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Pocket reading list : Week 2 of March

When U.S. air force discovered the flaw of averages : Humans come in a wide variety of sizes, shapes, colours and so on. So, for the sake of simplicity, designers and manufactures would like to know what the average human looks like, in order to tailor their design around those dimensions. It so happens that no human will tick all the boxes an average human is defined by. This fact is recounted in two instances, one in which the air force needed to modify it's cockpit dimensions to fit its pilots and the other in which the female body was being compared and commented upon against a hypothetical *average* woman.

The Wildly Misunderstood Aeronautics Event Captured in This Photograph : Most of us have seen this picture at some point or the other, especially if we are in and around the engineering discipline and people's perception of what caused this phenomenon is, apparently, wrong. This is an account of what really is happening in the picture.

The Golden Age of Weird Papers : While people debate now-a-days as to what counts as a scientific publication, this article recounts how the early days of scientific publishing were and gives a few examples of what were published in the first editions of now-world-renowned journals.

The Most Amazing Lie in History : For those of you who know your history, the D-Day invasion of Normandy by the Allied forces was a turning point in the WW-II. Surprisingly, the Allied forces didn't meet with much resistance on the beach and even on the days following the invasion,  reinforcements weren't sent to Normandy by Hitler. This story is about how one man conned the German military into thinking that the D-Day invasion on Normandy was a diversion and thus contributed greatly in reducing the human casualty the Allied forces had to suffer by the end of the war.

The Lawyer Who Became DuPont’s Worst Nightmare : We use a lot of petrochemical and synthetic products on our day-to-day life. The chemical industry has toiled away to come up with newer materials and compounds that can be infused into the things we use everyday. Teflon is one such product, one which most of us are familiar with. And this story is about how DuPont, one of the manufacturers of this compound, blatantly ignored environmental and human safety in the pursuit of profit, putting thousands of people and livestock at risk of cancer and disease. This is the story of how one corporate lawyer went behind the company.

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on MOOCs.

For those of you who don't know, MOOC stands for Massively Open Online Course.

The internet is an awesome thing. It's making education free for all. Well, mostly free. But it's surprising at the width and depth of courses being offered online. And it looks like they are also having an impact on students, especially those from universities that are not top ranked. Students in all parts of the world can now get a first class education experience, thanks to courses offered by Stanford, MIT, Caltech, etc.

I'm talking about MOOCs because one of my new year resolutions is to take online courses, atleast 2 per semester (6 months). And I've chosen the following two courses on edX - Analyzing Big Data with Microsoft R Server and Data Science Essentials for now. I looked at courses on Coursera but I couldn't find any which was worthy and free. There are a lot more MOOC providers out there but let's start here. And I feel like the two courses are relevant to where I …

On programmers.

I just watched this brilliant keynote today. It's a commentary on Programmers and the software development industry/ecosystem as a whole.



I am not going to give you a tl;dr version of the talk because it is a talk that I believe everyone should watch, that everyone should learn from. Instead, I am going to give my own parallel-ish views on programmers and programming.
As pointed out in the talk, there are mythical creatures in the software development industry who are revered as gods. Guido Van Rossum, the creator of Python, was given the title Benevolent Dictator For Life (BDFL). People flock around the creators of popular languages or libraries. They are god-like to most programmers and are treated like gods. By which, I mean to say, we assume they don't have flaws. That they are infallible. That they are perfect.
And alongside this belief in the infallibility of these Gods, we believe that they were born programmers. That programming is something that people are born wit…