Feynman is probably the most characterly character in the history of physics. He’s renowned for doing unorthodox things. In this book, he basically coFeynman is probably the most characterly character in the history of physics. He’s renowned for doing unorthodox things. In this book, he basically comes off as an ostentatious, conceited jackass. At a restaurant, he leaves his tip inside an upside-down glass full of water, as a problem-solving test for the waitress. And he brags about his bongo-playing skills. Jackass....more
Tarkovsky is my favourite film director. Yet his view of cinema is way too dogmatic: it must present the artist’s direct experience of the world, andTarkovsky is my favourite film director. Yet his view of cinema is way too dogmatic: it must present the artist’s direct experience of the world, and anything else it can do debases that basic requirement. And the distinctions he draws between film and the other arts, based on his dogmatic definition of cinema, are way too strict.
His view of editing is especially problematic. He says that it does not provide rhythm, that the rhythm is inherent in the flow of time in each shot. This seems, as they say, counterfactual, and he never provides enough specifics to make clear how rhythm is contained within each shot. He also says that the notion of montage necessarily reduces films to a play of concepts, rather than directly conveying the artist’s experience of time. This seems to me to undervalue the importance of concepts in our experience, and it also seems like an unnecessary consequence of juxtapositions: why must the impact of juxtapositions rely on concepts?
He also seems to contradict himself quite frequently. So the whole book is quite problematic. However, it is worth reading: its poetic descriptions of what cinema (as Tarkovsky envisions it) can accomplish, how it can reveal and extract the power, feeling, and wealth of meaning of a moment as it unfolds in time, are startlingly perceptive and compelling....more
This is probably the best popular science book I’ve read, with a lot more technical detail than is usual, but still with a lively discussion of the hiThis is probably the best popular science book I’ve read, with a lot more technical detail than is usual, but still with a lively discussion of the history and scientists involved in it. The main subject is dynamical systems theory; in particular, it centers on the n-body problem, which consists of determining the motion of n objects subject to one another’s mutual force of gravity. This is the underlying problem of celestial mechanics, which essentially consists of determining planetary orbits. In 1885, King Oscar II of Sweden and Norway offered a prize to whoever could determine the solution to the n-body problem. The prize was awarded to Poincaré (now one of the most famous mathematicians in history), who actually failed to solve the problem, but in so doing created an entirely new field of mathematics. His pioneering work led to the modern theory of dynamical systems, which is the study of the qualitative behaviour of solutions to systems of ordinary differential equations. Starting from this story, the book proceeds to survey the history of celestial mechanics and dynamical systems theory. The main thing to know about dynamical systems theory is that the set of solutions to a set of equations forms a cool shape in something called phase space, and dynamical systems textbooks and research articles are hence filled with lots of cool pictures of these shapes.
I don’t know if this book would be understandable to people lacking in mathematical background, but I find the subject to be one of the more interesting ones in science....more