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Sunday, October 22, 2017

The Diary of a Bookseller by Shaun Bythell review – service with a scowl | The Guardian - Autobiography and memoir

The Guardian, 22 October 2017.

"It is a wonder, reading some of Shaun Bythell’s descriptions of the customers in his bookshop, that anyone dares cross its threshold at all" inform Alice O'Keeffe, freelance literary critic and journalist based in Brighton.

Here we are introduced, for example, to one of the shop’s valued regulars, Mr Deacon: “His dark, thinning hair is combed over his pate in the unconvincing way that some balding men try to persuade others that they still retain a luxuriant mane… it appears as though someone has loaded his clothes into a cannon and fired them at him.”

Those who spend nothing – and they are legion – are particularly unflatteringly depicted, but even those who cough up are far from safe: “The wife mauled her way through the antiquarian shelves, coughing and moaning… Despite being remarkably annoying, [the couple] spent £250 on an 18th-century Scottish botanical book.”

When Bythell, proud owner of Scotland’s largest secondhand bookshop, set up a Facebook page in 2010, he took a “calculated risk and decided to focus on customer behaviour”. This diary of one year in the life of the shop does the same, and much more besides. At first glance, it is a grumpily amusing account of a life that many city dwellers would consider idyllic: Bythell’s bookshop is in Wigtown, on the remote coast of Galloway. When he’s not foraging through libraries in crumbling estates, the author spends his time salmon fishing, sea swimming and hill walking. The fortunes of the once-declining town have been revived by the arrival of a clutch of bookshops, and the local booksellers also organise the Wigtown book festival, which attracts thousands of visitors to the area each year. 

Bythell creates his own bohemian world around the shop and festival, aided and abetted by a cast of characters including his assistant Nicky, a Jehovah’s Witness with a penchant for wearing home-stitched tabards and stealing food from skips, Bum Bag Dave, and Sandy, “the most tattooed man in Scotland”. Eminent writers pop by on their holidays and spend evenings drinking whisky by the fire. Frequent amusement is provided by the weird and wonderful titles ordered online: Gay Agony by HA Manhood; Collectible Spoons of the 3rd Reich.

Source: The Guardian

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Suggested Books of the Week 42, 2017

Check out these books below by Cambridge University Press and Oxford University Press

Artificial Intelligence - Foundations of Computational Agents

Artificial Intelligence 
Foundations of Computational Agents
Recent decades have witnessed the emergence of artificial intelligence as a serious science and engineering discipline. This textbook, aimed at junior to senior undergraduate students and first-year graduate students, presents artificial intelligence (AI) using a coherent framework to study the design of intelligent computational agents. By showing how basic approaches fit into a multidimensional design space, readers can learn the fundamentals without losing sight of the bigger picture. The book balances theory and experiment, showing how to link them intimately together, and develops the science of AI together with its engineering applications...
The text is supported by an online learning environment, AIspace,, so that students can experiment with the main AI algorithms plus problems, animations, lecture slides, and a knowledge representation system, AIlog, for experimentation and problem solving.

The Cambridge Handbook of Artificial Intelligence 

The Cambridge Handbook  
of Artificial Intelligence
Artificial intelligence, or AI, is a cross-disciplinary approach to understanding, modeling, and creating intelligence of various forms. It is a critical branch of cognitive science, and its influence is increasingly being felt in other areas, including the humanities. AI applications are transforming the way we interact with each other and with our environment, and work in artificially modeling intelligence is offering new insights into the human mind and revealing new forms mentality can take...
With a focus on theory rather than technical and applied issues, the volume will be valuable not only to people working in AI, but also to those in other disciplines wanting an authoritative and up-to-date introduction to the field.
  • Accessible and student-friendly, focusing on key topics and avoiding technical jargon 
  • Includes supporting material, such as annotated chapter-specific further reading sections and an extensive glossary 
  • Provides concise, authoritative, and up-to-date coverage of a rapidly developing and expand

An Introduction to the Philosophy of Art 

An Introduction to  
the Philosophy of Art
An Introduction to the Philosophy of Art is a clear and compact survey of philosophical theories of the nature and value of art, including in its scope literature, painting, sculpture, music, dance, architecture, movies, conceptual art and performance art. This second edition incorporates significant new research on topics including pictorial depiction, musical expression, conceptual art, Hegel, and art and society... 
This importance is further elaborated in discussions of artistic beauty, originality, imagination and criticism. His accessible study will be invaluable to students of philosophy of art and aesthetics.
  •  This new second edition incorporates significant new research from the last ten years, as well as an updated bibliography, a new introduction, and new research on topics including pictorial depiction, musical expression, conceptual art, Hegel, and art and society
  • Presents recent work on topics such as the controversies about Mapplethorpe, Finley, et al., and attention to newer forms of conceptual and performance art 
  • Combines classical and contemporary philosophy, literary theory, and art criticism

Introduction to Game Theory: A Behavioral Approach 

Introduction to Game Theory:  
A Behavioral Approach
This book is an introduction to game theory but differs from other introductory game theory texts by taking a behavioural approach.
  • Extensive problem sets and sample exams
  • Glossary of terms
  • Supplemental lecture material
  • Numerical examples for all exercises in the text
  • Major concepts highlighted
  • Introduces technical material in an easy to understand style
  • Includes a wide range of experiments with diverse experimental designs
  • Lively examples used to illustrate key concepts
  • Problem sets contain a wealth of additional material from experimental and game theory literature
  • Accessible to a lay audience
  • Cover game theory concepts up to and including Bayesian Nash equilibrium
  • Includes key terms and concepts for behavioral game theory (which differs from standard game theory)
  • Includes in class experiments that correspond to key concepts in the book

Algorithms - Design and Analysis 

Design and Analysis
Algorithms: Design and Analysis is a textbook designed for undergraduate and postgraduate students of computer science engineering, information technology, and computer applications. The book offers adequate mix of both theoretical and mathematical treatment of the concepts. It covers the basics, design techniques, advanced topics and applications of algorithms. The book will also serve as a useful reference for researchers and practising programmers who intend to pursue a career in algorithm designing. The book is also indented for students preparing for campus interviews and competitive examinations.
  • Offers in-depth treatment of topics such as complexity analysis, design paradigms, data structures, and machine learning algorithms
  • Introduces topics like Decrease and Conquer, Transform and Conquer and PSpace along with standards paradigms 
  • Explains numerical methods including Euclids theorem and Chinese Remainder Theorem and also reviews essential mathematical concepts 
  • Provides points-to-remember and a list of key terms at the end of each chapter which will help readers to quickly recollect important concepts 
  • Exercises given at the end of each chapter and in the Appendix 10 would help students prepare for their examinations and job interviews

The Multiple Realization Book 

The Multiple
Realization Book
Thomas W. Polger and Lawrence A. Shapiro offer the first full investigation of multiple realization—the idea that minds can be realized in ways other than the human brain. They cast doubt on the hypothesis and offer an alternative framework for understanding explanations in the cognitive sciences, and in chemistry, biology, and related fields.
  • Essential reading for philosophers and scientists working on mind and brain
  • Illuminated by case studies from recent scientific results
  • Presents the historical and philosophical context of the debate
  • Clearly organised, and concise
  • Includes a Guide for Teaching and Learning, comprising of questions to prompt and direct discussion, and suggestions for additional reading
Read more... 

Source: Cambridge University Press and Oxford University Press

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Company targets US universities in hunt for AI talent | University World News

Wind Information, China’s Bloomberg-like financial data services provider, plans to kick off a recruitment drive in the United States, as more tech firms step up the search for artificial intelligence or AI talent, reports Sarah Dai, writes about technology and the New Economy around Greater China for South China Morning Post.

Photo: Reuters
The week-long programme is to include at least four on-campus career talks in colleges including the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, the University of Michigan and the University of Rochester. The company said it needs graduates with a proven research track record in areas such as machine learning, feature detection and deep learning, along with software engineers and user interface designers. 

The move comes as demand for jobs in the country’s artificial intelligence sector increased fivefold in the first six months of this year, according to Lagou, a technology recruitment website in China. Data from the site showed the most popular technology and engineering jobs were in related product design, software and app development.
Full report on the South China Morning Post site

Source: University World News 

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Deep learning is a new chapter for every sector: Andrew Ng, Coursera | Economic Times

Photo: Andrew Ng
Andrew Ng, one of the world's foremost researchers on artificial intelligence computing technology, dreams about living in an AI-powered world. The co-founder of online education platform Coursera has made it his mission to build talent for AI through his new project,


Andrew is preparing courses on deep-learning--advanced AI inspired by the human brain's neural networks--that will be available on Coursera. In an interview with ET's J Vignesh, the former chief scientist at Baidu also spoke about how technology disruption can help countries like India leapfrog and take a lead in the new world. Edited excerpts:

How are we progressing towards the concept of singularity, or general intelligence, from sector-specific artificial intelligence? Where are we presently? 
That is hard to project. There are two concepts--one is artificial general intelligence and the other is specialised intelligence. We are seeing tremendous progress in specialised intelligence. AI has been making tremendous progress in machine translation, self-driving cars, etc. Basically, all the progress I see is in specialised intelligence. It might be hundreds or thousands of years, or if is there is an unexpected breakthrough, decades, (before we see any progress towards general AI).

What is your view of the Indian AI ecosystem?
I have a sense of what a few companies in India are working on. I have seen very interesting pitches from entrepreneurs.In terms of building consumer products, the US and China are ahead of India. The interesting opportunity for India is whenever there is a disruption in technology, it gives every country a chance to leapfrog and take a lead. To take an example, China is leaping ahead in growing the China electric vehicle ecosystem.

Can AI play a role in developing society? 
AI will play a big role. Before we even get to AI, there's a lot of ground work we could also do. What happens in a lot of industries is first comes the IT revolution and then the AI revolution. What I mean by IT revolution is a lot of things that were previously done in the analogue and physical world are now digitised. So, education through Coursera, Khan Academy and others is undergoing an IT revolution. The IT revolution creates data to enable AI revolution.  In education, there is still a lot of work to be done to further the IT revolution. The AI revolution is starting now.

Source: Economic Times

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What happens when cybercriminals start to use machine learning? | ComputerworldUK - Latest Features

Photo: Andrew Tsonchev
Andrew Tsonchev, director of cyber analysis for AI threat defence business Darktrace, says it could enable hackers to launch attacks that were previously only within the reach of nation state actors.
Photo: iStock
Over the last few years, machine learning threat detection and defence company Darktrace has been something of a rising star in the cybersecurity industry. Its core unsupervised machine learning technology lend it the reputation of being one of the best in AI-enabled security. But what exactly do those on the cutting edge of cybersecurity research worry about?

Computerworld UK met with director of cyber analysis at Darktrace, Andrew Tsonchev, at the IP Expo show in London's Docklands late last month.

"A lot of solutions out there look at previous attacks and try to learn from them, so AI and machine learning are being built around learning from what they've seen before," he said. "That's quite effective at, say, coming up with a machine learning classifier that can detect banking trojans."

But what's the flip-side to that? If vendors are taking artificial intelligence seriously in threat detection, won't their counterparts in the criminal world consider the same? Are these hackers as sophisticated currently as some of the vendors would have us believe they are?
To understand where machine learning might be useful for attackers, it's useful to consider some instances where it has demonstrated strong advantages in defence.

"Technologically simple attacks are very effective," says Tsonchev. "We do see a lot of compromises on networks that are not flashy in terms of custom exploit development, bespoke malware that's been designed to evade detection. A lot of the time it's the old fashioned stuff: password theft, phishing, all sorts of these things.

"The problem with those attacks are they're still very effective. But they're quite hard to detect. A lot of times – say you have a situation where an externally facing server is compromised using an existing employee's credentials; or situations where employees aren't good at not using the same passwords for their personal stuff as their work stuff. 

When there's a data breach and passwords get leaked, they get into these traded and shared databases. There's a good chance these passwords would work on corporate systems.

"There's nothing clever in those attacks, nothing inherently malicious if you look at them. If you're looking for threats by violation of policies, that's not a violation of policy. That's an authentication attack where someone's used a password that's meant to have access to the system, access to files that are meant to be taken out.

"It's unwanted, it's fraudulent, but it's not technically distinguishable as malicious in terms of violating access controls, which makes it hard to detect."

In those instances, the technical indicators are uprooted by people simply acting suspiciously, a far more difficult indicator than if someone is trying to get access to a network through a backdoor. This is where behavioural understanding and AI comes into the equation, to better navigate the often unpredictably and tricky complexities of humans acting like humans.

Right now, Tsonchev said, Darktrace hasn't spotted a true machine learning attack in the wild.

"This is something we are super focused on – it's what we do – and we're very aware of the benefits so we are very worried about the stage when there is widespread access and adoption of AI-enabled malware and toolkits for attackers to use," explained Tsonchev.

Source: ComputerworldUK  

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Google's machine learning site teaches the basics of robotics | Arkansas Online
"All right, we know that someday the robots are going to take over. So you might as well get with the program. Make it a partnership. We don't mean robots like you see in sci-fi movies, walking around with shiny metal limbs" reports Bob and Joy Schwabach, On Computers.

Anything that's controlled by a program is a robot. So most robots aren't visible in the ordinary sense of the word, they're just part of the system.
A machine can respond to body movements, facial gestures, or just leaving the scene. The very fact that you're not there can be an instruction. Bob recalls talking to an engineer who had just come from an automated factory in Kentucky. It made small electric motors, like the kind in vacuum cleaners and sewing machines. The factory floor was all dark. You could just see red and blue tiny lights blinking. After all, the machines didn't need light, why waste money on lighting?
This kind of thing is increasing and there's a joke about it that goes like this: The factory of the future will only need two attendants: a man and a dog. The man is there to feed the dog, and the dog is there to bark when the man falls asleep.

So Google is going to teach us how to operate machinery without even going to the factory. The dog will be out of a job. Go to They'll teach you how to do it. No charge. It's a great introduction to "machine learning," which is already a hot career field.
Machine learning powers supercomputers such as IBM's Watson. It's used in facial recognition software and you see it in photo apps. Other areas include robotics and medicine. Then there's Siri, Alexa and Google Home, or any system that uses voice recognition. It's all machine learning.
To create your own machine learning demo, you don't need to install anything. Just go to "Google's Teachable Machine" and start. You will need a computer that has a built-in camera, which most do now, or you can buy a clip-on camera for older machines; they're cheap.
In less than a minute, we trained Google's website to show a photo, play a sound, or talk to us. When Joy moved her arm across her computer screen, she got a white cat waving its paws. When she was still, she got a fluffy Pomeranian dog. When she pulled her bangs back, a rabbit appeared. We played the air guitar to get a music clip, drummed on the desk to do a drum solo and put a thumb to our lips to get a trombone.
Now all of these results are pretty useless, but their point is they could just as easily be a result that produced some other action or even many actions. But we had to "train" the machine first. That meant holding down the "train" button on the website while waving our arms or whatever gesture we wanted to associate with a photo, a music clip or a voice. We made the voice say "Way to Go!" when we flexed our muscles.
As an aside here, it struck Bob that this could be an immediate response to danger. When the bad guys come in pointing a gun at you, just throw up your hands in surrender and that action will immediately call the police, seal the doors, release the sleeping gas or whatever.
If you want to go further, there's It offers a free online course, Machine Learning for Musicians and Artists, from Goldsmith University in London. (It's $20 a month if you want college credit.) It's quite techie, but it might just launch a new career. They say it's the only such class oriented toward art and music.
Read more... 

Source: Arkansas Online

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Machine learning could lead to economic hypergrowth, new research suggests | CNBC

  • Northwestern economist Benjamin Jones and other academics are exploring how artificial intelligence could shape economies.
  • "If machine learning can really take over all human tasks and take over ideas of innovation, then it would be possible to get a radical change in the growth rate," Jones told CNBC.
  • Some have hypothesized that AI could enter into a rapid cycle of self-improvement, with each new cycle more intelligent than its predecessor.

Photo: Thomas Franck
"Economists are now asking a radical question: what happens to the economy if artificial intelligence starts generating original thought?" notes Thomas Franck, Investing Reporter.

Participants at Intel's Artificial Intelligence (AI) Day stand in front of a poster during the event in the Indian city of Bangalore on April 4, 2017.
Photo: Manjunath Kiran | AFP | Getty Images

From Amazon's Alexa learning which restaurants its users like, to Apple's iPhone predicting the next word in a text message, artificial intelligence (AI) is already having a significant influence on everyday life.

But Northwestern economist Benjamin Jones and his colleagues are now asking what happens to economic growth if artificial intelligence starts generating original thought. They are among the researchers looking at how much more human work AI can automate, including the generation of new ideas.

"If machine learning can really take over all human tasks and take over ideas of innovation, then it would be possible to get a radical change in the growth rate" of the economy, Jones told CNBC in an interview. "But the real question is going to be: can AI take over all of the essential tasks?"

Jones, along with Chad Jones of Stanford University and Philippe Aghion of the College de France wrote about their research in a paper entitled "Artificial Intelligence and Economic Growth" for the National Bureau of Economic Research earlier this month.

If rapidly-improving artificial intelligence can provide the markets with innovations to improve the workplace, some jobs could see skyrocketing wage growth while others could become obsolete.

AI activity has been accelerating, with the world's top technology companies leading the way. Self-driving vehicles have been one popular subject of experimentation. Chipmakers including Nvidia have refined their products to better suit AI computations, while Amazon has long used AI to recommend products in its e-commerce business.

Rapid cycle of self-improvement
This week, Google-owned DeepMind published the latest findings of Alphago, its project in which a computer learns how to play the board game Go. This latest installment, dubbed Alpha Zero, managed to beat Google's existing AlphaGo 100 times consecutively after only three days of training. This happened completely without human training.

Jones and his research team looked at different scenarios. The first modeled growth if people could be replaced by AI in all tasks. Other models looked at growth with partial automation. There weren't any stark numerical findings, but the ongoing research is aimed at finding how AI can be useful in generating economic growth, as the steam engine did in the 1800s and early computer chips did in the middle 20th century.

In one model, replacing labor with artificial intelligence, the research team showed that only AI and economic capital could be required for the generation of new ideas.

Some have hypothesized that AI could enter into a rapid cycle of self-improvement, with each new cycle more intelligent than the previous one. Such a development could dramatically change the way people live.

Source: CNBC

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How Governments Can Be Smart about Artificial Intelligence | HuffPost

Photo: Constance Bommelaer de Leusse
"The French MP and Fields medal award winner, Cédric Villani, officially auditioned Constance Bommelaer de Leusse, the Internet Society’s Senior Director, Global Internet Policy, on national strategies for the future of artificial intelligence (AI). In addition, the Internet Society was asked to send written comments, which are reprinted here." continues HuffPost.

Photo: HuffPost

AI is not new, nor is it magic. It’s about algorithms
“Intelligent” technology is already everywhere – such as spam filters or systems used by banks to monitor unusual activity and detect fraud – and it has been for some time. What is new and creating a lot of interest from governments stems from recent successes in a subfield of AI known as “machine learning,” which has spurred the rapid deployment of AI into new fields and applications. It is the result of a potent mix of data availability, increased computer power and algorithmic innovation that, if well harnessed, could double economic growth rates by 2035.

So, governments’ reflection on what good policies should look like in this field is both relevant and timely. It’s also healthy for policymakers to organise a multistakeholder dialogue and empower their citizens to think critically about the future of AI and its impact on their professional and personal lives. In this regard, we welcome the French consultation. 

Our recommendations 
I had a chance to explain the principles the Internet Society believes should be at the heart of AI norms, whether driven by industry or governments:
  • Ethical considerations in deployment and design: AI system designers and builders need to apply a user-centric approach to the technology. They need to consider their collective responsibility in building AI systems that will not pose security risks to the Internet and its users.
  • Ensure interpretability of AI systems: Decisions made by an AI agent should be possible to understand, especially if they have implications for public safety or result in discriminatory practices.
  • Empower users: The public’s ability to understand AI-enabled services, and how they work, is key to ensuring trust in the technology.
  • Responsible deployment: The capacity of an AI agent to act autonomously, and to adapt its behaviour over time without human direction, calls for significant safety checks before deployment and ongoing monitoring.
  • Ensure accountability: Legal certainty and accountability has to be ensured when human agency is replaced by the decisions of AI agents.
  • Consider social and economic impacts: Stakeholders should shape an environment where AI provides socioeconomic opportunities for all.
  • Open Governance: The ability of various stakeholders, whether in civil society, government, private sector, academia or the technical community to inform and participate in the governance of AI is crucial for its safe deployment.
You can read more about how these principles translate into tangible recommendations here.

The audition organised by the French government also showed that the debate around AI is currently too narrow. So, we’d like to propose a few additional lenses to stage the debate about the future of AI in a helpful way. 

Think holistically, because AI is everywhere 
Current dialogues around AI usually focus on applications and services that are visible and interacting with our physical world, such as robots, self-driving cars and voice assistants. However, as our work on the Future of the Internet describes, the algorithms that structure our online experience are everywhere. The future of AI is not just about robots, but also about the algorithms that provide guidance to arrange the overwhelming amount of information from the digital world – algorithms that are intrinsic to the services we use in our everyday lives and a critical driver for the benefits that the Internet can offer.

The same algorithms are also part of systems that collect and structure information that impact how we perceive reality and make decisions in a much subtler and surprising way. They influence what we consume, what we read, our privacy, and how we behave or even vote. In effect, they place AI everywhere.

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Saturday, October 21, 2017

KCSE candidates falling flat in maths and sciences | Daily Nation

Photo: Ouma Wanzala
Ouma Wanzala, reporter with the Nation writes, "Nearly 90 per cent of students scored below grade C in Mathematics last year." 
Photo: Nation/NewsPlex

In a troubling trend, performance in Mathematics and sciences in the Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education (KSCE) examination has been declining for the last three years, a Nation Newsplex review of national examination data reveals.

As candidates prepare to sit the 2017 KSCE starting Monday, the analysis finds that an overwhelming majority of the KCSE candidates failed in Mathematics and the sciences from 2014 to 2016.

Nearly 90 per cent, or 493,184 of the 569,733 candidates who sat the Mathematics Alternative A paper last year scored between C- and E. This was about a 10 percentage increase from each of the two previous years.

In contrast, four per cent (20,682) of the 2016 candidates scored either an A or A-. Half the candidates scored an E, the lowest grade, while the average mean grade was D, a drop from D+ in 2014 and 2015.

Performance in the Maths Alternative B paper was even worse, with 99 per cent of the 1,442 candidates who sat the paper scoring less than grade C. Less than one per cent, or three candidates, scored either grade A or A-. 

On average, the proportion of candidates who scored the two top grades in both Mathematics papers was almost three times less than in 2014.

Last year, only 18 per cent of candidates who sat the Biology examination got at least grade C, a drop of more than half compared to 2015 when 40 per cent of candidates attained the grade and in 2014 when 38 per cent did the same.

The share of candidates who got D- and E in Biology in 2016 was almost triple (48 per cent) that of the previous year when 18 per cent of candidates got the same grades. In 2016, nearly 50 per cent of the candidates recorded the two lowest grades.

On the opposite side of the scorecard, only one per cent of the candidates got either A or A- in 2016, a fall from four per cent the previous year and five per cent in 2014. The mean grade attained in the subject last year dropped two places to D from C-.
Read more... 

Source: Daily Nation

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Class Act: Dallas senior writes math book to help others | CW33 NewsFix

Photo: Tim Roberts
"Being a math genius is one thing, but passing that genius on to others is much bigger, and that's what makes Yash Chandak our Class Act of the Week" reports Tim Roberts, Newsfix reporter / MMJ.
Watch the Video

Yash is a senior at the Science and Engineering Magnet School in Dallas, and a top competitor in Number Sense, an advanced, fast-paced mathematics competition.

“It’s entirely mental mathematics, that means you cannot write on any scratch paper,” explained Chandak. “You can’t do any marginal calculations or anything, you just get a question and you write an answer.”

But he found that there were very few resources when it came to planning for the contest, so he literally wrote the book on it!

“Over the summer between 11th and 12 grade, I sat down and I looked at lot of tests that I’ve taken, a lot of tests that I’ve yet to take, and I went question by question. And I went to see what trick is used in each one and whether I know how to do it,” Yash said. “And I made a list of all the tricks I feel like are essential for a competitor in any grade to know, to be successful in this competition.”

And for all those hours of hard work and writing, he’s asking nothing in return, giving the book away for free online.

Source: CW33 NewsFix

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