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    • lidja

      The Perfectionists: How Precision Engineers Created the Modern World by Simon Winchester

      I took a motorcycle engines class at a local college a few years ago to learn vocabulary and mechanical concepts. I had no idea going into it just how precise the whole operation of a motor is! (Give me a break - I was a humanities major. Heh.) When I heard this interview on the radio today, I got kind of excited about this new book...

      https://www.npr.org/2018/05/07/608590826/in-the-perfectionists-simon-winchester-looks-at-history-of-precision-engineering

      The author says there are now more transistors in operation than there are leaves on all the trees in the world. 😲

      The book has not been released yet and there are already five people on the library waiting list ahead of me! 🤓

    • yaypie

      Woah, this looks great! Added to my to-read list.

    • Ri

      The author says there are now more transistors in operation than there are leaves on all the trees in the world.

      Way more. It's hard to get reliable numbers (partly because as of a year ago the world was producing 20 trillion transistors per second), but rough estimates show there are 1000 times more transistors than leaves. It's on the order of a sextillion transistors (a 1 followed by 21 zeros) compared to a mere quintillion (18 zeros) leaves. Note that these numbers are based on the rigorous method of looking at the first page of Google hits, but what's a few trillion here or there.

    • Chris
      Chris MacAskill

      Years ago I read The Professor and the Madman by Simon Winchester. I don't remember how I discovered it, but I LOVED IT!! I was completely engrossed and I've thought about it for years, over and over. Every time I wonder what a word means I think of this book. Can you imagine how you come up with definitions to over 200,000 words, citing first use, before the invention of computers?

      The madman was a brilliant prisoner with schizophrenia. I completely related to that because my mom was a brilliant schizophrenic in a mental institution, who, far as I could tell, knew the definition of any obscure word I could possibly ask her about. Simon's characterization of the madman seemed so very spot on to me, and his own language is incredible.

    • lidja

      fascinating blog, @jasoncrawford!

    • Chris
      Chris MacAskill

      Yeah, I just read your origin of cotton post. Very interesting. One quirk of cotton is they figured out you could make cottonseed oil and sell it as food, even though cotton isn't a food crop. Not being a food crop meant you could spray cotton fields with arsenic in fairly heavy amounts without the regulations that applied to other foods.

      The issue is that the cotton fields have been converted to rice in many cases, and the arsenic in the soil gets into the bran of the brown rice, and from there into brown rice syrup, a common sweetener, etc.

      The answer seems to be not buying your rice from the south.

    • Felicity

      Winchester is wonderful in general! He is my favorite creative non-fiction author. He's an ex-geologist, and his books on Krakatoa (titled as you'd expect) and the San Francisco quake of 1906 (A Crack in the Edge of the World) are fabulous.

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