Circle Optics’ World Book Day Must Reads


From the compelling science fiction explorations of Edward Ashton in "Mickey7" that delve into themes of identity and human resilience, to the practical advice in Cal Newport's "Deep Work" emphasizing the necessity of focused cognitive engagement in our distracted world, our employees and podcast guests bring diverse insights that enrich our perspectives. Thomas Hertog’s work with Stephen Hawking provides a profound understanding of the universe’s origins, enhancing our appreciation for the theoretical underpinnings of our work. Meanwhile, Brandon Sanderson's "Worlds of Radiance" series, with its detailed world-building and character development, inspires creativity. The business strategies outlined in Eliyahu M. Goldratt's "The Goal" remind us of the importance of efficiency and identifying constraints in our processes. Finally, Admiral James Stockdale's experiences and philosophical insights offer valuable lessons in resilience and ethical leadership, proving crucial for personal and professional growth. Each recommendation not only broadens our knowledge but also provides practical frameworks and inspiration applicable across our company’s operations.

Circle Optics is a vibrant team of innovators, technologists, and engineers, driven by a passion for research, experimentation, and creativity. We are not just avid creators but also voracious readers. In celebration of World Book Day, we are excited to share a curated selection of book recommendations from our employees and esteemed guests from the #360Pulse Podcast.

Employee Suggestions

Edward Ashton, the author of “Mickey7,” is a Rochester-based science fiction writer known for his imaginative and engaging storytelling. “Mickey7” is a novel that explores themes of identity, mortality, and human resilience through the story of an expendable—a person who is essentially disposable and replaceable—on a distant, inhospitable colony planet. Edward Ashton has written several other works of science fiction, often blending elements of humor and philosophy within his narratives. His works are appreciated for their original concepts and depth in character development.

“Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World” by Cal Newport is a book that advocates for the importance of deep, concentrated work and provides practical advice on how to achieve it. Here are three key concepts:

  1. Deep Work vs. Shallow Work: Newport distinguishes between “deep work,” which is cognitively demanding and creates new value, and “shallow work,” which is non-cognitively demanding and often logistical. He argues that cultivating deep work is essential for maximizing efficiency and producing high-quality outcomes.
  2. The Ability to Focus is Rare and Valuable: In our digital age, the ability to focus without distraction on cognitively demanding tasks is rare. It’s also becoming increasingly valuable as the economy shifts towards complex problem solving and creative work. Developing this skill can set individuals apart in their careers.
  3. Work Deeply: Newport provides strategies to foster a deep work state, including working with greater intensity, embracing boredom, and structuring your day around blocks of deep work time. He emphasizes the importance of rituals and routines to minimize the willpower needed to start and maintain focus during deep work sessions.

Attention is the killer app! These concepts can help us be more effective by strengthening our capacity for high-concentration work without distractions.

Thomas Hertog is a theoretical physicist known for his work on the origins of the universe, particularly in collaboration with Stephen Hawking. This is a book that might take the whole summer to get through.

Here’s a brief explanation of three notable concepts associated with Hertog’s work:

  1. No-Boundary Proposal: A theory developed with Stephen Hawking that proposes that the universe is finite and without boundaries in both space and time. This suggests that the universe did not start with a singularity, but rather from a smoothed-out, curved spacetime, implying it has no beginning or end in the conventional sense.
  2. Quantum Cosmology and String Theory: Hertog has explored the implications of string theory on early universe cosmology, particularly how quantum effects might smooth out the beginning of the universe in scenarios that avoid the classical big bang singularity.
  3. Predictions of Inflation: In collaboration with Hawking, Hertog worked on models to predict the initial conditions of the universe following the Big Bang under the inflationary model, examining how quantum theory might influence these early moments.

Sometimes we read for inspiration. Sometimes we read to escape. One great place to escape is the “Worlds of Radiance” series, written by Brandon Sanderson, is particularly powerful for several reasons:

Richly Imagined Worlds: Sanderson is renowned for his world-building skills. Each book in the series unveils a meticulously crafted universe with its own unique magic system, cultures, and history. The depth and complexity of these worlds immerse readers in vibrant and captivating settings.

Character Development: The series features a diverse cast of characters who undergo profound growth and development throughout their journeys. Readers become deeply invested in the characters’ struggles, triumphs, and relationships, which adds emotional depth to the narrative.

Epic Scope and Scale: The series is epic in every sense of the word, with sprawling storylines, grand conflicts, and high stakes. Sanderson masterfully weaves together multiple plot threads and perspectives, creating a narrative tapestry that spans continents and civilizations.

As Circle Optics is a start up moving towards scale, we cannot leave out business process. One of the best books on this is “The Goal” by Eliyahu M. Goldratt is seminal work in business management and the Theory of Constraints. Three key concepts include:

  1. Identifying Constraints: Goldratt emphasizes the importance of identifying the constraints or bottlenecks in a production process. These constraints limit the overall output of the system. By focusing efforts on alleviating these constraints rather than non-constraining parts of the process, overall efficiency and throughput can be significantly improved.
  2. Exploiting Constraints: Once identified, constraints should be exploited to their fullest potential. This involves ensuring that the constrained resource is utilized effectively and efficiently. Methods such as scheduling, prioritization, and optimization techniques are employed to maximize the output of the constrained resource.
  3. Subordinating Other Decisions to the Constraint: In order to fully leverage the constraint, decisions regarding other aspects of the business should be subordinated to the needs of the constraint. This may involve adjusting inventory levels, production schedules, or resource allocations to ensure that the constraint is always operating at maximum capacity without interruptions.

By understanding and applying these core themes of the Theory of Constraints as outlined in “The Goal,” we can achieve significant improvements in productivity, efficiency, and our ultimate goal–profitability.

360 Pulse Podcast Guest Recommendations

We met Jacqueline Blackburn as part of the National Security Innovation Program as we do quite a bit of work for the DoD. It is no surprise that she mentions “Thoughts of a Philosophical Fighter Pilot.” Admiral James Stockdale, a highly respected officer in the U.S. Navy, is best known for his extraordinary service as a fighter pilot during the Vietnam War and his time as a prisoner of war. Stockdale’s experiences as a POW led him to develop a philosophical approach to coping with the extreme challenges he faced, which can be distilled into three key concepts:

  1. Stoicism: Stockdale was profoundly influenced by the philosophy of Stoicism, particularly the teachings of the Stoic philosopher Epictetus. Stoicism emphasizes resilience, self-control, and rational detachment, teaching that we should focus on what we can control and accept what we cannot. This philosophy helped Stockdale endure the hardships of captivity and torture without losing his integrity or hope.
  2. The Stockdale Paradox: This is a concept that Stockdale articulated, which captures his approach to surviving his imprisonment by maintaining a balance between realism and optimism. The paradox is the idea of maintaining unwavering faith that you will prevail in the end, regardless of the difficulties, while at the same time confronting the brutal facts of your current reality, whatever they might be. This mindset was crucial for Stockdale’s survival and later became a key point in studies on leadership and resilience.
  3. Ethical Leadership: Throughout his captivity, Stockdale exemplified ethical leadership. He continually put the welfare of his men before his own, often taking punishment to protect others. His leadership style was characterized by a deep sense of responsibility, moral integrity, and the courage to uphold principles under even the most trying circumstances.

We hope you listen to our 360° Pulse Podcast program “Military Wisdom in Modern Technology Funding.”

NUAIR, which stands for Northeast UAS Airspace Integration Research, is a New York-based nonprofit organization focused on advancing unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) and drone technology. It operates the New York UAS Test Site at Griffiss International Airport in Rome, New York. NUAIR collaborates with government, industry, and academia to conduct research, testing, and development of UAS technology and applications.

The organization plays a key role in the integration of drones into the national airspace system, working closely with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and other stakeholders to establish safety standards, regulations, and best practices for UAS operations. NUAIR’s initiatives encompass a wide range of areas, including beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS) operations, detect-and-avoid systems, UAS traffic management (UTM), and the development of UAS applications for various industries such as agriculture, infrastructure inspection, and public safety.

As leader of such a complex and dynamic ecosystem it is no surprises that the FORCE FUNCTION book required by CEO Ken Stewart is the book “Play Bigger: How Pirates, Dreamers, and Innovators Create and Dominate Markets.” Here’s why it’s impactful for the Circle Optics’ community:

  1. Category Creation: The book explains the process of creating a new market category, which can lead to significant advantages. By defining new categories, startups can set the rules and norms for that space, potentially leading to a monopoly-like status within that category.
  2. Differentiation: In competitive markets, differentiation is crucial. “Play Bigger” emphasizes how startups can stand out not just through their products or services, but through framing a new narrative that reshapes consumer perceptions and needs.
  3. Marketing and Branding: It provides a blueprint for how to market and brand products in a way that focuses on category creation. This approach can be more effective than traditional marketing strategies that focus only on product features or competitive comparisons.
  4. Strategic Focus: The authors argue that companies that can create and dominate new categories tend to be more focused and aligned across their product development, marketing, and sales teams. This alignment around a common goal of category leadership can drive greater efficiency and success.
  5. Long-term Impact: The book illustrates through various case studies how companies that successfully create and lead new categories can achieve long-lasting impact and value, both in terms of market presence and financial performance.

We hope you listen to our 360° Pulse Podcast program “Advancing UAS Technologies.”

In a recent episode of the 360 Pulse podcast, guest Yael Swerdlow recommended the book “Your Brain on Art” by Susan Magsamen and Ivy Ross. As a company dedicated to accurate imaging, we recognize the importance of understanding how visual stimuli affect cognitive and emotional responses. The insights from this book will enable us to refine our camera systems to better capture and evoke the nuanced interplay between art and the human brain.

We hope you listen to our 360° Pulse Podcast program “The Convergence of Technology and Social Good with Yael Swerdlow”

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