If there’s a book that you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it. - Toni Morrison
Numbers are ubiquitous. The world would be meaningless without them. Quite a few people hate the idea of operating with raw numbers and yet unknowingly think in numbers. I want to write a book that contributes to the numerical literacy of the general masses, ranging from a middle-schooler to a retired professional. Numerical literacy empowers us to rise above politics and rhetoric. It separates fact from fiction. It describes the limit of physical systems. It allows us a language to reason about the unknown.
Common Yardsticks is my ongoing effort to crystallize the most important numbers for modern civilization.
We interact with finished goods that have come from a long way from just being stardust. Often, they have a unique history attached to them. I want to pick the most pervasive materials in our society and map the value chain that precedes them.
I was inspired by reading Vaclav Smil's Making the Modern World: Materials and Dematerialization. However, this book left me unsatisfied. Despite being a wealth of resource and covering two chapters worth of material flows, it somehow covered too many numbers that most people wouldn't care about. I want to give this book a visual twist and rather make it more qualitative in its description than the thick quantitative style that Vaclav Smil chooses.
World Materials is my exercise to collect the most pervasive materials, partly noted from the above book.
I was inspired by Inoue Enryō. He was probably the real mythbuster. Far too many people have succumbed to superstitions and folklore. The need to explain the unknown via a divine intervention is overrated and a hindrance to our development. In my ideal world, everyone should be attracted towards the unexpected and unexplained instead of conveniently explaining it away as "God's will".
I want to collect stories, especially in India, where overcoming such a temperament has broken barriers and unleashed huge potential. If there aren't such stories, I want to create them. I want to be a mythbuster.
I had my first sense of what really goes behind-the-scenes with Blake Boles's detailed book publishing journey. Andre Garzia has specific recommendations for publishing in the article Writing a Technical Book.
I definitely need to hone my writing skills. See my other post On Good Writing for that.