I've been reading Anathem by Neal Stephenson and it's pretty great. An exchange that kind of sums up the book for me so far very well is this part where these sort of medieval monks who are also scientists get recruited to investigate a UFO sighting, and decide that they need an astrolabe for navigation and are going to build one from first principals.

"Do you need transportation? Tools? Stuff?"

"Our opponent is an alien spaceship packed with atomic bombs," I said. "We have a protractor."

"OK, I'll go home and see if I can scrounge up a ruler and a piece of string."

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