I've read a lot of books like Incognito, and this is one of the better ones. A healthy mix of anecdote, case study, and real science intermixed with eI've read a lot of books like Incognito, and this is one of the better ones. A healthy mix of anecdote, case study, and real science intermixed with engaging writing and storytelling. A lot of books about the brain veer too strongly in one direction, either extremely scientific but very dull, or very engaging but skipping on the science. Incognito walks a nice line.
I learned a whole lot reading this book, despite the fact that I've read so many books previously covering similar material and subject matter. What's more, David Eagleman goes beyond simply talking about science, and actually addresses the issues that his book raises. Rather than simply point out how much in control of our "minds" our biological brains are and move on, Eagleman actually addresses the issues these facts raise with regards to free will, determinism, and how crime, punishment, and incarceration should be treated. In fact, Eagleman does a better job of addressing these issues than Sam Harris's "Free Will", a book devoted ENTIRELY to that exact question.
Overall, Incognito is a very cohesive book, dealing with the science of how the brain works, the philosophical issues of free will and agency, and the political issues of punishment and blameworthiness. The book is not a purely objective scientific tome; Eagleman definitely has an agenda and a viewpoint he wishes to impart, but he makes compelling cases for his views and he does so within a very well-written and engaging framework.
If you're into these sorts of topics, Incognito is an excellent book, I highly recommend it....more
I've loved pretty much everything Mary Roach has written. Gulp explores all of the various scientific tidbits she's researched regarding the mouth, stI've loved pretty much everything Mary Roach has written. Gulp explores all of the various scientific tidbits she's researched regarding the mouth, stomach, guts, butt, and everything in between. It's easily Roach's grossest book to-date, a fact that she warns readers about with a note of elation, clearly relishing the fact that so many readers will find the book's material disgusting.
Gulp is, like everything else of Roach's, extremely well-written, informative, entertaining, and frequently hilarious. I didn't find myself quite as engrossed in the material as I was with Bonk, Stiff, or (my favorite) Packing for Mars, but I can't point to anything particular about the book for why, so I'm concluding it was just because I had a lot of stuff going on while reading it.
If you're interested in the human body's digestive system at a layman's level, or you just generally appreciate good popsci writing, I highly recommend Gulp. I think I'd recommend some of other Mary Roach books ahead of Gulp, but if you've already read her other work and enjoy her, it's safe to say you'll like this as well....more
The question is one of the oldest ones humanity has: why is anything here? Why is there something rather than nothing? For many years, we thought we gThe question is one of the oldest ones humanity has: why is anything here? Why is there something rather than nothing? For many years, we thought we got here by an act of creation, but scientists discovered we evolved over millions of years from simple-celled organisms. Then the question was, how did the simple organisms come to exist? For years, the answer to that was God, but once again the scientific method gave us the real answer of abiogenesis, showing how organic life arose from inorganic matter. But then the question became, how did the inorganic matter get here? Once again, the gaps were filled, and cosmologists showed us that the matter was, once upon a time, all within a hot and extremely dense point that expanded out. But with the big bang gaining acceptance among the mainstream, the question became "well how did all of that matter get into that state? Why is there anything at all, rather than just nothing?"
Physics professor Lawrence Krauss sets out to explain the answer to this question as well. He explains the foundations of cosmological research, detailing in layman's terms exactly how theoretical physicists and cosmologists even go about answering these kinds of questions in the first place He goes onto discuss a great deal of his own research in the area, as well as the generally-accepted prevailing views within the scientific community.
I'm not going to lie and say I understood everything in this book. This is pretty heavy and complex stuff and, though Krauss does a great job of boiling things down for mainstream readers, quite a bit went over my head. In terms of readability, Krauss's book is a bit tougher to digest than a book by Dawkins or Feynman, but easier to digest than one by Hawking. It could just be that the subject of the book is inherently more complex, but I definitely need to go back and re-read it at some point.
The book is well-written and fascinating, covering a subject that I've rarely seen covered elsewhere. Krauss's passion for this subject comes across easily, really driving readers to continue the book. I definitely recommend reading it, but prepare to read it twice....more
Fitness for Geeks is a cool idea, an O'Reilly book, targeted at geeks, all about staying healthy. As a geek who has lost 100 pounds in the last few yeFitness for Geeks is a cool idea, an O'Reilly book, targeted at geeks, all about staying healthy. As a geek who has lost 100 pounds in the last few years and who wants to lose 40 more, this was the perfect book for me. Or so I thought.
The book is actually very disappointing. Despite clearly being targeted at geeks (it even includes a number of detailed references to programming), it's unsatisfying. A chapter on nutrients goes into extremely "geeky" detail about the chemical makeup of various foodstuffs, but none of it has any apparent practical applications - not much in the way of "do this, do that" kind of advice, just a bunch of "isn't that neat?!" facts.
It also contains a chapter, and many sections within later chapters, referencing available tools and web sites you can "geek out" on, or use to collect statistics and measurements. I understand where this comes from, my ability to closely monitor and study things mathematically was instrumental in my weight loss, but such material inherently dates the book - it's less than a year old, but already many of the tools mentioned have been supplanted by better ones. Material like that needs to be current, which means its better suited for a blog post than a printed book.
"Fitness for Geeks" is also full of an awful lot of woo. Party of my geeky nature is my tendency to be skeptical, so a lot of the pseudoscience about the Paleo diet (it has its benefits but it's got a LOT of problems) and the usual "buy only from local farmer's markets and whole foods" crap I found quite irritating. It's one thing to make these kinds of suggestions, but to assert their factual superiority with so little supporting scientific evidence is another matter, and it set my skeptic alarm bells ringing.
Good chapters on exercise routines, decent chapters on food, and a handful of good stuff on sleep were in the book, but were largely surrounded by filler that couldn't be turned into actionable tasks. The book left me wanting much, much more detail in terms of actual things I could do. How does a book like this not include some kind of FAQ with questions like "I've plateaued, what can I do?" or "What are some good snacks for the middle of the day?" How does the exercise section not include suggestions for alternatives to certain exercises for gyms that lack the equipment or for people with common injuries?
One chapter brings up intermittent fasting, but barely goes into any detail about it at all. Why even bring it up if all usable information about it is behind a Google-wall?
The book is also annoyingly written, with constant asides and inline data boxes so numerous that they actually occasionally make it difficult to just read the normal book part of the book. Speaking of which, DO NOT GET THE KINDLE VERSION. The constant formatting changes and layout adjustments make the Kindle version of the book literally unreadable - I had to re-purchase the book on O'Reilly's site to get a PDF version.
Overall, not that great, and inferior to spending a day or a couple lunch breaks Googling around. I wouldn't really recommend it, people who are looking to get healthy if they are not currently will find it sorely lacking in useful information (in favor of pointless factoids), and those who have adopted a healthy lifestyle will find it largely uninformative.
Great idea, weak execution. Perhaps a second edition is in order....more