from the time when Jordan’s first video game Karateka became a hit and he began to think about transforming this venture into a career. The book talks about all the creative, technical and personal struggles that were encountered by Jordan which ultimately contributed to the existence of the Prince.
The fact that Jordan developed the game while he was a student at the Yale University makes the book informative as well as inspiring. It’s an amazing journey of a few scribbles on a yellow-lined pad which paves the way to the birth of a sensational character of a modern video game and is presently found in millions of homes.
About Prince of Persia:
Prince of Persia is a popular video game franchise designed by Jordan Mechner. It is a series of action-adventure games focused on various incarnations of the eponymous prince. The series has been rebooted twice to make two sequels and later adapted as a movie released by Walt Disney in 2010. Since its first remake, it has been adapted for eight sequels on more than 10 gaming platforms.
8. How Not to be Wrong
Author: Jordon Ellenberg
Published in: May 2014
Goodreads Rating: 3.9/5
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This book associates the social and economic philosophies with the basic mathematics and statistical principles. In other words, it clears our misconception about the application of mathematics. Contrary to what we think, Mathematics is actually not confined to some abstract incidents that never occur in our life; rather it applies to almost everything we do and everything that happens in this world.
In this book, Ellenberg chases mathematical threads through a wide range of subjects like time and space, from everyday to the cosmic, baseball, Reaganomics, Voltaire, daring lottery schemes, the coming obesity apocalypse, the psychology of slime molds, what Facebook can and can’t figure out about you, and so on. It makes important revelations through mathematician’s method of analysing life and exposes the insights to the layman.
According to Ellenberg, Mathematics is “an atomic-powered prosthesis that you can attach to your common sense, vastly multiplying its reach and strength.” The book shows how to use Mathematics tools in order to have a deeper and more meaningful understanding of the world.
9. Superintelligence: Paths, Dangers, Strategies
Author: Nick Bostrom
Published in: September 2014
Goodreads Ratings: 3.8/5
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Superintelligence: Paths, Dangers, Strategies is a book that talks about the situation when machine brains surpass human intelligence. It argues that whenever this happens, the new Superintelligence would replace humans as the dominating life-form on earth. The superintelligent system “greatly exceeds the human cognition in virtually all domains of interest” and it would be beyond human control.
The book finds answers to the questions like what happens when machines surpass humans in general intelligence? It lays the foundation for comprehending the future of humans and intelligent life. The book would engross you in a journey through the frontiers of thinking about the human condition and intelligence. It also suggests that when the goals, compatible with human survival, are translated into machine-implementable code, it leads to unforeseen and undesirable consequences.
10. What If: Serious Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions
Author: Randall Munroe
Published in: September 2014
Goodreads Rating: 4.16/5
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What If: Serious Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions is full of humorous, yet witty answers to all kinds of hypothetical questions that one can ask. It’s an intelligently interesting take on the geeks and the world of Science. It explains the laws of Science in a way that every reader would enjoy. This book is a must-read, especially for those who love to think about the hypothetical things and are fond of Science.
After serving NASA as a roboticist, Randall started his website named XKCD, a webcomic which contained hilarious yet informative answers to some hypothetical questions asked by random people. His stick-figure drawings about Science, technology, and language along with his thoroughly researched answers gave him a huge fan following and made his site really popular.
This book is a compilation of all such interesting and never-heard-before questions and his intelligent explanations about those queries like:
• What if I took a swim in a spent-nuclear-fuel-pool?
• If we hooked turbines to people exercising in gyms, how much power could we produce?
• Are fire tornadoes possible?
He finds all the answers by running computer simulations, poring over declassified military research memos, solving differential equations, and consulting with the nuclear reactor operators. He explains everything from the effects of a baseball pitched at the speed of light to the number of ways one could die while building an actual periodic table out of all the elements.