This update is a (4%) progress report. Scroll down to beginning. ***** This is an early (2%) progressYet another update … July 22, 2013 … at the end.
This update is a (4%) progress report. Scroll down to beginning. ***** This is an early (2%) progress report, and a warning to fellow goodreaders.
After thoroughly enjoying What Pooh … I was thrilled to learn that Manny had published another collection of reviews. This one is about ROMANCE. One look at the cover, and I was sold. That researcher on the cover looks hot. With those glasses, she could pass for a librarian. One genre that I’ve neglected lately is Pulp Fiction. Now is my chance to make amends.
So, with a quickening pulse, I went to the index to look for the good parts. My soaring elation turned into crashing disappointment. There’s no action in the index, just proper names. Not the names I was expecting. These are the names with the most entries: God @ 16 Christ, Jesus @ 7 Einstein, Albert @ 6
You get the picture. I’ll eventually plow through this collection, and give it a suitable review. ***** 4% Progress Report: Redemption! After striking out with the index, I tried the Table of Contents, and found a section called Trash, with five sleazy pieces.
***** And now, the review: If Research Were Romance earned all the stars. I got my fix of guilty pleasures in the Trash section. A few more selections and perhaps a cameo by Jessica Rabbit would have been welcome. I’m thinking of recommending If Research Were Romance to OCTPFAS, one of New York’s most respected book groups. It might be the next reading choice of the Outdoor Co-Ed Topless Pulp Fiction Appreciation Society. Here’s an OCTPFAS member enjoying an advance copy of The Secret Lives of Married Women in Central Park on April 10, 2013.
The next review to catch my eye was Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman!. Ah, yes, my favorite physicist. Q. What do Manny and Feynman have in common, besides a keen interest in physics and an Erdős number of 4? A. They both had frustrating experiences with NASA. A lot of very smart people had frustrating experiences at NASA. Another such person is Peter Norvig (Erdős number = 3). He came to the attention of the general public with his brilliant translation of the Gettysburg Address into a PowerPoint presentation. He said the boring PPTs at NASA drove him to do it. http://norvig.com/Gettysburg/sld001.htm
I was briefly tempted to do this review in PPT, but that would have been stooping to the level of A Visit from the Goon Squad. Besides, PowerPoint was introduced after Feynman’s death. You should feel lucky to have escaped.
Norvig admired Feynman enough to quote him on his website. ”There are 10^11 stars in the galaxy. That used to be a huge number. But it's only a hundred billion. It's less than the national deficit! We used to call them astronomical numbers. Now we should call them economical numbers”. - Richard Feynman
The largest section is Part XI, Science and God. These reviews are so good that I won’t poke fun at any of them. My favorite of this bunch is Exposition du système du monde by Pierre-Simon de Laplace.
I think the key to getting the most from If Research Were Romance is to have goodreads open, and read the comments that follow the reviews.
***** Yet another update ***** OK, enough of that silliness. This is important. The most significant sentence in this book slipped under my radar on the first reading. Hiding like a land mine in the Foreword is this:
”Cathy and I are right now trying to write a serious book about science and religion … ”
Wow. Whenever this comes out, I want to read it. The problem is that it might be more than I can handle. We aren't talking about parody, slap-downs, or a celebrity death match. This could be the real deal. One trains for a marathon, right? Well, I need to prepare, and I hope this next sentence in the foreword is useful guidance:
”The last section contains reviews of some of the more interesting things we've read as part of the background Research … “
I’m hoping that the 20 books reviewed in Part XI, Science and God, will be enough prerequisites. I’m starting with The First Three Minutes because it’s a nominee for the September selection of the GR Science and Inquiry group. I’m open to additional guidance. ...more
After reading Gleick’s Chaos in 1989 and The Information this year, I was anticipating Faster. What a letdown. Chaos and The Information rocked. FasteAfter reading Gleick’s Chaos in 1989 and The Information this year, I was anticipating Faster. What a letdown. Chaos and The Information rocked. Faster just plodded along.
In his profile, David Giltinan cites 10 common sources of disappointment in a book. The first is “Failed to match brilliance of author's previous work.” That was certainly the case here. Another distraction is this edition is an audio book, read by Gleick. His reading wasn’t engaging.
The other GR reviews cover the content, how everything is speeding up. That seems like old news. One item of interest is how digital answering machines compress the message without raising the pitch. This technology also saves time for phone operators. Now that is a useful idea. I happened to be listening to Faster on an iPhone, which has a 2X speed button. In practice, it’s closer to 1 ½ X speed. With Gleick’s reading faster was better.
I expect to thoroughly enjoy Gleick’s books on Feynman and Newton. ...more
Genius is up there with Gleick’s best work, Chaos and The Information, and clearly better than the disappointing Faster. There isn’t much new materialGenius is up there with Gleick’s best work, Chaos and The Information, and clearly better than the disappointing Faster. There isn’t much new material here, and the Los Alamos days were only briefly covered. Feynman’s own writings, Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman! and What Do You Care What Other People Think? , his Lectures on Physics, and his talk Los Alamos From Below (available on audio) give plenty of background.
The special thing Gleick gives is context. In particular, Feynman’s interactions with Hans Bethe, Freeman Dyson, Murray Gell-Mann, Julian Schwinger, and other scientists. Those theoretical breakthroughs were a struggle, involving dead ends, debates with colleagues, frustration, and some intangible mix of genius.
Genius clearly show Feynman’s great talent as an educator. Gleick’s rambling essay on the nature of genius is not so clear. I recommend hearing or viewing some of the many recording of Feynman’s lectures before reading this or Feynman’s writings. That is not for content, but to experience his phrasing, mannerisms, and style. The next Gleick book on my list is Isaac Newton. ...more
As a fan of Atul Gawande’s earlier books, Complications and Better, I’m surprised that it took me until now to start The Checklist Manifesto. I did rAs a fan of Atul Gawande’s earlier books, Complications and Better, I’m surprised that it took me until now to start The Checklist Manifesto. I did read his article in The New Yorker, Dec. 2007, which had some of the best parts.
Excellent content, excellent writing, and a great beach read. ...more
It's not Feynman's best work. Feynman often digresses in his lectures, in a way that can be charming and memorable. However, in these lectures it seemIt's not Feynman's best work. Feynman often digresses in his lectures, in a way that can be charming and memorable. However, in these lectures it seems rambling and repetitive. Still, there are enough gems of insight to make it worthwhile. I recommend reading his other works first. ...more