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The Art of Doing Science and Engineering: Learning to Learn

4.23  ·  Rating details ·  465 ratings  ·  62 reviews
Highly effective thinking is an art that engineers and scientists can be taught to develop. By presenting actual experiences and analyzing them as they are described, the author conveys the developmental thought processes employed and shows a style of thinking that leads to successful results is something that can be learned. Along with spectacular successes, the author al ...more
Paperback, 376 pages
Published October 28th 1997 by CRC Press (first published January 31st 1996)
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☘Misericordia☘ ⚡ϟ⚡⛈⚡☁ ❇️❤❣
The unexamined life is not worth living. (c)
The use of FORTRAN, like the earlier symbolic programming, was very slow to be taken up by the
professionals. And this is typical of almost all professional groups. Doctors clearly do not follow the advice they give to others, and they also have a high proportion of drug addicts. Lawyers often do not leave decent wills when they die. Almost all professionals are slow to use their own expertise for their own work. The situation is nicely summarized b
Nick Black
Aug 01, 2009 marked it as to-read
Shelves: to-acquire
Hamming's essay, "The Unreasonable Effectiveness of Mathematics" (together with Eugene Wigner's precursor piece, "The Unreasonable Effectiveness of Mathematics in the Natural Sciences", is one of the four or five most important papers I've ever read:
Prologue. It is evident from the title that this is a philosophical discussion. I shall not apologize for the philosophy, though I am well aware that most scientists, engineers, and mathematicians have little regard for it; instead, I shall give this
Sandy Maguire
Aug 09, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Hamming invented a lot of cool stuff, but he is best known for sitting down and asking people why they weren't working on the most important problems in their domain. Presumably he didn't make a lot of friends with this strategy, but his is the name we remember, not theirs.

This book is excellent excellent excellent. The thesis is that a life lived without producing excellent work isn't one worth living. Hamming describes the book as a manual of style; while university is good at teaching technic
Sergiu Ciumac
Apr 04, 2017 rated it it was amazing
A book full of wisdom from an engineer and scientist who spent his entire life in computing and research. Richard Hamming discusses why scientist do things they do, how leaders are different from followers, how to spot trends and focus on the core, what changes are going to take place in the near future and how do we adapt to them. "Luck favors the prepared", indeed a quote that is the main theme of this book.
Recommend to anyone in the search of the meaning of work, research and generally life.
Nov 07, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Hamming's goal with this book is to teach style and creativity to people who do engineering or research. He primarily does this using a ton of anecdotes from his own research career. He'll give a story about doing something or other, then explain how it relates to the broader picture of being a top notch researcher.

The book itself is organized into separate chapters, each focusing on a technical area that Hamming was interested in. He gives enough information to understand the topic (assuming y
Nick Black
there's a lot of wisdom here. ...more
Mark Mulvey
Jun 16, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"Man is not a rational animal, he is a rationalizing animal."

"Learning a new subject is something
you will have to do many times in your career if you are to be a leader and not be left behind as a follower by newer developments."

"When you know something cannot be done, also remember the essential reason why, so later, when the circumstances have changed, you will not say, "It can't be done.""

"More than most people want to believe, what we see depends on how we approach the problem! Too often we
Romeo Stevens
Feb 13, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Lots of skippable stuff for non technical audiences, but the first few and last few chapters are goldmines for anyone.
Denis Romanovsky
Dec 19, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A sort of a good leadership book, and I keep feeling I'm not fond of leadership books.

The author is a respected person with lots of experience and wisdom. He explains how computing changed science and engineering, how such changes may continue, how new paradigma in science may replace the old one and what obstacles it gets on the way. It was quite interesting about the role of experts, systems engineering, work with data and measuring, some good notes on creativity and focus in your career.

Sep 07, 2020 rated it it was amazing
The book was a nice read and had a lot of interesting ideas. I skipped a few chapters that were too technical for me (like Quantum Mechanics) but the first few and the last few chapters were less technical and full of insights.
I learned more about the history of computing and how little many aspects of computer science have changed during the last 30 years.
William Schram
Richard W Hamming discusses the importance of staying ahead of the curve in science and engineering. He uses experiences from his life to talk about how to achieve and succeed in these fields. The central theme is weathering the future. Hamming recommends investing in yourself and focusing on the most significant issues your profession has.
Isaac Perez Moncho
Apr 18, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
It is difficult to classify the book. In theory, it's a textbook, in practice, it's more on a collection of thoughts and approaches to do science, engineering and live your life.
The background of the author is impressive, to say the least, having worked at Los Alamos and shared office with Claude Shannon at Bell Labs should say enough on its own.
The book has many gold nuggets, and some math filled pages I skipped.
Hamming explains how to make your work visible, how to approach what kind of work y
Lei Wang
Mar 07, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Very systematic view of doing science and engineering. Very inspiring book for researchers in more principled way to do research and self-development.
Oct 30, 2020 rated it liked it
This is a fairly niche book which presents itself as Hamming teaching a meta class on how to be successful in your scientific and engineering focused career. Taking a brief glance around the classroom, it seems that many people have pretty unqualified praise for this work. I’m not sure they are quite accurate. While all books are read by a self-selected group, BooksWithMath™are an even more hyper-selected group. Thus, there is going to be a propensity for them to inflate the overall score of the ...more
Tom Lee
Aug 18, 2020 rated it liked it
It would be absurd to call this book a work of genius if not for the fact that Richard Hamming was one. A key part of Bell Labs’ heyday, Hamming was a mathematician’s mathematician: the guy called in to help a researcher punch up their equations or, as his department came to employ and manage computers, the guy who could translate your problem into one the machine could ponder (he also seems to have been the guy who could allocate you the machine time to have the pondering performed).

This put Ha
Bohdan Kit
Richard Hamming is an outstanding figure in the history of technology. I think that programmers may recognize his name from the Hamming codes, which allow you to detect and correct errors in bits of information.

But his achievements are not limited to this. He inspired many people to discover new things by teaching them the “style of thinking” through which innovative ideas are born.

Working with Feynman, Fermi, and Oppenheimer on a nuclear bomb, Hamming sought to understand the qualities of these
Sep 09, 2018 rated it really liked it
It soon became evident to me one of the reasons no theorem was false was that Hilbert “knew” the
Euclidean theorems were “correct”, and he had picked his added postulates so this would be true. But then I soon realized Euclid had been in the same position; Euclid knew the “truth” of the Pythagorean theorem, and many other theorems, and had to find a system of postulates which would let him get the results he knew in advance. Euclid did not lay down postulates and make deductions as it is common
Michael Knolla
Jun 17, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Accruing the benefit of this text required me to trust the author when he said that the importance of the examples he was providing was not in the theories themselves but in how they were derived - the art of doing science and engineering NOT the science or engineering in and of itself, to borrow from the title. With my pure mathematical glory days too far behind me and the examples too far out of my current competencies that still meant taking an intellectual beating for the first 200+ pages to ...more
Jan 26, 2018 rated it really liked it
I read this because Bret Victor really likes it. There's a lot in here and I will probably get a lot out of it if I read it again later.

What did I expect going in? Some sort of philosophy or method that Hamming synthesized through his own experience - how Hamming thinks about doing meaningful technical work.

What did I get? A sense of the man himself, and how he went about thinking about various fields. I think each set of lectures has an interesting insight. The subject matter, although interes
Jun 14, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A very inspiring read. Richard gives many stories that feel very familiar to me, having made similar mistakes or learned similar lessons in my technical career. This book convinces me that early computing was very different in its capabilities ~50 years ago, but not too different in the problem solving it asked of practitioners.

I still don't live my life by Richard's biggest lesson: To set high goals where you believe important work must be done and to then make slow, steady, and compounding pro
Mayur Sinha
Apr 02, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: tech, science, ee
"The unexamined life is not worth living" is a famous dictum apparently uttered by Socrates at his trial for impiety and corrupting youth, for which he was subsequently sentenced to death.

Hamming is a genius who is explaining to us through this book that it is your life you have to live and he is just only one of many possible guides you have for selecting and creating the style of the one life you have to live. Most of the things Hamming has been saying were not said to him; he had to discover
Bill Lovegrove
Aug 12, 2020 rated it really liked it
A hard book to read quickly because I found myself constantly stopping to think; this is a thought provoking book. Hamming was a brilliant engineer who went into education later in his career, and this book is a collection of essays to engineering students. However, the thoughts are profitable, maybe more profitable, for people further along in their careers. The book is not about engineering content, it is about life, and especially life as an engineer. I don't agree with everything he said, bu ...more
Nov 18, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I would recommend this book to anyone seeking inspiration or advice about their engineering career. It’s full of useful thoughts and ideas on how to approach problems. Don’t expect a well designed recipe. Instead, the core is in separate anecdotal stories and the insights the author got from them.

The first 1/3rd may seem hard to follow (e.g. why am I reading about these stories?) and the middle - filled with too many math details but I’d encourage you to stick with it for the final 1/3rd of the
David Otte
Feb 22, 2021 rated it did not like it
It’s anecdotes of Hamming’s work, as opposed to being about what the title and introduction suggests. The anecdotes are used to provide just a few bits of wisdom. Written in 1996, so in need of an update. My favorite is a line speculating about what 2020 will be like.

If you’re not a math person, a lot of the book won’t make sense. What’s worse, it’s unclear why the math is being talked about, as no points follow.

Honestly, I think Hamming likes telling anecdotes about his work under the guise t
Nov 08, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: science, memoir, education
I thought this was a really great book. Hamming has a lot of good thoughts when it comes to the philosophy of doing science and engineering (what he calls "style"). There are a bunch of gems hidden in this book, and it was a pleasure to read through it.

The reason I only gave this book four stars was because it was riddled with errors and typos. Seriously, I can't believe how this got to press (though I know it's an old edition). I imagine the newer editions are better, because the number of typo
Ask Franck
Dec 13, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Holy f'ing shit!! I thank the forces I finally read this book. Spent the last 4-5 days reading carefully through this, taking over 14500 words total of notes.

This book unified so many threads of my life, profession, intellectual pursuit and education so far.

My brain is too tired to write a proper review right now. I've been reading and writing from this for literally about 12 hours today.

Might come back to this review later. Will definitely re-read and review my notes later on.

Richard Hamming
Ben Scheirman
Jul 03, 2020 rated it really liked it
This book dares you to consider the big picture and what impact you want to have in your career and life. It's very math dense, which was often over my head, but some of the concepts triggered some understanding of concepts I hadn't considered deeply since university.

It dispels the notion of being "lucky" and instead emphasizes showing up to do the hard work and thinking deeply. Big things can arise from these situations.
Andrew Shulaev
Really good book tackling the problem of how to come up with new scientific and engineering ideas.

Chapters on information theory and digital filters are quite bad though: they do not explain the topic in sufficient detail for someone without background knowledge to understand. Probably other more technical chapters suffer from the same problem, but I did have some prior exposure to topics discussed there, so it's hard for me to tell.
Richard Meadows
Not sure how this is a cult classic. There were quite a few interesting insights in the first couple of chapters and some vaguely interesting historical stuff, although none of it was all that coherent due to the structure as lecture notes. I guess it was kind of cool to see how predictions about AI held up. Then the rest was just a bunch of math.

Overall, it was underwhelming. Perhaps my expectations were too high, or maybe it's just not really intended for non-technical people.
Jan 02, 2021 rated it it was amazing
"An old man talks about science and engineering". Richard discusses multiple aspects of his past work with the idea of illustrating how great science and engineering are born. Brilliant anecdotes from the professional life of the inventor of correction codes.
There were several math-heavy chapters there - I gave up on two of them, I guess the book would be better without it. I'll probably re-read at some point.
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Professor Richard Wesley Hamming, Ph.D. (University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, 1942; M.S., University of Nebraska, 1939; B.S., University of Chicago in 1937), was a mathematician whose work had many implications for computer science and telecommunications. His contributions include the Hamming code (which makes use of a Hamming matrix), the Hamming window (described in Section 5.8 of his boo ...more

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“What you learn from others you can use to follow.
What you learn for yourself you can use to lead.”
“I need to discuss science vs. engineering. Put glibly:
In science if you know what you are doing you should not be doing it.
In engineering if you do not know what you are doing you should not be doing it.”
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