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Scientific American How Things Work Today

ISBN 0375410236 / 9780375410239 / 0-375-41023-6

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Book summary

"Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic," wrote Arthur C. Clarke. The technology that surrounds us now, at the dawn of the 21st century, can seem plenty advanced: a plethora of black (or light gray) boxes doing who knows what to send voices through the air, see pictures in crystal tubes, fly like a bird. We're calling spirits from the vastly deep, and they really come.

If you'd prefer not to do magic, though, this is the book for you. How does a GPS receiver know where you are? What's inside the "not user serviceable" parts of a laser printer? What's the difference between scanning and transmission electron microscopes? The explanations and diagrams in this volume are in Scientific American's distinctive style, clear and simple without being oversimplified. It's not as cute or congenial as David Macauley's The New Way Things Work, but the multicolored pictures are easier to follow and the volume is more information-dense. If you like your technology slightly drier, more technical, and less magical than Macauley provides, How Things Work Today is an excellent guide. --Mary Ellen Curtin [via]