“How to Invent Everything: A Survival Guide for the Stranded Time Traveler” by Ryan North

  1. Here is the bad news: the scientific method can produce knowledge that is wrong. Here is the good news: the scientific method is still our best technology for uncovering, verifying, and refining correct knowledge, because what the scientific method allows us to do is make wrong knowledge gradually more correct.
  2. The scientific method requires you to keep an open mind and be willing—at any time—to discard a theory that no longer fits the facts.
  3. Scientists are often seen as turbonerds, but the philosophical foundations of science are actually those of pure punk-rock anarchy: never respect authority, never take anyone’s word on anything, and test all the things you think you know to confirm or deny them for yourself.
  4. More food obviously lets you have more people. But it also lets those people stop worrying about where their next meal is coming from, freeing them up to start worrying about different, more productive things.
  5. Specialization gives the people in your civilization the opportunity to go further in any direction of study than any other human has gone before.
  6. A rock tied to a string that can swing freely is called a pendulum, and it turns out that one second is the time it takes any pendulum on Earth—regardless of weight—to swing from one end to the other, as long as the pendulum is 99.4cm long.
  7. Potatoes are one of the few plants that contain almost all the nutrition humans need! You can live entirely off potatoes (but shouldn’t, because then you’re extremely vulnerable to crop failure, and to vitamin A, B12, and E deficiencies).
  8. To make actual soap, you’ll need potash, soda ash, or lye: these are alkalines you can produce easily with Appendix C. An alkali is a substance that at the atomic level accepts protons from any chemical donor: they’re the opposite of acids, which are substances that donate them.* A neat thing happens when you combine alkalis with oils or fats: you induce a chemical reaction called “saponification.” During saponification, the fats chemically combine with the alkalines to form new molecules: long and skinny hydrocarbon chains.* These chains have a cool (and for you, very useful) property: one end loves water and hates oil, while the other end hates water and loves oil.

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