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Exactly: How Precision Engineers Created the…
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Exactly: How Precision Engineers Created the Modern World (original 2018; edição 2018)

por Simon Winchester (Autor)

MembrosCríticasPopularidadeAvaliação médiaMenções
4781538,221 (4.02)21
Precision is so essential a component of modern human life and existence that we seldom stop to think about it. This book examines the relatively recent development of the notion of precision--the people who developed it and the ways in which it has shaped the modern world--and the challenges posed and losses risked by our veneration and pursuit of increasingly precise tools and methods. The history of precision as a concept and in practice begins in England with its originators: John Wilkinson, Henry Maudslay, Joseph Bramah, Jesse Ramsden, and Joseph Whitworth. It was Thomas Jefferson who first exported their discoveries to the fledgling United States, setting the nation on its course to become a manufacturing titan. At the dawn of the Industrial Revolution, standards of measurement were established, giving way to the development of machine tools--machines that make machines. Eventually, the application of precision tools and methods in the development of guns, glass, mirrors, lenses, and cameras gave way to further advancements, including gene splicing, microchips, and the Hadron Collider. The fundamental questions at the heart of The Perfectionists are these: Why is precision important? What are the different tools we use to measure it? Who has invented and perfected it? Has the pursuit of the ultraprecise in so many facets of human life blinded us to other things of equal value, such as an appreciation for the age-old traditions of craftsmanship, art, and high culture? Are we missing something that reflects the world as it is, rather than the world as we think we would wish it to be? And can the precise and the natural coexist in society?… (mais)
Membro:jr_leiper
Título:Exactly: How Precision Engineers Created the Modern World
Autores:Simon Winchester (Autor)
Informação:William Collins (2018), 416 pages
Colecções:transfer1
Avaliação:
Etiquetas:NonFiction-General, Science-General, in_calibre

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The Perfectionists: How Precision Engineers Created the Modern World por Simon Winchester (Author & Narrator) (2018)

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Mostrando 1-5 de 15 (seguinte | mostrar todos)
An elegant, exuberant, well researched book about a topic I would never have thought I would find fascinating. The development of the topic from chapter to chapter is logical and always surprising, and the concluding chapter on the desirable persistence of imperfection was unusually good for such conclusions. The afterword on measurement, while certainly informative, struck me as unnecessary. ( )
  dmturner | Jun 29, 2020 |
The basic premise of this book is the simplistic — and not very controversial — idea that everything in modern science and technology depends on our ability to measure things accurately and to make things conform to tightly controlled tolerances. And of course our world is so complex and interconnected that you can write a plausible "everything depends on..." book about just about anything (Nail: how a simple bit of forged metal holds the modern world together; Hinge: the device that opened the door to western civilisation, etc.). All you need is a good agent and a tape-recorder.

If you haven't worked in engineering or technology then you might not have thought much about what precision means or where it comes from, but if you have, not much of Winchester's story will be new to you, and you will be champing at the bit to correct him when he calls a milling machine a lathe, or he obscures the meaning of the word "tolerance" for the umpteenth time. But the little errors of fact are fairly trivial really, and if this weren't a book about accuracy and precision, we probably wouldn't even notice them. On the whole, he tells the story quite clearly and efficiently, without wandering down too many "human interest" rabbit holes. The thing that irritated me most about it was its supreme predictability. From the introductory paragraph of each chapter, the reader knows exactly where that chapter is going to take you. "What if there were a culture that values imprecision and asymmetry as much as it has embraced absolute precision?" he ponders in his final chapter, and you're already off to book your tickets for the Shinkansen.

Most of the usual suspects are rolled out — the Antikythera mechanism, Watt's steam engine, Harrison's chronometer, Whitworth's screw threads, interchangeable parts for muskets, Henry Ford vs. Henry Royce, Frank Whittle and the jet engine, the error in the Hubble telescope, etc. Babbage is omitted for once, maybe Winchester has done him too often before.

Mostly harmless, but very much standard pot-boiler non-fiction. ( )
  thorold | May 16, 2020 |
Engineers are probably some of the least appreciated people in the UK and yet if you think about it everything is dependent on them. If there were no engineers you would not have items like your phone, your car, bicycles, kitchen gadgets, computers, electricity and even the very infrastructure that means that you can live life in the modern way. Things are much better built now too, compared to even twenty years ago, that extra precision we have got makes for better quality products. But, what is the difference is between accuracy and precision? And how is that making a difference in our modern world.

Beginning with the machines that started the industrial revolution off, steam engines and the rapid improvements that were made in the tolerance and efficiency of them, to the world's first unpickable lock, and the precision engineering from horologists that made clocks and timepieces more accurate, and people much later than ever before. All of these incremental advances made the things that people were buying a better each time and coupled with new inventions by the likes of John `Iron-Mad' Wilkinson and Joseph Whitworth made making things so much easier and made repeatable manufacture possible.

His stories of the way that engineers have made the modern world moves from the open road, where we learn how the Ford Model T was more precisely made than a Rolls-Royce. Each Rolls-Royce was handcrafted and when the men assembling it came across the odd part that didn't fit they would file and adjust to ensure that it did. Ford did not have the luxury of time to make things fit, each part had to fit, first time, every time. Cars are easy though, compared to aeroplanes, just to get several hundred tonnes of plane, passengers and luggage and off the ground requires another level of engineering expertise. Form the earliest planes that were held together with rivets, modern aircraft are glued together and the jet engines that can lift the great weights into the sky are some of the most powerful machines ever made. The finest engineers have developed turbine blades that can operate in an environment that is actually hotter than the melting temperature of the single crystal titanium alloy that they are made from. Each blade produces more power that an F1 car and they are spinning at around 10,000 rpm. They are reliable too, only very rarely does one of these engines fail, and he describes a flight that had to undertake an emergency landing when one component that was a fraction of a millimetre out self-destructed.

Silicone is immensely important to the modern world. Not only has it been used to fill the gaps in the wall so we can see through them, but its use in lenses have opened up miniature worlds and the wonders of the solar system to us. You are probably carrying around a lot of silicone too; its use in electronics has revolutionised the modern world and the machines that are used to make these ubiquitous microchips that are found in almost everything from coffee machines to watches that can tell you exactly where you are on the planet. These work from the GPS system, a technology that relies on the accurate time as measured using caesium clocks. It is time too that defines our most common measurements like the metre and the kilogramme and rendering the finely made platinum standard items a relic of the museum.

I may have a slight bias in reading and reviewing this as I am an engineer who is qualified in both electronics and mechanical engineering and I have designed things as varied as defence equipment to lighting to speaker cables. I thought that this was a really well-written book about the engineers that have made modern society what it is nowadays. It is well researched and full of interesting and anecdotal tales such as how we can now measure light years to within the width of a human hair that add so much to the story of precision over the years. I liked the way at the beginning of each chapter the tolerance increases for each change in technology and the precision required to achieve the next level up. Excellent book and can highly recommend. ( )
  PDCRead | Apr 6, 2020 |
I've a rule that if I find two errors, besides obvious typos, in a book, I discount it.

Unfortunately such is the case with The Perfectionists. Water is not known for becoming unstable, at 4°C or other temperatures found easily on earth. It is the most dense. There are others.

This is the sole reason the book does not have five stars, it is fascinating, unfortunately I am not comfortable with its accuracy. ( )
  wwj | Oct 2, 2019 |
Precision Engineering makes up much of the modern world. With machines perfectly manufactured to create more machined pieces, we live in a world that relies on the quality of these pieces. The Perfectionists by Simon Winchester discusses this rarely-mentioned idea. We all talk about the Assembly Line, for instance, perfected by Henry Ford in order to make cars cheap enough for all to afford. We fail to understand the implications of that though, that there has to be a set standard for every piece even down to the tiniest screw or else the Assembly Line will grind to a halt.

Initially, pieces were machined by hand, people could get tired and imperfections would get through. So it really started out with the production of locks and moved on to weapons.

Now this book does mention a great many things that I did not know. For instance, I remember hearing about Eli Whitney when I was a child. He invented the Cotton Gin. I did not know that he was a massive charlatan along with that. He led the US Government by the nose, making them believe he had mastered a new French method of mass-producing rifles. All in all, he scammed his backers out of several thousand dollars. Even further is the idea of the Gauge Block. I don’t really know how they are machined, but they are blocks that allow one to go and make something level. They are made so that they are perfectly flat, giving it some fascinating properties. For example, if you place them on top of one another, you won’t be able to pull them apart. You will need to slide them apart instead.

As I mentioned, precision is everywhere. Some of this is stuff that people totally rely on. Take the idea of the Jet Engine. The Jet Engine is made up of one moving part, the spinning rotor in the center of the machine. With the rotation achieved in such a device, it is necessary to make it out of a single piece of metal with the lost-wax method. It is really interesting to read and discuss. Even more interesting are the little tiny advancements made to the processes and to the techniques. There are many unsung heroes in this subject. Take the Hubble Space Telescope for example. When it was launched, it was discovered to have a massive flaw in one of the mirrors or lenses. So some person devised a method of fixing it while in the shower. I believe he looked at the shower head and figured out a method. This was preferable to having a space-suited astronaut float in and mess with the instruments.

Nowadays I assume that precision is easier to achieve with the advent of the laser and so on, but it is no less essential. Even now with computers and vehicles, everything is manufactured with precision. Could you imagine having a computer component that doesn’t fit your computer? It would be like if Dell had some standard that was different from HP or Acer or any other computer company. It would be ridiculous.

This book was really interesting, and I recommend it to anyone interested in the topic of precision. ( )
  Floyd3345 | Jun 15, 2019 |
Mostrando 1-5 de 15 (seguinte | mostrar todos)
“The Perfectionists” succeeds resoundingly in making us think more deeply about the everyday objects we take for granted. It challenges us to reflect on our progress as humans and what has made it possible. It is interesting, informative, exciting and emotional, and for anyone with even some curiosity about what makes the machines of our world work as well as they do, it’s a real treat.
adicionada por tim.taylor | editarThe New York Times, Roma Agrawal (May 14, 2018)
 
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These brief passages from works by the writer Lewis Mumford (1895-1990) might usefully be borne in mind while reading the pages that follow.

The cycle of the machine is now coming to an end. Man has learned much in the hard discipline and the shrewd, unflinching grasp of practical possibilities that the machine has provided in the last three centuries: but we can no more continue to live in the world of the machine than we could live successfully on the barren surface of the moon.

- THE CULTURE OF CITIES (1938)

We must give as much weight to the arousal of the emotions and to the expression of moral and esthetic values as we now give to science, to invention, to practical organization. One without the other is impotent.

- VALUES FOR SURVIVAL (1946)

Forget the damned motor car and build the cities for lovers and friends.

- MY WORKS AND DAYS (1979)
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For Setsuko

And in loving memory of my father,

Bernard Austin William Winchester, 1921-2011,

a most meticulous man
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PROLOGUE

The aim of science is not to open the door to infinite wisdom, but to set a limit to infinite error.

- Bertolt Brecht, LIFE OF GALILEO (1939)

We were just about to sit down to dinner when my father, a conspiratorial twinkle in his eye, said that he had something to show me.
CHAPTER 1: STARS, SECONDS, CYLINDERS, AND STEAM

It is the mark of an instructed mind to rest assured with that degree of precision that the nature of the subject admits, and not to seek exactness when only an approximation of the truth is possible.

- Aristotle (384-322 BC), NICOMACHEAN ETHICS

The man who by the common consent of the engineering fraternity is regarded as the father of true precision was an eighteenth-century Englishman named John Wilkinson, who was denounced sardonically as lovably mad, and especially so because of his passion for and obsession with metallic iron.
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Published in North America as The perfectionists; published in the UK and the Commonwealth as Exactly.
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Precision is so essential a component of modern human life and existence that we seldom stop to think about it. This book examines the relatively recent development of the notion of precision--the people who developed it and the ways in which it has shaped the modern world--and the challenges posed and losses risked by our veneration and pursuit of increasingly precise tools and methods. The history of precision as a concept and in practice begins in England with its originators: John Wilkinson, Henry Maudslay, Joseph Bramah, Jesse Ramsden, and Joseph Whitworth. It was Thomas Jefferson who first exported their discoveries to the fledgling United States, setting the nation on its course to become a manufacturing titan. At the dawn of the Industrial Revolution, standards of measurement were established, giving way to the development of machine tools--machines that make machines. Eventually, the application of precision tools and methods in the development of guns, glass, mirrors, lenses, and cameras gave way to further advancements, including gene splicing, microchips, and the Hadron Collider. The fundamental questions at the heart of The Perfectionists are these: Why is precision important? What are the different tools we use to measure it? Who has invented and perfected it? Has the pursuit of the ultraprecise in so many facets of human life blinded us to other things of equal value, such as an appreciation for the age-old traditions of craftsmanship, art, and high culture? Are we missing something that reflects the world as it is, rather than the world as we think we would wish it to be? And can the precise and the natural coexist in society?

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