Synchronous Reading with Friends
Reading a textbook on your own outside an institution is hard. The best hack for me has been to read the textbook synchronously with a friend.
I’m not referring to discussing readings you did on your own with friends.
Reading synchronously means reading the same thing together at the same time. Read out of the same physical book or share screen on Zoom. Only flip to the next page when both of you have finished. Read silently, but interrupt each other if you don’t understand something or have a comment.
I’ll list some reasons why synchronous reading is great, but ultimately reading a textbook with a friend is just way more fun than reading it alone!
- Your friend can unblock you immediately when you don't understand something
- Curiosity is contagious! When you see your friend asking questions, it makes you want to ask questions back and engage with the material more deeply.
- I can concentrate for about three times as long when I read a textbook with a friend vs reading it alone.
- It’s a great accountability mechanism. Since the time is scheduled in advance, it happens even if you’re not in the mood. And you can't stop 30 minutes in. You don’t want to let your friend down.
- Try to meet as frequently as possible! The longer you leave in between meetings, the higher the probability one of you loses interest.
- Schedule the next meeting at the end of the current meeting. Don’t delay the scheduling to text messages — this adds delay and risks one of you losing interest.
Thanks Santi (opens in a new tab) for showing me this technique and to all the people who I read things with the past few years!
If you have a strong background in math or physics and want to read things together, I’d love to read with you! Here are some things I’d like to read:
- When you send a signal through a channel with Gaussian noise, the information you receive is where is the bandwidth of your signal and is the signal to noise ratio. I would love to understand why that is! There’s an explanation in Mackay’s Information theory textbook (opens in a new tab) that I’d love to read with someone! It would involve understanding the Noisy-channel coding theorem (opens in a new tab).
- If you transmit a signal through a wire, you get noise, no matter what you do! The lower bound on the noise that you get is called Johnson Noise, and there is nothing you can do about it! Where does it come from? This chapter might be a good starting point for learning about it.
- When you send light through the brain, it can go no more than 1 mm in depth. This is due to scattering. What is scattering fundamentally? This textbook (opens in a new tab) seems to explain it in depth.
- Anything in Volume 2 of the Feynman Lectures (opens in a new tab)
Reach out if you're interested.