What was the publisher thinking of? Dead set, this book is actually called Incoming!: Or, why we should stop worrying and learn to love the meteorite....moreWhat was the publisher thinking of? Dead set, this book is actually called Incoming!: Or, why we should stop worrying and learn to love the meteorite. Maybe Hoyle was right, maybe we are ruled by extra-terrestrial sentient cockroaches and this is their idea of a joke.
The thing that is so monumentally unfair about this title is that the book is terrific, but who’d guess? Who’d give a book a chance having laboured through that dreadful, dreadful title with, on top of it, an exclamation point followed by a colon, an injury to insult if ever there was one.
Message on my secret diary. See that lock? That means if you read my diary you'd dead. I mean, not really dead. I'm a girl, it's not like I mean dead dead. But.
My secret diary while reading Delusions of Gender by Cordelia Fine.
Day one. I was going to read lots of this book today, but Manny said we had to go to see the History of Lingerie exhibit at the Grenoble museum. Boring. Why do men think women's underwear is interesting? And after I got lost and found Manny again he was watching a video of girls who had nothing on. I'm like 'What's that got to do with underwear?' And he replied in his lofty tone 'You wouldn't understand, you don't have the right sort of brain.' Day two. There's all those little things that get in the way all the time. You think you are going to sit down and read properly and then it turns out you have to do the cooking. And then there was getting a cushion for Manny's feet, which wasn't like a sexist thing to do or anything because I wanted to, he didn't ask me, I just thought of it on my own. That's how my brain works. And reading all his reviews. Apparently I'm not cooking enough rhubarb. Could it be true?, I wondered to myself as I knitted later on while watching TV and thinking about things like rhubarb. Maybe girls do have different brains. And before you know it, it's... Day three. I was so determined to read this PROPERLY today. NO interruptions. No, I'm not going to have sex, I'm going to read this book. What do you mean you don't believe I'd rather read this book than have sex. No. No. NOOOO!!!! Later.... Apparently my 'no's really sound like yes. Everybody tells me that. Apparently when I say 'no' I need a new persona for it. Somebody who sounds like I mean it. Anyway..... Day six. I never stick to these diaries, I'm just no good at being a girl. A secret diary should be practically the most important thing in my life and it isn't. At least I finished the book.
This was the first Tan book I picked up - not surprisingly, given it's the wordiest of this illustrator's work. I bought threee copies in Melbourne an...moreThis was the first Tan book I picked up - not surprisingly, given it's the wordiest of this illustrator's work. I bought threee copies in Melbourne and before I knew it they'd all disappeared into other people's bookshelves. One more for me then.
A charming book that will make you smile, if not giggle, and quite a (brave?)departure in style from his others. There is not a dark moment in it.
Let's not forget, in the flush of enthusiasm for Manny's review of a book written by Hoyle, that it was written by two people, one of whom, though he...more Let's not forget, in the flush of enthusiasm for Manny's review of a book written by Hoyle, that it was written by two people, one of whom, though he may have started out an aspiring nobody paying due attention to Hoyle and receiving the possibly dubious benefits, he became along the way a scientist of some regard.
Chandra Wickramasinghe was sacked from his post at Cardiff University last year, (http://www.lankaweb.com/news/items/20... ) only to find that he is increasingly becoming vindicated for the work he has done in this area.
Today a Guardian headline to warm the cockles of Bird Brian’s heart: Astrobiologist, Chandra Wickramasinghe suggests “NASA” has known for years life existed on Mars http://guardianlv.com/2012/10/astrobi...
The situation seems incredibly similar to the birth of what is now regarded as a science – cosmology – but was treated as an antiscience for a long time. Although there is now something called astrobiology, it is interesting to see that Hoyle and Wickramasinghe who as far as I can tell were the brave fighters for the idea in the first place have for now been expunged from the records, see wiki where there is not a word on either man in a detailed description of the field: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Astrobio...
Potentially, then, we are in one of those momentous historical periods which are only understood as such way later, when historians come in, clean up the mess and add an element of fairness to the whole business.
For the moment - however much of the details of this book turn out to be too elaborate - it is looking like the idea of it, which after all is the idea which has turned into astrobiology and which now cannot be denied as having validity as a field of research, makes it THE book, the one that will some time be the one historians talk of when they start ‘In the beginning there was…’
Amazing, is it not?
We NEED fighters, people who are determined to think in different ways, people who are not willing to toe the line and get their paychecks for doing what they are told. This is harder and harder for scientists to do, but here we see it happening, the dramatic climax, perhaps, to a struggle that when Manny and I and I guess lots of others reading this were mere babes. (less)
I am in such a bad mood after reading this and it really isn’t the author’s fault. She needed a competent ed...more A cross rant followed by a fabulous story.
I am in such a bad mood after reading this and it really isn’t the author’s fault. She needed a competent editor and evidently there is not one to be found at OUP.
Recall that this book uses the word ‘recall’ maybe a hundred times.
Sorry, you can’t, can you? You haven’t read it. So, imagine how it feels, reading a book that tells you to recall things it assumes you know and don’t. Apparently the rationale is that the people who do know, won’t be offended by what is about to be explained. Me, I was offended both ways and more. I was offended when I was told to recall something and obviously didn’t. I was offended when I was told to recall something I did already know. And I was offended as an editor by this gross misuse and abuse of the word.
At some point I became so cross with this stylistic catastrophe that I ceased to enjoy the book.
But recall I am an editor (what, you didn’t know that?) and it is as such that I rant. If you aren’t, and you don’t mind a book, the writing technique of which suffers under the weight of this ridiculous and unnecessary habit, there is much to enjoy. I really don’t want to put you off reading about two women whose impact on the science world of France and the UK lasted for hundreds of years.
Inevitably – given the logically chronological order – this book has the misfortune of starting with the more interesting of the two stories it tells. The tale of Chatelet verges on the incredible, after which Somerville’s life palls in comparison. I can’t help thinking with some creativity applied, this history might have been presented in reverse chronological order to good effect. There might even have been some advantage in having done so, aside from making it more readable.
Is this a new way of presenting references I have never seen before: there are no footnotes/references in the body of the book. As I was reading it, I was rather taken aback that this would be the case, as it is a scholarly book which would seem to require them. In fact, one simply discovers them at the end, one has to work out for oneself what is going to have a footnote, go to the back of the book to see if there is one, which involves complicated searching…this just doesn’t work. It is really dreadful. The book reads perfectly well without them, but if they are going to be supplied in such an unuseable way, why bother taking up space with them at all?
The author makes some attempt to explain the personal side of this venture, her own development in the field and how it drew her to her subjects. There is a brief discussion of the status of women in science at the time of writing. I don’t think any of this works. The author’s life is not an interesting addition to the story of the subjects and the discussion of ‘how things are now’ is simply way too cursory for it to have any point. Nor is is possible to see the soul mate connection: the author spent a bit of time in her life deliberately eschewing modern conveniences which is simply not anything like the difficulties under which these two were forced to labour.
I bought this book because I discovered the influence that Mary Somerville had in England for a hundred years or so as the translator (and 'improver') of Laplace used in universities until the mid-nineteenth century, at least, and wished to find out more about the background to this. The first part of the book, however, tells the nicely complementary story of Emilie du Chatelet, who somewhat earlier translated Newton to French, standing the test of time so that even late in the twentieth century it was highly regarded. Chatelet, like Somerville, was forced to set about her own education as an adult, no easy thing despite being an aristocrat. Her life was spent looking after an estate, having at least some times to educate her children herself, it was spent in part with her husband - if only for form and friendliness - and in passion and intellect with Voltaire. It is evident from this book that Voltaire would have been greatly diminished in the absence of Chatelet. Although one could say this was a reciprocal relationship, it nonetheless was a relationship that made things harder in some respects for Chatelet as she put Voltaire first always. Thus her life also consisted of keeping him out of gaol, getting him out of gaol, getting him unexiled, keeping him out of trouble, and helping him with his scientific endeavours. This latter was particularly important since he really wasn't up to it, whereas she was. Her own research, however, tended to be conducted in secret in the middle of the night, in her bedroom, using as equipment torn sheets and the like, so that it didn't interfere with his work or make him jealous.
Indeed, maybe she underestimated him in this last regard, since it seems he was anything but jealous of her greater abilities, generous in his praise and loyal to -
Loyal to? How to finish that. Emilie was beautiful, extremely intelligent and men were loyal to her. Her husband put up with the fact that her relationship with Voltaire utterly broke the formal rules of extra-marital affairs in France: it was real and it was public. Voltaire, when Emilie was in her late thirties, told her he didn't want to have sex with her any more. She was gutted but still stunning. After she found out by accident that Voltaire had moved on sexually, so did she. She became involved with a young man of society. Despite this Voltaire was utterly loyal in that he stayed with her, her husband stayed with her and Newton stayed with her. She was still desperately trying to finish her translation of Newton when the unthinkable happened. She felt pregnant to the young man. In her forties! I imagine that would be like being in your sixties and becoming pregnant now. Life expectancy can't have been more than around that figure, I would have thought. So now she has the disgrace of this happening, she has Voltaire livid - somehow he seemed to think that she would remain celibate in memory of him?! - her husband is humiliated, the young man is confused...but she still has them all. They are all still with her, now a bub inside her too...AND Newton. I am truly in awe of the fact that in this state she was still working on Newton. Voltaire, somewhat losing patience, said to a friend
'Madame du Chatelet has not yet delivered. She has more difficulty bringing into the world a baby than a book'.
Despite that, the baby did slip out with incredible ease, Emilie spent the next days making last changes to Principia...
And then? Suddenly one week after giving birth she died, just like that.
The husband, the ex-sexual-lover and still lover in other ways Voltaire, the young lover and father of the baby Saint-Lambert, were all utterly devastated. Of the latter it was said by a friend 'I would never have believed him capable of such passion,' his grief led to a breakdown from which he took a year to recover.
I can't help thinking Humphrey Bogart would have said 'This is some dame'. Boy, is she what.
Then, this heartbreaking footnote from some 40 years later in the 1790s when the churchyard in which she was buried was ransacked. One of her young admirers, now 83 years
watched a shocking desecration of Emilie's grave, in which her bones were scattered and her jewellery and finery mocked and stolen by uncomprehending 'citizens' of the new republic. When the mob had gone, Devaux lovingly replaced Emilie's remains in her grave. There was no inscription on her black, marble tombstone, but the old man regularly kept a silent vigil in honour of her memory, sitting by her grave and remembering the glory days of the philosophes - the days of hope, through faith in reason, before reason temporarily turned into madness.
This is the story that is unputdownable, it is impossible not to love Emilie and the author does a fair job of putting you in her shoes, at her dinner table, in her pained thoughts about her work. She also does a reasonable job of putting science as it was into the social and philosophical setting of the period. For me, she did not do a good job of making the science itself accessible, but aside from being a scientific imbecile, you will recall I was also irritated beyond endurance by the recall word and after a while skipped over the science. The author already has a reputation for pop maths/science, so I am prepared to take all the blame.
I've been discussing the whole issue of reviewing lately, being honest vs saying nice things and I'm rather torn on this one. It has large flaws, but nonetheless the subject matter is in my opinion so rarely dealt with, that it is worth endeavouring with this and most readers might not even notice some of the things that I have been picky about. Although the author herself was full of praise for the publishing assistance she received when she wrote to me in response to a query, I think she has been utterly let down by completely inadequate editorial process. I simply cannot understand at a point in time where real publishing houses should be stating loudly and clearly that there is genuine value and purpose to their role, why it is that we see instead something that quite simply fails the writer. The material was here to make a GREAT book, instead of which it is far far less than that.
Written during my reading...
Recommended for: all the male scientists and academics who think they have it tough.
I bought this to find out more about Mary Somerville, having discovered how influential her work was in the UK for a hundred years. What a bonus to discover the story of the scientist, mathematician and writer Emilie Du Chatelet.
The book is in chronological order and hence starts with an account of du Chatelet's life and work. She has the advantage of being a wealthy aristocrat. Against that, however, all the disadvantages stand out, the consequence of being female. Even becoming educated as an adult was a great struggle.
The legacy of the crippling handicap of being female was that even when she overcame it to produce a translation of Newton which remains the standard French account (as well as the first), at the time there was the usual condemnation and presumption that it was the result of the work of the various men in her life. I understand it is only over the past forty years or so, as women are slowly being accepted as approximately 'equal' to men, that history is being rewritten to put Du Chatelet where she should be.
Arianrhod is a competent writer and mathematician and gives an account which is nicely dispassionate while occasionally finding it impossible not to express her emotion. You will understand why, if you read the book. You will read it with your heart in your mouth for Du Chatelet. You'll be barracking for her all the way.(less)
Afterthought. I forgot to mention this. The book starts with Hoyle and it is soon evident why. Although the man himself is a grouch, very chip-on-shou...moreAfterthought. I forgot to mention this. The book starts with Hoyle and it is soon evident why. Although the man himself is a grouch, very chip-on-shoulder about the way in which his theories are viewed; although it turns out that he writes some pretty crazy stuff towards the end of his life; although the steady state theory to which he devoted much of his life - and convinced others to as well – transpired to be wrong; despite all of this, he was the most influential man of the period. When each of the scientists in this book are asked what inspired them as school kids, which was the point at which many of them knew that their futures lay in the stars, time after time again, the answer is Hoyle, his books, his radio talks. That is, for the kids who grew up around and after WWII. It was so as much for the Americans as for the English.
I wonder how important it may be to science to have a major alternate theory knocking around. One gets the sense of its significance, not only as a punching bag, but also as the source of alternative ways to interpret data etc. The book, looking at the discipline through the eyes of the protagonists, also shows the way in which alternate theories die. The ways in which it clung on for some. And then, Sciama’s moving description of his rejection of it, in the light of new data which put the kibosh on it for good…if not for Hoyle and his closest cohorts, then for most.
Having said that, another interesting result of the book, is that having been asked, as they all were, how they would design the universe if they could, some certainly opined for the steady state idea, even though their view in practise was that it had been disproved.
I pretty much put this in the unputdownable department. Over the last week or so, it has been everywhere with me, from breakfast to bed.
The details of what is and is not a problem in cosmology may have changed over the last 20 years since this book was published, but how people think hasn’t. This is quite a philosophical book, concerned with the way in which cosmologists think and see the – their – world. Which is not to say it lacks in science, of course. Reporting here as somebody who is a total ignoramus in any field of science, I was truly impressed with the understanding I have gained from this book.
I imagine this to be for two reasons. Firstly because the author, Alan Lightman, is a fine writer and communicator, he puts things in intelligible ways, one hopes without compromising the science. Both the glossary and the introduction – which gives a brief history of cosmology – are excellent. Secondly because of the layout. Every scientist in the book, starting with Hoyle and ending with Linde are given the same questions in the same order. It has a repetition about it which is both conducive to learning and very exciting. Honestly, I was just dying to find out what each person was going to say.
If I may mention a few things I gained in particular from it:
(1) That cosmology is a subject which is so new even now that we can safely say that probably nothing very useful is known yet. It could still be that every single thing we think about it is false. For all we know, everything that is being measured at the moment may be some tiny, tiny bit of something huge. And that will increase the chance, of course, that what we believe about cosmology now is utterly wrong.
(2) I will never generalise about scientists again. For every opinion expressed in this book, there is also an opposite: for the facts, for the interpretation, for the theory, for the observations, for the philosophy, the methodology, for politics, for belief. Everything.
(3)New heroes. James Gunn who explains how dodgy the data is, and how the reliance of the feeding frenzied theorists on it is equally suspect. Edwin Turner who discusses ‘how far one could go wrong with a few simple, pretty ideas and some data.’ He gives the example of the rings of Saturn and continues ‘Something like that makes me think there’s a reasonable chance we’re all wrong.’ Jeremiah Ostriker who thinks looking outside science altogether for the ideas to bring understanding may be right. If we did that, then ‘we may be able to address problems that we’ve just ignored. I’m continually struck in the history of science by things that are perfectly obvious, but that couldn’t be seen. You know the famous example of the Crab Nebula’. Well, I didn’t, so in case you don’t either, Europeans couldn’t see it, whilst many other cultures could. ‘My guess is that if you have an idea of fixed stars and you see something that isn’t, you just assume, ‘Well, that’s some atmospheric phenomenon.’ You ignore it….And you can’t study things because in some way you reject the reality.’ He thinks that is happening all the time and, put like that, one can only agree that it most likely is. What a frightening thought! Right now cosmology is a field dominated by very narrow cultural experience and maybe even it it were not, the things that are drummed into those in the field from the beginning, in particular the cult of the aesthetically pleasing/simple might override cultural richness of thought.
I only wish there could be a sequel, something like it that ‘did’ the last twenty years, which in the short creative life of a cosmologist is at least two generations. I feel like I’m missing the next part of the story. (less)
My curiosity was piqued while listing KESTEL, R.W.O. Radiant Energy, a Working Power in the Mechanism of the Universe. Port Adelaide [printed by F. Co...moreMy curiosity was piqued while listing KESTEL, R.W.O. Radiant Energy, a Working Power in the Mechanism of the Universe. Port Adelaide [printed by F. Cockington] 1898. The Tasmanian antiquarian bookseller Richard Neylon had this to say about it:
The frontispiece of experimental apparatus must be one of the best examples in the history of Australian scientific illustration: a new theory explaining the workings of the universe can be tested with a decapitated corrugated iron water tank, two rules and a ball on a string. It also, just in graphic terms, has a radiant energy of its own. This is a stylish little book and has a stylish and reasoned generosity not always present in such works: “the difference in the two theories does not at all effect the accepted laws of the force of gravity, as given us by Newton”. As to considerations of a Newtonian universe he points out that “of two theories, if one can be demonstrated by … experiment and the other cannot, I prefer the former.” An humane execution. I wonder if R.W.O. is the Ralph Kestell [sic], mason of Port Adelaide, that appears in the directories but can’t add any more to that.
The picture of the apparatus is charming…what can one add except ‘Cern, eat your heart out!’
I poked about the internet for a bit and came up with a fascinating picture of the author.
Ralph Wheatley Odgers Kestel 1838-1903 landed in South Australia from Cornwall as a youngster with his parents and immediately, at age 10 was working in the mines of Kapunda and Burra. At the age of 14 he started going to the gold diggings interstate and worked as a builder in Adelaide as well involved in various notable buildings. He was prominent in Port Adelaide, mayor at one point, and a contemporary record has it that:
He was instrumental in doing much good for Port Adelaide during his councillorship. He introduced a drainage scheme for the sanitary improvement of the town, but, although it was not adopted, it found much favour and led to prompt action by the civic body. He took a prominent part in the purchase of the land for the Corporation Wharf, and also in securing 1,000 feet of wharf frontage to Tam o'Shanter Creek, and strongly supported Mr. H. W, Thompson when mayor in introducing asphalt footpaths Notable South Australians; Or, Colonists, Past and Present (1885) Author: George E. Loyau
Kestel, R. W. O. (Ralph Wheatley Odgers) A man ahead of his time?
He was of a period where anybody who was a good thinker could become engaged in considerations which are now the purview of a tiny number of people around the world academically engaged as ‘cosmologers’. His book Radiant Energy, a Working Power in the Mechanism of the Universe attracted a review in Nature, no less, which is worth reprinting in full:
Nature 69, 101-101 (03 December 1903) | Radiant Energy A Working Power in the Mechanism of the Universe F. S. THE loose and unscientific use of terms, such as force, the curious absence of ordinary mechanical conceptions, as, for example, inertia, and the almost puerile objections raised against the Newtonian theory of planetary motion, sufficiently proclaim this book to be the work of the untrained amateur with original ideas. In consequence, none but a discerning reader will profit by its perusal.
Yet the closing sentence— “Radiant Energy is a Working Power in the Mechanism of the Universe”—is a remarkable one, considering that the book is dated as having been published five years ago. The researches of Nichols and Hull in America, and Lebedew in Russia, on the pressure due to radiation have established the author’s contention.
In the chapter on comets some of our present notions of the cause of comets' tails are clearly anticipated, but in applying the same idea to other parts of the mechanism of the universe, the author has fallen into the error of imagining a repulsion from the sun “just thirty thousand million times too large.” The main idea is that “a repelling force radiating from the sun” “partakes of the sun’s motion of rotation,” and “is carried round in the direction the sun is revolving.” The author justifies himself by mechanical analogies, and uses the idea to account for the origin of both the orbital and axial motions of the planets. By the aid of a model in which the repulsive force is represented by a stream of horizontal water jets emanating from a rotating nozzle, many of the phenomena of planetary motion, it is claimed, can be demonstrated experimentally.
The idea, although so crudely expressed, when applied to our present knowledge does seem to possess a real value. Light, radiating from the sun, should, it seems, be affected by the rotation of the sun, in such a way that the resultant of the pressures from all parts of the solar surface which reach a planet passes through a point displaced from the centre in the direction of the edge approaching the planet. The same would apply to pressure exerted by normally projected corpuscles or electrons. The effect is to produce a positive acceleration of the planet in its orbit. Whether there is also a couple acting to produce rotation suggests a nice problem for the astronomer. Is it possible that these infinitesimal pressures acting over infinite time could originate the motions of the planets? Could these pressures maintain the planet in uniform motion through a resisting ether? These problems should now admit of a definite answer, and seem worthy of a more competent analysis than the reviewer is able to give.
It is quite clear from other evidence we can glean here and there, that Kestel was a person of substantial intellect who had applied himself in original and notable ways to solving the mysteries of the universe despite his seriously deficient education. Or one wonders if that last sentence should read somewhat differently: because of his lack of education, rather than despite it. There is a record from the Astronomical Society of South Australia 1901 minutes described on its site thus:
In 1901 there was another controversial lecture, accompanied by a demonstration, this time by a Mr Kestel. There was no doubt that he believed in what he said, which was that Newton hadn't quite got it right and there was a force of repulsion as well as attraction. Since the secretary records Mr Kestel's uniform courtesy under trying conditions, and at one stage in the discussions, before beginning his reply, Kestel obtained a promise that members would not interject unduly, it seems as if the audience may have remained unconvinced. Astronomical Society of South Australia http://www.assa.org.au/about/history
Unfortunately we don’t know exactly what his idea, as brought to this meeting, was, but we do know that the general sense of it was eventually vindicated. There is indeed a force of repulsion.
What a pity that Kestel died before he could read the rather positive review he received at the hands of Nature. As it is, in bringing it to the attention of Adelaideans via a Letter to the Editor of The Advertiser, the main broadsheet of Adelaide until Murdoch took possession at which point it became a tabloid, first in nature and next in shape.
The Advertiser Friday 8 January 1904 The Late Mr RWO Kestel To the Editor. by JC Kirby Sir-The late Mr. R W O Kestel, of Port Adelaide, was much given in the intervals of business to the study of astronomy, and especially of celestial physics. Eventually he published a work, "Radiant Energy: A 'working power in the mechanism of the universe " This has been reviewed in Nature of –December 1903, a copy of which came from the publishers to the home of the deceased gentleman by sea mail, and, on the whole, bears remarkable testimony to the originality of his ideas and their substantial truths. For the honor of the memory of one of the most worthy men and able thinkers South Australia has produced, allow me to call attention to certain statements in Nature [quotes at length from the review]…...
From the above it appears that Mr Kestel was a foremost pioneer in celestial physics, and that without the advantages to be found in Universities and the great centres of knowledge he made distinct acquisition to the volume of the world's science. It is pleasing to remember that he received much sympathetic encouragement from Sir Charles Todd, and also from Mr Russell, the Government Astronomer of New South Wales Both these gentlemen felt that there was a large measure of truth in Mr. Kestel's speculations, and that they were worthy of the attention of men of science. The instrument, which in so many respects has no parallel in the world, is still at Port Adelaide. It would be a pity for it to be broken up, as it sheds remarkable light "upon celestial mechanics, and I believe in all mechanics.
Kirby then goes on to a personal reminiscence of Kestel, which sent shivers up my spine as I read it:
Our deceased fellow-citizen had a great sense of righteousness. One day he told me, I have had a great temptation from the devil, for in the course of my investigations, I saw, as in a moment, how a machine could be made, and forces used, which would be capable of destroying men men ten thousand at the time, and make ordinary artillery useless. I felt he said, that if I revealed it to one of the Great Powers I should have large money, but I should bring great calamity on mankind, and so I have resolved never to reveal what I have found out. and content myself with the machine I have made, which, while it will never give me pecuniary profit, will help the world in good knowledge. In Mr Kestel, Port Adelaide and South Australia lost a citizen of genius.
I've been wondering if the (un)discipline of physics has suffered the fate that so commonly befalls victims: that is, to become the bully. In the jost...moreI've been wondering if the (un)discipline of physics has suffered the fate that so commonly befalls victims: that is, to become the bully. In the jostle for space and acceptance today by religion and science, may one speculate that this is what has happened? I keep meeting physicists who don’t even seem to realise that they are acting in ways which are not dissimilar to the methods of the administration of Christianity and some other religions against which they fought for so long. If only all scientists were forced to do some study of ethics, philosophy, sociology, etc. They don’t seem to understand that just as suspicious, ignorant Christians might once have seen this thing called science as bewitched hokery-pokery, they now appear in that position themselves, unwilling – unable? – to understand anything past their tiny area and therefore rejecting its possible legitimacy.
There are those like Rees who, in contrast to the Dawkins ‘type’ (not a physicist, but a spokesman for the more belligerent of them), modestly see areas such as religion and philosophy as outside their purview. Then again, there must be some who are capable in a modern Renaissance way to reflect upon both in an illuminating way and Lightman is one of these. This collection begins with thoughts on the relationship of science to philosophy. Lightman, being both a novelist of note as well as physicist, is entirely comfortable with discussing the nature of words, the differentiated notion of concept for the novelist and the scientist. I don’t know that I altogether agree with his ideas here, but they are thought-provoking. His loving, caring sketches of various eminent men in the field of physics are followed by his laments about his life, his chosen fields, the changed nature of life. I was utterly happy to be up at 5am today engrossed in his lovely prose, his easy way of making me feel like I had half a clue about physics and maths – nothing I’ve been reading lately has come close to giving me an idea about these things. If only I could get across what an accomplishment that is!
I'm a bit uneasy about this one. Yes I read it over a couple of days. But after book one, it isn't likely to have the same impact and doesn't. It's mo...moreI'm a bit uneasy about this one. Yes I read it over a couple of days. But after book one, it isn't likely to have the same impact and doesn't. It's more of the same, please picture impassioned words here about how important it might be to read. I did all that for the first one, maybe I just say 'ditto' here?
One of the criticisms Randy makes is that this is largely based on secondary sources. In fact there is a huge archive available of Lemaitre's papers etc. and yet I don't believe this book refers to it at all. That is quite incredible. The cover boasts that it is the first biography of Lemaitre when there was already a substantial one available in French referred to occasionally in the course of this book. Although French works are given in the bibliography and referred to in the endnotes, I wonder if Farrell actually speaks/reads French.
Not surprisingly, then, from the historian's point of view, I find this book entirely inadequate.
As a writer, ditto. The book is a complete shambles. Why a publishing house would have published this as it, is beyond me. EMPLOY EDITORS. Everybody. EDITORS. P-leeaasssse.
An hour later...having said that, it is no easy matter, I imagine, to write a biography of somebody in which something highly technical and specialised plays so big a part. Maybe if I read more books of this type I will come around to thinking that as far as presentation goes, the author hasn't done as bad a job as I now feel he has.
And I have to say this: much as it claims otherwise, this is NOT a biography of Lemaitre. It is the story of his physics, that's all. (less)
I'm on a roll with Dick. I'm undecided as to whether this one is saying anything important, but it is really clever. It manages to do creationism, mul...moreI'm on a roll with Dick. I'm undecided as to whether this one is saying anything important, but it is really clever. It manages to do creationism, multiverse AND be a whole lot of fun at the same time.(less)
You can criticise Dick all you like for being wrong about flying cars, or thinking the LP record was for ever (note: it isn't?), but he is writing sci...moreYou can criticise Dick all you like for being wrong about flying cars, or thinking the LP record was for ever (note: it isn't?), but he is writing science fiction and, as Ray Bradbury points out far more eloquently than will I, that is about ideas. It isn't about sentence construction, plot or character development. If you wanted to, it is easy enough to criticise this book on all these counts, but so what? Why would you bother? What matters is....
Some basic facts about Winnie the Pooh and the Divine Comedy.
(1) Have you ever tried looking up Winnie on proje...moreFor the final of Celebrity Death Match.
Some basic facts about Winnie the Pooh and the Divine Comedy.
(1) Have you ever tried looking up Winnie on project Gutenberg? You find that Dante gets a few thousand hits and Winnie gets none. NONE!!! And you know why? Because Disney bullied Congress years ago into being allowed to keep the copyright longer than was their legal right. And you know why they did that? Of course it is because everybody loves Winnie. Try this, if you don't believe me. Offer the copyright to The Divine Comedy to Disney for ten bucks.
(2) Have you ever tried shopping for Dante sheets? Cursor? Wallpaper - both hard and soft? Mice? Toilet paper? Colouring-in books? Dante stuffed animals? Interactive game sites?
(3) google The Divine Comedy and you get 3M hits. google Winnie the Pooh and you get 58M (numbers rounded down, to Dante's advantage).
Democracy, ladies and gentlemen. The world has voted. Celebrity death match can scarcely go against figures like these.
(4) When I was in Grade three, about seven years old, we were set as English comprehension:
"Compare and contrast the following passages"
The start of the Divine Comedy:
His glory, by whose might all things are mov'd, Pierces the universe, and in one part Sheds more resplendence, elsewhere less. In heav'n, That largeliest of his light partakes, was I, Witness of things, which to relate again Surpasseth power of him who comes from thence; For that, so near approaching its desire Our intellect is to such depth absorb'd, That memory cannot follow. Nathless all, That in my thoughts I of that sacred realm Could store, shall now be matter of my song.
and a poem by Pooh:
I lay on my chest And I thought it best To pretend I was having a evening rest; I lay on my tum And I tried to hum But nothing particular seemed to come My face was flat On the floor, and that Is all very well for an acrobat; But it doesn't seem fair To a Friendly Bear To stiffen him out with a backet-chair. And sort of squoze Which grows and grows Is not too nice for his poor old nose, And sort of squch Is much to much For his neck and his mouth and his ears and such.
I discussed all the obvious points, the sheer boredom of reading Dante, his inability to call a rhyme. Naturally I compared Pooh favourably with Shakespeare, making the point like others before me, I expect, that they were both inventors of words, that they revelled in the joyous playfullness of language.
The coup of my essay, however, was revealing the sociological experiment carried out by my mother. Whilst I was sweetly put to sleep with Pooh each night, my poor brother was served up Dante. He has never recovered from the trauma of it. To him going to bed at night is to be avoided at all costs. Anything but that. And in a truly despicable example of what happens when one is raised on Dante, my mother once found that my brother had hanged his teddy bear.
So we had a physicist around to dinner the other day and thrust this at him. I can't call T---- by his real name, let's just say he rhymes with a dip...moreSo we had a physicist around to dinner the other day and thrust this at him. I can't call T---- by his real name, let's just say he rhymes with a dip made with chickpeas and tahini. The reason I can't call him by his real name is that he works at a place that starts with C and rhymes with a complete lack of humour. He likes his job, I don't want to get him sacked for reading Penrose.
He flicks through it and the first thing I note is that physicists take about 5 nanoseconds to read what it takes ordinary mortals eons to get through. He starts with the cover, of course. 'Reviewed in the Financial Times?' A disparaging snort follows. 'Ah,' he says after the third nanosecond. 'He's written this type of science book.' I like that. I have no idea what it means, but I like it.
After four nanoseconds he is up to page 1050 or thereabouts. He reads out a question from it and says 'That is a good question. I don't know the answer.' Slaps book shut. Really, I mostly get the impression that real physicists like him just wish those other ones would just stop it. Stop with all the philosophical 'should we be worried about this?' stuff. Let's just get on with it p-lease.
And he says 'You didn't say the dinner invitation came with a catch.' I say 'But I didn't say it didn't, did I?'
I am seriously thinking of reading this while skipping every page that doesn't have only words on it. Seriously.
My friend Elisa is a born story teller and they are always prefaced with either 'this is a true story' or 'this is a really true story'.
In the spirit of Elisa, this is a true story.
Late of a night in Geneva, should you happen to be walking the streets, you'll come upon huddled, sobbing shambles of human beings, bottle in hand, tragic tale to tell. They'll stop you and start asking if you have -
Now, if this happens to you, don't just pull back, thinking they are after your hard earned. They are physicists you see, and something has gone terribly, terribly wrong for them.
'What's wrong, mate? Can I help?'
'I just left them together for a few minutes. I - '
I sigh as I break in. If only I had a dollar for every time I've heard this story. 'You didn't, did you? Please don't tell me you left your dog alone with your pet meson.' He nods dumbly. 'What is it with you physicists? Conduct an experiment and even if it works you don't believe it. In a hard bitten cynical way you repeat it a dozen times. But you ask your dog if it's going to be a good dog, it woofs and you believe it. And every one of you says the conditions were different this time. But not so very different, are they? The data is pretty clear isn't it? You understand natural laws? Well this is one of them. DOGS EAT MESONS.'
You walk on, shaking your head. They just never learn. How can they be so trusting?
You turn a corner and there's another one. He's on the bridge, and you think you'd better coax him off that.
'Mate, mate. It can't be that bad, what's wrong?'
'See that number there?'
You squint at it - 'that tiny one up to the right of the other number?'
'Yes, that's the one. It should be 2, not 3. Everything is ruined now.'
'Now be sensible,' I say. 'If that number was important, it wouldn't be in one point font, would it? Look at it. It's tiny. It's squashed in up the top there next to the number in a proper sized font because it doesn't really matter, isn't it?'
He starts crying more and says something about the end of the world. I start saying everything will be okay in the morning, nobody will mind and he says 'No, you don't understand. It really IS the end of the world. The universe. Everything. Because it's a two, it means that we know the exact time everything is going to end and....'
I can't say I followed it all, but after a while I asked if I could take a swig from his bottle and, well. I'm sworn to secrecy, so I can't say exactly when it's all ending, but Paul and Manny, I just wouldn't be putting all that much effort into who's going to be top this week. If I were you I'd come and join us on the bridge. You can have a drink and we think we're going to get a pretty good view from here. -
You can't read, not string two words together. Music makes you weep. You can't write to save yourself, indeed, very literally you can't do that.
So you are in this universe, this one where the things that should give you respite don't. You cannot bear to be in your skin.
You cannot write.
In this particular universe there is a physicist, Mr Rees, who explains to us why there are other universes.
Now, Mr Rees I hope will forgive my addressing his humility when I say so fucking what. And I am saying that, not asking.
Somewhere else there is another universe. It has a booksite called goodreads on it and a girl whose name is gettingenough and she writes a hilarious review of this book. I know because she took it from me. She writes a hilarious review, even the pursed-lips scientists on goodreads can't help voting for it.
Somewhere else there is another universe.
And after initially thinking wow, that's kind of amazing, I've come around to 'so fucking what.' So there is a universe where I died when I was five, as I almost did. Or died when I was fifty as I also almost did. So there is a universe where little miss getting enough is very smugly thinking she's glad she's in that one as well she might. So fucking what?
Even if it is true, what is the point of saying it?
And please don't bother answering this question, because if you think you can answer it, you don't begin to understand what the question is.
Somewhere out there is a universe where no-one ever begged:
Let me become the shadow of your shadow, the shadow of your hand, the shadow of your dog,
Somewhere out there somebody begs this and is heard.
'You haven't reviewed much on goodreads lately, have you?'.
Enquired my number one fan. (Please permit me this poetic license).
Well, no, I wouldn't have, would I? Because I'm reading another %#@~&* physics book.
I have this sinking feeling that I'm not going to be finished it until After The End. I'm going to post my review in the middle of the small crunch or whatever the end is going to be, completely pointless because all my goodreads friends will be star dust most literally.
In the novel, Fred’s mind and brain are regularly tested by police department psychologists, owing to the stress of both maintaining a dual identity, and taking drugs as part of his undercover life. Dick avoids the off-the-shelf cliché’s of ink-blots and electric shocks, as the author describes realistic test scenarios and recognisable neuropsychological tests. Worryingly for Fred, the results of divided visual field and embedded figures tests suggest that his cortical hemispheres are becoming functionally separate, as they gradually lose the ability to communicate and fail to integrate information.
Here, the author melds science-fiction with science-fact, with an inspired reading of Sperry’s work on split-brain patients. Dick was fascinated by Sperry’s discovery that patients with surgically disconnected cerebral hemispheres (a treatment for otherwise untreatable epilepsy)seemed to show a dual or partitioned consciousness. Where previously it was thought that the right side of the brain was largely ‘silent’ and relied on the dominant left, new research suggested that each hemisphere “appeared to be using its own percepts, mental images, associations and ideas” (Sperry, 1993). In Dick’s novel, ‘Substance D’ induces a similar splitbrain disconnection (directly referencing Sperry in some passages), providing an explanation for the protagonist’s increasingly fractionated and incoherent self-consciousness.
Far from being a fantastical notion of a far-flung plot, the idea that psychosis might result from a disengagement of the hemispheres was subsequently discussed in the scientific literature and is still influential today. Dimond (1979) for example, compared patients diagnosed with schizophrenia and split-brain patients, arguing that in both conditions “there is a fundamental failure of in the transfer of information between the two hemispheres”, suggesting “split-brain symptoms are present in schizophrenia”. Although the resemblances between psychosis and the effects of split-brain operations are no longer regarded so highly, clear evidence for differences in the structure and function of the hemispheres in psychosis remains (Gur and Chin, 1999; Pantelis et al., 2003). Perhaps ironically, ideas that many people might have dismissed as imaginative plot, turned out to be reasonable and well informed scientific speculation.
It is from Bell, V. (2006) Through A Scanner Darkly: Neuropsychology and psychosis in Philip K. Dick's novel "A Scanner Darkly". The Psychologist, 19 (8), 488-489. You can see the whole article online: http://cogprints.org/5021/1/VaughanBe...
I read a review of this recently which kicked off:
Ruby Payne-Scott is not a household name in Australia, but she should be. She was an essential part
...moreI read a review of this recently which kicked off:
Ruby Payne-Scott is not a household name in Australia, but she should be. She was an essential part of the small group of scientists who at the Division of Radiophysics in Sydney in the years after the Second World War began the science of radio astronomy. Their work provided such a great foundation that today Australia is recognised internationally as one of the leaders in the field.
A patently idiotic thing to say, that first sentence. No scientists in Australia are household names other than Einstein and a couple of pop science writers with good marketing mechanisms like Hawking and Dawkins. If Payne-Scott were remembered especially, this would be for the patronising reason that she is female and is therefore especially notable for doing nothing more than a man would do. Correct me if I'm wrong. If a whole bunch of you write in with the names of important radio astronomers you regularly chat about over breakfast but haven't heard of this one, I'll take it all back.
I've been wondering too, if there was a period where female scientists got lucky through the timing of the second world war. Payne-Scott was one of a group of sixty scientists recruited by the CSIRO to do important war work and it included other women like Joan Freeman who went on to become the first woman awarded The Rutherford Medal. You won't have heard of her either but nor should you have. She was just another world-class scientist and you haven't really heard of any of the male ones either.
But whether or not this might have been a lucky break for them - I wonder if they were better off career wise than female scientists whose working life began just after WWII - on the way in they were certainly put in difficult positions.
In Australia it was almost impossible to study physics as girls and so Joan Freeman and probably also Ruby, snuck into night lectures with the precarious permission of the teachers: stay, but hide if any inspectors come in.
She was hired as a physicist. The CSIRO had been hiring women since it was organized in the late 1920's, but it also almost entirely hired women as typistes, (with an ‘es’ on the end) or as librarians. And again these women would be doing scientific work but their jobs would be classified as “women’s jobs”. And I mean that seriously, because in war the Women’s Employment Board was set up to give women working in men's jobs equal pay. And women who were doing scientific work for the CSIRO but who were classified as librarians or as typists or a laboratory assistant were deemed to be doing women's work and so not eligible for the equal pay. But Ruby wasn't. She was hired in a man's job and so was eligible for equal pay and got it during the war. Interestingly enough, when she was hired Taffy Bowen, the head of the division then, after about 3 months wrote a kind of memorandum on probationary employees saying "Well, she's a bit loud and we don't think she's quite what we want and she may be a bit unstable, but we'll let her continue and see how she works out." And of course, she worked out great.
Still, I think you can make too much of these obstacles. Men face obstacles too. Male scientists - I imagine, at least - had to fight battles along the way for access and education. A lot of scientists in precarious jobs right now would probably kill for a job as a librarian that let them practise their craft. These girls did fight and struggle, but anybody at the top of their profession, as these were, do, don't they?
Fuck. Manny’s reading this book In Sheep’s Clothing Understanding and Dealing with Manipulative People and I’m thinking he’s going to start applying i...moreFuck. Manny’s reading this book In Sheep’s Clothing Understanding and Dealing with Manipulative People and I’m thinking he’s going to start applying it to goodreads, isn’t he? He’s going to start looking at reviews and writing comments like, sorry, but that’s a review that’s trying to get a vote through covert-aggression and I’m not falling for it. Vote withheld.
So he says he’s especially interested in this concept covert-aggression, he thinks it’s useful and I’ve spent all night sitting up in bed here in hospital going through my reviews and wondering. Shit. Is that review where I said I was going to kill myself if people didn’t vote for it, is that covert aggression? It doesn’t seem covert to me, I thought it was just desperate, but. And that review where –
Before I went too far I thought I’d better look up what it means and I found this extract from the book itself, which I’ve quoted in part, for the detail go to http://www.rickross.com/reference/bra...
The Process of Victimization For a long time, I wondered why manipulation victims have a hard time seeing what really goes on in manipulative interactions. At first, I was tempted to fault them. But I've learned that they get hoodwinked for some very good reasons:
1. A manipulator's aggression is not obvious. Our gut may tell us that they're fighting for something, struggling to overcome us, gain power, or have their way, and we find ourselves unconsciously on the defensive. But because we can't point to clear, objective evidence they're aggressing against us, we can't readily validate our feelings.
2. The tactics manipulators use can make it seem like they're hurting, caring, defending, ..., almost anything but fighting. These tactics are hard to recognize as merely clever ploys. They always make just enough sense to make a person doubt their gut hunch that they're being taken advantage of or abused. Besides, the tactics not only make it hard for you to consciously and objectively tell that a manipulator is fighting, but they also simultaneously keep you or consciously on the defensive. These features make them highly effective psychological weapons to which anyone can be vulnerable. It's hard to think clearly when someone has you emotionally on the run.
3. All of us have weaknesses and insecurities that a clever manipulator might exploit. Sometimes, we're aware of these weaknesses and how someone might use them to take advantage of us. For example, I hear parents say things like: "Yeah, I know I have a big guilt button." – But at the time their manipulative child is busily pushing that button, they can easily forget what's really going on. Besides, sometimes we're unaware of our biggest vulnerabilities. Manipulators often know us better than we know ourselves. They know what buttons to push, when and how hard. Our lack of self-knowledge sets us up to be exploited.
4. What our gut tells us a manipulator is like, challenges everything we've been taught to believe about human nature. We've been inundated with a psychology that has us seeing everybody, at least to some degree, as afraid, insecure or "hung-up." So, while our gut tells us we're dealing with a ruthless conniver, our head tells us they must be really frightened or wounded "underneath." What's more, most of us generally hate to think of ourselves as callous and insensitive people. We hesitate to make harsh or seemingly negative judgments about others. We want to give them the benefit of the doubt and assume they don't really harbor the malevolent intentions we suspect. We're more apt to doubt and blame ourselves for daring to believe what our gut tells us about our manipulator's character.
Almost everyone is familiar with the term defense mechanism. Defense mechanisms are the "automatic" (i.e. unconscious) mental behaviors all of us employ to protect or defend ourselves from the "threat" of some emotional pain…..
While, from a certain perspective we might say someone engaging in these behaviors is defending their ego from any sense of shame or guilt, it's important to realize that at the time the aggressor is exhibiting these behaviors, he is not primarily defending (i.e. attempting to prevent some internally painful event from occurring), but rather fighting to maintain position, gain power and to remove any obstacles (both internal and external) in the way of getting what he wants. Seeing the aggressor as on the defensive in any sense is a set-up for victimization. Recognizing that they're primarily on the offensive, mentally prepares a person for the decisive action they need to take in order to avoid being run over. Therefore, I think it's best to conceptualize many of the mental behaviors (no matter how "automatic" or "unconscious" they may appear) we often think of as defense mechanisms, as offensive power tactics, because aggressive personalities employ them primarily to manipulate, control and achieve dominance over others. Rather than trying to prevent something emotionally painful or dreadful from happening, anyone using these tactics is primarily trying to ensure that something they want to happen does indeed happen….
Denial – This is when the aggressor refuses to admit that they've done something harmful or hurtful when they clearly have. It's a way they lie (to themselves as well as to others) about their aggressive intentions. This "Who... Me?" tactic is a way of "playing innocent," and invites the victim to feel unjustified in confronting the aggressor about the inappropriateness of a behavior. It's also the way the aggressor gives him/herself permission to keep right on doing what they want to do….
Rationalization – A rationalization is the excuse an aggressor tries to offer for engaging in an inappropriate or harmful behavior. It can be an effective tactic, especially when the explanation or justification the aggressor offers makes just enough sense that any reasonably conscientious person is likely to fall for it. It's a powerful tactic because it not only serves to remove any internal resistance the aggressor might have about doing what he wants to do (quieting any qualms of conscience he might have) but also to keep others off his back. If the aggressor can convince you he's justified in whatever he's doing, then he's freer to pursue his goals without interference….
Lying – It's often hard to tell when a person is lying at the time he's doing it. Fortunately, there are times when the truth will out because circumstances don't bear out somebody's story. But there are also times when you don't know you've been deceived until it's too late. One way to minimize the chances that someone will put one over on you is to remember that because aggressive personalities of all types will generally stop at nothing to get what they want, you can expect them to lie and cheat. Another thing to remember is that manipulators – covert-aggressive personalities that they are – are prone to lie in subtle, covert ways. Courts are well aware of the many ways that people lie, as they require that court oaths charge that testifiers tell "the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth." Manipulators often lie by withholding a significant amount of the truth from you or by distorting the truth. They are adept at being vague when you ask them direct questions. This is an especially slick way of lying' omission. Keep this in mind when dealing with a suspected wolf in sheep's clothing. Always seek and obtain specific, confirmable information.
Covert Intimidation – Aggressors frequently threaten their victims to keep them anxious, apprehensive and in a one-down position. Covert-aggressives intimidate their victims by making veiled (subtle, indirect or implied) threats. Guilt-tripping and shaming are two of the covert-aggressive's favourite weapons. Both are special intimidation tactics.
Guilt-tripping – One thing that aggressive personalities know well is that other types of persons have very different consciences than they do. Manipulators are often skilled at using what they know to be the greater conscientiousness of their victims as a means of keeping them in a self-doubting, anxious, and submissive position. The more conscientious the potential victim, the more effective guilt is as a weapon. Aggressive personalities of all types use guilt-tripping so frequently and effectively as a manipulative tactic, that I believe it illustrates how fundamentally different in character they are compared to other (especially neurotic) personalities. All a manipulator has to do is suggest to the conscientious person that they don't care enough, are too selfish, etc., and that person immediately starts to feel bad. On the contrary, a conscientious person might try until they're blue in the face to get a manipulator (or any other aggressive personality) to feel badly about a hurtful behavior, acknowledge responsibility, or admit wrongdoing, to absolutely no avail.
Shaming – This is the technique of using subtle sarcasm and put-downs as a means of increasing fear and self-doubt in others. Covert-aggressives use this tactic to make others feel inadequate or unworthy, and therefore, defer to them. It's an effective way to foster a continued sense of personal inadequacy in the weaker party, thereby allowing an aggressor to maintain a position of dominance.
Playing the Victim Role – This tactic involves portraying oneself as an innocent victim of circumstances or someone else's behavior in order to gain sympathy, evoke compassion and thereby get something from another. One thing that covert-aggressive personalities count on is the fact that less calloused and less hostile personalities usually can't stand to see anyone suffering. Therefore, the tactic is simple. Convince your victim you're suffering in some way, and they'll try to relieve your distress….
Vilifying the Victim – This tactic is frequently used in conjunction with the tactic of playing the victim role. The aggressor uses this tactic to make it appear he is only responding (i.e. defending himself against) aggression on the part of the victim. It enables the aggressor to better put the victim on the defensive….
Playing the Servant Role – Covert-aggressives use this tactic to cloak their self-serving agendas in the guise of service to a more noble cause. It's a common tactic but difficult to recognize. By pretending to be working hard on someone else's behalf, covert-aggressives conceal their own ambition, desire for power, and quest for a position of dominance over others….
Projecting the blame (blaming others) – Aggressive personalities are always looking for a way to shift the blame for their aggressive behavior. Covert-aggressives are not only skilled at finding scapegoats, they're expert at doing so in subtle, hard to detect ways.
Minimization – This tactic is a unique kind of denial coupled with rationalization. When using this maneuver, the aggressor is attempting to assert that his abusive behavior isn't really as harmful or irresponsible as someone else may be claiming. It's the aggressor's attempt to make a molehill out of a mountain.
I've presented the principal tactics that covert-aggressives use to manipulate and control others. They are not always easy to recognize. Although all aggressive personalities tend to use these tactics, covert-aggressives generally use them slickly, subtly and adeptly. Anyone dealing with a covertly aggressive person will need to heighten gut-level sensitivity to the use of these tactics if they're to avoid being taken in by them.
So, this is what I want to say right now before the whole Manny psycho-analysing goodreads friends starts. I’m not covertly aggressive. Anybody who thinks I am is just not able to see that it is their problem that I’m like this, not mine. Telling you I’m writing this in hospital is not a covert aggressive attempt to make you feel like you have to vote for my review, even though it’s probably the fault of whoever is reading this that I’m here. If this review isn’t any good it’s not my fault, you should blame the author of the book, George Simon and Manny, not necessarily in that order. Frankly I already feel like I’m a victim of Manny’s use of psycho-analysis on goodreads, even though it hasn’t happened yet. I would also point out that I vote for lots of your reviews, Manny, and isn’t that worth anything?
And, Manny, if I may end by blowing you a kiss and hoping it lands in the right place, I am just so NOT doing this:
Seduction – Covert-aggressive personalities are adept at charming, praising, flattering or overtly supporting others in order to get them to lower their defenses.
I just love blowing you kisses, even if it isn’t going to get me a vote. x
Well, I didn’t know what it would be like. I’m Australian, I’ve never seen fucken snow before. So I took a wrong turn at Albuquerque and here I am, in...moreWell, I didn’t know what it would be like. I’m Australian, I’ve never seen fucken snow before. So I took a wrong turn at Albuquerque and here I am, in Geneva in the snow and I have to say I have a pretty good idea of how Scott felt now.
My knitting group meets about an eight minute walk away, I set out way way early and I’d done my research, but like Scott, mistakes were made.
For a start I brought the wrong dogs. They were rubbish sled-pullers. And when I decided en route that I had to kill one of them for food, I should have noticed that the Manor Food store was just across the street from me…Sushi or pizza would have been so much simpler.
I’ll bet Scott had a conversation something like this when he was setting out:
Scott’s mother: Walter Raleigh Scott, you come back here right now. Right now. Scott hops off the sled, goes to front door. Scott’s mother: What have you forgotten to say before you go? Scott thinks about this. Ummm. Thanks for the sandwiches? Scott’s mother: Exactly. It’s a mom’s job isn’t it? You boys just go out galavanting in the snow, having fun while moms are home making the sandwiches and endlessly hoovering. And don’t you forget it. Scott can see his fellow explorers in the sled, possibly laughing at him. Ummm. Gotta go now Mom. Scott’s mother: Not yet young man. And what have you forgotten? The same thing as last time and the time before? Scott looks at the sled which is just full of stuff and shrugs. I dunno, Mom. What? Scott’s mother: Your jumper, you big wally. Honestly. What would you all do without Mom? Scott finally escapes as Mom yells her parting words: And don't you be two years late for dinner like last time. It's the last meal I'll be cooking for you, I'm just telling you that right now.
Well nobody said that to me and I was halfway down the street before I noticed I didn’t have a jumper on. The dogs refused to turn around, like it was their problem? I should have eaten the lot of them.
But finally I do arrive. So I’m at Starbucks, get out of my sled and start tying it up to a tree when somebody in a uniform says ‘What are you doing?’ I say ‘Going to my knitting group’ and he says ‘No, that’s not what I mean, I mean there, what’s that?’ I don’t speak French. It’s possible he said ‘What the fuck’s that?’ He looked a bit like that’s what he meant to say. Is this guy a complete idiot, I ask myself. ‘H-e-lllooo. It’s my sled? Snow? Sled?’ Even in Australia we get the snow sled thing. I start wondering if maybe he’s Austrian or something. (Little joke to solicit votes from any Swiss goodreaders looking at this.) At this point I handed him my parking permit for ‘sled and eight dogs’ ahem, albeit seven at this point. My pre-trip research indicated that Swiss love documentation. Indeed, he looked a bit surprised, as well he might. I bought it for five bucks at a fakeIDonline site. But still, he was happy now. He even tried patting the dogs, which was a mistake on his part.
Damn. I’m not feeling all that great, I’ve just been checking wiki and it transpires I completely got the eating dog thing arse about. I thought the part you had to eat was the liver. It turns out that’s the only bit you mustn’t eat. Fuck. The ambulance is on its way – I’ll –
Being part of a project proposal at the moment has sent me down the road of looking at what the Japanese are doing with robots and somehow this got me...moreBeing part of a project proposal at the moment has sent me down the road of looking at what the Japanese are doing with robots and somehow this got me here.
I'm guessing it all would have been awfully useful to look at a couple of months ago.
The Japanese see no sense of difference between themselves and everything around them.
The Japanese see no sense of separateness in the way we do between body and mind.
These two ideas might help come up with different ways of approaching the problem at hand.
I'm moving on. Call this read. Maybe nobody will notice that it isn't.
But it has made me discuss humour with people and I've been given some great ide...moreI'm moving on. Call this read. Maybe nobody will notice that it isn't.
But it has made me discuss humour with people and I've been given some great ideas along the way. And I would like to preserve bits and pieces here.
My mother said that when we were little we were really funny but that other kids aren't. My first thought was that's what all mothers think. But actually, we were raised to think that laughing at life and ourselves is so important.
My family was experimental and this somewhat bothered friends of my parents who thought we were being brainwashed. Once when my brother was seven one of these friends asked him if he was allowed to think for himself. Quick as a flash in his best robot voice Chris said 'I am not programmed to answer that question'.
I can't imagine a more brilliant put down and from a little boy. I think we'd been allowed to watch an episode of Dr Who and it had greatly influenced us. I was a year older. So, when I say robot, I mean Dalek, of course.
Pardon my putting down some things as we go along.
(1) ‘both mathematics and humor are economical and explicit'. Well, that simply isn't true even as a generalisation for humour. Any particular piece of humour may or may not rely on economy and explicitness.
(2) I have been asking this today: why is it that jokes from the past - let's say the 1930s - aren't funny for us. I want to know this partly because it is an aspect of how impossible it is to generalise about humour. It could be all sorts of things: social, political, cultural changes that prevent one being able to associate with a joke. It may be in the writing - perhaps if it was rewritten in a modern idiom it would be funnier.
But I do very much like this idea: that it is related to the Flynn effect. Ie, as our capacity for abstract thought increases maybe our humour becomes more abstract and we might define this as more sophisticated.
(3) This happened tonight. I was playing bridge and was introduced to my opponent as being 'the writer'. So slightly smug wanker says he is a writer too...he's written a book on squeezes and he didn't need to add that this makes him somewhat superior as it is technically advanced stuff. You know. Boy's stuff. AND he's played for England. Oh...so this was such a pleasure. I'm playing 3NT, his partner at some point shifts to a suit he has the ace of. He ducks the ace and then is subsequently squeezed out of it. Then he blamed his partner. Honestly. It was such fun.(less)
Observing the difficulties of speech recognition could not be more fun.
From the introduction:
Policemen and Magicians
A visiting professor of Anguish, D
...moreObserving the difficulties of speech recognition could not be more fun.
From the introduction:
Policemen and Magicians
A visiting professor of Anguish, Dr. ________,* who, while learning to understand spoken English, was continually bewildered and embarrassed by the similarity of such expressions as boys and girls and poisoned gulls, used to exclaim:
*This isn't his real name, nor is it intended to be the name of any other Anguish Languish professor, living or dead.
"Gracious! What a lot of words sound like each other! If it wasn't [sic] for the different situations in which we hear 'em, we'd have a terrible time saying which was which."
Of course, these may not have been the professor's exact words, because he often did his exclaiming in Anguish rather than in English. In that case he would say:
"Crashes! Water larders warts sunned lack itch udder! Effervescent further delerent saturations an witch way harem, wade heifer haliver tam sang witch worse witch."
Dr. ________ was right, both in English and Anguish. Although other factors than the pronunciation of words affect our ability to understand them, the situation in which the words are uttered is of prime importance. You can easily prove this, right in the privacy of your own kitchen, by asking a friend to help you wash up a dozen cops and sorcerers. Ten to one, she'll think you said a dozen cups and saucers, and be genuinely surprised if you put her to work cleaning up even one police officer, let alone all the others, and the magicians, too.
If you think that she misunderstands merely because the two phrases sound somewhat alike and not because of the situation, read what SPAL's Committee on Housewives has to say:
"Presented with a dishes-piled-in-sink situation, several hundred well-adjusted housewives thought that cops and sorcerers referred to dishes, but seldom did normal subjects, interviewed under the same conditions, make the opposite mistake. When they were asked to help us wash cups and saucers, some women consented, some made stupid excuses, and some told us bluntly to go wash them ourselves, but practically no one thought that we were talking about policemen and magicians."
It wasn’t actually the pope calling, it was one of his vatican underlings when my friend Kathryn picked up the phone.
‘Are you a Catholic?’
‘...moreIt wasn’t actually the pope calling, it was one of his vatican underlings when my friend Kathryn picked up the phone.
‘Are you a Catholic?’
‘Would you do your work for a Catholic?’
‘I do my work for anyone who needs it.’
‘What is the cost?’
‘I do not charge’
‘The pope needs a board for communicating. It needs to be in Latin, Polish and Italian.’
Kathyrn’s fame is world-wide if you are in the know. When the last pope was dying, he needed one of her boards to communicate. It is a combination of algebraic notation and Bliss symbols. She gave this example to me that she’d recently put together. It was for an English-speaking surgeon working in an operating theatre in Indonesia. Along the top is the local alphabet and along the side the local numbers for 1-10. This much the surgeon learns. In each square, referenced algebraic style is his word for something and then the Bliss symbol. Underneath is the local word for it. The Bliss symbol is most necessary in the case of users who have little or no literacy. The surgeon can also point, if necessary.
I’ve been finding out a little about speech recognition and translation between languages computer-style lately. It was eye-opening to see this technologically primitive method. According to Kathryn what she does is in demand because it is most reliable, both in terms of understanding between languages without hiccups and in terms of being technology free. It isn’t going to break down. It isn’t going to run out of power. In the field – and she gave the example of disaster situations – it is looked to because it works. I’m guessing also that these her boards can be developed very quickly for specific situations. I don’t know when software will be able to do that. Maybe it will transpire that however brilliantly software assisted speech recognition ends up developing, nonetheless at the level of disaster/emergency something like Kathryn’s system of Bliss symbols will always be used. Ie maybe the two methods will complement each other.
Bliss would be thrilled that his work was being recognised and utilised in such a way. When it was finally picked up in the early 1970s in Canada it was for the use of children to communicate who otherwise had difficulties. A laudable application, but Bliss had in mind something grandiose. He wanted a language of symbols to break down linguisitic barriers throughout the world and with that the negative cultural aspects of language. Growing up prior to WWII, being imprisoned in camps for a while, he associated language with evil intent in a way sociologists would deny these days, but which drove his ideas.
Another thing drove him. When he was young his father took him to a lecture given by a group of North Pole explorers. He was utterly taken by their fearless dedication to do this irrespective of danger to themselves. It gave him the desire to want to do great things, to give to the world. Like so many European migrants who came to Australia with wonderful gifts (he was a chemical engineer) to give in the post WWII period, he found he had to take on a manual factory line job. But perhaps it gave him the intellectual freedom to dedicate himself to the huge task he’d set himself to help mankind. Reading this reminded me of some of the scientists Smolen looks at in The Trouble with Physics, the ones who do the important big work are often not the ones in academia, who tend to spend a remarkably small amount of time doing research – ie thinking – but the ones who support themselves, again in menial labour, that frees their brains to do the important thinking that leads to major scientific breakthroughs.
An amazing man, I’m wondering now about visiting the NLA to look at his papers. I expect some fascinating tales are buried therein. (less)