More than a million new titles are published annually in the US, far more than even the most bibliophilic secret agent could get through. Even with a weekly publishing schedule, we can only bring you 52 Hitting the Books each year. To help shine a spotlight on all the fantastic stories that cant be featured in our weekly column, we now bring to you Hitting the Books Quarterly, a semi-semi-annual roundup of books that may not strictly be about tech but we figure youll like nonetheless.This editions selection runs the gamut from STEM to Sci-Fi including selections from New York Times bestselling author John Scalzi, UC Berkeley Professor of Sociology Carolyn Chen, and journalist Stephen Witt. We hope you enjoy.Princeton University PressWork Pray Code: When Work Becomes Religion in Silicon Valley by Carolyn ChenSilicon Valley may tout itself as the Emerald City at the end of Americas yellow brick road but one need only pull back the curtain to find the oppressive capitalist machinery hidden behind. In her new book, Work Pray Code, UC Berkeley Professor of Sociology Carolyn Chen examines how an industry already primed to worship the Myth of the Founder has steadily imposed itself upon the religious beliefs and practices of its workers, hawking Buddhist-adjacent wellness programs in hopes of them achieving productivity enlightenment. What, you thought the company town wouldnt include a company church?Penguin Books How Music Got Free: A Story of Obsession and Invention by Stephen WittIn the earliest days of social media, just as the popularity of physical media began to wane but long before the emergence of omnipresent streaming services, existed a time of boundless possibilities. It was a time when any song ever made could be yours, free and at the click of a button, assuming that at least one other person on your network had a complete copy. Many a music collection was assembled during the unregulated file sharing era, much to the chagrin of the recording industry. But no one pirated music anywhere near the scale of Dell Glover. In his 2016 book, How Music Got Free, journalist Stephen Witt explains how Glover exploited his position working in a North Carolina compact-disc manufacturing plant to surreptitiously steal and leak more than 2,000 albums over the course of a decade before being apprehended. Someone get that guy a medal.MacmillanThe Kaiju Preservation Society by John ScalziStuck in a dead-end gig job amidst the depths of the first COVID lockdown, Jamie Gray is looking for an out, any out of his dreary cash-strapped existence. Unlucky for him, hes about to get exactly what he wants in The Kaiju Preservation Society, the latest from John Scalzi, NYT bestselling author of Old Mans War and Redshirts.Disney EditionsWomen of Walt Disney Imagineering: 12 Women Reflect on their Trailblazing Theme Park CareersWalt Disney may have held the initial spark of inspiration for what would eventually become one of the worlds largest media empires, but ever since his noggin went into cold storage, the responsibility of bringing those stories, rides, and attractions to life has fallen to the companys legion of passionate designers, fabricators and builders: the Imagineers. Women of Walt Disney Imagineering assembles first hand accounts of a dozen women who worked behind the scenes and struggled in an overwhelmingly male industry to ensure that Disneys theme parks live up to their reputations as the most magical places on Earth.G.P. Putnam's SonsThe Gone World by Tom SweterlitschIn this taut, time-travelling thriller, NCIS special agent Shannon Moss is tasked with uncovering as to why a Navy SEAL murdered his family and where his teenage daughter disappeared to. Exploiting the worlds Deep Time chrono-hopping phenomena, Moss skips along the fourth dimension, flitting between alternate realities in search of clues to the killers motivation. That is, until she stumbles upon a near-future event that may end humanity entirely.Got a recommendation for a book that you just couldnt put down? Drop us a line at Tips@engadget.com about it and we might just include it in a future roundup!
Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University have developed a camera system that can seemingly detect sound vibrations with a level of precision that makes it possible to recreate the audio without inference or a microphone. A team from CMU's School of Computer Science's Robotics Institute (RI) built the system, which has two cameras and a laser. It can detect "high-speed, low-amplitude surface vibrations" that the human eye can't see, the university said in a press release.The system features regular cameras rather than high-speed ones used in previous research, which should lower the cost. "We've made the optical microphone much more practical and usable," Srinivasa Narasimhan, an RI professor and head of the Illumination and Imaging Laboratory, said. "We've made the quality better while bringing the cost down."An algorithm compares speckle patterns captured by a rolling shutter and a global shutter. It uses the differences between the patterns to calculate the vibrations and recreate the audio. A speckle pattern (which is created by the laser in this case) refers to the behavior of coherent light in space after it's reflected off of a rough surface. That behavior changes as the surface vibrates. The rolling shutter rapidly scans an image from one end to the other, while a global shutter captures an entire image at the same time. "This system pushes the boundary of what can be done with computer vision," assistant professor Matthew O'Toole, a co-author of a paper on the system, said. "This is a new mechanism to capture high speed and tiny vibrations, and presents a new area of research."The researchers say they were able to isolate the audio of guitars that were being played simultaneously. They claim that the system was able to observe a bag of chips, and use vibrations from that to reconstruct audio being emitted by a nearby speaker with higher fidelity than previous optical microphone approaches.There are a lot of potential applications for this tech. The researchers suggest, for instance, that the system could monitor vibrations from machines in a factory to look for signs of problems. Sound engineers could also isolate the sound from an instrument to improve the mix. In essence, it could help eliminate ambient noise from audio recordings.