I have a book lurking somewhere on the shelves here in the Pleasure Dome (my office) called How to Lie with Statistics by Darrell Huff. Although this is only a slim volume, it packs a punch.

It certainly made an impression on me when I first read it sometime around 40 years ago. It’s amazing to me that this was first published in 1954 and it’s still going strong (4.5 stars on Amazon with 1,864 ratings — we should all be so lucky).

The reason I mention this here is that my chum Matt Pulzer, who is Editor and Publisher of Practical Electronics magazine in the UK, just sent me an email saying, “One of the best openings in a book.” This was accompanied by a scan of the first page of a book that reads as follows:

Chapter 1
THERMODYNAMICS AND STATISTICAL MECHANICS

1.1 Introduction: Thermodynamics and Statistical Mechanics of the Perfect Gas

Ludwig Boltzmann, who spent much of his life studying statistical mechanics, died in 1906, by his own hand. Paul Ehrenfest, carrying on the work, died similarly in 1933. Now it is our turn to study statistical mechanics…

A quick Google suggests that this is the opening to States of Matter by David L Goodstein. I don’t know about you, but my gut feeling is that I like his sense of humor and I would love to take a class if he was the lecturer.

Meanwhile, on a totally unrelated subject, I also received an email from my chum Charles Pfeil who suggested I look at this video explaining how differential steering works.

Believe it or not, this little rascal was created in 1937. Although the quality of the video and the way it was produced reflect its age, the content is extraordinarily good — this should be used as a teaching tool to show people who want to post “how to” and “how it works” videos on YouTube how things should be done.

For those who are interested in learning more, Charles also found this video that offers a more modern explanation using sumptuous 3D graphics and animations.

Although I do like the modern implementation, I feel strangely drawn to the 1937 video. How about you? Which format gets your vote?