While my obsession with the Simpson's has waned over the years this book is a reminder of what made me unwittingly fall in love with this show. The auWhile my obsession with the Simpson's has waned over the years this book is a reminder of what made me unwittingly fall in love with this show. The author's obsession with the show makes me feel/look like an amateur. ;-)
Simon Singh does a fantastic job (the book reads like he thoroughly enjoyed it too) of uncovering gems from this show. From the "Treehouse of Horror VI" Calculus joke (yeah I completely missed this one!) to the very famous Fermat's last theorem. It you are interested in Mathematics it is actually a pretty good refresher of what you miss by not doing maths on a daily basis. I mean c'mon do you really think about perfect numbers, narcissistic numbers or Mersenne Primes? Did you ever? Yeah, thought so. When you couple that with what appear to be random numbers to guess the attendance at an Isotopes Baseball game you really have to read this book.
In addition dissecting the show Singh provides the readers with short biographical information of the writers. Many (nay ALL) of them had brilliant careers in Mathematics and decided to move to writing comedy. The world I would argue is better off for it. In a strange way reading this book gave me an appreciation on the fascination with dealing with absurdity. It made me understand how oft acerbic social commentary that comes from the show.
As a final bonus the book also tackles the arguably EVEN more brilliant Futurama. ...more
I finished this book sitting at an airport + a round trip flight. It is that easy of a read. I will come back to this book frequently because it staysI finished this book sitting at an airport + a round trip flight. It is that easy of a read. I will come back to this book frequently because it stays with you.
Imagine a brilliant mind. Then put the pressure of a finite amount of time to have one last lecture. To this brilliant mind add a healthy dose of secular humanism and know that this is why you need to re-read this book to remind yourself... How will you be remembered?...more
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I mean thoroughly enjoy this book. Prior to becoming a parental unit I devoured all manner of books which frightened mI thoroughly enjoyed this book. I mean thoroughly enjoy this book. Prior to becoming a parental unit I devoured all manner of books which frightened me. Nay, TERRIFIED ME. I mean I knew I was ill-qualified, I knew I was ill-equipped and I knew I had a challenge. I consulted other young parents and that was worse UNTIL I accidentally stumbled into Jeff Vogel's blog. At the time he was writing infrequent posts about parenting. He didn't make it seem easy "no I wasn't looking for an easy solution!" but he made me a believer that I can actually be a parent and manage not to raise a serial killer (yes these are the standards to follow!)
I recommend this book to any new parent. I REALLY recommend this book to a new parent who is a nerd. ...more
This book is a slog. This book is worth the slog. We look at information and how technology starting with the telegraph changes the way is transmittedThis book is a slog. This book is worth the slog. We look at information and how technology starting with the telegraph changes the way is transmitted. It was actually quite fun for me to see the reaction of the Newspapers to the telegraph. (Spoiler: it read like what we say of the Internet today)
A good amount -no surprise really given the subject- is spent on Claude Shannon. We look at how computation changed the way the word information was used in fields that would prior to Shannon have been imagined to use it. The detour to biology and evolution and the transmission of information was a fun read for me.
The final third of the book where information is described as a mathematical abstraction caught me off guard. It was initially unsettling but he made a convincing argument. Highly, highly recommend!...more
This was a fantastic read. This was a fun book to read. The premise of the book is a subject that theologians have dealt with for a lot longer than anThis was a fantastic read. This was a fun book to read. The premise of the book is a subject that theologians have dealt with for a lot longer than any other field of study. The title says it all. One of the toughest problems faced by many an atheist is the ability to articulate altruism. I can't say that I did a literature review of what has been written out there on the matter. What I can say is this is a good primer for anyone keen to explain altruism using mathematical modeling.
I was expecting the book to be filled with mathematical proofs. I was expecting the book to be taxing. I was pleasantly surprised in the lack of both. The bottom line is that it is very readable. In a world that is celebrity mad it was very refreshing to read about brilliant people's lives. All the `life stories` are in context, but for me it personalized science. One of the biggest problems for Science is the lack of good PR. It has been wrongly marketed for a long time that we oft forget it is done by people as passionate about their work as they would be in any field, except there are no corners to cut because your work will be found out sooner or later... Where was I? Oh the book! :-)
The premise of the book is that the tension (paradox?) between evolutions survival of the fittest and altruism/cooperation can be explained through 5 different mechanisms. Reciprocity, Reputation, Spatial Selection, Multilevel Selection and Kin Selection. Nowak takes one through the simplest of games the Prisoner's Dilemna (yes that same one) to show how the aforementioned mechanisms can explain how cooperation has evolved and continues to develop in the human species. It is here that I am delighted the book didn't have too much math in it because all of this would have been lost. I confess to taking my time to actually follow his arguments to check out if they are verifiable. It ended up becoming more work than was worth it. It also was a good reminder that my math muscles need to be re-sharpened. To me this was the success of the book. It could have been a `serious` math book and would have reached a smaller audience who would wrestle on the minutiae of the proofs. (that's what the additional reading in the back of the book is for). In all I am hanging on to this book if perhaps to give it a second go and this time actually make it an exercise.
I would recommend this to any student of maths or biology. ...more
As a bit of a background I *discovered* Carl Sagan later in life than my peers. I learned about him by watching really crap videos of this man bangingAs a bit of a background I *discovered* Carl Sagan later in life than my peers. I learned about him by watching really crap videos of this man banging on about the Cosmos. I must say despite the dated videos what jumps out is he was articulate and was passionate about what he was talking about. I bring this up because I feel like this book probably won't work for many people who got to see these shows as they were produced. This book seems to be a summary of Sagan's `general audience` life works. So if you have followed his career you will likely be re-reading something you read before. If you watched the shows you will be get something you'd seen before.
This however shouldn't put you off because you probably need a refresher anyway. :-)
On to the book though. I found the first 5 or so chapters to be inspiring. To the point that I had to read them again. I think that this would be a good way to introduce kids to science or to make it easy for people to demystify the pursuit of knowledge. Again here he tells the story of why science is important and how everyone is capable of doing it if they allowed themselves to.
The middle of the book might be a bit tough to take for those who have followed his writings. After watching the Cosmos series (GO AND ADD THEM TO YOUR NETFLIX NOW!) I kept reading his works and so some of these chapters include articles I'd already read. (Boo to the editors on not fleshing these out) It isn't a total disaster and in many instances I was delighted to re-read some of his articles in the context of the book.
The last part of the book moved me me the most. It is short on science but is probably the closest one will ever get to actually having a personal audience with him and I daresay his philosophy on life. Even while facing death Carl Sagan's perspective on life and death put mine to shame. Truly inspiring. ...more
The world's most complicated machine was built to hunt down an elusive particle. Ian Sample doesn't focus much on the theory behind Higgs-Boson. ThatThe world's most complicated machine was built to hunt down an elusive particle. Ian Sample doesn't focus much on the theory behind Higgs-Boson. That said, reading this book can be a springboard to the fascinating world of particle physics. He also doesn't go much into the actual construction and running of particle colliders but still the reader will be enlightened on how these at once simple yet complex machines run. The primary focus and the stars of the book are the brilliant people behind CERN's Large Hadron Collider and USDOE/Fermilab's Tevatron Collider.
To be honest the Tevatron is almost a side show and isn't given nearly enough mention and/or credit and is almost an afterthought. Perhaps this is because Tevatron is in my neighborhood that I find this to be an oversight. :-) That said this was a fun read into the people behind the science. I am glad the book didn't get bogged down with the details behind particle physics and the construction and I feel I must drive this point home, the book itself remains a science book. ...more
Another book that I read for class that needed a re-visit. (See kids! Stay in School!) Stephen J. Gould that charts the way American and European scieAnother book that I read for class that needed a re-visit. (See kids! Stay in School!) Stephen J. Gould that charts the way American and European scientists have handled the debate about race, culture, intelligence and economic and political success.
I was a freshman when I read it the first time and it while the original one was written in 1981, he revised and expanded it in 1996, two years after two academic researchers published The Bell Curve, a book claiming to show that some hereditary lineages are innately less intelligent than others, leaving readers to draw the implication that money spent on educating them might be wasted.
The book itself is a who's who on very smart people with terrible assumptions who use their smarts to complete the circular argument.
Thomas Jefferson the blacks … are inferior to the whites in endowment both of body and mind.
Ben Franklin (step on up sir) Why increase the Sons of Africa, by planting them in America, when we have so fair an opportunity, by excluding all blacks and tawneys, of increasing the lovely white and red? AWESOME! but wait... there's more
Abraham Lincoln contemplated the physical differences between black and white and came out in favour of having the superior position assigned to the white race
He doesn't single out great minds from America, the Europeans did their bit too Cuvier, Humboldt, Lyell and Darwin all said things that betrayed an unquestioning belief in innate Caucasian superiority. Their successors set out to confirm this belief. Louis Agassiz, a great 19th century scientist now in the US Hall of Fame, thought social equality between black and white a practical impossibility" and intermarriage "a perversion of every natural sentiment.
We look at the early attempts to reify intelligence into a measurable unit by looking at cranial sizes. In most of these cases one likes to think that our ability to use computing would spot some of the glaring errors. I very much doubt this. In many instances these very smart people were massaging the results, cooking the data, and eliminating the unwelcome findings. (Special mention of the Bell Curve which also had no burden of lack of computing power is warranted)
Robert Yerkes data from military recruits is "taken to the barn" and dressed down by Gould. Yerkes is a respected scientist but the consequences of his findings are truly frightening because they were used to justify segregation and generally limit progress of... I dread speculating... how many children. (Yes I went there!)
And so the whole, sorry, miserable story continues. These limits, constraints and segregation laws continued well into the second half of the 20th century – well into Gould's lifetime, and mine.
This book should make any sensible person wary of attaching too much value to IQ tests (there's some glorious stuff on the quixotic allotment of IQ ratings) and should make anybody very suspicious of statements about "group IQ" or the presumption that some races are innately more clever than others. If we all got it so shockingly wrong 150 and 100 years ago, and even 50 years ago, then why would we have got it right now?
But there is another, deeper lesson in this book. The people who debased the science of humankind rubbed shoulders with the people who successfully shaped the rest of modern science, from Faraday to Einstein and Dirac, from Thomas Henry Huxley to Watson and Crick.
Scientists find it possible to be objective about the consequences that follow from the discovery of the speed of light in a vacuum, or the architecture of the double helix, or almost any subject except perhaps the human race. But when we look at ourselves, we see from a limited viewpoint. ...more
All good books test the imagination. When you open them you must imagine for yourself before Peter Jackson's trilogy walking through Middle earth. YouAll good books test the imagination. When you open them you must imagine for yourself before Peter Jackson's trilogy walking through Middle earth. You cannot in reality go to Middle-earth (well technically go to New Zealand now), but in another sense you can.
This book is different. It requires you to examine everything about the very world you inhabit. Early in the book David Deutsch describes the interference pattern from a single photon passing through a single slit and infers from this experiment "the existence of a seething, prodigiously complicated, hidden world of shadow photons" and goes on from that to further infer "a huge number of parallel universes, each similar in composition to the tangible one, and each obeying the same laws of physics, but differing in that the particles are in different positions in each universe." All my prior experiences with multiverse differed markedly from the books description. In many ways I was saddened to have my imagination sullied but his case is much more compelling.
Deutsch's multiverse is different. All these universes weakly interacting with, the one I live in. It is a composite, a layer cake, a palimpsest of universes very similar but not quite identical to each other.
My inadequate imagination is my problem, not his: Deutsch has thought through what he wants to say about the nature of the reality we share, and he makes his points with patience and clarity. He wants not to explain the universe, but to understand it: to understand everything. And there are several eerie moments in this book when you think that he might, just might, be about to convince you that you, too, could follow his reasoning.
He addresses Darwin and Dawkins and makes a profound and fresh case for saluting the importance of life.
Deutsch plays beautifully with the Newtonian and the commonsense concepts of time summarizing it so serenely. "Time does not flow. Other times are just special cases of other universes.
Many a time in this book I felt out of my depth but I enjoyed being pulled out of my comfort zone. I enjoyed being pulled out of the Newtonian universe.
Furthermore he takes on time-travel and the Grandfather Paradox elegantly by making me visit with Shakespeare's clutching a copy of the Complete Works, and help a struggling author to complete Hamlet.
I have promised myself to re-read this book at a future date in the hopes that my knowledge with have evolved sufficiently to understand even more of it than the first read was. ...more