Books as tools for scaling knowledge

A great quote from Richard Hamming from his talk You and your research. It highlights the importance of the “information distillation” that books play.

In this day of practically infinite knowledge, we need orientation to find our way. Let me tell you what infinite knowledge is. Since from the time of Newton to now, we have come close to doubling knowledge every 17 years, more or less. And we cope with that, essentially, by specialization. In the next 340 years at that rate, there will be 20 doublings, i.e. a million, and there will be a million fields of specialty for every one field now. It isn’t going to happen. The present growth of knowledge will choke itself off until we get different tools. I believe that books which try to digest, coordinate, get rid of the duplication, get rid of the less fruitful methods and present the underlying ideas clearly of what we know now, will be the things the future generations will value.

A nice question for coding interviews

I was discussing mortgage calculations with a friend today and realized this calculation would make an excellent interview question.
The problem is simple enough, but still requires some thought…

Writeup: interest-rate-calculations-using-recursion (PDF)

Source: interest-rate-calculations-using-recursion.js

If extra time, the candidate can be asked to write a solve function to solve for the payment P given the other values, e.g., solve for P in Zr(25*12,315000, 0.005,P) = 0.

No bullshit guide to linear algebra

I’m happy to announce the No bullshit guide to linear algebra (student edition) is ready: The core chapters—the stuff that shows up on exams are done. If you have a linear exam coming up, we’ve got what you need.

For the price of a case of beer, you could have an understanding of linear algebra.

Now if you’re a cheapo like me, you’ll say “why the hell do I need to give you money, when there are free books out there?” I understand you. Perhaps you’d like this free tutorial: LA. See also MECH. By reading these short tutorials, I hope to convince you that synthesis of information (i.e. the order of the concepts and choosing an appropriate level of detail) is possible and desirable. Synthesis helps with understanding. If a subject can be summarized in just a few pages, then a full textbook on the subject shouldn’t be bigger than a couple hundred pages, including prerequisites. I call this “information distillation.”

The 1000pp+ textbooks are a scam. Don’t be duped. Get the No bullshit guide to linear algebra. It’s 1/10th the price, 1/2 the size, and 3 times better than a mainstream textbook.  In the news: [HN1], [HN2]. The price is 50% OFF until April 1st.


BTW, this is the second book in the “No bullshit” series. The No bullshit guide to math and physics is the first. It covers high school math, mechanics, differential calculus,  and integral calculus in 383 pages. You should definitely check it if you’re taking one of these classes.


I just received a letter from IEEE transactions on info theory with reviewers comments on one of our papers. Tonight though, what is left of it, is dedicated to work on the Mathematics Fundamentals chapter. You have to do what you have to do. I have downloaded all attachments but they can wait until tomorrow PM. Discipline.

Target revenue

I did a little calculation regarding what kind of sales figures I would need to make it to the 100k income range (which is my current standard for “success” in a technical field). If I can make deals with 100 Universities, and ship ship 100 copies of the book to each of them, then I am done:

I think it is totally doable with the MATH and PHYSICS title alone within the next couple of years. So fuck the job world. I am doing my own thing!

December launch

I realize that it is a little late to launch an “educational product” one week before the finals, but it must be done. Besides, I think next week will be a sweet spot for exam prep.

Get an A

This will be the new marketing line. Six characters — if this were twitter, I would have 134 characters left ;).

September launch?

I have to add a question mark there. The book, well the book is not finished. I could get through the corrections in a couple of days, plus one day to finish up linear algebra. It is possible to do some kind of book launch. Let’s not do a half-assed launch though, and print a book with typos and mistakes in it. I have to do something with the resource that is September and the start of classes. I owe it to my company and to myself to test the hypothesis that mathematics and physics can be taught well in just 400 pages.

So what do we do with the next four days then?

  1. Flyer. Math lesson + physics lesson + pitch: “come preview the book for free on”.
  2. Doku-wiki website. (must setup nginx rewrite rules + nice-up the homepage)

This is all I have time for. We are basically going to redo the launch from November 2011, but focus on the web aspect. By analyzing doku-wiki’s access logs I will be able to see whether there is engagement with the audience.