Help, help! I'm surrounded by microscopic wormholes and baby universes!
12 July 2013:
I have just finished the best pop-science book I have...more24 June 2013:
Help, help! I'm surrounded by microscopic wormholes and baby universes!
12 July 2013:
I have just finished the best pop-science book I have ever read (including Balcombe's "Pleasurable Kingdom" which I found very well-written, perfectly constructed and also very touching; a no. 1 until now).
The subject of the book is mind-blowing and it is extremely difficult to stay focused on the reading for a length of time, because it inspires and stretches imagination to the limits. I just couldn't stop picturing things in my head! Certainly, this effect is brought mainly by the information which one could derive from any other book on the subject of the string theory, but Kaku has a great gift of clear, understandable and entertaining writing.
And he simply seems to be a great guy, a person delighted in the mysterious beauty of the world(s) who puts a genuine effort in facilitating the knowledge of it to as wide an audience as possible. I did have to consult wikipedia occasionally, but generally the book is very self-contained: the writing is easy on the reader, and the apparatus helps in managing information.
The book has one disadvantage: it is full of spoilers! Kaku refers to many sci-fi novels that seem like a lot of fun, so if you don't know them, you might risk a spoilt pleasure.
I have the deepest respect for the Author for the last pages of the book, which send an optimistic message: we are here to learn, discover and make changes for the better. We are, right here and now, in that crucial civilisation stage which requires us to be careful and wise so we can perceive and participate in the universe with more awareness and impact than ever before. If we take the right social and moral standing today, we might be able to understand and enter the worlds previously unseen, become the observers who can truly understand and manage life, matter and intelligence. Is it overly optimistic? Perhaps, but it gives us a great purpose to follow, and it's nicer to keep going with such in mind instead of living with the vision of desolation and doom. (less)
It could be an incredibly interesting book had the author been far more concise. The same information, observations and conclusions are repeated over...moreIt could be an incredibly interesting book had the author been far more concise. The same information, observations and conclusions are repeated over and over again. Nevertheless, the subject of the book is fascinating and worth the effort, because it helps a lot in understanding how human beings work - as individuals and as societies. It also forces you to think more critically about yourself and, at the same time, it makes you aspire to do better. It is a great pity that the narrative is so discouraging.(less)
This is one of the best impulse buys I have ever made. The contents are very efficiently organised, the narrative is engaging, and there is a wonderfu...moreThis is one of the best impulse buys I have ever made. The contents are very efficiently organised, the narrative is engaging, and there is a wonderful balance of science and anecdote. And the subject is of great importance. The author postulates that animals are, not unlike us, feeling, unique individuals that deserve to be treated with consideration and respect. They can feel fear and joy, they appreciate beauty and play games, they enjoy relaxation and thrills of risk, they can feel love and resentment. Some of them even develop a sense of humour and morality. "An animal destined for the slaughterhouse still deserves respect and compassion."
I recommend this book to everyone. I would put it on the obligatory reading lists at schools, if I only could.(less)
It is not only an accessible and interesting read, it is almost a therapeutic literature. None of this 'fix-your-life-believe-in-yourself' nonsense, b...moreIt is not only an accessible and interesting read, it is almost a therapeutic literature. None of this 'fix-your-life-believe-in-yourself' nonsense, but a book that allows understanding of what is happening to you or to your closest. It convincingly demonstrates how depressive behaviours are common not only amongst humans, but the rest of mammals as well. It shows how we have adapted this biological need of seclusion and introspection into our culture and our rituals. Very few minor factual lapses, most probably the effects of a momentary lack of focus rather than the lack of knowledge, do not spoil the pleasure of reading. (less)
Here is the book that I would really want to have half-stars to rate it with. (Preposition at the end of the sentence, language mavens will catch me!)...moreHere is the book that I would really want to have half-stars to rate it with. (Preposition at the end of the sentence, language mavens will catch me!) I would give this book 3.5 stars - not because it is not a good book, it is! But it was not entirely what I expected and wished for. I didn't need a long lecture in grammar - I studied it for many years, so many parts of the book simply bored me.
I was looking mainly for the information about how the language evolved and how it is still evolving - and there's plenty of that in the book, too. I really enjoyed it. It is well written and entertaining, but it is also quite often unnecessarily long, at least for a pop-science book. I get the point after a few examples, and I was getting tired with reading through dozens of long passages, all presenting the very same mechanisms and all proving the very same points.
The book is uneven. I loved it at the beginning, was annoyed and a little bored in the middle only to turn fascinated at the end. It...moreWhere do I start?
The book is uneven. I loved it at the beginning, was annoyed and a little bored in the middle only to turn fascinated at the end. It is quite well written, accessible piece of popular science, I admit. But there are serious drawbacks that don't allow me to give this book more than three stars:
1) Repetitiveness: reading about the effect of gamma-ray burst once is really enough. The seccond time is slightly annoying, the third and the fourth simply spoil the pleasure.
2) Pointless information, given only with the purpose to impress: what is the point of telling me that as many as 300 billion muons per square inch can hit the Earth "from a nearby gamma-ray burst"? What does that "nearby" mean? How on earth does this information contribute to my knowledge?
3) Mistakes: as much as I believe that the author is a professional and offers a lot of interesting and reliable information, sometimes he can be really feckless in his metaphors, to the point of committing serious mistakes. He writes for example: "The Moon doesn't heat the Earth noticeably, so a supernova as bright as the Moon wouldn't either." Mr. Plait, really? Since when does the Moon produce any heat/light on its own? My impression is that the author simply believes that his readers are too stupid to notice anything, and as long as the metaphor is nice and shiny, the rest doesn't matter.
These are only a couple of examples. My Kindle file is marked up all the way through the book. OK, there are not so many mistakes as to make the book unbearable, but there they are where they shouldn't be - in the book written by a scientist.
Luckily, the last few chapters were such a feast for imagination that the book won my heart overall and I can recommend it with my conscience at ease.(less)
"Cathing fire" is an interesting book. It presents some ideas that are original and thought-provoking about the phenomena that made us human. Some of...more"Cathing fire" is an interesting book. It presents some ideas that are original and thought-provoking about the phenomena that made us human. Some of them are perhaps too far-stretched and the author is too busy focusing on his main subject - processing the food - to notice the conglomerate of many other influences, not rooted in the food (pre)history. In short, the book offers interesting contents, but it is too biased. It is also too repetitive - the same arguments appear dozens of times on its pages. There was a point when I felt almost bored and wanted to put the book aside - but then interesting things appeared, and hardly it became entertaining again, when it ended unexpectedly (I was reading it on Kindle, so that I didin't notice at the beginning that at 60% the book is finished and the rest is just endnotes - which, by the way, do not provide any particular additional entertainment or in-depth knowledge).
Overall - not a bad read, quite interesting, but definitely doesn't meet expectations.(less)
After 'The Selfish Gene' I had been expecting so much more than I got from this book! Perhaps I feel disappointed because I don't belong to the intend...moreAfter 'The Selfish Gene' I had been expecting so much more than I got from this book! Perhaps I feel disappointed because I don't belong to the intended target group, "the people who feel vague yearnings to leave their parents' religion'. I already am an atheist, my parents never imposed anything on me, and I was bored when reading this book. Bored and annoyed.
The structure is really poor. The issues are discussed in a totally random order, the subchapters are mainly collections of loosely connected anecdotes. The argument is not constructed, it looks more like a stream of consciousness.
As much as I support Dawkins in that there are no issues in this world that may be dealt exclusively with religious approach, and not a scientific one (as claimed by the followers of NOMA), I think he unnecessarily escalates this conflict. Comparing God to Hitler - no matter the context - is NOT a good idea for convincing hesitating minds.
I personally don't mind any kinds of comparisons, but the lack of structured argument tired me quickly. I was originally thinking about recommending this book to my mum, she being a hesitating mind. At the beginning I have read that the book was intended to demonstrate that it is possible to be 'happy, balanced, moral and intellectually fulfilled atheist', but now I will be discouraging mum from reading it. I'm in the middle of this chaotic, often needlessly angry rattle, and I have seen nothing of the sort promised in the introduction.
What I see in this book is simply a great load of frustration - which is often, I admit, fully justified. But reading through someone's stream of frustration is not much fun.(less)
I was disappointed with this book. After reading 'Grooming, gossips and the evolution of the language' I expected another good, transparent and well-d...moreI was disappointed with this book. After reading 'Grooming, gossips and the evolution of the language' I expected another good, transparent and well-demonstrated argument, which is accessable and interesting for a non-professional reader. However, accessibility is all what is left. The author jumps from one subject to another, holding them with very weak links and quite often not contributing to the main thought (vague as it was). It would be a nice read if published as a series of short essays (as it initially was), but as a book it's a mess. The disdain shown towards the humanities would be less annoying had the author done his reading in history better. But his understanding of history is poor (Mr Dunbar - 'Slavic Lombards'? really?), so he should be more careful when forming his conclusions on the basis of things he has no grasp of. Overall, it's still an interesting and entertaining read, but lacks structure and is sometimes distressingly shallow. (less)