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.

Acceleration: The Forces Driving Human Progress by Ronald G. Havelock

Filed under:Science — posted by Randolph on May 4, 2013 @ 8:51 pm

Acceleration: The Forces Driving Human Progress by Ronald G. Havelock

The book discusses the acceleration of man’s culture, society, and technology. He explores many aspects of these, their relation to history and trends for the future. He tends to back up his ideas with a lot of data. He addresses many problems current society faces and extrapolates his philosophies for their future prospects.

He breaks his ideas into six forces that forge society: animal learning, externalized learning, social connections, knowledge platforms, scientific problem-solving, and global diffusion.

Too much of the book was devoted to setup. The first part of the book is long and tedious. The majority of the book is interesting and provides good food for thought.

Although the ideas seemed well researched, I felt he was overly optimistic and even dismissive of many ideas. For instance, he dismisses global warming with the statement “If the current trend in public opinion holds [we] will soon take steps to reduce emissions.” I several topics he seem either naive or to have a poor understanding of the issue.

Even with the shortcomings, the book was interesting and presents some interesting ideas.

The Vision Revolution by Mark Changizi

Filed under:Science — posted by Randolph on April 23, 2013 @ 4:37 pm

The Vision Revolution by Mark Changizi

Mark Changizi is proposing a new origin of vision and how we see. It moves the emphasis from food to socializing. He proposes that vision provides us with six super powers: telepathy, x-ray vision, future vision, and spirit reading. Cool, huh? Ok, they are really a bit more mundane than that, especially since we use them on a regular basis.

In more ordinary terms, we have telepathy from our ability to read each other. Our color vision has its greatest response range around the areas of our skin involving blood flow. We can tell the oxygenation levels and blood volume by subtle changes in skin color. These changes correspond to health and basic brain activity.

We have x-ray vision by virtue of our binocular vision. When we have a leafy environment close to us, our brain combines two images from our eyes and is able to remove the leaves from our view. He argues that animals from leavy environments are more likely to have forward-facing eyes, and that animals larger than the size of leaves and grasses are also more likely to have forward-facing eyes.

In a similar vein he explains future vision and spirit reading. In all cases, you understand why this ability is special, and why it is also ordinary. He backs his theory up well with data and interesting trivial.

He also uses his theory to explain a variety of visual illusions. These are primarily related to our future vision. He makes very good arguments and demonstrates a number of different classes of illusion.

The book is fascinating and a very good read for anyone interested in vision, physiology, or psychology.

A Universe from Nothing: Why There Is Something Rather than Nothing by Lawrence M. Krauss

Filed under:Science — posted by Randolph on February 21, 2013 @ 10:55 am

A Universe from Nothing: Why There Is Something Rather than Nothing by Lawrence M. Krauss

Laurence Krauss is a theoretical physicist doing work in cosmology and teaching at the Arizona State University. He is doing research into the nature of General Relativity, dark matter, and nuclear physics. In this book, he discusses the beginning and end of the universe, bringing to light the current theories as to why there is anything, why the physical laws are as they are, and what will come of it all.

He does a good job of discussing complex physics in terms that anyone can understand. The book goes into details about how empty space has energy and its consequences, touching on string theory, extra dimensions. Dr. Krauss walks us through his argument on why nothing is unstable, so there must be something. Its enough to warp the mind!

The book is entertaining and enlightening. You will walk away with a better understanding of our universe, even if it doesn’t have practical applications.


next page


image: detail of installation by Bronwyn Lace