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Astronomy and Big Data: A Data Clustering Approach to Identifying Uncertain Galaxy Morphology (Studies in Big Data)
Astronomy and Big Data: A Data Clustering Approach to Identifying Uncertain Galaxy Morphology (Studies in Big Data)
by Kieran Edwards
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $44.62
34 used & new from $44.62

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Don't be fooled by the "big data" buzzwords: this book is garbage., August 21, 2015
If I had to guess, I'd say this book is a re-packaged third-class student project that wasn't publishable in a peer-reviewed journal because its main result is to re-discover basic facts about galaxies that astronomers have known for at least 40 years.

Let's set aside the fact that the text of this book is only 93 pages long, which means that the current price is highway robbery. Let's also set aside the fact that 25% of those pages are filled with copy-pasted code output without context or description. And let's ignore that much of the remaining page space is occupied by useless graphics like software logos and an image of a random forest (not a graphical description of the classification method... literally a photo of an evergreen forest).

Even aside from all that, this book is terrible. For a start, the astronomical background is fragmented, highly incomplete, poorly written, and in some parts just plain wrong. The authors clearly don't really understand astronomy, much less what parts of astronomy are important to the work they're attempting. That wouldn't matter as much if they were competent at computer science.

If only.

Despite being advertised as cutting-edge, the clustering and classification methods covered are common and well-established. There's nothing novel in this book, from the decades-old free software used in the analysis to the "insights" the authors claim to find into galaxy classification. Mostly this book is a rambling narrative of overfitting and blind searches, of desperately throwing various methods and iterations against the wall to see if anything sticks. Many paragraphs are written justifying the failures of this or that attempt, apparently without the authors ever stopping to consider the possibility that they're just inept. They seem completely unaware that their final result is very far indeed from the state of the art.

----- Summary -----

If this book were priced at 1 penny it would be a waste of money and time. The data they use is public, the software is free, and there are much better free tutorials and manuals online.

If you want a reference book on this topic, consider investing in "Modern Statistical Methods for Astronomy" by Feigelson & Babu, and/or "Statistics, Data Mining, and Machine Learning in Astronomy" by Ivezic et al. Both are broader _and_ deeper than this book, and both are written by people who actually know what they're doing.

For context: I have a PhD in Astrophysics and I work with large datasets regularly as part of my job.
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1,014 GRE Practice Questions, 3rd Edition (Graduate School Test Preparation)
1,014 GRE Practice Questions, 3rd Edition (Graduate School Test Preparation)
by Princeton Review
Edition: Paperback
62 used & new from $0.01

32 of 32 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Could actually make your score go down., May 10, 2012
I am a math tutor with years of experience helping students prepare for standardized tests. The Princeton Review generally does an excellent job with its off-the-shelf products, even for smaller tests like the SSAT/ISEE, so I thought it would be fine to try out their materials for the new GRE. Their main prep book is fine and seems generally up to the usual PR standard.

This book? Not so much.

First, the math sections are filled with errors. While working through the drills with my student, we found typically about one error per drill. It varies somewhat and I haven't really kept track, but I'd estimate the error rate at 10% or so, meaning 1 in 10 problems has some kind of mistake. Books with zero errors are exceedingly rare, but this error rate is orders of magnitude above what is acceptable. For the THIRD edition of this book to fail so miserably at basic error checks is simply inexcusable.

We've encountered problems that a) are written so that the right answer isn't listed (one problem would have required relatively advanced trigonometry to solve as written because of an inverted ratio); b) indicate the wrong answer in the answer key; c) make math mistakes in the answers & explanations; and d) have more than one right answer, but aren't written as an all-that-apply question. And they're not above mixing and matching: some problems have multiple mistakes. I recall one in particular that was set up as a standard multiple-choice problem but had three right answers. The answer list summary had the correct answer choices, but the detailed explanation listed a fourth right answer before explaining in detail why only three answers were correct. That was a blatant example, but some of them are much more insidious.

And how do you trust the verbal practice when you know the math is fraught with problems? In the verbal sections, it can be much more difficult to recognize when a question is "wrong". It's not that the book gets vocabulary definitions wrong. It's more that the book is supposed to teach you to think like the test makers when you're answering a question, but all the mistakes elsewhere make you question whether they know themselves. For example: one of the reading comprehension passages was on a scientific topic. That's fine -- the test passages can be about anything. And most of the questions were fine. But one of them asked the reader to make an inference that was impossible to justify without knowing science facts above and beyond what the passage provided. It was quite subtle, and the only reason I'm completely sure that this inference was out of line is that I'm a scientist myself. Before we went over it together, my student just thought he had failed at the question.

This sort of thing is enough to destroy a student's confidence. If you don't have a tutor sitting by your side to work through the problems and point out typos, you will be lucky if frustration and wasted time are the only consequences of doing the drills in this book. Once you have the basic skills you need to do well on the test, confidence is arguably the most important thing you can bring to the test with you. How much is your score going to drop if you've relied on this book and are therefore left wondering if you can do simple arithmetic?

It's not just all that extra time you'll spend triple-checking even the easy questions. All that anxiety-triggered adrenaline diminishes your cognitive abilities. A test prep book is supposed to ease your anxiety about the test. If it instead increases it, it's affecting your ability to perform at a neuro-chemical level. And I'm not exaggerating. The psychological aspect of standardized tests is every bit as important as the part based on what you learned in school.

In summary: although the prospect of 1,000+ practice problems is tantalizing, the mistakes in this book taint every single one of them. Worse, the insidious errors could easily torpedo your confidence, which could be disastrous on test day.
Comment Comments (4) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Oct 15, 2012 2:59 AM PDT

Cracking the SSAT & ISEE, 2010 Edition (Private Test Preparation)
Cracking the SSAT & ISEE, 2010 Edition (Private Test Preparation)
by Princeton Review
Edition: Paperback
44 used & new from $0.01

105 of 110 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The best unofficial prep book, but not perfect, December 16, 2009
I am a tutor and I have many students each year who need to take the SSAT and the ISEE. Once my students have acquired each test's official book (Preparing & Applying for the SSAT and What to Expect on the ISEE, both of which are currently available only from the websites administered by the test-makers themselves), this book is the book I recommend first for my students -- followed closely by the Kaplan book.

In fact, as I say in the book review episode of my SSAT and ISEE podcast, the PR and Kaplan books are really the *only* books worth using outside of the official books. All the other publishers get something seriously wrong, but these books get almost everything right. For the Princeton Review in particular, the breakdown is as follows:

- Spectacular vocab and word roots practice
- Great practice with hard synonyms & analogies
- Good balance of "lessons" and practice with actual test problems

- The math sections are complete, but not as thorough as with Kaplan (but Kaplan's vocab work isn't as good)
- No single student will be able to use more than one practice test in this book (same for Kaplan)

The reason for that last point is that the SSAT has a lower and upper level (2 tests), and the ISEE has a lower, middle, and upper level (3 tests). So the fact that there are five practice tests in this book (and most prep books) really means that there's only one test per level. And any given student is only going to take the test at one level, so at most there is one practice test per student per test. Yes, that's not ideal, and it's part of why I gave this book four stars, but it's also the standard, and it's not really a reason not to buy this book, because this book is so good otherwise, and apart from the official books mentioned above, which you should already be buying anyway, you won't do better anywhere.

One of the unfortunate side effects of companies like The Princeton Review releasing new versions of their test prep books every year is that they reset their reviews on websites like Amazon.

In fact, these books change little from version to version, which is as it should be. The tests they prepare students for undergo only a subtle evolution from year to year, so the reviews from the 2008 version are just as relevant now (to the 2010 version) as they were then. So if you want to read more reviews of this book, read reviews from previous years.

Happy testing!
-Brooke (
Comment Comments (5) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Nov 9, 2013 6:27 AM PST

Kaplan SSAT & ISEE 2009 Edition: For Private and Independent School Admissions (Kaplan SSAT & ISEE for Private & Independent School Admissions)
Kaplan SSAT & ISEE 2009 Edition: For Private and Independent School Admissions (Kaplan SSAT & ISEE for Private & Independent School Admissions)
by Kaplan
Edition: Paperback
27 used & new from $0.01

13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars One of the best, especially for math; still has some weaknesses., June 23, 2009
I am a tutor, and I've worked with this book for years. The SSAT and the ISEE both have official guides to the test (which are only available on their own websites, as far as I'm aware), and those are valuable, but contain little in the way of test-taking strategy and in-depth question & answer analysis. For that, you need a third-party test prep book.

I generally recommend this book for SSAT/ISEE test-takers who need extra practice with math. Kaplan isn't quite as good with verbal practice as the Princeton Review book is (though it's still adequate), but they have far more math practice problems, and their chapters contain a lot of good math strategies.

In fact, nearly every strategy in this book is based on an algorithm. Even the "bridge"-based analogies strategy involves following a sequence of steps for every problem. There are a lot of students for whom that works very well.

I'm giving the book 4 stars instead of 5 because, as I said, the book doesn't do quite as well at verbal practice as the Princeton Review. But it does some things better. If they ever pair up and co-publish one book, *that* will be the perfect ISEE/SSAT prep book.

But until then, I'll keep recommending that most of my students buy both books.

Cracking the SSAT & ISEE, 2009 Edition (Private Test Preparation)
Cracking the SSAT & ISEE, 2009 Edition (Private Test Preparation)
by Princeton Review
Edition: Paperback
32 used & new from $0.01

11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The best SSAT/ISEE prep book out there (still not perfect, though)., June 23, 2009
I am a tutor for the SSAT and ISEE, and I have worked with this book for many years. Overall, I would say it's the best book out there -- and I have worked with all of them. The PR book excels in its vocabulary & word roots review, and it also has information that other books don't, such as charts for every grade level that help you figure out how many questions you can skip depending on what percentile you're aiming for. In general, this is the book I recommend for my students (after the official SSAT and ISEE review books, of course), if they're only going to buy one prep book.

The only exception to that is if I have a student whose weakest subject is math. In that case, I'll often recommend the Kaplan book instead. It's not that the PR has poor math coverage. It's adequate, but the Kaplan prep book is better in math and has more math practice problems. However, unless your student has a perfect vocabulary and always aces verbal test sections, the PR book will definitely help.

In the end, the vast majority of my students end up buying both books, and we use them both.

Note: the Princeton Review, like most (all?) test prep books out there, comes out with new editions every year. The editions don't change much from year to year, but they generally evolve slightly with additional practice problems or improved review material. I'm sure PR sells more books this way because people don't want to get the "old" version of a book, but it also means their Amazon reviews start fresh each year. For a book like this -- a book that's excellent overall -- the clean slate is a disadvantage. If you aren't convinced by the reviews of this edition, go back and read the reviews for the past couple of years -- they will more than likely still be true for the latest edition.

How to Prepare for the SSAT/ISEE (Barron's How to Prepare for the SSAT/ISEE)
How to Prepare for the SSAT/ISEE (Barron's How to Prepare for the SSAT/ISEE)
by Kathleen Elliott
Edition: Paperback
98 used & new from $0.01

10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Buy a different prep book -- this one is terrible., October 6, 2007
I've tutored students for the SSAT and ISEE for over 5 years now. Thankfully, I've only had the misfortune of having to use this book a few times. Barron's is a respected test prep company and they do publish good guides for other tests/subjects -- but not the SSAT/ISEE.

It's not just that there are too many errors in the book -- which there are. (There are far, far more than other test prep books.)

No, it's also that the questions in this book do NOT actually prepare you for the SSAT or the ISEE. Other test prep books (Princeton Review, Kaplan, etc.) for the SSAT/ISEE do a pretty good job of mirroring the question types, styles, and difficulty levels that are present in the official test prep books (which are only available from the SSAT and ISEE websites, and I highly recommend them). But the Barron's book seems to have barely attempted to mimic the real test questions. I remember trying to work through a math section with a student and giving up after about five questions because the questions were written so poorly AND clearly required the use of a calculator -- but calculators aren't allowed on the test! Obviously the test-makers thought they could just throw together a book of easier SAT problems and call it a day. Shameful.

Maybe someday I'll be able to update this review and say that they've completely updated the book and it now measures up. But that day hasn't yet come. For now, if you buy this book for your student, you will be doing them a disservice.

Bodum Columbia Thermal 51-Ounce Stainless-Steel Coffee Press
Bodum Columbia Thermal 51-Ounce Stainless-Steel Coffee Press
Offered by D.R. Worth and Sons
Price: $70.58
21 used & new from $58.23

19 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Press Coffee is the Only Way, October 17, 2005
My office has its own drip coffee maker, but the coffee tastes absolutely horrible. Everyone complains about it, but no one was doing anything about it.

So I bought this huge insulated french press, and brought it into my office along with an electric kettle and a simple coffee grinder. This is a large french press, so it's perfect for a situation in which many people will be drinking coffee, or a situation in which a couple people will each be drinking a *lot* of coffee.

The short of it: this little unit makes wonderful coffee. I have been using it twice a day for about 8 months, and it has never let me down. It keeps the coffee hot for about an hour (on average) and cleanup really isn't that hard.


I use about 3/4 cup of coarse-ground coffee for a full batch, and steep for 4 minutes 30 seconds. I could use a bit less and steep a bit longer (the directions advise a max of 6 minutes), but I don't want to risk overextracting from the coffee beans, which would make the coffee taste bitter.

I boil the water first and let it cool for a minute or two while I'm preparing everything else. This avoids the awful taste of scalded coffee (which we are all familiar with from drip methods).

Pre-warming the carafe by soaking it in hot tap water really extends the length of time the coffee stays hot, because the heat of the coffee isn't wasted on warming up the inside of the carafe.

If I pre-warm the carafe and keep the lid closed (so that the mesh pour opening is aligned with the handle of the press and not the spout), the coffee easily stays hot for an hour, sometimes two, depending on how full the carafe is. A full carafe will stay hot longer than a carafe with only a few cups left in it.

There is always a little sediment at the bottom of each cup of coffee. You can't avoid this (no grinder is perfect), and since this sediment provides much of the flavor of the coffee, would you really want to?


People complain about cleaning french presses, but it's really not that hard. Here's what I do:

Rinse off the plunger and lid;

Dump the used coffee grounds in the trash;

Rinse out the carafe;

Wipe fine coffee dust off the plunger and carafe with a wet paper towel;

Rinse once more (no soap).

Then I make sure to dry the outside of the carafe very well, just to avoid water spots. I let the filter and the inside of the carafe air dry. Once a month or so, I will take apart the filter (yes, you can do this, but it's well-designed so that you don't have to do it often) and thoroughly clean the whole unit.

In my office, very few people use the old coffee maker anymore. When I decide to make coffee, a crowd forms around my desk! French presses, when used correctly, make truly fantastic coffee.

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