Tatiana's Reviews > The 2nd Law: Energy, Chaos, and Form

The 2nd Law by Peter   Atkins
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's review
Dec 12, 2011

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bookshelves: nonfiction
Read in December, 2011

Just reread this book from the early 80s, published as part of a series from Scientific American. I remember thinking it was super profound and important when I read it the first time. This time it seemed to go way too slowly and didn't contain anything surprising. So maybe I remember every single thing I learned from it and all of it stuck. I may also have a shorter attention span now after a decade or two of internet surfing. I do think I took time to enjoy a book more back then. Has anyone else noticed a change in their book-attention-span from being online a lot?

The cellular automata which were pretty cool back then seem much tamer now but still a great way to illustrate the principles involved. I probably would've given this book 4 stars, and maybe even 5, when I read it back when it first came out. The information in it is still true and still fundamental to an understanding of physics, cosmology, technology, and energy use. So it's still highly recommended to anyone who's interested in that sort of stuff. But I wasn't thrilled and riveted this time like I remember from before. Sad when that happens.

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Comments (showing 1-4 of 4) (4 new)

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message 1: by Ian (new)

Ian Has anyone else noticed a change in their book-attention-span from being online a lot?

Umm, yes.

Also, you're the only person on gr to have reviewed this book. Is that cool or weird?

message 2: by Tatiana (last edited Dec 13, 2011 09:23AM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Tatiana Well, my tastes are eclectic! Definitely weird, but I prefer to look at it as one of my friends put it, that I'm just very, very indie.

Half my favorite authors had single digit likes by them when I first put them up, too. Now there are more, I guess because I'm such a trendsetter, right?

But I think I have at least one with only me, still.

I'm worried about the attention span thing, because I'm afraid it'll bias me toward stupid stuff and away from the real meaty things. Does it do that for you? How do you counteract it?

message 3: by Ian (new)

Ian I think the attention-span issue has already started to bias my reading in a certain way, and not in a way I'm proud of. I find myself reading books that, while they aren't "bad" in any real sense, still aren't as "good" as other books according by my own criteria for judging those sorts of things, because the "good" books might take longer to get into, and I'm not as patient as I once was.

A great example lately was my inability to finish China Miéville's Perdido Street Station, which was really well written by my standards, because after a couple hundred pages the plot wasn't picking up. I went on to read John Scalzi's Old Man's War, which is not near the quality of Miéville's book, in only three days because the plot started fast and moved quickly.

message 4: by Tatiana (last edited Dec 13, 2011 10:35PM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Tatiana Ian, I'm feeling the same way, that I'm biasing my reading toward stuff that's shorter, faster-paced, and generally not as good quality. And since you are what you read, mentally, I think it's not a good thing. Though the computer is obviously completely necessary, I think I may take a step back in terms of the hours a day I spend online.

It's hard to know the right thing, though. I don't want to become, in essence, Amish, saying "only this level of technology is good and no more." I want to embrace the future, and I love being connected to the world.

For now, I've decided to stop playing silly computer games, and just every time I get that urge, to go and do a yoga pose or two instead. Also, I'll read entire blog posts instead of reading 3 paragraphs, then checking facebook, then 2 more paragraphs, then look up something unrelated, etc. Third, I'm going to spend 30 minutes a day watching the birds at my feeders and recording the ones I see on the Cornell Lab of Ornithology site. Something about this task is very relaxing and pleasing to the brain, and trains it toward a slower and more contemplative mode. I may even skip a day on the computer every now and then, possibly even every other day.

Brain training matters, and I want mine to be deliberate, to go in a direction I consciously choose and desire to have. Because, after all, my brain is where I live, and if it's not a happy place, neither is my life.

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