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Tools and Toys

Books to Make You a Smarter Person

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Everyone likes to feel smart — not just because it means they know things, but because it makes them a more interesting person.

One of the hallmarks of intelligence is having an insatiable curiosity about any number of subjects. In today’s entry in our Books to Make You a Better Human guide series, we’ll be sharing a handful of books to spark your curiosity, teach you a few new things, and generally expand your mind — perhaps in ways you don’t expect.

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What If? by Randall Munroe.

What If? by Randall Munroe.

What If? Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions »

Randall Munroe, creator of the mega-popular xkcd webcomic, gets asked a lot of weird questions:

  • What would happen if the Earth and all terrestrial objects suddenly stopped spinning, but the atmosphere retained its velocity?
  • What would happen if you tried to hit a baseball pitched at 90% the speed of light?
  • What would it be like if you traveled back in time, starting in Times Square, New York, 1,000 years? 10,000 years? 100,000 years? 1,000,000 years? 1,000,000,000 years? What about forward in time 1,000,000 years?
  • What is the farthest one human being has ever been from every other living person? Were they lonely?

The questions themselves are amusing, but the real fun comes when he attempts to answer them seriously using hard scientific data and analysis. In What If?: Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions, he collects together a bunch of these eminently readable pieces — many of which have never been published on the webcomic.

As one Amazon reviewer put it:

If you have even a passing interest in science and ever enjoy daydreaming about the fantastic or the ridiculous, this book is for you. If you don’t think that you enjoy those things, this book will prove to you that you do.

The things you pick up from this book will not only open your mind to information you didn’t even know you needed to learn, it’ll also make you more entertaining at parties.

Get the book in these formats:


The Origin of (almost) Everything by Graham Lawton and Jennifer Daniel of New Scientist.

The Origin of (almost) Everything by Graham Lawton and Jennifer Daniel of New Scientist.

The Origin of (almost) Everything »

Whereas What If? teaches you a variety of things through humor, New Scientist’s The Origin of (almost) Everything presents a similarly fascinating set of facts and difficult concepts in more of an “almanac-y” (but no less engaging) format:

Did you know, for instance, that if you were to get too close to a black hole it would suck you up like a noodle (it’s called spaghettification), why your keyboard is laid out in QWERTY (it’s not to make it easier to type) or why animals never evolved wheels? New Scientist does.

And now they and award-winning illustrator Jennifer Daniel want to take you on a colorful, whistle-stop journey from the start of our universe (through the history of stars, galaxies, meteorites, the Moon and dark energy) to our planet (through oceans and weather and oil) and life (through dinosaurs to emotions and sex) to civilization (from cities to alcohol and cooking), knowledge (from alphabets to alchemy) ending up with technology (computers to rocket science).

Helpful diagrams and infographics abound throughout this book. Its foreword was also written by Stephen Hawking, so if you have even a passing interest in science, you know you’re in for a treat.

Get the book in these formats:


Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman.

Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman.

Thinking, Fast and Slow »

If you want to improve your intuition and reasoning abilities, it helps to understand how the mind itself works so you can bypass cognitive bias and stop jumping to irrational conclusions in your life. Daniel Kahneman’s Thinking, Fast and Slow breaks it all down at a technical level and teaches the importance of “slow thinking” for better decision-making:

[Kahneman] takes us on a groundbreaking tour of the mind and explains the two systems that drive the way we think. System 1 is fast, intuitive, and emotional; System 2 is slower, more deliberative, and more logical. The impact of overconfidence on corporate strategies, the difficulties of predicting what will make us happy in the future, the profound effect of cognitive biases on everything from playing the stock market to planning our next vacation―each of these can be understood only by knowing how the two systems shape our judgments and decisions.

Get the book in these formats:


The Information Diet by Clay A. Johnson.

The Information Diet by Clay A. Johnson.

The Information Diet »

Being smart isn’t just about knowing a lot of things; it’s also about filtering out the crud. The aim of Clay Johnson’s The Information Diet is to help people consume content better by being more selective about what information they allow into their lives. In preventing yourself from falling victim to “information glut”, you’ll increase your attention span, improve your literacy, and boost your critical thinking skills immeasurably.

Get the book in these formats:


Why We Sleep by Matthew Walker.

Why We Sleep by Matthew Walker.

Why We Sleep »

One of the largest impacts on mental ability is the amount of sleep you get. Neuroscientist and sleep expert Matthew Walker has noticed some disturbing sleep deprivation trends over the past two decades, and wrote Why We Sleep to help people better understand why sleep is so important — not just for mental health and critical thinking, but in every aspect of our lives:

Walker answers important questions about sleep: how do caffeine and alcohol affect sleep? What really happens during REM sleep? Why do our sleep patterns change across a lifetime? How do common sleep aids affect us and can they do long-term damage? Charting cutting-edge scientific breakthroughs, and synthesizing decades of research and clinical practice, Walker explains how we can harness sleep to improve learning, mood, and energy levels; regulate hormones; prevent cancer, Alzheimer’s, and diabetes; slow the effects of aging; increase longevity; enhance the education and lifespan of our children, and boost the efficiency, success, and productivity of our businesses.

Get the book in these formats:

Source: http://toolsandtoys.net



Anchor 3.0

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Anchor 3.0 was launched today for iPhone and iPad. With this new update, Anchor is aiming to simplify the entire podcast experience. From recording, editing, and publishing, Achor 3.0  is aiming to make it easier for everyone with something to say.

With 3.0, they have overhauled their “call in” feature to allow for direct conversations with up to ten people. After the call, you can easily edit or rearrange the content. Our friends at Relay.FM also have a new show called Subnet that is hosted on Anchor.

Along with their app update, Anchor has released a new web dashboard to help you publish your podcast to Apple Podcasts, Overcast, Spotify, etc. If you want to learn more about the new update, check out the Anchor announcement.

You can download Anchor 3.0 on The App Store.

Buy Now

Source: http://toolsandtoys.net



‘Alto’s Odyssey’ for iOS is Out Now

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Alto’s Odyssey strikes an ideal balance of maintaining the formula of its predecessor while evolving and daring to leap towards unexpected, beautiful heights.

Federico Viticci, MacStories

As we recently reported would happen, Alto’s Adventure — the sequel to the critically acclaimed mobile title, Alto’s Adventure — is now available. Rather than being an endless snowboarding adventure like the first game, Alto’s Odyssey is an endless sandboarding journey.

All the design hallmarks of Adventure are still there: fluid physics, dynamic lighting, weather effects, procedurally generated terrain, etc. However, the backdrops will have you exploring new types of places, such as canyons, deserts, beaches, temple cities, and even hot air balloons. There are also new elements to master like sandstorms, wind vortexes, and rushing water. The game’s serene new soundtrack is a joy to listen to and adds a lot of ambiance as you play.

Watch the launch trailer to get a sense of what it’s like:

Alto’s Odyssey is just $5 on the iOS App Store.

Buy Now

Source: http://toolsandtoys.net



Ailun USB-C Adapter Packs

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There’s a company named Ailun that sells a variety of USB-C adapter packs which are well made yet cheap to buy, and they typically include three or four per pack so you can keep them all in different places and thus never be without one. Even if you carry all of them all the time, they’re so small that it’s never an inconvenience. What more could you ask for?

Here are some of the packs they offer:

Buy Now

Source: http://toolsandtoys.net



Pre-Order Star Wars: The Last Jedi

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One movie that I’ve been waiting to add to my collection is Star Wars: The Last Jedi. I’ve seen probably seven movies at the theatre in the past few years, and three of them were Star Wars movies. The Last Jedi will come to digital on March 13, and on Blu-ray on March 27th. You can pre-order it now:

Various retailers will also have special editions if you want the Blu-ray edition.

I really enjoyed the movie, and I can’t wait to watch it again!

Pre-Order Now

Source: http://toolsandtoys.net



Solgaard Lifepack Carry-On Closet

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Solgaard Lifepack Carry-On Closet

If there’s one thing I like in this world, it’s organizational hacks. For example, at 6:59 of this video, a guy who lives in a Sprinter van shows off his “closets”, which are two hanging organizers that extend upward out of a box on the floor and hang from hooks as needed, creating a sort of on-the-fly wardrobe. Cool idea, right?

Solgaard’s Lifepack Carry-On Closet is basically that same concept in suitcase form. This hardshell carry-on has an integrated (and removable) shelving system that pulls up and out, strapping onto the fully extended trolley handle and offering you your own mobile wardrobe right there. No more digging through a pile of clothes to find what you want.

The Lifepack is accepted as a carry-on by major airlines both international and domestic. When the suitcase is closed, the soft handle grip makes it comfortable to pull around.

The company’s promo video gives a brief overview of the Lifepack in action:

Get the Lifepack Carry-On Closet for $169 at Solgaard.

Source: http://toolsandtoys.net



Hard Graft “Full-On Grainy” Case for iPhone X

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Hard Graft has always had a knack for making unique iPhone covers. Their “Full-On Grainy” case for iPhone X is no different, sporting a detailed, grippy texture that feels as good as it looks. It snaps snugly onto the device, hugging every corner and with slightly raised edges around the screen and camera to protect them on flat surfaces. It’s made from TPU (thermoplastic polyurethane) so it’s also resistant to abrasion and oils.

Get the case for ~$62 USD + shipping at Hard Graft.

Buy Now

Source: http://toolsandtoys.net



Jackery Explorer 75 PowerBar

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Jackery’s Explorer 75 PowerBar is a lightweight yet high-capacity external battery pack for charging your devices when no other power outlets are available — for example, when you’re doing work at a coffee shop and all the outlets are taken, or (if you’re like me) you’ve parked your generator-less RV somewhere overnight and there’s no shore power to hook into.

It has a battery capacity of 77Wh/20,800mAh with a continuous output of 85 watts (100 max). It can be used with large-screen laptops, but you’ll be better served using it with a tablet (1–3 full charges), a phone (6–10 charges), or a camera of some kind (7–9 charges). It’s small and light enough to keep in your bag, and is sure to save your butt many times.

Get it for $150 on Amazon.

Buy Now

Source: http://toolsandtoys.net



ROKA Sports Ultralight Run Pack Jacket

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ROKA’s Ultralight Pack Jacket is an amazing piece of attire for cold weather running. Despite weighing less than an energy bar and being able to pack down small enough to fit in your back pocket, it’s wind- and water-resistant enough to keep you warm and dry even in the roughest weather conditions. Our own Isaac Smith loves it:

I was out trail running last week in 15º[F] degree weather with just a single base layer under it and I was perfect.

The Ultralight Pack Jacket comes in both men’s (in “acid lime” or black) and women’s (in “torch” or black) versions. Both are on sale for $88 (down from $175) as of 02/17/2018.

Buy Now

Source: http://toolsandtoys.net



MoMA Perpetual Calendar

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The Museum of Modern Art’s Perpetual Calendar is a clever use of magnets. One magnetic ball, which marks the current month along a semicircle curve, hangs suspended in the air by a tether and can be moved to the next month at will. The other ball, marking the days, slides along a flat path.

Both of the balls have to be moved manually, but there’s a certain pleasure in having each one snap to the next position as you move it. The calendar can be wall-mounted or placed on a flat surface, whichever you prefer.

This video shows it in action:

Get it on Amazon for $47 in your choice of black/silver or red/black.

Buy Now

Source: http://toolsandtoys.net




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