Supersymmetry: Unveiling the Ultimate Laws of Nature by Gordon Kane

Filed under:Science — posted by Randolph on July 25, 2022 @ 11:27 am

This is a light-weight book on particle physics with no math, touching on elements of quantum chromodynamics. It starts with basics of quantum mechanics and a basic introduction to Feynman diagrams. It discusses basic mechanics of the standard model, why it needs extensions and how we can get there. Dr. Kane goes into the capabilities of different colliders and their different technologies, then dives into supersymmetry particles, the search for the Higgs particle and string theory.

In spite of the topic, it is a fairly easy read, written well and is interesting, written at a good level for anyone interested in the material but not extremely versed in the science itself.

Dr. Kane is a professor at the U. of Michigan, director emeritus at the Leinweber Institute for Theoretical Physics and is a leader in string theory.

Anansi Boys by Neal Gaiman

Filed under:Fantasy — posted by Randolph on July 14, 2022 @ 3:47 pm

This book is billed as a sequel to American Gods but bears little resemblance to the former other than the theme that gods walk on Earth among men.

This is the story of Charlie Nancy, Fat Charlie, who dislikes his father whom he regards as extravagant and irresponsible. Nancy is getting married, his fiancé wants him to invite his father to the wedding. This precipitates a road of discovery into his own past and his family, including an unknown brother.

Charlie’s and his brother have an unusual relationship, uncomfortable, maybe untrusting, but grows as they are thrust together.

Charlie is a rather weak character, both literary and his personal character. Not particularly likable, but his growth through the book changes him greatly.

The writing is above average and is engaging. And the book is funny. There are only a few primary characters, interesting and mysterious, and Charlie meets a number of peculiar characters in his journey.

Everything You Always Wanted to Know About the French* (But were Afraid to Ask) by Gaspard Chevallier

Filed under:Nonfiction — posted by Randolph on July 8, 2022 @ 2:26 pm

The book discusses the French culture by providing a brief introduction to numerous topics and then supporting anecdotes. The topics are grouped by chapter discussing subject including love, fashion and art, cusine, wine, nationalism, sports and international relationships among others.

It starts with a series of weakly-related anecdotes that left me dry, suspecting the book wasn’t going to deliver much of value. But after getting into the book, the character seemed to change and became much more interesting.

It could have used some editing, most of it was pretty good but there were a few typos-into-other-words that tend to get missed by spellcheckers and perhaps less aware editors. For instance, on page 20 the text indicates that Jaques-Yves Cousteau redacted a treaty for protecting Antarctica, if so, he should be ashamed! The problems are few and sometimes amusing.

The book is informative and amusing, a fun and fairly quick read.

Persepolis Rising by James S. A. Corey

Filed under:Science Fiction — posted by Randolph on July 3, 2022 @ 8:02 am

This is the seventh book in The Expanse series, it takes place thirty years after the events in Babylon’s Ashes. Earth and Mars are part of a coalition and the Belt has come into its own power governing trade through the gate.

The Roci is sent on an incidental mission to Freehold, where Holden renegotiates the Transport Union’s demands on Freehold, who would have died from those demands. Holden brings back Houston, their leader as prisoner. On returning, Holden and Noami decide to retire leaving the Roci to Bobbie as captain.

The main plot revolves around Laconia, who has been experimenting with the protomolecule and developing new technologies. The Laconians invade with one ship, quickly taking over the Medina station, leaving Santiago Singh as governor, then heading for the inner planets, with another ship on-way to the gate. The Roci crew don’t have access to their ship and join Saba in the underground. Jim Holden is ultimately taken prisoner and transported to Laconia. The first Laconian ship was defeated in a costly series of battles, but not destroyed. The book closes with Holden arriving on Laconia as prisoner and the Laconians still a looming thread with their second ship near to arriving.

Another twist is that when the Laconians use their protomolecule-based technologies, an odd black sphere appears on their primary ship and moves completely with the ship. Holden identified it as belonging to the people who destroyed the civilization that made the protomolecule.

One problem is that after 30 years from the last book, the characters have aged, but there doesn’t seem to be any character growth in that time. It’s still the same characters, the book could have taken a month and it would be the same, the time frame only seems to provide an opportunity for the Laconian technology development.

Aside from that, this is one of the better books in a while. It is a lot of action with some weird technologies thrown in.

Artemis by Andy Weir

Filed under:Science Fiction — posted by Randolph on June 19, 2022 @ 2:15 pm

Set at a Lunar colony in the near future, this is the story of Jasmine Bashara (Jazz), a smuggler fighting for a small life in the colony, who is drawn into a grand plot to control its resources.

The strengths of the book are in the action and most of the science. The book is a page-turner that will keep the reader guessing as to what’s coming.

The writing is simple, grammatically correct but uninspired. The characters are somewhat flat, there is no real character growth in the book.

Jazz is a young girl, very intelligent but uninspired. I found her unlikable, she is untrusting and doesn’t make good decisions. Her skill sets, though they are explained in the story, seem a very odd assortment and somewhat contrived.

The science is mostly good, the reader can learn a lot from the book in this regard. But he misses the science in a few points, these oversights bothered me in the ending, although they wouldn’t affect the ending. The book includes an analysis of space travel costs. In this instance he goes into a good in-depth analysis of fuel costs comparing it to air travel then extrapolating to space travel. However, when he talks about the cost of descending to the Moon’s surface from Lunar orbit, he accounts for the difference in air resistance and gravity, but forgets to account for the cost of moving the fuel from Earth to Lunar orbit.

Overall, I did find the book enjoyable, mostly because of its pacing and I enjoyed picking up the science of a lunar habitation through the reading.

The Instant Printmaker: Simple Printing Methods to Try atHome… by Melvyn Petterson and Colin Gale

Filed under:Art — posted by Randolph on June 5, 2022 @ 6:00 pm

This book presents a light introduction to a large variety of printing techniques. It discusses safety measures in detail when needed and provides well-detailed step-by-step techniques with images to walk a novice through the techniques with a list of all necessary pieces of equipment. At the end of each section the book includes images from different professionals using the covered technique.

The downside of the book is that it wastes a lot of space with large photos and light documentation, many of which could be eliminated.

Overall, it did seem like there was a lot of wasted space. But I found the book interesting, the images are good and there is something here for everyone.

The Stainless Steel Rat Gets Drafted by Harry Harrison

Filed under:Adventure,Humor,Science Fiction — posted by Randolph on May 12, 2022 @ 10:41 am

This is on of the later books but set early in his career. The story opens with James DiGriz, prisoner, being shipped to some planet to face charges of bank robbing, after lamenting his misfortune he escapes from the pot into the fire.

James finds himself on a military planet and promptly gets drafted. He learns a nemesis of his, formerly Captain Garth, is now General Zennor, planning an invasion of an unknown planet and is enlisted by the League Navy to identify that planet – if he can’t kill General Zennor first.

The target planet turns out to be a utopian planet with no government and practicing a philosophy of Individual Mutualism, which seems to be a rather libertarian approach to life. There is no army, no police and no problems. On such a world, how do you defeat a heavily-armed invasion force?

As usual, he goes from one problem to another finding the most unusual solutions to problems in amusing ways and finds a most unusual solution to outwitting an invading army.

An Obvious Fact by Craig Johnson

Filed under:Mystery,Series — posted by Randolph on April 8, 2022 @ 10:09 am

Craig Johnson finds a motorcyclist, critically injured, run off the road by an unknown motorist. His investigation takes him across the border into Sturgis South Dakota during the big motorcycle rally, interacting with motorcycle gangs during his research.

Henry Standing Bear is present with his car named Lola and two motorcycles bearing female names, preparing for the hill climbing competition. During the investigation they encounter the original Lola for whom the car is named and who is the mother of the dead motorcyclist and involved in whatever is going on.

The writing is good, the characters interesting and the story compelling. This is he 12th in the series.

The Long Way Home by Louise Penny

Filed under:Mystery — posted by Randolph on February 19, 2022 @ 5:24 pm

The Long Way Home is the 10th book in the Chief Inspector Armande Gamache series. This book is very enjoyable, mostly exploring the relationship between the involved characters and brings out some idiosyncrasies. From the last book, Peter was sent off by his wife, they scheduled a meeting to revisit their relationship after one year. When he doesn’t show, she became worried about him and invoked Gamache’s assistance.

The first thing I noticed about the book is the cover. It is textured as a canvas and the image is upside-down. The backside is the same image but right-side up. I think this refers to Peter. When he parted, he worked on his art. Art was his problem when his wife showed him up having all the success. He was the one who studied art, In order to restore their relationship, he had to stand on his own.

Louise Penny has a wonderful writing style. The way she describes people and scenes makes the reader feel like he is there among the action, part of the conversation. I had felt some of the previous books hadn’t maintained the same quality, but this one is one of her best. This book has a slower pace than most, and a slow pace is normal for this series. Gamache is a thoughtful, patient protagonist.

Gamache would normally talk through the mysteries with Beauvoir, but now has several companions from Three Pines to add thoughts, concerns and support. I wonder if this is part of the reason Louise took him away from La Surété. I am looking forward to reading the next book.

2312 by Kim Stanley Robinson

Filed under:Adventure,Science Fiction — posted by Randolph on January 12, 2022 @ 6:08 pm

This book is about the investigation into an attack on a Mercury outpost. The main character, Swan Er Hong, is on Mercury during the attack and is lead on a mystery from her recently deceased relative, Alex. Swan is an expert in building ecosystems, mostly in Asteroids. Alex had left her a message that leads her to Fitz Wahram from Titan who Swan describes as a toad, big chest, big stomach, short legs. He is the main supporting character we don’t really know much about except he seems to be an official of some sort and had access to a lot of resources.

Earth’s global warming had destroyed most ecosystem and most of the animal life. During the investigation, Swan and Wahram take it upon themselves to fix the Earth by parachuting animals throughout the world in aerogel bubbles. I’m guessing Kim Stanley Robinson (KSR) doesn’t understand either aerogel nor bouyancy.

Swan, as a protagonist, doesn’t seem to make many decisions. During the majority of the book she is a passive observer and just goes with the flow of events. I understand that KSR writes a lot about politics and our pollution issues, but the Earth repopulation seems to be given more thought than the main plot. And it seems peculiar that Swan and Wahram are of one mind on how to go about a solution. It’s even more surprising that this simplistic action would actually work without first restoring ecosystems for the animals.

The pacing of the book is odd. For the most part it is very slow. This is compounded by the tendency of KSR to use unusual words that you either have to look up or ignore. Admittedly, many of them are interesting, but the habit just slows the reading process. Too often there are simpler synonyms that would have worked just as well, except for slowing down the reader.

The other issue in pacing is that between paragraphs too much can happen. After leaving Mercury for Pluto, there is only one blank line between being barely underway and arriving, there is no indication of time passing.

Clear to the end, I was expecting the book to pick up, I’ve liked other books he’s written. This one just didn’t pan out and the ending really felt anticlimactic.


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image: detail of installation by Bronwyn Lace