What are you currently reading?

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Aufbauwerk 2045

Recently I finished the novel Colossus by D. F. Jones, upon which the movie Colossus: The Forbin Project is based. I bought it on Kindle.

For me it's a rare thing to read fiction. But I enjoy some so-called hard science fiction. This one is a very interesting novel, particularly given that it was published in 1966. I look forward to reading the other two books in the trilogy when I have more time.

It's normal to compare movies with the novel they are based on. In this case I enjoyed both.

One mysterious incident is when Colossus is teaching itself mathematics until it is way beyond Forbin, and he says Colossus is "deep into finite absolutes." This has led some people to speculate about what this means. It is just something Jones made up, or is there really such a thing in math as "finite absolutes"?
 
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In Cold Blood by Truman Capote. A chilling account of a true crime, written by a master of the English language.
 

Evo

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gleem

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I just finished rereading Robert Fulghum's little book "All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten.(Ivy Books, 1986). It is collection of observations , anecdotes and recommendations that help wake you up from the mesmerizing drone of everyday life. Some are silly, some humorous, some insightful.
 
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THE EMPEROR OF ALL MALADIES - A Biography of cancer By Siddhartha Mukherjee

An interesting book about the history of cancer and the challenges faced by people at war with the disease(s).
 
Angels and Demons, by Dan Brown. He kind of mixes Particle Physics with Catholic Church stuff. It almost seems he has no idea what he's talking about!
 

Dembadon

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I'm reading "Getting Risk Right" by Geoffrey C. Kabat.

Here's a snip from the preface:
The modern world, the advanced technological world in which we live, is a dangerous place. Or, at least, that is the message that, with metronomic regularity, seems to jump out at us at every turn. The news media bombard us with reports of the latest threat to our health lurking in our food, air, water, and the environment, and these messages are often reinforced by regulatory agencies, activist groups, and scientists themselves. In recent years we have been encouraged to worry about deadly toxins in baby bottles, food, and cosmetics; carcinogenic radiation from power lines and cell phones; and harm from vaccines and genetically modified foods, to name just a few of the more prominent scares.

When looked at even the least bit critically, many of the scares that get high-profile attention turn out to be based on weak or erroneous findings that were hardly ready for prime time.
Excerpt From: Geoffrey C. Kabat. “Getting Risk Right.” Columbia University Press, 2016-11-22.
 
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"Isaac Newton" by James Gleick.

Biography of the greatest physicist of all time. Gleick is a wonderful author as well, I duly recommend his books "Genius" on Richard Feynman and "Chaos" on the history of nonlinear dynamics.
 

Aufbauwerk 2045

I am reading Problem Solving and Artificial Intelligence by Jean-Louis Laurière. He was "ancien professeur d’informatique de l’Université Pierre et Marie Curie (Paris VI)."
 
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Just re-read the famous Hound of the Baskervilles.

This was prompted by seeing a British TV mystery set in Dartmoor in the present in which the spectral hound was replaced by one of those large, wild cats that are rumored to be lurking all around England. It had many good shots of the actual moor and the mysterious "tors." This made a reading of the Sherlock Holmes tale more vivid.
 
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The Knowledge Illusion: Why We Never Think Alone, by Steven Slomack and Philip Fernbach, 2017, Riverhead Books. Two cognitive scientists explain why most of what we believe we know, we actually don't know as individuals; rather, we rely on group knowledge and knowledge embodied in our environment - yet often we are unaware that this is the case. Very relevant to the problem today of widespread mistrust or ignorance of science, even among supposedly "educated" persons.

The authors use many examples of knowledge vs. ignorance drawn from science, technology, and industry ,as well as non-science examples related to politics, social issues, and public policies. Here's an interesting passage from the Introduction:

This book is being written at a time of immense polarization on the American political scene. Liberals and conservatives find each other’s views repugnant, and as a result, Democrats and Republicans cannot find common ground or compromise. The U.S. Congress is unable to pass even benign legislation; the Senate is preventing the administration from making important judicial and administrative appointments merely because the appointments are coming from the other side.

One reason for this gridlock is that both politicians and voters don’t realize how little they understand. Whenever an issue is important enough for public debate, it is also complicated enough to be difficult to understand. Reading a newspaper article or two just isn’t enough. Social issues have complex causes and unpredictable consequences. It takes a lot of expertise to really understand the implications of a position, and even expertise may not be enough. Conflicts between, say, police and minorities cannot be reduced to simple fear or racism or even to both. Along with fear and racism, conflicts arise because of individual experiences and expectations, because of the dynamics of a specific situation, because of misguided training and misunderstandings. Complexity abounds. If everybody understood this, our society would likely be less polarized.

Instead of appreciating complexity, people tend to affiliate with one or another social dogma. Because our knowledge is enmeshed with that of others, the community shapes our beliefs and attitudes. It is so hard to reject an opinion shared by our peers that too often we don’t even try to evaluate claims based on their merits. We let our group do our thinking for us. Appreciating the communal nature of knowledge should make us more realistic about what’s determining our beliefs and values.

This would improve how we make decisions. We all make decisions that we’re not proud of. These include mistakes like failing to save for retirement, as well as regrets like giving in to temptation when we really should know better. We’ll see that we can deploy the community of knowledge to help people overcome their natural limitations in ways that increase the well-being of the community at large.​

I'm only partway through Chapter 1, but even so far it's quite interesting. Many examples are drawn from applied physics, with two related to nuclear weapons. The first, used to lead off the Introduction, is the Castle Bravo test explosion of the "Shrimp" H-bomb in 1954, the power of which was underestimated by the scientists involved, by nearly a factor of 3; this calculation error led to fallout on two populated atolls, later resulting in thyroid tumors and birth defects. The second example, leading off Chap. 1, is how Louis Slotin, an otherwise experienced and careful physicist, ignored protocols during a test of beryllium spheres w/ plutonium core in 1946; by letting a screwdriver slip that he was holding in his hand, he started a fission reaction with enough hard radiation to kill himself (he died some days later) and make others in the room very sick (and likely contributing to premature deaths from cancer for three of the men). These examples are used as teasers for the implied question "How can we humans be so smart, yet also so stupid?" I haven't read far enough to know how the authors will specifically try to explain what went wrong in these two cases.
 
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Aufbauwerk 2045

I am currently reading the memoirs of U.S. Grant. I was pleasantly surprised to find them a good read. He provides pretty good order of battles with some copies of orders he wrote. Recommended for anyone interested in the US Civil War.
I read the book after hearing Gore Vidal praise it as one of the best works of American literature. He quoted Grant's statement that nations, like individuals, are punished for their transgressions, and that the Civil War was America's punishment for the Mexican War.

Since you are interested in the Civil War, you may also like The Second Day by Harry Pfanz. It's a detailed account of the second day of Gettysburg.
 
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I don't normally read fiction, but this year I felt like reading Dark Matter by Blake Crouch. It's about a physicist who managed to put a macroscopic object into superposition(yes, himself :woot:), quantum mechanical insanity ensued. Very good book.
 
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Sync by Steven Strogatz. I'm only just past the first chapter and already I'm kicking myself for not picking this up way earlier.

Strogatz is a master of mathematical imagery and can effortlessly engage his audience; he is in fact one of a handful of living mathematicians who deeply and intuitively seems to grasp the grand view of physics better than most living practicing physicists.

From the tone of the first and second chapters alone I'm already expecting this book to be better than Gleick's Chaos.
 

WWGD

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The Knowledge Illusion: Why We Never Think Alone, by Steven Slomack and Philip Fernbach, 2017, Riverhead Books. Two cognitive scientists explain why most of what we believe we know, we actually don't know as individuals; rather, we rely on group knowledge and knowledge embodied in our environment - yet often we are unaware that this is the case. Very relevant to the problem today of widespread mistrust or ignorance of science, even among supposedly "educated" persons.

The authors use many examples of knowledge vs. ignorance drawn from science, technology, and industry ,as well as non-science examples related to politics, social issues, and public policies. Here's an interesting passage from the Introduction:

This book is being written at a time of immense polarization on the American political scene. Liberals and conservatives find each other’s views repugnant, and as a result, Democrats and Republicans cannot find common ground or compromise. The U.S. Congress is unable to pass even benign legislation; the Senate is preventing the administration from making important judicial and administrative appointments merely because the appointments are coming from the other side.

One reason for this gridlock is that both politicians and voters don’t realize how little they understand. Whenever an issue is important enough for public debate, it is also complicated enough to be difficult to understand. Reading a newspaper article or two just isn’t enough. Social issues have complex causes and unpredictable consequences. It takes a lot of expertise to really understand the implications of a position, and even expertise may not be enough. Conflicts between, say, police and minorities cannot be reduced to simple fear or racism or even to both. Along with fear and racism, conflicts arise because of individual experiences and expectations, because of the dynamics of a specific situation, because of misguided training and misunderstandings. Complexity abounds. If everybody understood this, our society would likely be less polarized.

Instead of appreciating complexity, people tend to affiliate with one or another social dogma. Because our knowledge is enmeshed with that of others, the community shapes our beliefs and attitudes. It is so hard to reject an opinion shared by our peers that too often we don’t even try to evaluate claims based on their merits. We let our group do our thinking for us. Appreciating the communal nature of knowledge should make us more realistic about what’s determining our beliefs and values.

This would improve how we make decisions. We all make decisions that we’re not proud of. These include mistakes like failing to save for retirement, as well as regrets like giving in to temptation when we really should know better. We’ll see that we can deploy the community of knowledge to help people overcome their natural limitations in ways that increase the well-being of the community at large.​

I'm only partway through Chapter 1, but even so far it's quite interesting. Many examples are drawn from applied physics, with two related to nuclear weapons. The first, used to lead off the Introduction, is the Castle Bravo test explosion of the "Shrimp" H-bomb in 1954, the power of which was underestimated by the scientists involved, by nearly a factor of 3; this calculation error led to fallout on two populated atolls, later resulting in thyroid tumors and birth defects. The second example, leading off Chap. 1, is how Louis Slotin, an otherwise experienced and careful physicist, ignored protocols during a test of beryllium spheres w/ plutonium core in 1946; by letting a screwdriver slip that he was holding in his hand, he started a fission reaction with enough hard radiation to kill himself (he died some days later) and make others in the room very sick (and likely contributing to premature deaths from cancer for three of the men). These examples are used as teasers for the implied question "How can we humans be so smart, yet also so stupid?" I haven't read far enough to know how the authors will specifically try to explain what went wrong in these two cases.
I completely agree with the premise. And there is the corollary that if you do not go along with either side , you likely become an outcast. As a slightly left-of center person who disagrees on issues with both sides I am hated ( I don't think this is an overstatement) by many on both sides.
 
47
29
Just re-read the famous Hound of the Baskervilles.

This was prompted by seeing a British TV mystery set in Dartmoor in the present in which the spectral hound was replaced by one of those large, wild cats that are rumored to be lurking all around England. It had many good shots of the actual moor and the mysterious "tors." This made a reading of the Sherlock Holmes tale more vivid.
Have you seen the TV version with Jeremy Brett?
 
Showdown by Ted Dekker
 
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I'm trying to finish Robert Greene's The Art of Seduction. If you've never heard it, don't be deceived--it's not your average PUA self-help junk. Telling the stories of figures such as Cleopatra, Casanova, Ellington, Lenin and Warhol, Greene has an amazing breadth of historical knowledge and analyses all aspects of seduction: political, social and romantic.
 

BillTre

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I just started reading "The Difference Machine" by William Gibson and Bruce Sterling (1991).
Found it in a used bookstore while waiting for my wife.
Its kind of an alt steampunk history. Babbage machines as computers.
 

Borek

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"Diaries of unemployed" - selection of diaries written around 1931 for a competition organized by Collegium of Socio-Economics (part of Warsaw School of Economics). A bit monotonous and difficult to read (these were mostly people with just 3-5 years of education). Depressing in general, I don't think I will make it through both volumes. Gives quite a bit of perspective.
 
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Rereading Poincaré's 'The Foundation Of Science'. This probably remains the single best book I have ever had the pleasure of reading.
 

jim hardy

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Have a book called "Driven to Distraction" about ADD. But i just can't seem to get around to it....:confused:
 

Buzz Bloom

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I am about halfway through Outlander by Diana Gabaldon. After seeing about two and a half of the STARZ series, I decided to start reading the first book of the book series on which the STARZ series is based. As usual, there is more scenes in the book than are in the cable series, and they add some additional depth tho the characters.
 

lavinia

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@lavinia Do you realize that you've been responding to posts that are over 5 years old by members who have been banned or who haven't been online in years?
oh.
 

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