The sort of book that you finish reading and you want to turn back to the first page and read it all again. Whirls forward and backward through time,...more The sort of book that you finish reading and you want to turn back to the first page and read it all again. Whirls forward and backward through time, settling in a globally warmed future full of toddlers with iPhones. It overcomes its own gimmickyness by telling human stories. Some chapters are shattering, some uplifting.(less)
This book was fascinating to me as someone who is interested in mindfulness and observing how the mind works. This is less of a science book and more...moreThis book was fascinating to me as someone who is interested in mindfulness and observing how the mind works. This is less of a science book and more a first-hand account of Warren's adventures in studying his own brain: getting hooked up to all kinds of equipment (no fMRI, though, sad!), having his brain examined from all kinds of angles, experimenting with different states of consciousness in various controlled (and uncontrolled) settings, and interviewing top thinkers in neuroscience and psychology.
Many opposing viewpoints are presented, and a wide variety of professional and non-professional literature is cited in the endnotes.
I'm struck by how our ability to study the brain is currently advancing with great rapidity, and yet still pitifully simplistic and limited compared to the unfathomable complexity of our brains themselves. If you think of human beings as starstuff that happens to be organized into a form that is able to think about the Universe, how wonderful, then, that the lump of matter that is the brain can think about itself!(less)
This book was recommended to me by a student, and it was, as he promised, really really good. A portentous, meditative look at an aging prince who for...moreThis book was recommended to me by a student, and it was, as he promised, really really good. A portentous, meditative look at an aging prince who foresees the end of his family's glory.(less)
An easy and fun read, at least for me, this book served its authors stated purpose in causing readers (both Eastern and Western) to think about their...moreAn easy and fun read, at least for me, this book served its authors stated purpose in causing readers (both Eastern and Western) to think about their biases and habits of thought, and consider other ways of thinking about cause and effect, relationships, and the world in general.
Nisbett's thesis is that Easterners tend to think in terms of a holistic whole, and about many influences, while Westerners tend to think of isolated objects and simple cause/effect relationships. The point isn't that one approach is better than the other; in fact, Nisbett describes many experiments, by himself and others, that show that both ways of thinking have their strengths and weaknesses. (less)
Enthralling and prescient, a book about what it means for the human race to improve itself, and whether such a thing is possible through technology. E...moreEnthralling and prescient, a book about what it means for the human race to improve itself, and whether such a thing is possible through technology. Eugenics and the promise of genetic engineering seem like band-aids for a wounded and dying human race that is consumed with hate and war. As you would expect from Brunner, there is an exploration of computer technology, varying from the eerie (a chapter almost indistinguishable from a page of modern search engine results) to the charmingly anachronistic (the computer power is concentrated in huge supercomputers controlled by governments and corporations.) An absorbing and challenging read.(less)
This might be marketed like a diet book, but Mindless Eating is really about the scientific method.
In one anecdote after another, food scientists and
...moreThis might be marketed like a diet book, but Mindless Eating is really about the scientific method.
In one anecdote after another, food scientists and nutrition researchers who are intellectually keenly aware of the mistake we makes about food fall again and again for environmental cues, perceptual errors and psychological tricks that make them eat more than they think they are eating.
These phenomena are explored in beautifully designed experiments that quantify the caloric difference between having a candy dish on your desk or in your drawer, having your chicken-wing bones cleared away or left on your plate, and accompanying dinner with a wine that you perceive as cheap or pricey.
The message of the book is that it is not enough to KNOW that we eat more from a larger plate than a smaller one, or that we will eat more M&Ms when they are a variety of colors than when they are all the same color. Forewarned is not forearmed. Even being aware of these effects, you will still fall into the trap of overeating.
The bad news is that the food industry is well aware of many of these effects, and they are actively out to trick you into buying (and eating) more than you need. Also, innumerable little habits are lurking undetected in your lifestyle, causing you to eat extra calories.
The good news is that we can outsmart ourselves. There are many ways to trick ourselves into a healthier diet. An excellent example is that we tend to pour ourselves more to drink when we have a short, wide glass than a tall, skinny glass. You can exploit this cognitive trait in two ways. 1) Choose a set of tall, thin glasses to use for juice, soda, or alcohol. Without any conscious effort, you'll pour a little less than you normally would, and cut out some unnecessary calories. 2) Choose a set of short, wide glasses that are only for drinking water or other calorie-free beverages. You'll unconsciously pour more, and be better hydrated.
These tricks can operate in what Wansink calls "the mindless margin," the deficit of around 100 calories a day that you won't even notice but which will, over the long haul, add up to significant weight loss. What appeals to me is that this isn't a diet where you eat differently, lose weight, then go back to your old way of eating and gain it all back. The book offers many small, painless changes to your lifestyle that will help cut out a few calories a day.
The kicker is that those calories aren't making you happy or satisfied. They're just creeping into your life through your own mindless habits and the tricks of food manufacturers, advertisers, and sellers. You're not going to drop weight at the same rate as when you go on diet and actively deny yourself calories, but you are going to be able to make lasting changes that will not make you feel deprived, but will help you maintain a healthier weight for a lifetime.
That's the theory, anyway. Wansink's < a href = "http://www.mindlesseating.org/challen... Eating Challenge website can help you incorporate 3 new habits into your life each month. This month, my weight has definitely stopped creeping upward. I'm not seeing any dramatic loss (maybe 2 pounds), but I'm hoping to lose the weight slowly, and I'm confident that I will be able keep it off because I'm making permanent, sustainable changes to my lifestyle.
Beggars in Spain is one of the key SF works on genetic engineering, tackling some of the difficult questions of how society will deal with a class of...moreBeggars in Spain is one of the key SF works on genetic engineering, tackling some of the difficult questions of how society will deal with a class of genetically-superior "Haves" while the overwhelming majority of humanity remain unenhanced "Have-Nots."
A genetic enhancement that eliminates the need to sleep has the unexpected side effect of greater intelligence and immortality. The story is told from the point of view of the Leisha Camden, who, despite her best efforts, is unable to heal the rifts that form between her fellow Sleepless and the rest of society, the Sleepers.
Is the fear, anger, mistrust, and violence that springs up between the Sleepers and the Sleepless inevitable? What does it mean to be human? Sleeper and Sleepless must both wrestle with the meaning and interpretation of the phrase "all men are created equal" if democracy will survive. What do the superior owe to society? What does society owe to the strong? To the weak?
These questions are then raised to the next level when the Sleepless find their supremacy challenged by their own success in engineering Superbright children.
One of my favorite novels of all time. This the setting and characters are so complex that they create a rich, deep world. Surface appearances never t...moreOne of my favorite novels of all time. This the setting and characters are so complex that they create a rich, deep world. Surface appearances never tell the whole story. Nobody tells the whole truth. The plot never resolves itself in the obvious way. There are no good guys and no bad guys; it's all a matter of your point of view.
This one stands up well to rereading, which allows you to appreciate Gaiman's masterful use of foreshadowing and his unique knack for deftly unspooling mysteries.
Another writer might have had a very different message about American identity, but Gaiman is kind to his adopted home, and tells a story (or, really, many stories) about it in his own distinct voice.