This was my introduction to Asimov and I liked it quite a bit. It was enjoyable to read but kind of quaint and very predictable. It read very much likThis was my introduction to Asimov and I liked it quite a bit. It was enjoyable to read but kind of quaint and very predictable. It read very much like a Twilight Zone episode but with less sexism and no Mickey Rooney. Since it was written in the 1950s, I guess Asimov and Serling were contemporaries and you can sort of see it in these pages. Still, I plan on reading more Asimov to give him a fair shake....more
Once again, I either completely misinterpreted Wells or he is even more awesome than I imagined.
Of course Moreau touched uponPrendick, you silly ass!
Once again, I either completely misinterpreted Wells or he is even more awesome than I imagined.
Of course Moreau touched upon morality, instinct, and "playing God" but it was much less preachy than I anticipated. In fact, Prendick was outraged when he thought that Moreau was turning humans into animals but as soon as it was revealed that he was giving them human characteristics, his objections vanished.
The takeaway seemed to be that, besides the physical torture the animals had to bear to be transformed, it was even worse torture to grant them humanity! Increased intelligence only ensured many of the beasts' destruction and the rest's eventual reversion into animals. It was terrible to be human, not because it was against their true nature, but because humans are terrible! Are we not men?
Also, Wells is very clear that religion is simply a tool to control those unable to think for themselves. However, even the ruse of a greater power was easily torn down by the beasts who were "little more than idiots" the moment Moreau is killed. Fearing for his life at the sight of the human minority's crumbling hegemony, Prendick tells the beasts that Moreau watches them from the sky at every moment and no longer needs his body - a lie that fools only the most blindly loyal and stupid. (Pay attention, humans!)
Poor Montgomery, though. That dude just seems to have been in the wrong place at the wrong time. We're told he was more comfortable on the island living with a sociopath and his science experiments than in society, but he seemed eager to interact with Prendick, the only real human he was exposed to in years. It was sad at the end when he tries to go get the beasts to have a drink with him!
This is a nice introduction to the various methods of exoplanet detection. The author then catalogs how successful each method has been and anaylzes tThis is a nice introduction to the various methods of exoplanet detection. The author then catalogs how successful each method has been and anaylzes the bounds on what each can accomplish.
There are lots of tables which are not very enlightening and a bit difficult to read but seem to have been included for posterity or just escaped from the appendix. They clutter up the text something aweful.
I know this book is about detection of exoplanets, but i was a little disappointed that there wasn't more in there about planet formation. A little solar system evolution couldn't have hurt either.
Also, the auor is careful to make the "at publication" distinction, which i appreciated and which demonstrates just how quickly the field of planet hunting is expanding in scope while refining its accuracy. Case in point: Formalhaut b, claimed to be a 4 Jupiter mass exoplanet in this book was recently removed from the list of candidates upon closer inspection!
Overall, this was great as a survey of detection methods and a growing atlas of planetary oases in that dark, endless sunouvabitch, our universe.
I don't know what this book was missing but it felt... incomplete.
The author does a good job summarizing the usual topics such as planet hunting, SETI don't know what this book was missing but it felt... incomplete.
The author does a good job summarizing the usual topics such as planet hunting, SETI, the Murchison meteorite, panspermia, the anthropic principle, and extremophiles. He makes it even more engaging with a wide variety of interviews with primarily astronomers and exobiologists and it's all very interesting. I was just surprised I could be so ambivalent while reading about the most important scientific endeavor humanity will probably ever undertake.
I think I would have liked to hear more about plans for the future, particularly some details on the proposals for things like submersibles for Europa or sample return missions like the (failed) Phobos-Grunt spacecraft. Instead, most of what the author focused on was the history of exobiology — which wasn't bad, just not riveting.
If you know nothing about exobiology, this would be a good place to start. Otherwise, I think there are better resources... somewhere out there....more
Though I assumed it would have been more about the day to day operations on the Red Planet's surface, the book seemed toRoving Mars was really great.
Though I assumed it would have been more about the day to day operations on the Red Planet's surface, the book seemed to focus more on the events leading up to the actual experiments. In particular, the author does a great job conveying the magnitude of psychological torture and administrative whimsy associated with trying to get the twin rovers Spirit and Opportunity to their destination.
In fact, a large portion of the first part of the book is about all the failed proposals (and even spacecraft) that led up to the MER mission. Each is presented in extremely sharp contrast to the seemingly small victories along the way, which make things very emotional even for the reader.
In full disclosure, my eyes got a little moist during the part where they get the signal from Spirit that it had survived touchdown. If I were Squyres in mission control that day, I think my heart would have exploded.
Don't get me wrong, there's plenty in there about all the stuff that can (and does) break when you're operating a multimillion dollar, space-hardened, rolling science lab from a few hundred million miles away. With the level of complexity the mission team has to deal with, it truly is amazing that they can get anything accomplished at all.
What was funny about the book was how it ended just after the primary mission objectives were satisfied only about 90 sols (Martian days) after landing and how tenuous those days had been.
Meanwhile, Spirit operated an additional 2100 sols until it's last communication in March of 2010. Even more amazing is that Opportunity continues to send back good science almost 2600 sols (7 earth years) over its 90 sol warranty!
Overall, Roving Mars is a great story of using explosives to put big remote controlled cars on another planet. How could that not be awesome?...more
This is an excellent book detailing the birth of cosmology and the search for the true nature of the universe. More of a history book than anything elThis is an excellent book detailing the birth of cosmology and the search for the true nature of the universe. More of a history book than anything else, there's no better account of the Copernican legacy and the evolution of metaphysics into a true field of science.
One of the most compelling aspects of the book is the fact that it's all so new that ideas become risky and technology becomes the limiting factor for what we can discover. And while not having the complete story is nagging, it's a torturous glimpse into the necessity to understand that plagues these very scientists.
A big plus is that the book is very well written. For example, the author employs a nice stylistic hook at the beginning of every chapter; He describes a scene where the people and setting remain anonymous for a paragraph or so, letting the story slowly come into view. "What's he talking about? Where are they? Oh, Antarctica? Awesome."
One aspect of the book that was a bit of a bummer was that it painted the race to discovery as more of a frantic, sometimes bitter competition rather than a series of exciting innovations. The idea that a scientific career often hangs in the balance is very clear — and perhaps I'm being naive — but that sort of doe-eyed wonder that humans get looking up at the stars seemed lost on the protagonists from time to time.
As is often a complaint of mine when reading such a book, I would have liked to hear more about the details of the experiments and the meat of the theories. The author could have easily gone a little more in depth without losing lay persons, if that was the concern. Or how about an appendix for the more dedicated reader in the next addition, Panek?
Though a little heavy on squabbling scientists and light on the actual physics, The 4-Percent Universe is an extremely thorough historical account of the current state of knowledge regarding the fate of our reality. I really enjoyed it.
Every word of this book was fantastic. What's most impressive is that it's actually a collection of talks he gave to an audience of laypersons — ratheEvery word of this book was fantastic. What's most impressive is that it's actually a collection of talks he gave to an audience of laypersons — rather than a novel — that outline the physiological urge and cultural advent of religion in the absence of science.
Sagan's point is clear: Throughout history God is invoked to explain the gaps in our scientific understanding. As we fill in the gaps, our need to attribute physical processes to some divine motive get's smaller and smaller.
This rapidly shrinking influence of a Creator then begs the question if we need a Creator at all.
Just because we can't yet explain something doesn't mean that it's magic.
Even so-called agnostics (atheists who fancy some sort of divine insurance policy) will say they believe in gravity and all that good stuff up to the Big Bang but then proffer that perhaps it was God that sparked the creation of the universe.
Sagan's response to this worldview (universeview?) is that it doesn't matter! Because we cannot devise some sort of empirical test to see what happened just before the Big Bang, it is not even worth talking about (unless we misunderstood a physical law and actually can test it one day).
A good portion of the book involves Sagan debunking long standing historical "proofs" of God's existence. And he throws in some logical tests to show that even if there is a God, he's either a jerk, mortal, or both, which makes him imperfect in direct opposition to every religious tenet.
He basically says that religion is nice and all, but it is just a series of chemicals gradients produced by our evolutionary advanced brains — not physical reality. All in all, no one but Carl Sagan could put together such a brutal dismissal of religion in such a polite manner. ...more
Once I got past my palpable jealousy of the author's opportunity to document a mission like this, I really enjoyed the book!
Reading a few papers and aOnce I got past my palpable jealousy of the author's opportunity to document a mission like this, I really enjoyed the book!
Reading a few papers and articles that come out of a mission doesn't really communicate just how politically and technically complicated space exploration is. Martian Summer does a great job demonstrating the brittle nature of such a feat, which makes any science gleaned from the mission that much more impressive and inspirational.
Though I would have enjoyed a few more technical interludes — maybe some details from the science talks to explore the actual science in addition to the day-to-day operations — it still was a great peek inside mission control.
The author's account was a touch narcissistic, though I understand that it is as much a personal account of nerd immersion as it is a narrative about mission control. Plus, I can't say I wouldn't do the same.
What I really appreciated was the sense of family that developed to even include the author. We humans really pull together under self-imposed insurmountable stress, sleep deprivation and possible career suicide.
It's rare to find a work of non-fiction with the scientist-as-hero (and robot-as-hero) that puts so much about personal achievement into perspective. Throw in some jokes, some casual drug use and a few pop cultural references and you've got yourself a very enjoyable account of one of the coolest things humans have ever done....more
The first half of this book was phenomenal. Though there was no narrative, no plot and no protagonist, it was one of the more unique and enjoyable booThe first half of this book was phenomenal. Though there was no narrative, no plot and no protagonist, it was one of the more unique and enjoyable books on planetary science I've read.
The writing style is staccato and dry to the point where the whole book could just be one long bullet list of facts about the ice giants and Pluto-Charon. But, oh, what a collection of bullets!
To be clear, this book has no personality. It's just fact after fact of "what we know" about the outer planets (mostly from Voyager 2 measurements) and still manages to be interesting as hell.
Uranus' rings are x, y and z. Titania's surface has a density of such-and-such. Neptune may have a thin cloud layer at an altitude of so-and-so.
It reads more like a (good) textbook or a (interesting) lecture than anything else but it is well organized and a good way to bring yourself up to speed on the few measurements we have of the outer planets.
The second half of the book is a primer on how to observe the planets with a telescope but it's neither clear or encouraging for the average reader. There are some nice tips regarding shopping for a telescope but the objects to be observed are just too difficult for the amateur astronomer to resolve.
Also, all of the really interesting aspects of the planets discussed earlier in the book, like atmospheric composition and magnetic properties, need a nine-figure space probe to be measured. So it's a bit of a tease when he says to make sure to buy a dew guard for your 60mm refractor.
Since the content in this book was so curt anyway this observation section didn't really detract from any sort of flow, though it was definitely not necessary to include it.
I was also a little disappointed that there was no mention of the theory that Uranus and Neptune may have formed in the inner solar system and migrated to their present locations. That's awesome!
Not for the faint of heart, Uranus, Neptune and Pluto and How to Observe Them delivered exactly what the cover promised....more
This is one of the few books I've ever re-read and it was much better the second time now that I can appreciate it.
Wells was way ahead of his time andThis is one of the few books I've ever re-read and it was much better the second time now that I can appreciate it.
Wells was way ahead of his time and truly a pioneer of the genre. I believe his writing would be considered lackluster sci-fi if written today, but in a historical context the book is phenomenal.
I like that the only downsides to being invisible are that it's cold in the nude and you need lackeys to carry your visible stuff around so you're not spotted. There's nothing in the book about the social isolation or moral challenges associated with invisibility. It just sounds awesome. Don't get caught is the lesson to be learned.
There are a lot of details regarding getting trapped in rooms and walking softly that make one particularly contemplative about the other "lesser" senses. And it's also fun because you can't help but imagine yourself in Griffin's situation, which really draws you into the narrative.