Saturday, January 28, 2012

Sea Sick: The Global Ocean in Crisis by Alanna Mitchell

An important, accessible and deeply concerning book. From the problems with pH, plankton and corals, to overfishing and melting ice, Sea Sick explores the state of the world's oceans and how they are being negatively impacted by climate change.

While it is hard not to despair, Mitchell makes the best case she can for hope and action.
If curious in the topic, recommended. If not, try to read something on it anyway as the issue is of great importance. For example, plankton, not trees, are the larger 'lungs' of our planet, producing half of all the oxygen we breathe.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Real Ultimate Power: The Official Ninja Handbook by Robert Hamburger

(Unfinished at 70%)

I saw this at a library sale, a book written about how awesome ninjas are (supposedly by a 13 y.o.) flipped through the pages and laughed several times, so I thought it was worth the $1.50... turns out it was a bit too juvenile. Ah well.

Monday, January 09, 2012

Self Comes to Mind by Antonio Damasio

A good exploration of how various brain areas may interact to produce a 'self.'

Damasio provides neuroanatomical details that most do not, while not being so dense as to be unhelpful. I appreciated the exploration and greater precision, but for me the main gist is sufficient: you are a creation of different parts of your brain interacting.

The names of the exact places/areas/structures is nice, but not nearly as important as actually comprehending the main concept.


Foundation and Empire by Issac Asimov

(Unfinished at 25%)

I had hoped the second book in the trilogy would be more engaging but it was similar to the first without as much novelty. Consequently, it just wasn't worth the cost of reading other things.

Burning Chrome by William Gibson

(Unfinished at 55%)

Starting off with "Johnny Mnemonic," I thought this would be an interesting collection of sci-fi short stories... not so much. They all seemed a bit similar and just didn't grab my attention.

Monday, January 02, 2012

Foundation by Issac Asimov

One of the most celebrated works in science-fiction, this first part of a trilogy (or more depending how you see things) explores the notion of 'psycho-history' - the discipline that can mathematically predict large-scale future events - and how to accommodate or resist such happenings. In short, the galactic empire is crumbling and will descend into darkness for 30,000 years... unless the Foundation can act in certain ways through certain crises and make this decline last only 1000 years. I enjoyed thinking about events on such a large time scale but it Asimov wasn't too futuristic in some domains. Men still drank burbon and women were housewives or tertiary characters. Asimov created a world with galactic space travel, yet communication mediums and technology were pretty weak. Also, everything was 'atomic power', likely due to the book written in the early 50s, but still amusing.
Good stuff and I'll likely try the others.

Uncertainty by David Lindley

Another exploration of the development of quantum theory. While this did offer a few new perspectives (e.g., Bohr was a more intuitive thinker), I think Manjit Kumar's Quantum is a better work.

Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep by Philip K. Dick

The book that inspired Bladerunner is well-worth your time regardless of if you have seen the film or not. There is more depth, context and interesting events (like 'dialing desired cognitive states). 
I enjoy explorations of robots and the future interactions between humans and machines.
The title now has multiple meanings because in the book live animals are prized and expensive possessions. Those who can't afford the real thing sometimes buy robotic versions, like sheep. So, humans dream of aquiring real animals, machines might desire something analogous (and, of course, there is the link to counting sheep while trying to sleep).
Great book.