Richard Rhodes’s The Making of the Atomic Bomb was the highlight this month, a detailed and incredibly scientifically literate story of the agglomeration effects of genius and the construction of the atomic age. A long and detailed book but interesting ideas and stories on every page.

Continually impressed by Stripe Press and thoroughly enjoyed Where Is My Flying Car? by J. Storrs Hall. We need more techno-optimistic books. Hope and ambition are technologies too, and should be developed and promoted.

Also finished The Anarchy by William Dalrymple. Had the chance to chat to Dalrymple last month and his enthusiasm and perspicuity for this subject is astounding. The EIC was a violent and predictable and transformative institution, but it was at the same time path-dependent and its success subject to utterly unpredictable chance. Every time I read history I’m taken aback by the fragility of the world we’ve inherited.

I wrote a short post on state-adjacent institutions.

The US approved a small nuclear reactor design.

Noah Smith on CHIPS and chips, and four reasons why GDP is a useful number.

Vision papers in science.

Regress Studies on how to choose books and why you should allow yourself to be dragged into books you suspect you won’t finish.

An older thread from Arnaud on books on the history of modern computing.

The best of Scott Aaronson.

From Knowledge spillovers in Silicon Valley:

Our IV approach estimates substantial returns to face-to-face meetings with overidentification tests suggesting we are capturing the returns to serendipity that play a central role in the urban theories of Jane Jacobs.

Types of barcodes

Some good Visa threads on a cluster of related ideas: do what you want to do, do it a lot, and tell others to do what they want to do. I had a great chat with Visa at Future Forum, and his temper and mode and writing is lovely in a happy-go-lucky, auto-optimistic kind of way. His blog is also excellent.

Nuño Sempere on decomposing quantitative problems into simpler questions.