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Bad Choices: How Algorithms Can Help You Think Smarter and Live Happier Hardcover – April 4, 2017
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One of the more clever ways of introducing computational thinking to the general public * Vint Cerf, Turing Award winner, Chief Internet Evangelist at Google, a 'Father of the Internet' *
About the Author
Ali Almossawi works on the Firefox team at Mozilla and is an alumnus of MIT's Engineering Systems Division (MS) and Carnegie Mellon's School of Computer Science (MS). Previous stints included working as a research associate at Harvard and as a collaborator at the MIT Media Lab. His writing has appeared in Wired and Scientific American.
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Some of the stories (the necklace for describing linked lists) make a certain amount of sense but would have been much improved with easy changes. Some graphics (the hash table, some of the sorting) are utterly confusing unless you already know exactly what's going on.
Other chapters are really well done (mazes), and many of the graphics explain tricky concepts very well (musical influences). The illustrations are fun and quirky throughout, and the approach of showing just a couple of approaches is highly effective.
My hope with both of Almossawi's books was to be able to hand them to my 13 and 16 year old children and say, "Read this! It explains important concepts in approachable ways!" In both cases, I'm hesitant to give that recommendation. Perhaps a 2nd Edition of each will come along that addresses these issues. In any case, for Almossawi's THIRD book I hope he has a teenager work as an editor to ensure that the concepts are being covered in ways that people completely new to the concepts will engage with them. Whatever that third book is about, I plan to buy a copy.
My biggest complaint is that logarithms are a core tenant of this book, but after reading it I still don't
know what they are.
Ali explains mathematical terminology as if this were a brief review for people who already know the
vocabulary, and I wish he would dumb it down a bit and assume ignorance on the audience's part.
Almossawi shows how mundane tasks such as sorting socks into pairs can be a descriptive way of looking at ‘arrays’ in computing. You learn how to escape a maze in the most efficient way and how to sort numbers in a ‘linearithmic’ way.
I had started a new programming project which required me to write complex XML graphs. I hadn’t even heard of XML graphs at this stage and found the concept quite challenging. It was only once I had learnt how to write graphs that I came across this book. XML graphs are described in a wonderfully simplistic way using the example of a beaded necklace with someone’s name on the beads. I wish I had read this book before starting the project as my life would have been made so much easier.
The book seems to be aimed at would-be programmers, students, and people who want a different logical way of looking at things. It is easy to read and most importantly, easy to understand. The concepts discussed are very relevant to computer programming and I would recommend this book to anyone looking to get started in this field.
Reviewed on Whispering Stories Book Blog
*I received a free copy of this book, which I voluntarily reviewed