Book 32: Intelligence: A Very Short Introduction by Ian J. Deary

PIMG_7677Intelligence: A Very Short Introduction by Ian J. Deary

Finished reading 29.01.2013

Rating 8/10

I found this little book really interesting – something short and easy to read.

As the book was short, there’s not much to write either, but in it you can find out why it would be a good idea to use IQ tests when recruiting new employees for mentally challenging jobs, whether or not the children’s upbringing influences their intelligence and how do mental abilities change as people get older and the differences between IQ test scores in different generations.

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Book 31: Stranger In A Strange Land by Robert Heinlein

PIMG_7298Stranger in A strange Land by Robert Heinlein

Finished reading 27.01.2013

Rating 8/10

This is a book about a man from Mars, not a Martian, but just an unfortunate human who’s brought up by Martians and later taken back to Earth – that’s where the real story begins.

I wonder whether Heinlein dreamed of a culture similar to the one that the main character was trying to start… 

“Stranger in A Strange Land ” is interesting mostly because of the cultural differences portrayed in the novel – they rise first because of the need for survival – the Man from Mars, Mike has to learn about human culture in order to thrive and live successfully  but at the same time, the people who are dealing with his education are being taught at the same time – they can see how different Mike is. It’s not physical differences (although i’m pretty sure that an MRI would have shown lots of differences between Mike’s brain and some random “grown on Earth” human’s brain), but just otherworldly ways of thinking.

At some point in the novel I suddenly started to realize that they’re dealing with some sort of cultural exchange… it made me think of the real here-and-now human experience… with the globalization a large percentage of humankind has access to knowledge about other cultures, other ways of doing things, some even have the opportunity to move into a different culture. But that’s where there’s a fork in the road – one might either be willing to learn about the other cultures and welcome the differences or try to fight it and influence other people to accept their own way of life.

In “Stranger in a Strange Land” Mike first has to adapt to his new environment and learn the ways of the people in order to survive, his closest supporters don’t have a need to learn much about Mike’s background, only enough to make the teaching efficient – they don’t gain rewards instantaneously just because of it – it’s more beneficial for Mike.

However when the winds change and Mike seems to have learnt everything he needs to know, he goes out to the world, with one of his main “educators”, Jill, and when it would be logical to try to survive using Earthlings’ skills, he actually starts to spread his own way of life. now there are a few,  who see it as a good thing, but then again that’s not how the book ends…

Anyhow, it seems to be a bit of missionary’s tale – go to a savage tribe, learn their way of life, while trying to manage your own, and piece-by-piece start feeding them bits of your own religion… there seem to be only two endings to that story- either the tribe will be converted, or they’ll probably roast the missionary…

A good read.

Book 30: Kusamakura by Natsume Sōseki

PIMG_7292Kusamakura by Natsume Sōseki

Finished reading on January 25th, 2013

Rating 7/10

“If you work by reason, you grow rough-edged; if you choose to dip your oar into sentiment’s stream, it will sweep you away. Demanding your own way only serves to constrain you. However you look at it, the human world is not an easy place to live. ”
– Natsume Sōseki

“Kusamakura” is the second book I’ve read by Natsume Sōseki, the first one being “Sanshiro”.

It starts off almost as if it were in a dream with all the imagery well suited for a novel about an artist. And it continues much in the same way having transported me from a cold dark northern-hemisphere winter to a mountain spring in Japan following the artist around as he’s trying to find something to paint.

It’s mellow… the kind of book you’d read on a hot summer afternoon in the garden while there are bees buzzing in the flowers and swallows flying overhead…and probably you’d fall asleep (because there’s not much in the way of action or suspense) and dream of what you’ve just read about.

Book 29: East, West by Salman Rushdie

 

PIMG_7287East, West by Salman Rushdie

Finished reading on January 23, 2013

Rating 6/10

East, West is a collection of nine stories which enabled me to understand why I seem to always go for the books with the most pages, and mostly novels in case of fiction. The trouble with short stories is (in my opinion) that they get you in the mood to read and find out more about some characters and before you get time to yawn or blink your eyes – poof! – the story is already over. So that’s one of the reasons why I gave it only 6 points.

Some of the stories have some bits and pieces from other well-known ones, but Rushdie seems to have been looking at them through a really badly made lens which has distorted everything and mixed together ideas that no-one else would consider even slightly relevant to the original story…

Indeed quite imaginative and extraordinary in many ways and for me at least a bit confusing, otherwise okay. As such I think I might read one of Rushdie’s novels in the future, seeing as they’re somewhat longer… actually I’m quite looking forward to it. 🙂

 

Book 28: The Man Who Changed Everything by Basil Mahon

 
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“The Man Who Changed Everything” by Basil Mahon

Finished reading on January 16, 2013

Rating 9/10

When I had just started studying physics at university level, I found reading scientists’ biographies motivational, even though I might not have understood any of the science to a good enough extent.

James Clerk Maxwell was for me one of those scientists, whose name being mentioned in a lecture made me want to turn invisible, because it almost always meant having to deal with Maxwell’s equations.

I wish I had read “The Man Who Changed Everything” before I acquired a habit of trying to avoid any topics that dealt with electromagnetism. Mahon’s writing is amazing. And the book is truly great.

I’d highly recommend reading this book to any physics student or science buff, but also to someone who might not be that well informed of physics or mathematics – you’ll hardly need it when reading.

James Clerk Maxwell is best known for his work in electromagnetism and statistical mechanics, but he also worked on the theory of colors and tried to explain how the rings of Saturn can be stable.  (one of the reasons I started reading the book was to find out what connection did Maxwell have to Saturn, as it’s on the cover..)

 

 

Book 27: Galileo by J. L. Heilbron

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Galileo by j.L. Heilbron

Finished reading 10.01.2013

Rating 9/10

Until I started reading this book I thought that Galileo was the guy who dropped cannon balls down from the Tower of Pisa and ended up blind and in house arrest. That was the baseline.

Now, having read Heilbron’s book, Galileo seems like an actual person who lived some 400 years ago. Yes, I knew he existed before, but reading ca 350 pages about someone occasionally makes them seem more real.

Heilbron’s “Galileo” gives a very good overview of the kind of person Galileo was – apparently some-what arrogant and a bit too fond of wine, but a real scientist, not just a philosopher (I don’t have anything against philosophers, unless they’re electrically charged).

Probably all books about the history of astronomy have Galileo in them, thus making it seem a little awkward how illuminating Heilbron’s book seemed to me, not because of finding out some important aspects of Galileo’s life, but rather for showing some of the reasons why the Copernican model of the Solar system didn’t take hold until a lot later in history.

But also the way that Galileo himself wrote about astronomy and mechanics is rather amusing and witty and so is Heilbron’s writing.

I really loved this book.

Book 26: Antimatter by Frank Close

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Antimatter by Frank Close

Finished reading 7.01.2013

Rating 8/10

So how about those antimatter engines? Bad luck if you read this book – you’ll realize it’s way beyond the Earth’s economy unless we find a natural source of antimatter in our Solar System’s vicinity.

It’s a rather good supplement to anyone interested in particle physics, and also for sci-fi fans in order to shatter your dreams of fast interstellar travel without wormholes 🙂

I personally liked it and didn’t find it too difficult (but then again particle physics is basically my second favorite branch of physics and I’m thus somewhat acquainted with it).

As a bonus it’s only around 150 pages and there’s barely any maths involved.

To quote Douglas Adams’ worlds Sirius Cybernetics Company’s Nutrimatic Drink Dispenser: “Share and enjoy!”

Book 25: The Joy of Physics by Arthur W. Wiggins

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The Joy of Physics by Arthur W. Wiggins

Finished reading on 6.01.2013

Rating 7/10

Having studied physics at the university level for 4 years might make it seem odd that I’d say it – but it’s rather difficult to see any joy in physics just by looking at it…

The book covers basically all of physics, making it thus a good place to start  when you’re even slightly interested in the subject. The Joy of Physics is great because it at least doesn’t diminish any interest one might already have, and rather adds some to it with really informative short biographies for some bigger names in physics.

The writing was clear and rather concise, there were equations and a lot of them, but it’s got cartoons!

The rather low rating is mostly caused by me being a snob and thinking that reading another book should give me more information that I didn’t know before. However I did like the four last chapters dealing with modern physics a lot.

Book 24: Photos That Sell by Lee Frost

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Books That Sell by Lee Frost

Finished reading on 3.01.2013

Rating 7/10

One of those books you’d either just open for the sake of the pictures or to actually learn something.

For me it was the second one. The books is informative and somewhat motivational although considering that it was published about ten years ago, the information’s a bit old and gray…

The part I found the most useful were the last few chapters that dealt with some of the photography techniques, and there were some intersting tips that I’m probably going to use.

It would be a really useful book to read if you’re interested in getting into stock photography.