I forgot how "cool" science is. I probably forgot how cool science is because I forgot many of the aspects of it that make it "so cool". While reading...moreI forgot how "cool" science is. I probably forgot how cool science is because I forgot many of the aspects of it that make it "so cool". While reading this book, I was reintroduced (and reinvigorated) to many of the fundamentals of our world both seen, unseen, and given. And no, no, no, I'm not just talking about the dull 10th-grade science class memorization aspects, but so much more of the Mr. Wizard, Bill Nye, and MacGyver "wow, that's so cool that everything is built this way or that" curiosities, scales, and fascinations.
Yes, this book is written from a very high level that might even turn off "real" scientist, but for someone like me who craves that comprehensive one-stop understanding and excitement of the world as we've known it, know it, and expect it to be, this is the book for you. It is very dense in some parts and maybe the writing sometimes gets a little too witty for its own good, but it was absolutely enthralling, worthwhile, and reinvigorating for me. I also admit that this book is probably not for everyone, but if you want even a slight better understanding of everything around you then reading even a single page or two of the knowledge offered here will do it.
There are probably a hundred different spots in this book that got me so fired up about things as basic as atoms or cosmic & microcosmic scale or varying probability or even just the complexity of seemingly-so-simple water that made me feel as if the whole world should be reminded of this knowledge. Well having books like this out there is one way to do exactly that. I understood what Natalie Angier is offering in her words and I connected with them (look up some of her NYT articles for some excellent samples of her very accessible scientific writing). I feel I personally have a greater understanding of what make things just "be", obviously not from a spiritual or philosophical aspect, but from the real underlying inner workings of our bodies, environment, and all that lies within and beyond.
I highly recommend this book. I recommend it because the immense accessible knowledge contained within isn't just fun and cool, but valuable. Read it, learn from it, and enjoy it. Science is cool.(less)
When I read Laurence Bergreen's documentary novel about Magellan and his wondrous voyage around the world, I couldn't wait to get my hands on his late...moreWhen I read Laurence Bergreen's documentary novel about Magellan and his wondrous voyage around the world, I couldn't wait to get my hands on his latest novel about Marco Polo. Although this book was very descriptive and well-written, it was not as altogether as interesting as my 5-star rated Magellan book. The dialog sometimes becomes too subjective and emotional and less factual than I preferred. Also, so much of Marco Polo's life is shrouded by debate and guessing. His original Travels has been translated so many times in so many languages that no one is completely sure what has or has not crept into the actual story through bad translation, exaggeration, or assumption. This is not to say however how unquestionably astounding the journey of his life was. Despite some of the minor flaws of the writing, Bergreen does adequately demonstrate just how incredible what Marco Polo accomplished, especially for what little or inaccurate knowledge existed in his time of the late 1200's. Overall, this book was a very good read, but I could have probably have done without half of it.(less)
It read like some imaginative, fantastical epic out of the mind of a great fiction writer, but being drawn...more**spoiler alert** This book was incredible!
It read like some imaginative, fantastical epic out of the mind of a great fiction writer, but being drawn almost entirely from diaries and logbooks written by Magellan's own crew, it was all that much better in truth.
The quest for the riches that spices from the fabled Spice Islands could bring back then had a similar effect on the world as we know it today that oil does. The profit from a couple hundred pounds of cloves or nutmeg or even pepper would be enough to retire on. The race between nations, especially between Portugal and Spain (bitter enemies), to find an alternate way to the Spice Islands of the Indies (instead of dangerously sailing down around Africa) was as intense as the space race, but only a hundred times more barbaric, heated, and profitable. In reading the words of these sailors, it is mind-boggling to think about the courage, perseverance, and faith one would have to have to pursue a commodity in a world that was not only largely still unknown but actually thought to be filled dangers like magnetic islands that would pull all the iron bolts out of the ships' hull, man-eating sea monsters that could swallow whole ships, cannibals & pirates at every turn, and an edge where you could literally fall off into eternal darkness. Let's also not forget that this was a time without any GPS positioning or even readable or reliable maps (only partly reliable latitude-positioning based on the sun and stars and only the eastern coastline of North America was "somewhat" defined), cell phones or even electricity (gunpowder was starting to be socialized but was very unreliable and dangerous to use), very little health-care (herbs, faith, and "waiting-it-out" were the common remedies of the day), and where strict religion and royal dedication (much less free will than the modern world enjoys) was the guiding light of most people's lives.
All in all, Magellan's trip departed from Seville, Spain (thought Magellan himself was Portuguese) in 1519 (survivors didn't return until a whole three years later in 1522) with a crew of 240 (only 18 of these 240 survived, Magellan not among them) split up among five ships (one returned) and had to endure mutinies, near-starvation, months at sea without and sense of what is on the horizon, islands of barbarians, natives, and double-crossers, and a pursuing Portuguese fleet of ships dedicated to capturing and enslaving the entire Spanish armada. Only the lure of the riches to come and a dedication (for the most part) to a 21-year controversial King Charles pushed these adventurers on to succeed ... and inevitable, many to their death.
The name Ferdinand Magellan is almost as well-known as Christopher Columbus or even Neil Armstrong, but his actual voyage and it's hardships and successes is probably a footnote in most people's childhood education. This book captured my attention and imagination and allowed me to feel as if I was right there on one of these ships, looking up to the Captain-General himself, and seeing the world "invent" itself before my very eyes. This voyage had a surprising amount of "firsts" for the world of the day including a surprise of who might of actually have been the first to circumnavigate the globe (but also part of this same voyage, hint: not Magellan), discoveries of new peoples and animals in other lands, translation and linguistic origins of many cultures, and also of debunk in the beliefs of what the world was really like past what the eye can see off the coast of Europe (hint: no sea-monsters or magnetic islands, but just as fascinating).
I would recommend this book to anyone. It was serene, anthropological, and joyous at times (in it's description of mundane life at sea and the discoveries of new lands), and barbaric, horrendous, and wincing at others (in it's details of the torture, the battle, and physical and mental challenges these sailors had to live with on a daily basis). But mostly, it was altogether a journey in my own mind where I was free to imagine how it might of actually felt and looked from it's hopeful departure to it's limping return. Whether you love history or exploration of the unknown or whether you've ever felt the need to accomplish something so daunting with so much against you, or whether you just want to get lost in an epic story, this book will satisfy you and make you feel as if you were part of this great and ultimately sobering "first".(less)
This book was a fun and accessible way to think about some everyday philosophical and thought-provoking ideas. Each page is a new scenario or mind-ben...moreThis book was a fun and accessible way to think about some everyday philosophical and thought-provoking ideas. Each page is a new scenario or mind-bender. Easy and quick.(less)
A short and sweet description of 150km race in 150 pages from 1978. Mostly for avid bike enthusiasts but enjoyable for all ... it quite accurately des...moreA short and sweet description of 150km race in 150 pages from 1978. Mostly for avid bike enthusiasts but enjoyable for all ... it quite accurately describes the flow of thoughts and emotions felt when racing or even just riding a bike for any amount of longer distance. I enjoyed it.(less)