Review: The Making of the Atomic Bomb, by Richard Rhodes

The Making of the Atomic BombRichard Rhodes’ Pulitzer Prize-winning The Making of the Atomic Bomb has been on my to-read list for a long time. After reading this exquisitely detailed history, I believe the development of the atomic bomb in the Manhattan Project was the pivotal event of the 20th century. The bomb was, simultaneously, a tremendous culmination of a half-century of scientific achievement, a deplorable instrument of war that indiscriminately killed hundreds of thousands, a shortcut to end a war that saved millions of lives, a threat that instigated the Cold War, and perhaps even a marker in geologic history.

The first half of the book dives deeply into the scientific work of physicists, chemists, and engineers from the 1911 discovery of the atomic nucleus through the 1938 discovery of nuclear fission. The story follows Niels Bohr, Leo Szilard, Robert Oppenheimer, Ernest Rutherford, Enrico Fermi, and dozens of other researchers in biographic detail across these decades. The importance of international collaboration is repeatedly emphasized: such rapid scientific progress would have been impossible without timely publication of results for replication and further study. In many cases, multiple laboratories made key discoveries (e.g. the existence of the neutron) within days or weeks of one another, racing be the first to mail their revelations to journals. Anchored by Niels Bohr, this close-knit community shepherded Jewish scientists to safety as anti-Semitism arose in 1930s Germany, many of whom would later work in the Manhattan Project.

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Geometry Operations with ArcMap Field Calculator

Field Calculator is one of the most frequently used tools within ArcMap: taught as part of nearly every introductory GIS course, it offers spreadsheet-like features to the normally static attribute table. Starting in ArcGIS 10.0, the attribute table also exposes the raw Geometry object of each feature to Field Calculator. This underutilized feature allows for rapid access to data that normally requires running a separate geoprocessing tool and joining the result to the attribute table. Building on my previous post about geodesic areas, I’ve compiled some of the more useful one-line geometry field calculations.

The doozy of an expression that inspired this cheat sheet.
The doozy of an expression that inspired me to post this cheat sheet.

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Seven-Week GRE Study Plan

After successfully completing¬†the GRE last year, I posted my seven-week GRE study plan on the /r/GREhelp subreddit. Since that post is now locked, I’ve reproduced it here, along with a few other tips sent in direct messages.

I started studying about seven weeks before my test date, and studied in two phases. In the first phase (weeks 1-4), I mostly followed the Magoosh 1-month study plan and completed all of the associated lesson videos and practice problems, as well as 13/20 vocab flashcards decks. In the second phase (weeks 5-7), I did ETS/Manhattan/Magoosh practice problems, reviewed vocab flash cards, and took five practice tests. You can follow along with in the studying tracking spreadsheet; just Make a Copy to edit, and then enter your test date in cell D52.

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