As I attempted to write the first paragraph of this weblog post, an observer came by. So I made a comment, hoping for some encouragement: “Beautiful boat, isn’t it?”
“Not particularly,” came the reply. “It looks awfully cold. They even have to wear toques. If someone fell in the water, how would they get back onboard?”
At that point I realized, yet again, that the observer and I live in two different universes. In my universe, the boat motor stops, the foils sink and the hull floats on the water. The person in the water is dragged through the open transom onto the boat. It is probably one of the easiest boats in existence to effect a rescue. I replied, “Would you like some tea?”
Tea is one of her passions, while watercraft are one of mine. A major achievement was building a sailing dinghy, a 2.4 meter long Sabot, at the age of thirteen. In my adult life I have owned two sailboats, including a Eygthene 24 cruiser.
Theoretically, I share the same speed obsession as Toad of Toad Hall as found in Kenneth Graham’s (1859 – 1932) Wind in the Willows (1908), but in a more maritime variant. I appreciate fast sailboats including America’s cup AC72 foiling catamarans, AC75 foiling monohulls and even more affordable foiling Moth dinghys.
Practically, I usually sailed my cruiser from its harbour to a small inlet two nautical miles (NM = 3.5 km) away. I would then anchor, and enjoy the tranquility of its relatively remote location. One could make that journey in almost any type of boat, including a kayak or a row boat. The advantages of a cruiser include its galley, bunks, head and shelter from inclement weather.
A glimmer of hope that I might appreciate motorized vessels occurred in 2015. Aspiring to develop a new industry here in Norway, I gave my Technology students an assignment to design an electrically powered, water-jet vessel, based on a surfboard. I introduced the topic by showing a video about river jetsurfing. Now there are foiling boards as well, as this video shows. There are other foiling boards available, but most of them use propellers rather than waterjets, something I find ill-advised.
The Candela C-8 impresses me in several different ways.
First, the hull is constructed out of carbon fibre, using vacuum molding techniques to create a rigid platform to mount the driveline and foils, as well as passenger accommodation. It is also lightweight. However, it is not something that I would like to come into close contact with sharp rocks.
Second, the driveline is remarkable. The battery is enclosed in a waterproof container, to prevent salt-water from damaging it. It is freshwater cooled. Its 40 kWh lithium ion NMC battery pack (from BMW i3) could (theoretically) power the vessel for 50 NM = 92.6 km = 57.5 miles. However, even Candela admits that a more probable result is 40 NM at 20 knots = 2 hours. The motor uses 70 kW to take off and start foiling, 16 kW to foil at 23 knots, and 37 kW at full speed = 30 knots.
The motor is housed underwater, which provides cooling and noise reduction. Further, it is equipped with contra-rotating propellers, that is two propellers that rotate in opposite directions about a common axis, usually to minimize the effect of torque. This approach reduces the size of propellers needed, but it is a more complicated (read: expensive) system that may require more maintenance. Candela claims that its C-POD requires no maintenance and will operate for 3000 hours without service. They state that it is built to last a human lifetime, without maintenance. In addition, there is no need to change oil or cooling fluid, as the sealed electric motors are cooled by the flow of seawater. It is important to note that with contra-rotating propellers, hydrodynamic gains may be partially reduced by mechanical losses in shafting.
Third, the flight control system uses ten sensors to estimate the position, velocity, and acceleration of the boat on all axis, and to determine/ estimate the real-time system state. This allows the vessel to operate in rough sea and make sudden and sharp turns. It is so much quieter than a hovercraft.
Fourth, I suspect there is a brilliant navigation system provided, that will keep those onboard out of danger. In addition, I suspect there is a dead-man switch/ man-overboard button that, when engaged, will automatically maneuver the vessel back to the point where the person fell overboard, or became incapacitated.
With a starting price of €290 000, I cannot afford to buy a C-8. No, I have never bought lottery tickets out of principle, so I have no prospects of ever being able to afford one. I would like to encourage my younger friends and family to follow the used market. I estimate that a 20 year old vessel (at about 20% of the price) will offer optimal value.
If any of my offspring are wondering what to get me for my 80th birthday in 2028, a day foiling would be ideal. They can even choose the location, with the Salish Sea, San Francisco Bay or the Stockholm archipelago, three of numerous possibilities.
1605 kg DC version
8 passengers including driver
24 kn cruise, 30 kn top
Candela C-Pod (45/50 kW)
50+ NM at cruising speed +3 NM at 4 kn in limp home mode
0.5 m in shallow mode 0,9 m in planing mode 0,8 m while foiling 1.5 m while not foiling, foils extended
230Vx1x16A: 13h 230Vx3x32A: 2,5h
15,4-inch touch screen with Candela’s proprietary navigation and boat integration system. Free software upgrades included. One year free sea chart upgrades included.
Candela app with position, state of charge, route statistics and more. Optional geo-fence.
The hybrid hull is shaped for frictionless planing in addition to low air resistance when foiling. In Planing mode the foils are above the surface which prevents fouling and corrosion
Of course, I am hoping that readers will mistake Prolog for Prologue = an introduction to something. In addition, I have a further hope that the poster, displayed above, will induce a feeling of calmness in these same readers, so that they will be able to approach the real content of this weblog post with detachment, but not indifference. The main problem with the poster, is that almost everything about it, apart from its wording, and especially its signal red background, but also large sans-serif white lettering and the British crown, reinforce a feeling of danger!
Wikipedia tells us, Keep Calm and Carry On was a propaganda poster produced by the British government in 1939 in preparation for World War II. The poster was intended to raise the morale of the British public. Although 2.45 million copies were printed, the poster was only rarely publicly displayed and was little known until a copy was rediscovered in 2000 at Barter Books, a bookshop in Alnwick, a market town in Northumberland, in north-east England.
Some topics, toothaches in particular, or dentistry more generally, do not induce calmness. Instead, they increase the flow of adrenaline, and other forms of psychomotor agitation, resulting in psychological and physical restlessness. Thus, before confessing what this topic is really about, I want to reassure readers that it is a topic that can be fun, if approached correctly. Initially, I had thought of dividing the topic into multiple parts and publishing them at the rate of one part a day, over more than a week. The parts are still subdivided, but each reader will have to determine her/ his/ its etc. own consumption rate.
I am used to dealing with actors, people pretending to be someone else. In the process, these people have helped me developed my own acting talents. Some of the actors I had to deal with, had failed their auditions, often called court appearances or trials. One of the consequences of such a failure, could be imprisonment at the Norwegian low security prison where I was assigned as their teacher.
Other actors were youth in the final years of their compulsory education, at senior secondary school. They had to attend school, but some of them were better than others at presenting themselves in a positive light. Not that everyone sought positivity. In a Media and Communication English class, I once asked the pupils to write about something they wanted to accomplish in the future, and why they wanted to do so. The reply that created the most work, not just for myself, but for the student, the school principal, the school psychologist and others, was an essay that detailed how this person wanted to become a mass murderer. Afterwards, he claimed that this was a work of fiction.
I have experienced a lot of acting performances by students. The most problematic actors are those who pretend they understand a topic, when they have absolutely no idea about it. The role of the teacher is to channel student activity so that the student finds a route that suits her/ his personality, and is effective at helping the student learn new sets of knowledge and develop new skills. This route-finding skill is the primary talent needed to teach.
This weblog post’s topic is programming, in a specific language. While numbers vary with the situation, perhaps ten percent of actors will delight in learning the programming language they are confronted with. A similar number, give or take, will not master anything. Those remaining in the middle will accept programming languages as a necessary evil in this internet age. Stated another way, a small percentage will find their own route without assistance, another small percentage will never find a route, while most people in the middle will struggle to varying degrees, but ultimately find a route, hopefully one that suits their personality.
The main difficulty in terms of learning to program, is that schools begin computer science studies assuming that students will want to learn to program the particular language being offered. Admittedly, some languages are fairly general, including some that are designed more for teaching/ learning, than for any more practical applications. Pascal, is probably the best example of such a language. However, my contention is that the first computing course a student takes should look at programming principles.
I was fortunate to read Bruce J. MacLennan’s, Principles of Programming Languages: Design, Evaluation and Implementation (1983). A second edition was published in 1987, and a third in 1999. There is not much difference between the three editions, and the same languages are discussed in all three: pseudo-code interpreters, Fortran, Algol-60, Pascal, Ada, Lisp, Smalltalk and Prolog. All the editions of this book explain that computer languages can have different purposes, and asks readers to examine the purpose of each programming language. Not everyone should learn the same one. Before they decide to learn programming, people should know what they want to do with that language, after they have learned its basics. Much of the time the answer is, learn a more appropriate language.
The Prolog in the title of this post refers to the Prolog programming language. Fifty years ago, in 1972, Prolog was created by Alain Colmerauer (1941 – 2017), a French computer scientist, at Aix-Marseille University, based on the work of Robert Kowalski (1941 – ), an American-British computer scientist, at the time at the University of Edinburgh.
Prolog is a logic programming language associated with artificial intelligence and computational linguistics. That doesn’t say much. It might be more understandable to say that students typically learn Prolog by creating a program/ system that shows social relationships between people. Despite their reputation as rather awkward social creatures, even computer scientists have the capability of understanding some social markers: mother, father, daughter, son, at a minimum. Thus, even computer scientists can construct a system that will determine then show relationships between any two people. The system can be constructed slowly, so that initially only, say, four relationships are allowed. Outside of those four choices, people will be labelled as having no relationship. However, in subsequent iterations, the number of relationships can be expanded, almost indefinitely.
Prolog consists of three main components: 1) a knowledge base = a collection of facts and rules fully describing knowledge in the problem domain; 2) an interface engine, that chooses which facts and rules to apply when attempting to solve a user query; 3) a user interface, that takes in the user’s query in a readable form and passes it to the interface engine. Afterwards, it displays results to the user.
Programming in Prolog, written by William F. Clocksin (1955 – ) & Christopher S. Mellish (1954 – ), is the most popular textbook about the language. Originally published in 1981, a revised (read: readable) second edition appeared in 1984. My copy has my name printed on the colophon page in capital letters in blue ink, considerably faded now, along with the date, 12 iii 1985.
It is not the only book about Prolog in my library. Among the thirteen others are: Dennis Merritt, Building Expert Systems in Prolog (1989); Kenneth Bowen, Prolog and Expert Systems (1991); Alain Colmerauer & Philippe Roussel, The Birth of Prolog (1992); Krzysztof R. Apt, From Logic Programming to Prolog (1997) and even an updated 5th edition of Clocksin and Mellish, subtitled Using the ISO Standard, (2003). Part of the reason for this large number, was my using of Prolog to teach expert systems.
Expert systems are not particularly popular, now. In artificial intelligence, popularity contests are being won by machine learning tools. Yet, some people don’t have to be at either the height of fashion or the cutting edge of technological advances, and can appreciate older approaches.
Edward Feigenbaum (1936 – ) constructed some of the first expert systems. He established the Knowledge Systems Laboratory (KSL) at Stanford University. Long words are often strung together to describe his work. A favourite phrase is, “Knowledge representation for shareable engineering knowledge bases and systems.” This was often coded into the phrase expert system. He used it mainly in different fields of science, medicine and engineering. KSL was one of several related organizations at Stanford. Others were: Stanford Medical Informatics (SMI), the Stanford Artificial Intelligence Lab (SAIL), the Stanford Formal Reasoning Group (SFRG), the Stanford Logic Group, and the Stanford Center for Design Research (CDR). KSL ceased to exist in 2007.
The focus of Feigenbaum, and American institutions more generally, was on rules-based systems: Typically, these found their way into shells = computer programs that expose an underlying program’s (including operating system) services to a human user, produced by for-profit corporations, that would sit on top of Lisp, one of the programming languages commented on in two chapters of MacLennan’s book, and used extensively for artificial intelligence applications. Feigenbaum and his colleagures worked with several of these expert systems, including: ACME = Automated Classification of Medical Entities, that automates underlying cause-of-death coding rules; Dendral = a study of scientific hypothesis formation generally, but resulting in an expert system to help organic chemists identify unknown organic molecules, by analyzing their mass spectra, and combining this with an existing but growing chemical knowledgebase; and, Mycin = an early backward chaining expert system that identified infection related bacteria, recommend specific antibiotic treatments, with dosage proposals adjusted for patient’s mass/ weight. He also worked with SUMEX = Stanford University Medical Experimental Computer. Feigenbaum was a co-founder of two shell producing companies: IntelliCorp and Teknowledge. Shells are often used by experts lacking programming skills, but fully capable of constructing if-then rules.
Prolog is frequently contrasted with Lisp, and offers a different approach for developing expert systems. Some users are fond of saying that Prolog has a focus on first-order logic. First-order is most appropriately translated as low-level, or even simple. The most important difference between the two languages, is that anyone with average intelligence should be able to understand, and work with Prolog. Much of the work done with Lisp involves higher-orders of logic, often requiring the insights of real logicians, with advanced mathematics in their backgrounds. An introductory logic course, gives sufficient insight for anyone to work with Prolog.
Prolog is also claimed to be a more European approach. This probably has something to do with the way teaching is organized. In Norway, for example, a (Danish) Royal decree from 1675 and still valid today, required all university students to undertake an Examen philosophicum, devised by advisor Peder Griffenfeld (from griffin, the legendary creature, plus field, but originally, Schumacher = shoemaker, 1635 – 1699). Under the Danish King, Christian V (1646 – 1699), he became the king’s foremost adviser and in reality Denmark’s (and Norway’s) actual ruler. In 1676 he fell into disfavour and was imprisoned. He was sentenced to death, for treason, but the sentence was commuted to life imprisonment. He was a prisoner on Munkholmen, outside Trondheim, and about 55 km directly south-east of Cliff Cottage, for 18 years (1680–1698), and was released after 22 years of captivity.
Until the end of the 1980s, this exam involved an obligatory course in logic, including mathematical logic, along with other subjects. This means that almost every university student (at that time), no matter what they studied, had the necessary prerequisites to work with Prolog.
Expert systems often involve heuristics, an approach to problem solving using methods that are not expected to be optimal, perfect, or rational, but good enough/ satisfactory for reaching an approximate, immediate or short-term goal. George Pólya (1887-1985), who worked at Stanford 1940 – 1953, and beyond, took up this subject in How to Solve It (1945). He advised: 1) draw a picture, if one has difficulty understanding a problem; 2) work backwards, if one can’t find a solution, assuming there is one, and see what can be derived from it; 3) develop a concrete example, from an abstract problem; 4) solving a more general problem first – this involves the inventor’s paradox where a more ambitious plan may have a greater chance of success.
One list of areas where expert systems can be used, involve system control, in particular: 1) interpretation, making high-level conclusions/ descriptions based on raw data content; 2) prediction, proposing probable future consequences of given situations; 3) diagnosis, determining the origins/ consequences of events, especially in complex situations based on observable data/ symptoms; 4) design, configuring components to meet/ enhance performance goals, while meeting/ satisfying design constraints; 5) planning, sequencing actions to achieve a set of goals with start and run-time constraints; 6) monitoring, comparing observed with expected behaviour, and issuing warnings if excessive variations occur; 7) repair, prescribing and implementing remedies when expected values are exceeded.
Sometimes one comes across Prolog tutorials that begin with subjective knowledge/ considerations. Music is a good example. Unfortunately, it is not always easy to remember if one has labelled something as trash metal or punk, and this may have operational consequences. It is much easier to confirm that person X is person Y’s granddaughter, and that person Y is person X’s grandfather, especially if persons X and Y are members of your own family.
It is always hard to know which Prolog expert system implementation will impress readers most. Here are some choices: Bitcoinolog = configures bitcoin mining rigs for an optimal return on investment; CEED = Cloud-assisted Electronic Eye Doctor, for screening glaucoma (2019); Sudoku = solves sudoku problems; an unnamed system constructed by Singla to diagnose 32 different types of lung disease (2013), another for diabetes (2019); an unnamed system by Iqbal, Maniak, Doctor and Karyotis for automated fault detection and isolation in industrial processes (2019); an unnamed system by Eteng and Udese to diagnose Candidiasis (2020). These are just some of hundreds, if not thousands, many open source.
One of the challenges/ problems with expert systems is that the scope of its domain can be unknown. In other words, when a person starts using an implemented expert system, it can be unknown just how big or little the range of problems is that can be used successfully with it. There can also be challenges with system feedback. What looks like an answer, may be a default because the system has insufficient insights (read: rules) to process information. Expert systems do not rely on common sense, only on rules and logic. Systems are not always up to date, and do not learn from experience. This means that real living experts are needed to initiate and maintain systems. Frequently, an old system is an out of date system, that may do more harm than good.
This begs a question of responsibility/ liability in case the advice provided by a system is wrong. Consider the following choices: The user, the domain expert, the knowledge engineer, the programmer of the expert system or its shell, the company selling the software or providing it as an open-source product.
Just before publication, I learned of the death of crime novelist Susie Steiner (1971 – 2022). I decided to mention her in this weblog post, when I read in her obituary that she had spotted a Keep Calm poster on the kitchen wall at a writing retreat in Devon. She was cheered by its message of stoicism and patience.
Speaking of kitchens, at one point my intention was to use Prolog to develop a nutritional expert system, that will ensure a balanced diet over a week long time frame, along with a varied menu for three meals a day. I still think that this would be a useful system. Unfortunately, I do not think that I am the right person to implement it, lacking both stoicism and patience, to complete the undertaking.
Reflecting on Susie, I am certain that a Prolog system could be made to help writers construct their novels, especially crime fiction. A knowledge base could keep track of the facts, as well as red herrings and other fish introduced to confuse the reader, and prevent them from solving the crime. Conversely, a Prolog system could also be built that would help readers deconstruct these works, and help them solve the crime and find textual inconsistencies.
Readers should be delighted to hear that while writing this post I used my original Clocksin and Mellish book on a daily basis! Yes, it held my laptop open at an angle of about 145°, about 10° further open than without it. When writing on other topics, I also use other books for the same purpose. Note to self: ensure that your next laptop opens at least 180 degrees!
The writer should be dismayed about the length of this post. Patricia reminds me, repeatedly, that shorter is better. She felt last week’s post on Transition One was a more appropriate length. Transition One was written in the course of an hour, with a couple of additional proof-reading sessions. Writing Prolog took more than a year, with multiple writing sessions, each adding several paragraphs.
Today’s rant: Since the reign of Ronald Reagan (1911 – 2004, US president 1981 – 1989), the United States (and other western countries) have prioritized the wellbeing of billionaires, to the detriment of those who find themselves on the lower rungs of the economic ladder. This means that these lower positioned people are frequently excluded from the economic/ environmental benefits of new developments. Among other things, they are last in line for electric vehicles. Until now …
The business model of Transition One, a French startup, is automotive electrical retrofit kits at the wholesale level. Wholesale contrasts with retail. Transition One supplies kits to garage/ mechanic partnered retailers, who in turn install the kits for consumers. Each kit is designed for a specific model of vehicle. Retrofitting involves modifying/ restoring/ replacing outmoded technology found in older systems. Electrical refers to a specific driveline configuration, one that avoids internal combustion engines. Automotive means that these modifications involve road vehicles.
Transition One has worked on developing six retrofit kits. Currently, kits are available for the following six models: Fiat 500 generation 1, Mini made after the BMW reboot, Renault Clio 3, Renault Kangoo, Renault Twingo 2 and Volkswagen Polo 4. These are all lower-priced vehicles, originally fitted with internal combustion engines. More models are planned. To be eligible for conversion a vehicle must be roadworthy, registered in France, be over 5 years old, and be one of the six models mentioned.
The kits consist of a motor providing 53 kW of power and 78 Nm of torque; batteries offering between 15 and 30 kWh, and provide at least 100 km of range, with a top speed of 110 km/h. An inverter/ charger is also provided (with a plug) that can operate at a maximum of 6 kW, and will take about five hours to charge a vehicle to 100%. The price of the kit and its installation is € 5 000 paid by the consumer, in addition the French government provides a grant of another € 5 000. The installation process is not performed by Transition One itself, but by certified partner mechanics, authorized by Transition One. The installation process is designed to be completed within four hours.
Retrofit kits will be certified by the responsible French authorities, and are in accord with French regulations. A retrofit is guaranteed for two years with unlimited mileage, while the batteries are guaranteed for five years or 100 000 km, whichever comes first.
At the same time that Transition One is soliciting vehicle buyers, it is also enticing local garages to enter into a partnership to retrofit vehicles. In other words, Transition One is a manufacturer of retrofit kits.
The retrofit process involves five steps at a partner garage. First, the vehicle is received and inspected to ensure that it will meet all requirements for roadworthiness after the retrofit. Second, all ICE components are removed and appropriately re-cycled. Third, the retrofit kit is installed. Fourth, the retrofitted vehicle is tested, to ensure that it meets all requirements. Fifth, the vehicle is delivered to its owner.
Hopefully, other companies will follow the spirit of Transition One, by offering kits for other vehicles in other markets.
Autotune is to vocal music, what synthesizers are to instrumental music. Both push the boundaries of what is possible. Some people appreciate these possibilities, others don’t. In this weblog post, autotune will refer to a generic concept. Auto-tune is the name of a commercial product from Antares Audio Technologies, that has a dominant market share. It was invented and developed by Harold (Andy) Hildebrand (1950 – ) from 1996 and on.
After earning a Ph.D in electrical engineering, Hildebrand’s career involved working with geophysics and seismic data for Exxon. At one point, Exxon faced a dilemma. They were approaching the end of a seven-year Alaskan pipeline timeline, and needed to get oil flowing through the line in time, or lose a half-billion dollar tax write-off. Hildebrand was charged with fixing faulty seismic monitoring instrumentation, a task that involved advanced mathematics. The project ended successfully, from Exxon’s perspective.
In 1979, Hildebrand left Exxon for a startup, Landmark Graphics, which constructed a workstation for the creation of 3-D seismic maps. Landmark was bought out by Halliburton in 1989 for an alleged $525 million, and Hildebrand retired before the age of forty, a wealthy man.
As a youth, Hildebrand had worked as a musician, playing the flute. With his new found freedom, he decided to study composing. In this, he often used sampling synthesizers. From there it was a short way to developing Auto-tune, where his mathematical capabilities and musical interest proved to be a useful combination. A Wikipedia article provides further details.
One of the first singers to use auto-tune was Cher (1946 – ) on Believe (1998). A remastered version dates from 2021. The music video, from 1999, was made by Nigel Dick (1953 – ).
Believe was recorded at Metro Productions’ Dreamhouse Studio, located in Kingston upon Thames, England. Mark Taylor (1963 – ) and Brian Rawlings (1961 – ) produced the track using a Cubase VST Digital Audio Workstation (DAW), built into a Power Macintosh G3 computer. Instruments include a rack-based Clavia Nord and Oberheim Matrix 1000 synthesizers. Vocals were recorded on three TASCAM DA-88 digital audio recorders, with a Neumann U67 microphone
Despite initial claims that the vocal effects came from a vocoder, a device invented at Bell Labs by Homer Dudley (1896 – 1980) in 1938, that analyzes then synthesizes/ transforms human voice signals using compression, multiplexing = takes several signals and combines them into one, and encryption, it wasn’t used.
Auto-Tune pitch-correction software was actually used, but with extreme settings to create unnaturally rapid corrections, to remove portamento, the natural slide between pitches in singing. Later, it was widely imitated, becoming known as the Cher effect.
One of the complaints about both autotuning and synthesizers is that they are artificial. If by artificial one means electronic, one could question what part of the contemporary audio/ music recording industry isn’t artificial? In the past forty years I have listened to very few tracks that have an analogue component, as found on vinyl records or magnetic tapes. Today, almost everything musical becomes a digitized electrical signal. Voices and acoustic instruments use microphones to capture sounds. Electric guitars and related instruments use pickups. Both convert electrical signals to digital signals in an audio interface, which could be a stand alone unit outside or a hardware or software unit inside a computer. Synthesizers and other keyboard instruments, with variations, may simply send Musical Instrument Digital Interface (MIDI) data even more directly to a DAW.
Opinions are divided about Auto-tune. Time Magazine named it one of the 50 worst inventions. Dan Fletcher, wrote on 2010-05- 27: “It’s a technology that can make bad singers sound good and really bad singers … sound like robots.”
I disagree with Time. There is no reason why people should have to rely on their natural voices to produce music. It is like insisting people walk in order to move from place to place. People embrace technological improvements. Bicycles are a good example of how low cost technology can improve transport speed while reducing energy consumption. Think of autotune as technology providing a bicycle advantage for singers.
Correction. Advanced mathematics can be difficult. 1989 – 1950 is not 29, but 39. Thus, the age of Hildebrand’s retirement age has been corrected to under forty, from under thirty.
After more than 1.4 billion seconds/ 23 million minutes/ 380 000 hours/ 16 000 days/ 2 300 weeks/ 530 months/ 44 years of marriage, couples may find that those microseconds of conversational lulls, become more frequent. Trish and I have decided to do something about it. We are now reading the same books found in the A Very Short Introduction series, published by Oxford University Press.
Wikipedia describes the books in the series as: concise introductions to particular subjects, intended for a general audience but written by experts. Most are under 200 pages long. While authors may present personal viewpoints, the books are meant to be “balanced and complete” as well as thought provoking.
The series began in 1995, and over 700 titles have been published. Many works, including the first book published in the series # 001, Classics, by Mary Beard (1955 – ) and John Henderson (1948 – ), have not been revised. In contrast #086 Globalization, by Manfred Steger (1961 – ), is now in its 5th edition.
These are ebooks read on a Kobo reader. The first book we read together was #215 Deserts, by Nick Middleton (1960 – ). It was published in 2009, but showed no evidence of being exceptionally out of date. Currently, we are reading #444 Mountains by Martin F. Price (1957 – ), published in 2015 and #175 Documentary film by Patricia Aufderheide published in 2008. That is, Trish has finished reading Mountains, while Brock has just started it; Brock has finished reading Documumentary film, while Trish has just started it.
We use the list of titles found in the Wikipedia article, to find titles of mutual interest.
We do not finish all books started. The first failed reading was #248 Keynes, by Robert Skidelsky (1939 – ). It was about British economist John Maynard Keynes (1883–1946), but failed to hold our attention.
A Short Introduction to Everything, published in 2003, has a cover indicating that it is free. This does not appear to be the case. At Amazon, an ebook version is unavailable. A paperback version costs US$ 30.10 or more new/ US$ 3.65 or more used. In both cases, delivery charges also apply. Harish P, writing about the book on Goodreads, gives the book two stars and comments: ‘Everything’ is misleading. I was thinking that the book could be something like ‘A Short History About Everything’ by Bill Bryson. That’s not the case to be. ‘Everything’ here refers to the titles in the Very short Introduction series. The book is intended as a primer/curtain-raiser of the titles that constitute the series. The book is divided into 7 themes aka chapter, each concerning a certain aspect of life or Universe, at large. The titles relevant to the theme are featured with some interesting summary. Only complaint-why am I charged for the book, when it is a little more than a marketing material of Oxford University Press. Luckily, I borrowed it from a friend.