» What is the best way to learn a new technology? I'm talking about the kinds that come printed like hieroglyphics on the pages of a hefty technical tome. What's the most effective way to assimilate this information? .. to master the technology .. in order to wield its Mojo. Like a Jedi does with his lightsaber.
Tackling the Technical Tome
I read somewhere how the average programmer reads less than one technical book per year. Surprising, no?
I enjoy learning about & mastering new technologies. Always have. The more powerful the better.
But you neednt read many technical books in order to understand why they're considerably more challenging than your average armchair novel.
Back in '07, after web-hacking my way thru the site for several years, I read this book on XHTML & CSS. Cover to cover.
What a difference that made! Night-n-day. Suddenly the mojo was mine. No more struggling to figure out why things werent working the way I expected.
That particular title weighed in at a respectable 650 pages. But it contained plenty of fluff. (I actually likethat kind of fluff. Another big deal was learning the Unix shell .. for help with VPS server administration. Very powerful. Things that used to take hours, now take minutes.)
Wrestling the Rhino
But those 650 pages are nothing compared to the 1100-page behemoth sitting beside me here now. I must admit » this thing looks intimidating. Formidable. Daunting. Sometimes I swear it snorts at me.
But heft alone is not my only reason for dismay. Each page comes chock full of technical terms, unwieldy jargon that must be mastered if I am to have any hope of accessing the power it contains.
How I would *love* to upload the contents of this monster (.. into my brain) .. all in one shot. You know, like they do in the Matrix. But that option doesnt seem feasible. So .. we're left with the old, standard method » reading. Ugh.
This is not a mountain, I've come to understand, that cannot be surmounted by sheer enthusiasm alone. I mean, if I could stay awake for a week and power thru this thing, I would. But that aint how it works. (At least, not for me.)
What's required here is not so much passion or enthusiasm, but rather sustained, steady effort. Methodical focus. You know » the tortoise and the hare.
Anyway, after getting gored by the rhino a few times, I started to glean a few insights .. strategies for dealing with an intimidating 1100-page tome. So I've had to regroup and reassess my approach.
.. let's start local. How big is the earth? Answer » ~25,000 miles in circumference (40K kilometers).
That means it would take a Boeing 747 (with a typical cruising speed of 567-MPH or 913-KPH) about 44 hours to circle the planet (.. assuming mid-air refuelings, no head- or tailwinds, and other such impossibilities). Nearly 2 days. Sound reasonable? Two days in a 747 .. is something we can all handle. "More peanuts, please."
At that same speed, how long would it take our 747 to reach the moon? (assuming it could fly in space) Answer » 17 or 18 days (.. assuming an average distance to the moon of 240-K miles or 385-K KM).
About 2½ weeks in a 747. Still not bad. (In other words, we would have to circle the earth 9 or 10 times to equal the distance to the moon.)
That also means a ROUND-TRIP loop to the moon in a 747 would take 5 weeks .. or roughly a MONTH. "What? No more peanuts?"
Leave on one full moon, return on the next. The time-period of a month seems to work well here (.. for our round-trip excursion to the moon), no?
Let's say we left a MIRROR on the moon. A big one. Once we returned to earth, how long would it take LIGHT from our super-powerful flashlight to reach the moon, bounce off our mirror, and return to earth? Answer » about 2½ seconds.
[ 2½ seconds vs a month. Hmm. Light seems MUCH faster. Unlike the speed of our 747, the speed-of-light can be difficult to grasp. But we can all handle the idea of 2½ seconds. So let's proceed. ]
How many of these round-trips to the moon would we have to make in order to equal the distance to our sun (.. some 93 million miles away)? Answer » about 200. (We're talking ballpark numbers here.)
In other words, it would take our 747 about 17 years (200 month-long trips / 12 months per year) to reach the sun. (Let's hope the air conditioner works.)
Seventeen years would be a looong trip, but it's still something we could do .. cuz all of us will likely live longer than 17 years.
So we went from 17 DAYS (.. 1-way to the moon) to 17 YEARS (.. 1-way to the sun). Dig it. [ 17 years ago .. that was 1994, back when the first George Bush was President. The dad, not the son. ] Days to years. A comparable number of days to years.
This provides an excellent relative scale, no? Because we all have an excellent feel for the proportions of how a day compares to a year. ( You should be having a very cool déjà vu right about now.) Days-is-to-years as the moon-is-to-the-sun. Comparing similar scales of time to distance. Big difference, but conceptually managable.
Well then .. how long does it take LIGHT from the sun to reach the earth? Answer » 500 seconds, or » 8 minutes, 20 seconds. Hmm. 8 minutes vs 17 years. Light is definitely much faster than our (seemingly dog-slow) 747.
The speed-of-light still seems too fast to grasp (mentally), but you should, at least, be beginning to get a FEEL for it.
This is important because the distances in space are so big/vast that the distance light travels in one year (a LIGHT-YEAR) is used as the standard/default yardstick (or "meter") of measurement out there.