- File Size: 15075 KB
- Print Length: 411 pages
- Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0062652559
- Publisher: Harper (May 8, 2018)
- Publication Date: May 8, 2018
- Sold by: HarperCollins Publishers
- Language: English
- ASIN: B072BFJB3Z
- Text-to-Speech: Enabled
- Word Wise: Enabled
- Lending: Not Enabled
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #54,853 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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The Perfectionists: How Precision Engineers Created the Modern World Kindle Edition
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“Another gem from one of the world’s justly celebrated historians specializing in unusual and always fascinating subjects and people.” (Booklist (starred review))
“Winchester’s latest is a rollicking work of pop science that entertains and informs.” (Publishers Weekly (starred review))
Praise for The Men Who United the States: “Entertaining. . . . A pleasure.” (New York Times Book Review)
“Simon Winchester never disappoints, and The Men Who United the States is a lively and surprising account of how this sprawling piece of geography became a nation. This is America from the ground up. Inspiring and engaging.” (Tom Brokaw)
“An enthusiastic popular-science tour of technological marvels…readers will love the ride.” (Kirkus Reviews (starred review))
“A rousing tribute to the alliances, agencies, and inventions—from Lewis and Clark to the Internet—that underpin our more perfect union. A stunning, highly original feast of a book.” (Stacy Schiff, author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning Cleopatra)
“Vivid, valuable. . . . An extraordinary, propulsive tale.” (Wall Street Journal)
“[M]esmerizing and fascinating. . . . Mr. Winchester is a master storyteller, and all the individuals, places, and events that he passionately writes about come to life in exquisite detail.” (New York Journal of Books) --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
About the Author
Simon Winchester is the acclaimed author of many books, including The Professor and the Madman, The Men Who United the States, The Map That Changed the World, The Man Who Loved China, A Crack in the Edge of the World, and Krakatoa, all of which were New York Times bestsellers and appeared on numerous best and notable lists. In 2006, Winchester was made an officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) by Her Majesty the Queen. He resides in western Massachusetts.--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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He states that, “Jefferson, while U.S. minister to France…told his superiors in Washington”. Jefferson was minister in France from 1785 to 1789. The act creating a capital district along the Potomac River was signed in July 1790. There was no Washington, D.C. when Jefferson was minister in France.
There are lots of small problems in chapter 8 which discusses GPS. I’m the coauthor of "GPS Declassified: From Smart Bombs to Smartphones" which is included in his bibliography. https://www.amazon.com/GPS-Declassified-Smart-Bombs-Smartphones/dp/1612344089
He states that Roger Easton, my dad, came up with the idea of using clocks in satellites for a passive ranging navigation system in 1973. In reality, the idea came from a conversation with Dr. Arnold Shostak, father of SETI researcher Seth Shostak, in 1964. He states, “Roger Easton, who at the time worked for the U.S. Navy’s then –named Space Applications Branch in the Rio Grande Valley of South Texas.” Dad worked his whole Naval Research Lab career at its main office in Washington, D.C. The South Texas fence was a separate radar fence that was intended to be an adjunct to the primary Space fence so that an object’s orbit could be calculated on a single penetration of the two fences. Dad was there in September 1964 trying to synchronize the clocks in the two stations in this fence. He realized that a clock in a satellite could do this and later saw that it could also be used for navigation (following up on his April 1964 conversation with Dr. Shostak referenced above).
Winchester then describes the car experiment which showed that passive ranging with clocks would work except he places it in Texas whereas it was in D.C. “The other he kept at the naval station in which he was working in South Texas. While the observers were watching the oscilloscope screens he had hooked up in the lab, he ordered Maloof to drive the car as far and fast as possible down a road, Texas Route 295, which was unfinished at the time and thus empty.”
He’s describing the experiment which occurred on October 16, 1964. See page 9 from the “NRL GPS Bibliography - An Annotated Bibliography of the Origin and Development of the Global Position System at the Naval Research Laboratory” which states, “Easton’s passive ranging concept is demonstrated using a side-tone ranging receiver, modified from the South Texas experiment and placed at NRL, and a transmitter in Matt Maloof’s convertible as he drives it down the I-295 interstate. The road is finished but not yet opened to the public. Two Bureau of Naval Weapons representatives, John Yob and Chester Kleczek, observe the experiment."
I-295 is the highway next to NRL’s headquarters in Washington, D.C. It’s not a state road in Texas. There is a reference to a South Texas experiment in the above account, but the test with Maloof’s convertible was in the D.C. area. In a 1996 interview with my Dad, they refer to the Wilson bridge across the Potomac in relation to the experiment. Wikipedia states that, “The first 7.8 miles (12.6 km) of the route opened on August 7, 1964 when the connecting segment of the Capital Beltway opened.” This fits in with an October 16th test.
The most significant error is his assertion that Reagan opened GPS to civilian uses after the shooting down of KAL 007 in 1983. This mistake is common in the literature. However, GPS was a dual use military-civilian system from day 1. The NAVSTAR Global Positioning System Program Management Plan 15 July 1974 can be found under resources on my website (gpsdeclassified). On page 2-9, it states that, “The C/A Signal will serve as an aid to the acquisition of the P Signal, and will also provide a navigation signal in the clear to both the military and civil user.” Texas Instruments was making in 1981 the TI-4100 NAVSTAR Navigator GPS Receiver for commercial users. Thus, civilian use was built into GPS in 1974 and a civilian receiver was being sold in 1981. I highly recommend this book in spite of these minor errors.
My name is Colin Povey, and as the book explains (see page 7) I suggested to the author 7 years ago that the world needed a book on the story of precision.
And before I get any further, I must tell you that I get NO money nor any other remuneration from the sales of the book. Zip, zero, nada.
So, why does the world need a book on the history of, the story of precision? Read on.
In college, I was privileged to take a pair of courses, one on the History of Technology, and one on the History of Science, and both taught by the brilliant professor Richard Shallenberg.I loved those courses so much, I have continued to read, study, and even research the topic for the past 40 years.
One thing came to me as I studied this history, and that was how much precision has improved over time. The first Newcomen steam engines had a terrible fit of the piston to the walls of the cylinder, with some gaps as large as an inch, if not a little larger. Today, in computer chips, transistors are only 10 nm, or 10 billionths of a meter, wide.
So, I thought, I'll find a book on the history of precision.
Amazon had nothing like it.
Neither did any other on-line or physical book stores.
I went to my rather large county library, and again, I struck out.
I went to a large University library, and found nothing locally, though one previous book had been written on the subject, but it was more than 80 years old.
So, I though, the world needs a book on the history of precision. But I am not a writer (as you can tell if you have gotten this far), I'm a tech geek, a nerd. So I sent a note to a favorite author who wrote books on similar subjects. He was nice enough to send a note back saying he didn't think it was a good idea.
So, then I remembered Simon Winchester, author of several books I liked.
So, I dropped Simon an e-mail with this suggestion. I mean, his website asks for suggestions!
Nothing happened for about 3 months, but then I got a reply, saying he thought it was a good idea, but he had to convince his agent. More months passed, and another note arrived in my in-box from Simon, saying the agent though it was a good idea. But now came the tough part, convincing at his publisher.
Months later, a third e-mail from Simon. The editor said yes!
Simon was already working on some other books he had already contracted for. So while Simon was finishing them, I started to do research. I knew bits and pieces of stories, and I found others. So, when I had collected a bunch of these together, I sent Simon another e-mail. In total, I sent him six e-mails with precision stories, notes, ideas on people to discuss, and assorted information, some as long as 30 pages. I also included my thoughts on how it was important to show how precision had changed over time, and how precision changed the world. For, literally without precision, the world as we know it today would not exist. Don't believe me, read the book.
And then I waited and waited. I got occasional e-mails from Simon, and even a couple of phone calls, but it was taking way longer than I thought it would.
Notice that at this point, I have not met Simon. Just e-mails and an occasional phone call.
Finally, one day in February 2018, a package arrives in the mail from Simon, and it's preliminary copy , what he called an advanced reader copy, of the book! And it's entitled The Perfectionists.
I was amazed, especially for the story he included about my father, that deals with precision, which Simon included on pages 7-10 of the book.
I saw that Simon had taken some of my little suggestions to heart, especially the need to define precision and accuracy, and how, while they are related, they are not the same thing.
Simon had asked that I read the book, and send in comments and corrections. I blasted through it in just 3 days, I was so amazed at the book, how he had taken it so much further than I ever could have.
Then, the book gets published in early May, 2018.
By this point, I am bound and determined to meet Simon. And he is going on a book tour, but sadly, my state of Florida is not on the list. But I see that it starts in DC, my old home town, so I make plans and fly to DC, and spend a long weekend catching up with friends I have known, some of them over 50 years!
And then it happens. At a small bookstore in DC, down near the Potomac River, Simon shows up to give his presentation and answer questions on precision. And we finally get a chance to meet.
But sadly, it is for only an hour, as he is moving on to Philadelphia to do it all over again the next day, and on and on for about 3 long weeks. Talking to radio shows in the mornings, visiting bookstores in the afternoon and evening, then moving on and doing it all over again. PS Most Authors hate book tours.
So, enough already, what about the book?
It's marvelous. It traces precision, from it's rocky beginnings in England with steam engines, in France, with gun makers, and then back to England, to Portsmouth, where the Royal Navy, had a real problems with acquiring enough blocks, rope blocks, used in hauling goods, and sails, and other essentials around on shore and at sea, and to solve that problem, the answer that one man, Henry Maudslay came up around 1800, did the trick. And the answer Maudslay came up with was so good, the machines were in use for 160 years, finally making their last blocks in 1965.
The tale then travels to the US, where …... I can't go on, Simon would probably shoot me if I told you more, as it would spoil the book.
So, buy the book, it's marvelous. If you like technical machines of any kind, buy. If you use precision machines, of any kind, buy it. If you just like great story telling, buy this book. You will love it.
But one more thing. I claim that precision is all around us, everyday, but we just don't see it.
A good example is probably within 5 feet of you right now. A ballpoint pen.
What is precise about them, you ask? I mean, perfectly good ballpoint pens can be had for a quarter. What can be precise about them?
Well, the fit of the ball to the case or cone has to be very precise, more so than you would think. If the fit is too tight, the ball will jam, and no ink will flow. And if too loose, the ink comes out in blobs, also not acceptable.
But what is truly amazing about ball point pens is that the ball cannot be smooth. It has to be precisely made, to roll smoothly, but if is is too smooth, it will not carry ink onto the ball, so it has to be not too small, nor to large, and the surface has to be rough-ish, to carry ink.
Bic, hte largest maker of ballpoint pens in the world, with their Crystal pen (we've all used one, their clear pen), spends 60-70 HOURS grinding each ball. Obviously, they do it in batches, not individually, but as we have seen. the fit must be very, very precise to work properly.
And when I mean all around us, Bic, in 7 factories around the world, makes 1 MILLION Crystal pens a day.
That, my friends, is true precision. And it is all around us, and we take it for granted.
Simon ends the main part of the book talking about the most precise machines ever made, the LIGO machines, designed to test Einstein's theory of General Relativity. There are two of these machines in the USA, with a third to be built and operated in India. How precise are they? Well, let's just say that they need to do math that involves more than 30 decimal places. Precise enough for you?
Buy the book, you will love it.
PS Outside North America, the book is entitled: Exactly.
Top international reviews
Full Disclosure: I am an engineer:-)
This is however not an engeneering book the the classical sense. One can not expect technical discussions of problems like in a university setting. The explanaitions however are clear enough in the technical sense so that any person with a basic understanding of engineering can understand what the (his)story is all about.
Even the history part is biased : precision was invented and improved by British and american, period. Some vague figures from France or Germany may appear in few short sentences and then be forgotten. When discussing the jet engine for example, the whereabouts of the first British jet are given in great details, forgetting that Germans had jet fighters in the air in 1944. And this kind of selection bias is in every chapter.
I enjoyed reading the book, but regret its many shortcoming.