BackReturn Home



How Stuff Works

This section will house links to books and websites about various scientific and technical subjects. All resources are free (and legal!). The categories overlap quite a bit, so please use the "search" function of your browser if you are looking for something specific.

Science (General)

• The HowStuffWorks website is a classic. It reminds me strongly of the Simple English Wikipedia with the directness of its exposition. Another similar site is Explain That Stuff.

• The American Association for the Advancement of Science has released two books about the general understanding of STEM that one should have developed by the time that they leave high school. [By "STEM" we mean Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics.] One of these books is called "Science for All Americans". It is available in English (as HTML), Spanish (as HTML), and Japanese (as PDF). Even though it is from 1990, a lot of the content is timelessly relevant. It describes useful ways to think about different types of information, and does so in a manner that is easy to understand. A few years later, it was followed up by another book called "Benchmarks for Science Literacy", which is available in English and Spanish (both as HTML). Whether you have some gaps in your education that you would like to fill or would just like an overview to refresh what you've learned, they are a wonderful set of books. [Although, there is a little bit of overlap between them.] There used to be a website that showed many of the ideas within "Benchmarks for Science Literacy" as concept maps, but it is no longer functioning. Unfortunately, the backup on Internet Archive does not seem to work either. Therefore, we have created a backup of most its contents here. Enjoy! 😉

Universe-Review is a website which gives a series of brief snippets about a wide variety of scientific topics. They are organized by size (i.e.: from Universal to Sub-Atomic in scale), and span many different branches of Science (such as Physics, Astronomy, Geology, Biology, and so on). Depending upon your background, some entires may have little meaning for you, but it is a useful outline.

• Inspired by Isaac Asimov's classic non-fiction works (like "Understanding Physics", "A Short History of Chemistry", and "A Short History of Biology"), Greg Goebel's website is a wealth of information. Each topic is covered in a clear and straightforward style. It is definitely worth checking out!

The Science-Campus is something like a virtual school for science and technology. The different "departments" are really just online books that cover various subjects (mostly Math, Physics, and Electricity/Electronics).

Physics

HyperPhysics is a database of Physics concepts. It really lives up to its name, as all of the ideas are organized into webs and there are cross-linked pages throughout. Entries are short, and there is an alphabetical listing of all entires in a frame to the right of every page. For an alternative viewpoint on many of these concepts, check out Thomas Smid's website, Physics Myths.

The Physics Classroom is essentially a physics textbook, but with extra little interactive doodads.

• The personal webpage of professor A.K.T. Assis has a collection of informative books and papers (many of which are available in several languages, such as English, Portuguese, German, Russian, and Italian).

Particle Central gives some beginner friendly explanations of Nuclear Physics concepts. For information on String Theory in particular, the now defunct String Theory Website was good.

• There are also some good YouTube channels if you feel like watching something: Sabine Hossenfelder has a lot of funny and down-to-Earth takes on various Physics topics. Parth G gives some lucid explanations of Physics concepts and equations. There are also episodes of the classic show Demonstrations in Physics by Professor Julius Sumner Miller.

Mechanical

• In a marvel of web-based education, 507 Mechanical Movements has animated the figures from Henry T. Brown's classic book of the same title. If you need the basic principles first, then check out another classic book, the U.S. Navy's "Basic Machines". There is also a nice digitized version on the awesome website Construction Knowledge.

Jeremy Fielding runs a wonderful YouTube channel where he shows basic mechanical engineering principles through projects done within his home workshop. There are actually quite a few good engineering channels on YouTube. We mentioned a few before, but Real Engineering is another.

Technology Student has a ton of basic information on technology and engineering. The graphics also fit in with the Neocities aesthetic.

• If you were to take David Macaulay and Neil Ardley's famous children's series "The Way Things Work" and remake it for adults, then you would probably end up with Roger Jean Segalat and C. van Amerongen's "Wie funktioniert das?" (or "How Does It Work?"). It was translated into English and released multiple times, once as a luxurious four book set, and later as a more affordable two book set. Volume 1 and Volume 2 of this later edition can be checked out on Internet Archive. They cover a large amount of technology and the principles that underlie them, with each section consisting of a page of descriptive text accompanied by a two-color diagram. Later, two other books that followed the same format were released. One was dedicated soley to Information Theory, and the other to the human body. Unfortunately, I cannot find anywhere online to read the latter one.

• True to its name, Alex Muir's How A Car Works is a website which breaks down just about every aspect of a car's functioning. The amount of detail here is fascinating. Each article is accompanied by several explanatory diagrams and one can hover over technical terms to see their definitions. While all of the articles are free, he also sells access to a video course that demonstrates all of this information on an actual car. [If you are curious, it is $25 for lifetime access to over 14 hours of video if you purchase it before September 2021, when filming comes to an end.] In combination with Conduite Facile, you can become a master driver and know nearly everything about how cars work.

MechStuff is a blog that covers topics within mechanical engineering. However, it is not overly technical. To quote their tagline, "Making Stuff...Simpler". Intresting Engineering is another blog that is somewhat similar.

Electrical

• Safety first! Here are the electrical safety standards of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (or "OSHA") and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (or "NIOSH").

Parts Geek is a wonderful resource that was pointed out to me by Hannah. Thanks Hannah! It is a webpage with many useful links about the core concepts behind electrical circuits in general. If you are unsure of where to begin, start here!

• A fantastic resource for learning about electricity and electronics is the Naval Electrical Engineering Training Series (or "NEETS" for short). It is like an updated version of the classic five volume set "Basic Electronics" by Van Valkenberg, Nooger, & Neville. They can be found on multiple websites throughout the Internet, but CB Tricks is a good one. Be sure to check out the other material that they have there too!

• Another useful set of free textbooks is Lessons In Electric Circuits by Tony R. Kuphaldt. The same website has a collection of worksheets for practicing electrical concepts as well. If something doesn't make sense, William J. Beaty's Amateur Science page has some alternative explanations for familiar electrical phenomena.

• Learn how some common components work inside of electrical circuits from this awesome blog by Millie Rainer. Want a more technical introduction to electronics, one that gets into some of the Physics behind it? Try the article Concise Electronics for Geeks. And if you want a clear understanding of Maxwell's Equations, then look no further than the website...errrr...Maxwells-Equations. Haha!

• If you are interested in wireless communications, RADAR, and the like, then there is Antenna-Theory and Microwaves101. If you are interested in ham radio specifically, then there is DXZone and AC6V.

Public.Resource is an organization which tries to make government information easier to access. This includes old Department of Defense training videos, like these:

+ How Magnets Produce Electricity (6 minutes, 51 seconds)
+ Charged Bodies (12 minutes, 15 seconds)
+ Current (15 minutes, 26 seconds)
+ Voltage (13 minutes, 48 seconds)
+ Resistance (15 minutes, 40 seconds)
+ Capacitors (37 minutes, 44 seconds)
+ Magnetic Cores Part I - Properties (28 minutes, 53 seconds)
+ Magnetic Cores Part II - Basic Circuits (28 minutes, 56 seconds)
+ Principles Of The Starting Motor (14 minutes, 46 seconds)
+ AC Motors (36 minutes, 51 seconds)
+ Transformers (26 minutes, 17 seconds)
+ Series RC Circuits (27 minutes, 48 seconds)
+ Parallel Resistive Circuits - Bridges (14 minutes, 6 seconds)
+ Parallel Resistive Circuits - Power Troubleshooting (16 minutes, 54 seconds)
+ Parallel Resistive Circuits - Analysis (16 minutes, 26 seconds)
+ Troubleshooting Electric Circuits (18 minutes, 40 seconds)
+ Introduction To LC Oscillators (19 minutes, 54 seconds)
+ Filters A (32 minutes, 5 seconds)
+ Filters B (25 minutes, 46 seconds)
+ Frequency Modulation Part I - Basic Principles (28 minutes, 37 seconds)
+ Basic Amplifiers (29 minutes, 46 seconds)
+ Basic Telephony (22 minutes, 39 seconds)

• There are many websites dedicated soley to electricity and electronics. Some of the older ones are gone (such as ElectricianEducation, OpAmp-Electronics, and Graham Knott's webpage), but there are a lot of other ones still going strong:

+ Bill's Basic Electronics
+ The Digital Electronics Tutorial
+ Play-Hookey
+ Electronics Club
+ Electronics-Tutorials
+ Circuit-Magic (Glossary)
+ Electro-Tech-Online (Forum)
+ All About Circuits
+ Electronics Theory
+ Electrical 4 U
+ Electronics-Lab

• If you are looking for schematics, there are a few websites that have some in various formats:

+ Free Info Society (They also have a ton of other free stuff, like books and audio.)
+ Discover Circuits
+ Schematics For Free
+ Explore Circuits
+ Free-Circuits (defunct)
+ Science Lobby (defunct)

• If you need to learn how to solder, then download the free comic "Soldering Is Easy" (available in many languages).

• The man, the myth, the legend, Hans Camenzind (inventor of the 555 Timer) gives away his book "Designing Analog Chips" for free as well!

• One can easily purchase kits for "microcontrollers" and single-board computers (or "SBCs") from companies like Arduino, Adafruit, BeagleBoard, Raspberry Pi, and others. However, the idea of a general "electronics project kit" seems to be long gone. We need not let the magic die though! The manuals for many sets can still be found, and in combination with some easy to use software (like Paul Falstad's Online Circuit Simulator), we can do essentially the same thing without having to buy any electronic parts whatsoever. There are other circuit simulators too (e.g.: Circuit Lab, ElectronicVLab, etc.), but not all of them are free.

Chemistry

Chem1 is a lovely website put together by Steve Lower. The core part of this website is an online textbook on introductory Chemistry, but there are a huge number of links to other helpful resources throughout. This is a great place to start one's Chemistry education!

• Also fitting in with the Neocities aesthetic, The Third Millennium Online is James Fromm's tour de force of Chemistry education. [However, there are some informative articles on early American history here too!] It is a super useful website.

• For the visually inclined, there are a few good YouTube channels that cover Chemistry from a beginner to an advanced level: Mark Rosengarten, NileRed, NurdRage

• While some of the suggestions within old Chemistry Set manuals can be dangerous, they can also be fun to read and a good starting point for further research about basic Chemistry. A.C. Gilbert, the guy who invented the "Erector Set", was also one of the first to popularize the idea of a Chemistry Set. His company produced all sorts of science kits, and you can read some of their manuals on the Science Notebook website.

Biology & Earth Science

• There are many handbooks for learning microscopy, such as Werner Nachtigall's "Exploring With The Microscope", Gaylord Johnson's "Hunting With The Microscope", Seymour Simon's "Exploring With A Microscope", and so on. Zeiss, the famous instrument maker, also has a lot of interesting material on basic microscopy.

• The University of Arizona's Biology Project is a collection of tutorials and resources about different aspects of biology. For example, under the "Cell Biology" section there are explanations of cell division and links to fun websites like CELLS alive! It has a lot of enjoyable material to explore, but it has also been quite some time since it was last updated (2004!).

• Put together by the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory in New York, DNA from the Beginning gives a clear and engaging rundown of the experiments that formed our current understanding of the science of Genetics. If you want a different take on some of the same information, check out The Third Way. In a similar vein, Gert Korthof's Towards The Third Evolutionary Synthesis is a valiant attempt to weigh all of the information about evolution, whether alternative or mainstream. It has a ton of book reviews.

Palaeos: Life Through Deep Time allows one to explore different lifeforms according to their taxonomic classification or which period of the geologic time scale that they appeared. It is a very interesting mix of Palentology and Biology. If you dig this, you might also like the Palentological Research Foundation's Digital Atlas of Ancient Life or Reginald Finley's fun blog amazinglife.bio.

• If you would like to know more about the processes used to determine the ancestry of various organisms, check out the University of California Museum of Palentology's pages on Cladistics!

History

Hyperhistory is a website based off of the "synchroptical timelines" of Andreas Nothiger. A "synchroptical timeline" is when the duration of individual events or lives are shown parallel to one another on a single timeline. This makes it easy to determine what occurred within the same general timeframe, or which historical figures lived contemporaneously with one another. A similar resource is the YouTube channel / website, Useful Charts.

• From Edgar Allan Poe's expansive view of cosmology in Eureka to Johann Wolfgang von Goethe's perception-altering work in optics, some writers more known for their fiction have produced non-fiction works at once both intriguing and insightful. In regards to history, good ol' H.G. Wells wrote a sprawling outline of world history, and the well-known poet W.B. Yeats came up with a spiritually-infused model of historical cycles.

Histography.io jams millions of years of history into a timeline of points. Each point is a link to a Wikipedia article about that subject. It has a really lovely aesthetic, but the points can be a little small.

• If you are looking for recent events, especially those of a more controversial nature, they have a tendency to be relegated to the "memory hole". To remedy this situation, History Commons provides timelines intended for quote, "grassroots-level investigations on any issue, providing the public with a useful tool to conduct oversight of government and private sector entities". If you are looking for historical records about particular people or organizations, try SNAC (or "Social Networks and Archival Context").

[In Progress...]