ISO: Bedtime "reading" materials
June 15, 2016 9:16 AM   Subscribe

I am looking for free, online sources of engaging materials in STEM subjects. PDFs, videos, and webpages that can be downloaded to an 8" tablet for offline consumption.

Bonus question: A better means than Pocket for accessing webpages offline. It continues to disappoint. It will not display mathematical notation that is more complicated than a plus sign and equals sign.

posted by Michele in California to Grab Bag (9 answers total) 20 users marked this as a favorite
The Naval Reactors History Database has all kinds of interesting material on, well, the history of the naval nuclear reactor program. I'm halfway through the first of the two quasi-official histories (Nuclear Navy: 1946-1962 and Rickover and the Nuclear Navy: The Discipline of Technology, both available as pdfs), and it's fascinating---if a bit dry.

The Feynman Lectures on Physics are available online, for free, as HTML, and they're very much worth a read. Seems like it ought to work offline if you save the HTML, but I can't really say.
posted by golwengaud at 9:29 AM on June 15, 2016

Have you checked out, Open Library, podcasts, and ItunesU? Does your public library have downloadable ebooks? I like searching for "topic" "type:.pdf" "lecture or course notes". Also saving webpages as a pdf.
posted by oceano at 10:22 AM on June 15, 2016

If you're not averse to textbooks, Openstax is a nonprofit based at Rice University that produces open, peer-reviewed, college-level textbooks, all with PDFs available.

The NCBI Bookshelf has a whole bunch of biology and medical material available, including older editions of standard textbooks. Click on Browse Titles, then Types: Book to narrow it down to just books. That'll give you a list of almost 300 to browse through. It's a mix of:

- Searchable-but-not-browsable-or-downloadable material, e.g. Molecular Biology of the Cell, 4th edition (2002).

- Books where only one chapter is available, e.g. Chapter 3: Visible Prowess?: Reading Men’s Head and Face Wounds in Early Medieval Europe to 1000 CE (pdf), from Wounds and Wound Repair in Medieval Culture (2015).

- Fully downloadable books, though you often have to click down into the chapter to find the PDF link for the chapter or section. E.g.: You'll have to dig down to the chapter level in books that look interesting to see if the PDFs are available. For books without a PDF, you might be able to use the "Print View" version of the book or chapter and then Print->Destination->Change->Save as PDF (in Chrome, probably similar options in other browsers).

A random biology book: Wormbook has PDFs for all its chapters. Everything you ever wanted to know about the model organism C. elegans. Since this worm has been used for a whole bunch of research, this means it's also (almost) everything you wanted to know about the techniques of genetic engineering.

I can't vouch for how engaging any of this will be for you. I haven't read much of what I've linked to, and I have weird ideas about what counts as "engaging". :-)
posted by clawsoon at 11:52 AM on June 15, 2016

For anyone interested in converting webpages to PDFs using the apps from the article linked above:

URL to PDF creates nice PDFs.

The Dolphin browser add-on Web to PDF creates ugly page breaks that hack up a line of text at every single page break.
posted by Michele in California at 12:03 PM on June 15, 2016 [1 favorite]

If you want to download videos to watch offline - documentaries or cat videos or whatever, I won't judge - youtube-dl is your friend. It supports downloading single videos and playlists from Youtube, Vimeo, PBS, NPR, BBC and a whole bunch of other sites. I've only used it for Youtube, so I can't vouch for how easy or difficult other sites might be to use. If it stops downloading stuff in a few months, upgrade to the latest version, since sites like Youtube are constantly changing their interfaces and youtube-dl has to be constantly modified to keep up.

There's a GUI for youtube-dl, but I've never tried it and can't vouch for it. The command line is easy enough to use once you've done it once, e.g.:

youtube-dl ""
posted by clawsoon at 12:10 PM on June 15, 2016

Wikibooks has some books with PDF versions.
posted by clawsoon at 12:14 PM on June 15, 2016

So, URL to PDF has revolutionized my life. I am already seeing major benefits. I look forward to exploring the suggested resources, probably starting with works by Feynman.

Thanks to all who replied.

(If there are late comers, please don't feel this comment is intended to discourage additional responses. I am just honestly thrilled.)
posted by Michele in California at 10:12 AM on June 16, 2016

MIT OpenCourseWare is also a great resource!
posted by blurker at 10:14 AM on July 12, 2016 [1 favorite]

I haven't been reading as consistently as I thought I might, but it has been a good experience so far. Thanks everyone.
posted by Michele in California at 12:25 PM on July 15, 2016

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