This is the story of how humans built a machine that could outthink humans, at least in a narrow field.
The author was one of the creators of Deep BlueThis is the story of how humans built a machine that could outthink humans, at least in a narrow field.
The author was one of the creators of Deep Blue, the chess machine that beat World Champion Grandmaster Garry Kasparov in 1997. This book is the story of how the machine came to be.
One of the themes of the book is the struggle between man in his own abilities and man as tool maker. The insecurity of man when he considers his tools is evident in a lot of literature -- particularly science fiction -- and movies. Time after time we are confronted with stories of robots run amok, often threatening to kill men or mankind.
In contrast, this book is a celebration of man's ability to create. How can we create great things when we are afraid of our creations?...more
Scott Woolley does a good job putting together the story of Edwin Armstrong, an engineer responsible for a number of the breakthroughs that made radioScott Woolley does a good job putting together the story of Edwin Armstrong, an engineer responsible for a number of the breakthroughs that made radio and wireless communications possible, and David Sarnoff, who played a significant role as wireless visionary and enabling businessman.
The book also presents the FCC's corrupt crippling of various aspects of wireless communications, influenced by various politicians who stood to benefit.
I love that I'm finding more biographies of interesting engineers, nowadays....more
There are plenty of biographies about politicians, celebrities, and business people, but not nearly enough biographies about engineers. This is one ofThere are plenty of biographies about politicians, celebrities, and business people, but not nearly enough biographies about engineers. This is one of the few, and it's good.
I may be in the minority here, but I thought it could have used more technical descriptions of the principles of flight....more
Happy, serious, heart-wrenching, sweet. The book consists of brief glimpses into the lives of people in New York, paired with vivid images of each perHappy, serious, heart-wrenching, sweet. The book consists of brief glimpses into the lives of people in New York, paired with vivid images of each person....more
One of the best books I've read for a long time. Homer Hickam knows how to tell a good story. He is unashamed to tell both the good and bad about hisOne of the best books I've read for a long time. Homer Hickam knows how to tell a good story. He is unashamed to tell both the good and bad about his family. There is both humor and sadness here, as the rocket boys shoot for their goal.
The book is almost as much a memoir and retrospective on growing up in the 1950s in West Virginia as it is a story about firing rockets....more
This is the story of the two Johns who together created a number of very popular games mostly in the 90s. I played Wolfenstein 3D a bit, but Doom wasThis is the story of the two Johns who together created a number of very popular games mostly in the 90s. I played Wolfenstein 3D a bit, but Doom was entirely to gross for me. The story of their rise is entrancing; the story of their fall depressing. And then the book ends....more
I was tempted to put this book in the "fiction" category, because so much of Malcolm's life is unbelievable. He was a very interesting man, rising froI was tempted to put this book in the "fiction" category, because so much of Malcolm's life is unbelievable. He was a very interesting man, rising from the dregs of the black slums up to become among the most notorious (among whites) and respected (among blacks) men in America.
The first third of this book was fascinating. Malcolm's early life was confused and painful, with his father being killed when he was young and his mother coming unhinged trying to keep the family together. Malcolm started displaying behavior problems (and no wonder without a functioning family), and was placed with another family, and then another, and then lived with his older sister in Boston. From Boston he leap-frogged to Harlem, where he spent years as a petty criminal, drug-seller, and robber, before being caught and sent to jail.
While he was in prison most of his siblings became enamored of Elijah Muhammad, a black "messenger of Allah" whose fusion of Islamist (not quite Islamic) philosophy and black pride sought to help black Americans desire a separate state under the name of the Nation of Islam. Malcolm was much struck by the idea that the white man had caused all of the black man's problems, and converted in principle to the Nation of Islam. (Actual conversion would have to happen after he got out of prison, when he could accept the rites.)
That part of the book was fascinating. His stories of the streets of Boston and Harlem are colorful. One can easily understand how he would grow up to be an angry black man with that background.
Around the time of his conversion to the Nation of Islam, the book slows down and becomes a painful slog through his anti-racist racist philosophy. He becomes a minister in the Nation of Islam and quickly becomes largely the face and voice of the movement. Much of the middle 2/5 of the book is rants about how the white man did the black man wrong. Don't get me wrong -- I know that the white man has been doing terrible things to destroy, degrade, and use the black man for hundreds of years, to our shame. But his teachings are purposely over the top and inflammatory, and his insistence that the white man can do nothing to atone for the problems he's caused is ugly.
During this portion of the book, I think I might be excused for thinking that the way Malcolm X wanted the white man to suffer for his sins was to suffer through 200 pages of angst-ridden hate-speech.
But then Malcolm suffers an agonizing rejection from the Nation of Islam and goes on a pilgrimage to Mecca. On his pilgrimage he learns what real Islam is like (although he vastly oversimplifies it and carefully excises any indication of internal wrangling among the Moslems). It is there that he learns that it's not really white men that he hates, it's racism. Wow -- what a lightning flash.
Unfortunately, he was murdered by members of the Nation of Islam before he could make any real strides toward pragmatic interracial relations....more
I've loved the movie that came from this book for a long time, so when I ran across the book at the library I had to pick it up.
Fred Waitzkin was inspI've loved the movie that came from this book for a long time, so when I ran across the book at the library I had to pick it up.
Fred Waitzkin was inspired by Bobby Fisher's 1972 world championship chess win over the Russian Boris Spassky. He studied chess for awhile before realizing that he would never be better than a patzer -- a chess player who will never amount to much.
Ten years later, Fred discovered that his six-year-old boy Josh has talent for chess. This results in several years of life consumed by chess lessons, tournaments, and travel to meet some of the greatest chess masters and grandmasters of the age. This book covers the period between when Josh started studying chess and when he won the National Scholastic Chess Championship at eight.
Along the way, Fred relates stories about the Soviet and U.S. chess establishments, the struggles of U.S. masters and grandmasters to survive in an occupation that pays peanuts (and often less than that), and some of the colorful chess personalities that he met. His description traveling with Josh and his chess teacher, Bruce Pandolfini, to Russia for the Karpov-Kasparov match of 1984 is an intriguing discussion, more for the window into Soviet Russia than for the chess match itself.
One of the best aspects of this book is its honesty. Fred is forthright over his struggles about whether he's pushing Josh too hard, the kids' thrill of victory and the agony of defeat, life as a chess parent, and the ambivalence of raising a child to focus so exclusively on something that has little chance of providing a lucrative occupation. He describes the obsession that many chess players have with the game, irrespective of ability, and how it consumes and sometimes destroys their lives....more
I wanted to like this book. But the book wanted to be a tear-jerker, and it didn't quite work. It reminds me a lot of The Last Lecture, which similarlI wanted to like this book. But the book wanted to be a tear-jerker, and it didn't quite work. It reminds me a lot of The Last Lecture, which similarly fell flat. Both books try to be sagacious. Both have been better served sticking to being (auto) biographies of some neat people....more
Teddy Roosevelt was a very interesting man. This book covers the period of his life between his birth an his ascension to the presidency of the UnitedTeddy Roosevelt was a very interesting man. This book covers the period of his life between his birth an his ascension to the presidency of the United States. It's the first volume in a planned three-volume history of Roosevelt's life.
Roosevelt was a man of contradictions. He was born so severely asthmatic that someone had to hold him upright in order for him to be able to sleep. With a fine disregard for his own health, though, he spent every possible minute outdoors. When laid up with asthma or related illnesses, he studied as feverishly as he explored. As a consequence, he became a very fine ornithologist and mammalogist.
Roosevelt had an almost eidetic memory. He read through books at multiple pages per minute, but had almost perfect recall of the contents, and more significantly, the meaning. While still a student at Harvard, he published the definitive work on the naval warfare of the War of 1812 -- a book that was used as a textbook in future college classes. The study for this book prepared him well to be the Assistant Secretary of the Navy in his future career.
The book is very well written -- almost like a novel. At the same time, it's well researched: 740 pages of text, more than 200 pages of references. Teddy Roosevelt had an almost appalling amount of energy. He couldn't stop moving. When he wasn't working, he was campaigning. When he wasn't campaigning, he was hunting. When he wasn't hunting, he was writing another book. When he wasn't writing a book, he was visiting with the luminaries of his day.
As presented in this book, his political philosophy was rather shallow, and mostly centered around the manifest destiny and greatness of the United States. He did some impressive things to push the nation in that direction. Prior to reading this book, I didn't realize how important a powerful navy is in protecting the nation. Hence the size and depth of the present American Navy....more
This book is phenomenal, if rather long and dry. Richard Bushman puts the history of Joseph Smith in the context of his times. He treats some of the hThis book is phenomenal, if rather long and dry. Richard Bushman puts the history of Joseph Smith in the context of his times. He treats some of the hard questions surrounding the life of Joseph Smith. He tackles, for example, accusations of money-digging and the origin of the Book of Mormon, the uniqueness of some of Joseph's revelatory experiences, and the non-uniqueness of others.
It's eye-opening to see how the revelations from the Doctrine and Covenants fit in with the goings-on of the times. I wasn't aware how intense the persecution of the church was in New York, for example, precipitating a number of revelations instructing the Saints to move. Many of the statements about enemies in early sections of the Doctrine and Covenants that I had thought were referring to spiritual enemies were much more physically literal than I thought.
It's also interesting to me how little emphasis there was on Joseph in the early missionary activities of the church. The focus was more on restoration and the promise of Zion than the existence of a modern prophet. And yet some were offended by his imperfections.
The book has 561 pages of text, with almost 300 pages of notes, references, and index. This is definitely not your light and fluffy testimony of Joseph, neglecting his humanity and mistakes. This is a fairly deep treatise on Brother Joseph in the context of his times. It is not for the faint of heart or the constrained of time. You're not likely to make your way through it if you borrow it from the library. It took me more than six months to read, mostly on Sundays....more