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The Idea Factory: Learning to Think at MIT

Overview

This is a personal story of the educational process at one of the world's great technological universities. Pepper White entered MIT in 1981 and received his master's degree in mechanical engineering in 1984. His account of his experiences,written in diary form, offers insight into graduate school life in general—including the loneliness and even desperation that can result from the intense pressure to succeed—and the purposes of engineering education in particular. The first professor White met at MIT told him ...

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Overview

This is a personal story of the educational process at one of the world's great technological universities. Pepper White entered MIT in 1981 and received his master's degree in mechanical engineering in 1984. His account of his experiences,written in diary form, offers insight into graduate school life in general—including the loneliness and even desperation that can result from the intense pressure to succeed—and the purposes of engineering education in particular. The first professor White met at MIT told him that it did not really matter what he learned there, but that MIT would teach him how to think. This, then,is the story of how one student learned how to think. There have of course been changes at MIT since 1984, but its essence is still the same. White has added a new preface and concluding chapter to this edition to bring the story of his continuing education up to date.

While learning to cope with MIT's relentless academic demands and mastering the science of engineering, White plunges into three years of intense experience marked by stumbles and triumphant accomplishments. And when White leaves MIT as a full-fledged member of America's scientific elite, he has learned much more than engineering--he has learned to think. 36 line drawings.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
``Getting an education at MIT is like getting a drink of water from a firehose,'' says one of White's fellow students in this grad school memoir. Test anxiety, lab-project drama and stylish prose propel White's recollections with enough force to make three years of engineering study compelling, even to readers committed to the liberal arts. The professors' egos, the career stakes and the quizzes are presented as powers more intense at MIT Engineering than elsewhere. But the author's deft personality sketches and diary-like accounts of encounters with even such stuff as ``System Dynamics and Control Problems'' yield a technical school analogue to Scott Turow's One L. (Sept.)
Booknews
Reprint of the popular Dutton edition, 1991. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780262731423
  • Publisher: MIT Press
  • Publication date: 10/1/2001
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 331
  • Sales rank: 811,986
  • Product dimensions: 5.25 (w) x 8.00 (h) x 0.68 (d)

Meet the Author

Pepper White owns the consulting firm LCI Energy.

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Table of Contents

Preface to the MIT Press Edition xiii
Prologue 1
1. Logging On 5
2. Class 17
3. Break 30
4. Midterm 45
5. Funding 60
6. Finals 69
7. The Guild 78
8. The Taskmasters 93
9. Spring 108
10. In Control 119
11. Sigma Delta 134
12. Two Seventy 145
13. Is Suicide Painless? 163
14. Perpetual Motion 174
15. Hackito Ergo Sum 191
16. Papa Flash 203
17. The Joy of Six 215
18. Results 230
19. No It Isn't 250
20. Quality Control 260
21. Continuing Education 277
Chapter Notes 287
Index 309
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