How to persuade, distilled

A whole book (“Influence” by Robert Cialdini) on the key scientific principles of how to persuade people — get them to change their mind or behavior — has been expertly compressed into a 12 minute doodle video. It’s so compressed you might need to review The Science of Persuasion more than once. The principles work! — KK

LearningClaudia Dawson
Free academic papers

For the past 8 years Sci-Hub has been the Napster of academic papers. It’s a pirate site that serves up scholarly journal articles usually stashed behind paywalls. You copy and paste the link from the official journal site (or its DOI) into the Sci-Hub website and it immediately gives you the PDF. I have no qualms using it. Many researchers who have legitimate access to the journals prefer to use Sci-Hub because its interface is easier, consistent, and better designed. — KK

Hands-on introduction to machine learning

My 16-year-old daughter and I are interested in learning about artificial intelligence, and we found a YouTube series produced by Google that has easy-to-understand examples that you can program yourself using the Python programming language. The first program we wrote was only 6 lines long, but it can tell the difference between an apple and an orange. — MF

LearningClaudia Dawson
Animated mechanical movements

When making toys, I refer to 507 Mechanical Movements. This old book is sort of a periodic table of known mechanical movements, first published in 1868. The book has been scanned onto the web, with many of the gears animated into looping gifs so you can see exactly how their ingenious mechanisms work and what movements they create. Just paging through this amazing 507 Movements website fills me with ideas. — KK

Shrink the quantum of experience

I came across some great advice on a Twitter thread which asked “What are some non-obvious ideas that can change your life?” @noahlt answered: “Shrink the quantum of experience: instead of reading a book, read a wikipedia article. Instead of eating a cup of ice cream, eat a spoonful. Decreases turnaround time, which both reduces procrastination and also allows me to decide whether I want to go deeper.” This tip encourages me to follow my curiosity, but reminds me to start with small bites. — CD

Understanding technical papers

The best way I’ve found to understand a very technical or scientific paper is to search YouTube for someone to explain it. The ideal is to find a journal club report. Journal clubs are informal groups who share the task of explaining an interesting paper to each other. Each member rotates in picking a paper to explain to their peers. This is 100 times better than having the author explain it, because authors assume too much prior knowledge. It is better to have a newbie who just figured it out. If you are lucky, a journal club will video their reports and post. Search YouTube with the paper’s title or topic and add the term “journal club.” — KK

LearningClaudia Dawson
Read books in new languages

Parallettext.io is an online tool that helps you learn languages by reading a book in a foreign language with your native language side-by-side. You can click on any sentence to hear it out loud. I’m not sure how helpful it is to learn an entirely new language, but it’s useful for me to read in Spanish from time to time to remind myself of how sentences are structured differently. Right now, I spend a little time each day working my way through Alice in Wonderland. — CD

LearningClaudia Dawson
Python Tutorials

One of the things I miss about the 1980s was writing programs for fun in BASIC. A couple of years ago I started playing around with Python. It’s easy to learn, and powerful enough to do anything I would want to automate. Christian Thompson’s YouTube channel has wonderful Python tutorials for beginners. Check out the one on how to program a Pong clone. — MF

LearningClaudia Dawson
Beautiful star-gazing app

Last week my friend texted to tell me that 4 planets were visible and I should go outside to check them out. I was only able to see 3, but I found them quickly with the beautifully designed SkyView app ($1.99, also on Android). I just held my phone up to the sky and SkyView pinpointed where they were precisely. For the occasional stargazer this app is more than enough. — CD

LearningClaudia Dawson
Learn celsius

Part 1: Here’s an easy way to approximately convert Centigrade to Fahrenheit: “double the Centigrade temp, subtract the first digit of the result from the result and add 32.” Example: 16 C = (32-3)+32 = 61 F. (This tip is from Fodor’s Travel website.) — MF

Part 2: Recomendo reader Don wrote to tell us, “Your Centigrade to Fahrenheit conversion works ‘sorta’ as long as the result of doubling the C number is a two-digit number. I’ve always doubled the C number and subtracted 10%, then added 32. Most folks can figure out 10% and subtract it. Also, this doesn’t result in an approximation, but the correct result.” — MF

Part 3: The US is basically the only country in the world not using metric. It’s not that hard to learn a rough sense of how many kilometers in a mile, or pounds in a kilo. But it is very hard to convert temperatures between Centigrade and Fahrenheit. The solution is to convert all your thermometers to Centigrade: on your phone, in or outside of your house, on websites. Have any digital device display only Celsius, so you can’t cheat. In about a year, you’ll have a reliable and native sense of what’s cool and warm in degrees C. This is supremely handy if you travel anywhere outside of the US. — KK

LearningClaudia Dawson