Foucault’s story is a tale of a man with a raw yet penetrating insight to how nature works, and of an outsider’s battle against a conservative academi...moreFoucault’s story is a tale of a man with a raw yet penetrating insight to how nature works, and of an outsider’s battle against a conservative academic elite.
While Aczel’s book presents the facts in an orderly fashion, giving adequate context to the story, his bland style fails to turn the promising material into a gripping read. (less)
"The Richness of Life", a selection of Stephen Jay Gould's prolific essays, is an excellent introduction to Gould's major works and thinking.
Those ne...more"The Richness of Life", a selection of Stephen Jay Gould's prolific essays, is an excellent introduction to Gould's major works and thinking.
Those new to natural history would find this collection a useful anchor to navigate Gould's other works, for his careful attention to detail, even in his popular science books, can be daunting to beginners.
In Gould's works, he often begins by asking a very specific question, then in elucidating the mystery, illustrates a general concept.
"I have come to understand the power of treating generalities by particulars. It is no use writing a book on "the meaning of life" (though we all long to know the answers to such great questions, while rightly suspecting that true solutions no not exist!). But an essay on "the meaning of 0.400 hitting in baseball" can reach a genuine conclusion with surprisingly extensive relevance to such broad topics as the nature of trends, the meaning of excellence, and even (believe it or not) the constitution of natural reality. You have to sneak up on generalities, not assault them head-on. One of my favorite lines, from G.K. Chesterton, proclaims: "Art is limitation; the essence of every picture is the frame." --- Introduction to the Revised and Expanded Edition, The Mismeasure of Man.
He takes pleasure in finding the historical origins of ideas and theories, quoting frequently from original sources ("I pride myself on always quoting from original sources [...:] I am no Latin scholar, but I can read and translate most works in this universal scientific language of Beringer's time." --- The lying stones of Marrakech). Where he doesn't quote, he describes elegantly in rich detail, such that one feels participant to the study.
At the same time, he gives sufficient modern information and analysis to help the reader understand the significance of the actions. This is well-illustrated in his essay "Worm for a century, and for all seasons" on Charles Darwin's last book, "The Formation of Vegetable Mould, Through the Action of Worms, With Observations on Their Habits":
"Thus, we have three principles [for carrying out historical science:]. [...:] One may discuss these principles directly or recognize the 'little problems' that Darwin used to exemplify them: orchids, coral reefs, and worms."
"[In his treatise, Darwin:] uses two major types of arguments to convince us that worms form the vegetable mold. He first proves that worms are sufficiently numerous and widely spread in space and depth to do the job. He demonstrates 'what a vast number of worms live unseen by us beneath our feet' - some 53,767 per acre (or 356 pounds of worm) in good British soil. He then gathers evidence from informants throughout the world to argue that worms are far more widely distributed, and in greater range of apparently unfavorable environments, than we usually imagine. He digs to see how deeply they extend into the soil, and cuts one in two at fifty-five inches, although others report worms at eight feet down or more."
This approach means that there always is something new and interesting to look forward to in Gould's essays, even when you could predict his conclusion. And his general truths (like most general truths, are not particularly novel) do not seem trite, but are rather, rational extensions of his investigations. __________________ "The Richness of Life" is divided into eight major section: - Autobiography - Biography (of other scientists) - Evolutionary Theory - Size, Form and Shape - Stages and Sequences (of the notion of progress) - Sociobiology and Evolutionary Psychology - Racism, Scientific and Otherwise - Religion
Each section begins with a helpful introductory passages by Steven Rose to understand the social circumstances of some of these debates. (less)
Mortimer writes well and humorously. Memoirs can sometimes lead to tedious rants on the world or excessive self-glorification and justification, but M...moreMortimer writes well and humorously. Memoirs can sometimes lead to tedious rants on the world or excessive self-glorification and justification, but Mortimer is willing to laugh at himself and his own views on the world (that he gently pokes fun at the rest of the world is also greatly entertaining). These are views of a man who has come to terms with himself and the world, views that may echo some popular ideologies (or at least, ideologies popular in Mortimer's times), but which he has reflected upon and pieced together into a larger worldview that is uniquely his, with its own idiosyncracies and contradictions.
There are times when I thought he was too nostalgic over his upper-middle-class youth, and tacitly assumed that people of all stratas would have the same beliefs and dreams. One-sided arguments and considerations are, I suppose, artistic licenses granted to memoirs, although Mortimer does at times hints that he is well aware that one's "good life" may well be an aversion to another, as he does in the chapter on "avoiding utopia".
"I found it to be a general rule that the children of reasonably well-off, middle-class homes fell in love with the soulfulness of Russia. Those with more working-class backgrounds found that it stood for everything they were determined to get away from and hated it. Peter Hall, the theatre's multi-talented director, left suddenly by train for England after the oppressive Moscow reminded too painfully of his childhood before he got into Cambridge and became a star."(less)
Fascinating glimpses of Jane Goodall's life through her letters. Editor's preface at the beginning of each chapter was helpful in guiding those not fa...moreFascinating glimpses of Jane Goodall's life through her letters. Editor's preface at the beginning of each chapter was helpful in guiding those not familiar with Goodall. (less)
The man is fascinating, and admirable in his utmost dedication to his writing. No matter the circumstance, he...moreIt's cool because it's about Wodehouse.
The man is fascinating, and admirable in his utmost dedication to his writing. No matter the circumstance, he writes. And he takes pains to edit and re-edit to bring out the humour, sometimes sacrificing the truth for entertainment even in his personal biographies. (less)
An excellent guide to crafting research topics, strengthening arguments, making the best of resources, and polishing papers. Even as it gives a concep...moreAn excellent guide to crafting research topics, strengthening arguments, making the best of resources, and polishing papers. Even as it gives a conceptual structure on which one can plan research, it accommodates the different approaches that inevitably arise from our individual personalities.
A reference which I will keep on my bookshelves.(less)
Peter Schwartz is an experienced futurist who had done scenario planning for companies such as Shell. He is the co-founder of Global Business Network,...morePeter Schwartz is an experienced futurist who had done scenario planning for companies such as Shell. He is the co-founder of Global Business Network, a consultancy for stategic scenario planning.
This book is about his experience in and views of using scenarios to help companies prepare strategically for an uncertain future. The idea is to use easily grasped "stories" to help companies decide whether their decisions can make sense in different possible futures, and to even consider alternative futures that are not palatable.
In the book, he gives helpful hints on the building scenarios, composing the plots, getting participants to reflect about and rehearse these futures, and using indicators to test out scenarios.
Useful introduction to designing scenarios that are plausible and that use a good balance of facts and imagination. (less)