Check out Politics, Odors and Soap by Nicholas Kristof, over at the New York Times. He writes a very enthusiastic little review of yet another book o...moreCheck out Politics, Odors and Soap by Nicholas Kristof, over at the New York Times. He writes a very enthusiastic little review of yet another book on the intersection of cognition and politics. No big surprise, it's by Jonathan Haidt, who's doing the pioneering research into how the brains of liberals and conservatives are wired in fundamentally different ways. Oh, also see the review in the Wall St. Journal, Conflicting Moralities. The longer, "official" Ney York Times review is at Why Won’t They Listen?, and explores the book in more detail.
Steven Pinker certain ranges widely in intellectual circles. Although he is nominally a professor of psychology at Harvard, but even with specialties...moreSteven Pinker certain ranges widely in intellectual circles. Although he is nominally a professor of psychology at Harvard, but even with specialties (per Wikipedia) in experimental psychology, cognitive science, linguistics, he somehow dove into history to present one of the best TED Talks, back in 2007: Steven Pinker on the myth of violence (watch those nineteen minutes, if you haven't already).
Wonderfully, he has now followed that presentation up with an entire volume.
Peter Singer wrote the glowing review of this book for the New York Times, and that somewhat lengthy essay is itself well worth reading: Is Violence History?.
Update — the Autumn 2011 issue of the excellent pop sociology quarterly The Wilson Quarterly also enthusiastically recommends the book (with minor caveats) in Peace on Earth.
Update — Just got this from the library; must read within three weeks since the number of holds will prevent me from renewing. Curiously, the podcast I was listening to on the way to the library was on a related topic. The U.C. Berkeley School of Law professor (and socioologist) Franklin Zimring wrote an article back in August on the precipitous decline in crime in New York City, and was interviewed by the charming SciAm editor Steve Mirsky, The City That Became Safe: What New York Teaches about Urban Crime and Its Control. Check it out!
Just after last year’s autumnal equinox I started an 80-or-so-mile backpacking trip down in King Canyon National Park, in the southern Sierra Nevadas....moreJust after last year’s autumnal equinox I started an 80-or-so-mile backpacking trip down in King Canyon National Park, in the southern Sierra Nevadas.
I’m sure people that don’t hike or backpack wonder what one does on such a trip besides strain and sweat and get tired and dirty. Well, one of the things I do is study the world around me. The high Sierras exposes a lot of geology that becomes quite fascinating once one starts looking closely, asking questions, and learning a bit. For example, the famous domes of Yosemite aren’t replicated in too many places — why? Well, it has to do with the kind of rock they’re made of, which depends on where and how that rock was formed, how quickly it cooled, etc.
I’ve spent plenty of time in Yosemite, but that last trip was a few hundred miles south, and I soon realized the geology was different in some intriguing ways. The rock around me had a lot more variation in color than I usually see in Yosemite, with green and beige as well as a wide range of grays. And quite a bit of pure quartz. I started wondering if King Canyon’s granite had a less pure chemical mix than Yosemite’s, which might also explain why it spalls and exfoliates differently, creating needle-shaped peaks instead of domes.
Now, just a few days ago, I finished a novel in which several of the characters spent a short time backpacking just a dozen or so miles north of where I had been, and one of their party was a geology geek, explaining that they were hiking to one of the purer portions of the Sierras, granite-wise. Specifically, he explained they were going up the Cartridge Pluton, which was one of the many plutons the Sierra Nevada batholith was composed of.
Well, we geeks love our technobabble, and I resolved to learn how to use this new terminology better — especially since I hope to hike the JMT in the next year or two.
So I figured there might be a book on the geology of the Sierra Nevada, and lo-and-behold, what I found was this book, Geology of the Sierra Nevada. That wasn’t so tough, it seems. It’s by the University of California Press’ California Natural History Guides, which is really nice: I’ve got half a dozen of their other guides, and they’re good stuff.
Well, there’s a lot of information in here, and I very much enjoyed devouring it, but it was too much to gulp down in one read. Much of the information is still in a jumble in my brain, and I’m pretty sure I couldn’t tell a coherent version of very many of these stories of my favorite mountains.
It covers the elemental side of the geology, of course, without getting into any deep detail regarding chemistry. Oh, sure it is mentioned that one kind of lava is higher in silica and another in iron, but I’m embarrassed to say that stuff just dribbles out of my brain. It isn’t that I don’t enjoy chemistry, I just have no pre-assigned place in my brain for the chemistry of rocks, so it isn’t staying put.
But then there’s the history of the geology. When did those tectonic plates do their thing, and how were volcanoes involved, and how did all those huge chunks of granite — er, “granitic rock” get there? And that tale is a good one, and helps explain the relationship between igneous, metamorphic and sedimentary rock. I’m still a bit unclear on where “granite” fits into that triad — sometimes it seems to be described as metamorphic, other times igneous. I think the answer might be that there are wide gray zones at the boundaries of igneous and metamorphic, and then again between metamorphic and sedimentary. But I’d have to get a real geology textbook to clarify that.
Oh, yeah, it turns out “granite” isn’t a word geologists use much, because it isn’t precise enough. The Sierras seem to contain at least half-a-dozen different kinds of different “granitic rock” in different locales, and they are what cause the different behavior.
The tales of John Muir and the other men (yeah, at that point and in this scope, pretty much all men) were also fun. We tend to think of John Muir as the old guy with the long gray beard, so it was a bit startling to discover he was the sheep-herding non-expert underdog in the Sierra’s geological debates (which were a rip-roaring topic of conversation back then).
Other folks interested in hiking or backpacking (or skiing, river rafting, rock climbing, etc.) should consider reading this. Hey, get too copies. One for the glovebox and one for the bathroom.
The rest of you who don’t know what you’re missing in the Sierras, well, you probably don’t need to bother. (less)
Much to my astonishment and delight, the professor I learned IPE from finally got around to writing this textbook after teaching the stuff for well ov...moreMuch to my astonishment and delight, the professor I learned IPE from finally got around to writing this textbook after teaching the stuff for well over forty years. The class was so well taught and the complex material presented so clearly that I signed up to TA his class twice after taking it.
I've order a copy, but simply based on what I learned in his class, I'm giving this a tentative five-star review. After I get it I might discover some disappointment, but from the single review over on Amazon I infer that I won't.
The obvious question is: is this a biased recommendation? No: this text was written ten years after I left the university, which was the last time I spoke to the good professor.
We'll, yeah. This has been on my "currently reading" shelf for years. It's near the bottom of the stack on my bedside table. I keep it there on fond remembrance of the author, my professor in International Political Economy. I want to say that if anyone wants to understand, as deeply as *necessary*, our contemporary economics, this is a great textbook.
But since I haven't read the whole thing, I'm basing that conclusion on his classroom lectures. Is this that good? I hope it is...(less)
Checked out from library, was immediately finding the plants I'd stumbled upon while backpacking. That's beca...moreThanks, Tammy, for the Christmas present!
Checked out from library, was immediately finding the plants I'd stumbled upon while backpacking. That's because it only does flowering plants, and it sorts them by color. I'll still also get A Sierra Nevada Flora because it encompasses all flora, so maybe I'll work my way up to trees later.
Snow Plant (Sarcodes sanguinea) blooming near Lake Tahoe in the Granite Chief Wilderness Area.
It's been a long time since I read this, but I recall that it really was an eye-opener into the nature and role of bureaucracies. I've never been able...moreIt's been a long time since I read this, but I recall that it really was an eye-opener into the nature and role of bureaucracies. I've never been able to go into the DMV since without thinking about these lessons.
But I really should re-read it, since I'm sure I've forgotten 95% of the thing.