Talking to Strangers by Malcolm Gladwell

Filed under:Science — posted by Randolph on January 26, 2021 @ 4:12 pm

This books doesn’t seem up to his normal standards, but still is interesting and insightful. It isn’t so much about interacting with strangers but about the assumptions we make when dealing with strangers. It also delves into the damage such assumptions can cause when dealing with people are cultures we aren’t familiar with. It goes into many case studies about people in different situations where seemingly innocent assumptions lead to grave errors, some of these involve drunkenness and sexual assault.

The stories include some of national interest and how government organizations can be deceived through these same assumptions, some involving the FBI and CIA dealing with spying.

Malcolm Gladwell seems to wander at times and the book feels a bit disconnected. There are no suggestions for improvement, he offers no guidelines. Just warnings and stories. Still, the book is interesting and enjoyable.

Star Trek Psychology: The Mental Frontier edited by Travis Langley

Filed under:Science — posted by Randolph on November 2, 2018 @ 3:57 pm


Star Trek Psychology: The Mental Frontier edited by Travis Langley

This is a collection of short papers on common subjects in psychology. It uses Star Treck characters and events to provide examples and explain concepts. Each paper is written by different experts in the field paired with someone more experienced in writing to the common man. Editing is done well, as each paper has a similar style, making the collection feel coherent.

I found the book both interesting and easy to read. The use of Star Trek to drive ideas home makes it easy to understand and (hopefully) remember.

The book is part of a series, Psychology of Popular Culture. I plan to read more of this series.

Heart of the Machine by Richard Yonck

Filed under:Science,Technical — posted by Randolph on June 2, 2017 @ 2:34 pm


Heart of the Machine by Richard Yonck

Computers and robots that can respond to us on an emotional level are already among us, although at a primitive level. This books explores the logical extensions of that technology, looking at the good and the bad. The technology is not waiting for a moral analysis, nor even public awareness. It is being rolled out to benefit whichever company develops it.

Over the next couple of decades, these technologies will become part of our everyday lives. From the handheld assistants that can respond to the needs of our moods to salesbots that can exploit your weaknesses in order to make a sale. And there will be the inevitable exploit from hackers seeking to take advantage of weaknesses, ignorance, or just software bugs.

Each chapter begins with a short scenario that demonstrates use of some aspect of the technology. Then he delves into that technology and take the reader into new ideas and new frontiers.

Overall, I found the book enlightening. Not only is it a good read, I encourage people to read it just to prepare themselves for the future. Whether his ideas will come to fruition, or some other variants, it is already on its way.

The Wave Watcher’s Companion by Gavin Pretor-Pinney

Filed under:Science — posted by Randolph on June 21, 2015 @ 7:59 pm

The Wave Watcher's Companion by Gavin Pretor-Pinney

Gavin Pretor-Pinney discusses waves of many variety from a scientific perspective. Unlike most science books, this one is very readable. His prose is almost poetic at times, I found myself rereading a few sections for the imagery, not the science. And there wasn’t one metaphor – unless I just missed it.

The book is completely devoid of math. Still, it discusses details in a number of fields that help you to understand different phenomena. He starts and ends with ocean waves. He covers what drives them from their birth, what sustains them, and what give them their differing appearances and sizes. Different chapters discuss sound waves, supersonic flight, shock waves, light waves and more. In giving examples of different effects, he finds interesting trivia to fill the book.

One of the first things I noticed was that there is some italic text next to some paragraphs, partially indented into the text block. It seems to be fairly random at times, yet makes sense with respect to the paragraphs after having read it. My guess is that it would provide a memory assist when trying to either recall portions of the book or looking for a passage.

Overall, the book is very enjoyable and a moderately fast read. You don’t have to be a science nerd to enjoy it. If you are a science nerd, the lack of equations won’t be missed.

Three Roads To Quantum Gravity by Lee Smolin

Filed under:Science — posted by Randolph on May 25, 2015 @ 11:21 am

Three Roads To Quantum Gravity by Lee Smolin

This book provides an introduction to quantum gravity aimed at the general public. It provides three different approaches to quantum gravity, doing a decent job of discussing the strengths and weaknesses of each. The author discusses black holes and multiple universes in the journey.

His approach to each subject is historical, tracing development of key idea and briefly mentioning the people involved.

Overall the book is interesting and a rather light read. Although it is aimed at the general public, it is probably a little light for the people who would be interested in reading it.

Endless Universe: Beyond the Big Bang — Rewriting Cosmic History by Paul J. Steinhardt, Neil Turok

Filed under:Philosophy,Science — posted by Randolph on January 4, 2015 @ 8:29 pm

Endless Universe: Beyond the Big Bang -- Rewriting Cosmic History by Paul J. Steinhardt, Neil Turok

Your Inner Fish: A Journey into the 3.5-Billion-Year History of the Human… by Neil Shubin

Filed under:History,Science — posted by Randolph on September 14, 2014 @ 8:35 pm

Your Inner Fish: A Journey into the 3.5-Billion-Year History of the Human… by Neil Shubin

The Creating Brain: The Neuroscience of Genius by Nancy C. Andreasen

Filed under:Science — posted by Randolph on May 29, 2014 @ 7:43 pm

The Creating Brain: The Neuroscience of Genius by Nancy C. Andreasen

This book is on the neuroscience of creativity. The author is researching creativity, what makes people creative, how to recognize it, and how to enhance it.

There wasn’t enough information for this book. Although interesting, the author spends a lot of time talking about people in the past who are considered creative. This content is available in many other books, I felt there was too much and it just didn’t add to the intended content. She finished the book with advice about helping children.

A lot of the content in the middle was very interesting, but there was too little of it. The book is short and a pretty quick read, but doesn’t have much to offer.

A Tear at the Edge of Creation by Marcelo Gleiser

Filed under:Science — posted by Randolph on September 13, 2013 @ 8:59 am

A Tear at the Edge of Creation by Marcelo Gleiser

This is a story of the creation of the universe through imperfections in the early universe. The story is told in five parts through three main themes. the themes are the history of our understanding of the universe, the imperfections in time and space and matter, and the history of our understanding of the evolution of life.

Through the first two themes, he seems to be building a case for there not being a unified theory for the universe. Our expectations of a unified theory are solely human, the same drive that lead us to belief in a single god, our desire to have a single understanding for events. However, when he starts the third theme, this goal is lost. The section on life seemed out of place and it felt as if it should have been in a different book.

Overall, the book was interesting. But the history sections seem to appear in all science books these days. If you’re interested in science writing, you’ve probably read it dozens of times before. For this reason, I cannot recommend it, there just isn’t enough meat to warrant the time and there are lots of other good science books to be read.

The Mind’s Eye by Oliver Sacks

Filed under:Science — posted by Randolph on June 5, 2013 @ 8:32 pm

The Mind's Eye by Oliver Sacks

This book is mostly a study of three cases of vision disorders. The book explores the effects of the degenerative disease in terms of brain function and vision loss, and the coping strategies of the people suffering the loss. One of the studies follows a person who actually feels he benefited from his vision loss.

I had hoped it would explore the neuroscience side of the issues more. The details are still interesting, although the studies seemed to get long and repetitive. The final chapter of the book does discuss the neuroscience more.

Generally, I didn’t think this book was as good as some of his previous works. This isn’t one I’d recommend to the average person.


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image: detail of installation by Bronwyn Lace