Recommended Good Books (most recent first)

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General (mostly science)

Skeptic Magazine (volume 2 number 3)

This very thought provoking issue is dedicated to Alfred Russel Wallace. It contains lots of information about:


The Invention of Nature (2015) by Andrea Wulf

 highly recommended

Excerpt from page 3: Described by his contemporaries as the most famous man in the world after Napoleon, Alexander Humboldt was one of the most captivating and inspiring men of his time. Born in 1769 into a wealthy Prussian aristocratic family, he discarded a life of privilege to discover for himself how the world worked. As a young man he set out on a five year exploration to Latin America, risking his life many times and returning with a new sense of the world. It was a journey that shaped his life and thinking, and that made him legendary across the globe. He lived in cities such as Paris and Berlin, but was equally at home on the most remote branches of the Orinoco River or in the Kazakh Steppe at Russia's Mongolian border. During much of his long life, he was the nexus of the scientific world, writing some 50,000 letters and receiving at least double that number. Knowledge, Humboldt believed, had to be shared, exchanged and made available to everybody.

Excerpt from page 4: Charles Darwin wrote that 'nothing ever stimulated my zeal so much as reading Humboldt's Personal Narrative' saying that he would not have boarded the Beagle, nor conceived of the Origin of Species, without Humboldt.

Comment: we know from his diaries that Darwin continued to read Humboldt during his own five year journey aboard the Beagle

The Soul of a New Machine (1981/2001) by Tracy kidder

 highly recommended

I read this book back in 1981 but am now rereading it again as it is a recommendation of the ScienceFriday Summer Book Club.

(corrected) Publisher's Blurb: Computers have changed since 1981, when Tracy Kidder memorably recorded the drama, comedy, and excitement of one company's efforts to bring a new microcomputer minicomputer to market. What has not changed is the feverish pace of the high-tech industry, the go-for-broke approach to business that has caused so many computer companies to win big (or go belly up), and the cult of pursuing mind-bending technological innovations. The Soul of a New Machine is an essential chapter in the history of the machine that revolutionized the world in the twentieth century.


Science Under Siege (2015) by CBC Radio

 highly recommended for all citizens

Not a book; This is a series of CBC radio programs aired first June-2015 on "Ideas" with Paul Kennedy

Are we living through an Anti-Scientific Revolution? Scientists around the world are increasingly restricted in what they can research, publish and say -- constrained by belief and ideology from all sides.  Historically, science has always had a thorny relationship with institutions of power. But what happens to societies which turn their backs on curiosity-driven research? And how can science lift the siege?  CBC Radio producer Mary Lynk looks for some answers in this three-part series. 

Comment: in part one I learned that the reason why Europe leaped ahead of China four hundred years ago was primarily due to the work of Francis Bacon who convinced the English government to:

Most Wanted Particle (2015) by Jon Butterworth

 a great read for citizens and science nerds

Official Blurb from the Publisher: Jon Butterworth is one of the leading physicists at the Large Hadron Collider and is Head of Physics and Astronomy at University College London. He writes the popular Life & Physics blog for the Guardian and has written articles for a range of publications including the Guardian and New Scientist. For the last 13 years, he has divided his time between London and Geneva, Switzerland

My Amazon Review: I purchased this book last month in the foyer of the Perimeter Institute of Physics (in Waterloo, Ontario, Canada) after the author's lecture. On first glance it appeared to be just another general book on science with emphasis on particle physics, but for me turned out to be much more. I have (I think) a reasonable "layman's understanding" of colliers and quantum mechanics but this book added to my knowledge by delivering numerous anecdotes (here I am using that word to mean "depicting small narrative incidents") which would only be possible from an author with first-hand experience of particle physics in general and the LHC in particular. As the author says himself, "this is not a textbook" but he has not been shy in placing a tiny amount of maths in the subscripts at the bottom of each page for the science nerds who want a little more information. Many people might wish to read this book just to learn why scientific research is so important. Jon Butterworth is, after all, an educator as well as experimentalist.

In case you hadn't guessed, the most wanted particle is the Higgs Boson. I bought this book after attending a lecture by the author at the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics in Waterloo, Ontario. Watch the video here:

The author's presentation reminded me of other "great explainers in science" like Carl Sagan. He also showed slides of CERN's FCC (future circular collider) which is a working name for EuroCirCol H2020 project. Explore here: and here: (diagram showing FCC being 80-100km long which is 3-3.5 times longer than the LHC).


  1. most countries today value the NATO Treaty where members agree to spend 2 percent of GDP on defense. Euro-zone countries are required to contribute 1 percent of GDP to European Scientific Research and I wonder if this might be a better investment
  2. this general science book is valuable in more ways then you would first think. For example, this is the first time I've see glossaries sprinkled throughout rather than having a single glossary at the end. They are titled:
  3. a teaser from page 116: “In other words, a proton contains gluons, but it also contains many more than three quarks, and lots of anti-quarks too. But if you cancel every antiquark off against every quark, you are still left with a net total of three quarks
  4. If you watch the video above, be sure to watch the question asked in the Q+A at time marker 1:01:35 which states “explain how a neutron can contain a top-quark that has more mass than a neutron as a whole?

Tear Down This Myth: The Right-Wing Distortion of the Reagan Legacy (2010) by Will Bunch

So the other day I was exercising at the gym while a poorly educated (you could tell by the grammar) right-wing nut-bar next to me preached a pro-conservative sermon about Saint Ronald Reagan, savior of the free world. I am apolitical so did not offer any counterpoints; but it would have been pointless anyway because you can never argue with "true believers" (especially those who only see politics as a team sport but are unable to articulate the differences between "progressive conservatives" like Churchill and "big business conservatives" like Thatcher and Reagan). While "this preacher" droned on I kept thinking: isn't this the same guy who "fired the air traffic controllers which signaled everyone else that it was okay to attack unions and the middle class", "who's free-trade policies resulted in the creation of a new American phrase: the rust belt", "diverted money from Iran to the contras in Nicaragua then lied about it", "allowed the just-broken up Bell System to begin shifting back in the direction of a monopoly", "instituted Reaganomics (also called the trickle-down economics)", "who's policies ended up creating the Savings and Loan crisis", "created the Strategic Defense Initiative also known as Star Wars (I still remember Caspar Weinberger looking on in stunned silence during the announcement)", "added 2 trillion to the nation's debt"?

Later that evening I was Goggling some stuff about Reagan when I stumbled on this book: Tear Down This Myth: The Right-Wing Distortion of the Reagan Legacy which is obviously titled after Reagan's famous speech where he said "Mister Gorbachev. Tear down this wall". So I bought the book (even though I am apolitical) which turned out to be a very good read  as well as a refresher about American and world history between 1981 and 1988. But even if you don't buy this book, take some time to read the reviews here:

Enlightenment 2.0 (2014) by Joseph Heath

Over the last twenty years, the political systems of the western world have become increasingly divided—not between right and left, but between crazy and non-crazy. What’s more, the crazies seem to be gaining the upper hand. Rational thought cannot prevail in the current social and media environment, where elections are won by appealing to voters’ hearts rather than their minds. The rapid-fire pace of modern politics, the hypnotic repetition of daily news items and even the multitude of visual sources of information all make it difficult for the voice of reason to be heard.

In Enlightenment 2.0, bestselling author Joseph Heath outlines a program for a second Enlightenment. The answer, he argues, lies in a new "slow politics." It takes as its point of departure recent psychological and philosophical research, which identifies quite clearly the social and environmental preconditions for the exercise of rational thought. It is impossible to restore sanity merely by being sane and trying to speak in a reasonable tone of voice. The only way to restore sanity is by engaging in collective action against the social conditions that have crowded it out.

CBC Podcast

Book Reviews:

The main problem with political thinking (comments and observations):

Undeniable: Evolution and the Science of Creation (2014) by Bill Nye

This book is much more than a defense of Evolution. It's a well-written and entertaining showcase of what makes nature so fascinating. I recommend it for creationists, for those who understand evolution, and for those who simply enjoy a good read.

Other reviewers said:

  1. "With his charming, breezy, narrative style, Bill empowers the reader to see the natural world as it is, not as some would wish it to be. He does it right. And, as I expected, he does it best."—Neil deGrasse Tyson, Ph.D, host of COSMOS
  2. "This gracefully written book provides a tour through not just the big ideas of evolution, but why evolution is such a captivating idea scientifically, philosophically, and emotionally. Written from the heart—but science always comes from the heart with Bill Nye."—Eugenie C. Scott, Ph.D., author of Evolution vs. Creationism: An Introduction
  3. "Bill Nye has penned one of the clearest and most moving explanations of that process since Darwin's On the Origin of Species. With clarity and passion, Nye brings evolutionary theory to life."—Michael Shermer, Ph.D., author of Why Darwin Matters and The Moral Arc
  4. "Bill Nye has written a wonderfully clear, readable, and enjoyable explanation of what evolution is and is not. In his casual, humorous style, he…describes the gigantic mountain of evidence that demonstrates that evolution not only happened in the past, but is happening in real time."—Donald Prothero, Ph.D., author of Evolution: What the Fossils Say and Why It Matters
  5. "Following right in his mentor Carl Sagan's footsteps, this call to action and awareness of the lingering ‘debate’ over the reality of Evolution will further cement Bill Nye's place as our time's premier spokesman for science and reason."—Dr. Jim Bell, president of The Planetary Society and author of The Interstellar Age

The Entrepreneurial State: Debunking Public Vs. Private Sector Myths (2013) by Mariana Mazzucato

Okay so on of the biggest myths popularized in the past 30-years that government gets in the way of business. This book is proof that this myth is false. In reality, governments do the lion's share of all the research while assuming all the risk. It is only at this point when corporate entrepreneurs step in to take credit for all the innovation.

Publisher's Blurb: This new bestseller from leading economist Mariana Mazzucato – named by the ‘New Republic’ as one of the ‘most important innovation thinkers’ today – is stirring up much-needed debates worldwide about the role of the State in innovation. Debunking the myth of a laggard State at odds with a dynamic private sector, Mazzucato reveals in case study after case study that in fact the opposite situation is true, with the private sector only finding the courage to invest after the entrepreneurial State has made the high-risk investments. Case studies include examples of the State’s role in the ‘green revolution’, in biotech and pharmaceuticals, as well as several detailed examples from Silicon Valley. In an intensely researched chapter, she reveals that every technology that makes the iPhone so ‘smart’ was government funded: the Internet, GPS, its touch-screen display and the voice-activated Siri. Mazzucato also controversially argues that in the history of modern capitalism the State has not only fixed market failures, but has also shaped and created markets, paving the way for new technologies and sectors that the private sector only ventures into once the initial risk has been assumed. And yet by not admitting the State’s role we are socializing only the risks, while privatizing the rewards in fewer hands. This, she argues, hurts both future innovation and equity in modern-day capitalism. Named one of the ‘2013 Books of the Year’ by the ‘Financial Times’ and recommended by ‘Forbes’ in its 2013 ‘creative leaders’ list, this book is a must-read for those interested in a refreshing and long-awaited take on the public vs. private sector debate.

Some Example Successes: RADAR, SONAR, aerospace, space flight, microelectronics, internet, IT-revolution, GPS, biotech, nanotech, clean-tech. Today, ARPAe (ARPA energy) is responsible for the lion's share of new energy research.


Capital in the Twenty-First Century (2014) by Thomas Piketty

At the very minimum, the Introduction to this book should be required reading for every citizen in the western world.


Excerpts from Section 3, Chapter 7 "Inequality and Concentration: Preliminary Bearings"

NSR Comments and General Observations

Faraday, Maxwell, and the Electromagnetic Field (2014) by Nancy Forbes and Basil Mahon

 science lover's "must have"

Buy this book (no time to add any more)

Magnificent Principia (2013) Colin Pask

Buy this book (no time to add any more except to say this book is much more about Newton's book and much less about Newton)

Einstein and the Quantum: The Quest of the Valiant Swabian (2013) by Douglas Stone

 science lover's "must have"

Einstein and the Quantum reveals for the first time the full significance of Albert Einstein's contributions to quantum theory. Einstein famously rejected quantum mechanics, observing that God does not play dice. But, in fact, he thought more about the nature of atoms, molecules, and the emission and absorption of light--the core of what we now know as quantum theory--than he did about relativity.

A compelling blend of physics, biography, and the history of science, Einstein and the Quantum shares the untold story of how Einstein--not Max Planck or Niels Bohr--was the driving force behind early quantum theory. It paints a vivid portrait of the iconic physicist as he grappled with the apparently contradictory nature of the atomic world, in which its invisible constituents defy the categories of classical physics, behaving simultaneously as both particle and wave. And it demonstrates how Einstein's later work on the emission and absorption of light, and on atomic gases, led directly to Erwin Schrödinger's breakthrough to the modern form of quantum mechanics. The book sheds light on why Einstein ultimately renounced his own brilliant work on quantum theory, due to his deep belief in science as something objective and eternal.

A book unlike any other, Einstein and the Quantum offers a completely new perspective on the scientific achievements of the greatest intellect of the twentieth century, showing how Einstein's contributions to the development of quantum theory are more significant, perhaps, than even his legendary work on relativity.

Reality Check: How Science Deniers Threaten Our Future (2013) by Donald R. Prothero

 highly recommended for citizens. Should be required reading by all first-year secondary school students   

The battles over evolution, climate change, childhood vaccinations, and the causes of AIDS, alternative medicine, oil shortages, population growth, and the place of science in our country—all are reaching a fevered pitch. Many people and institutions have exerted enormous efforts to misrepresent or flatly deny demonstrable scientific reality to protect their nonscientific ideology, their power, or their bottom line. To shed light on this darkness, Donald R. Prothero explains the scientific process and why society has come to rely on science not only to provide a better life but also to reach verifiable truths no other method can obtain. He describes how major scientific ideas that are accepted by the entire scientific community (evolution, anthropogenic global warming, vaccination, the HIV cause of AIDS, and others) have been attacked with totally unscientific arguments and methods. Prothero argues that science deniers pose a serious threat to society, as their attempts to subvert the truth have resulted in widespread scientific ignorance, increased risk of global catastrophes, and deaths due to the spread of diseases that could have been prevented.

NSR Comments

The Universe Within: Discovering The Common History Of Rocks, Planets, And People (2013) by Neil Shubin

From one of our finest and most popular science writers, and the best-selling author of Your Inner Fish, comes the answer to a scientific mystery as big as the world itself: How are the events that formed our solar system billions of years ago embedded inside each of us?

In Your Inner Fish, Neil Shubin delved into the amazing connections between human bodies—our hands, heads, and jaws—and the structures in fish and worms that lived hundreds of millions of years ago. In The Universe Within, with his trademark clarity and exuberance, Shubin takes an even more expansive approach to the question of why we look the way we do. Starting once again with fossils, he turns his gaze skyward, showing us how the entirety of the universe’s fourteen-billion-year history can be seen in our bodies. As he moves from our very molecular composition (a result of stellar events at the origin of our solar system) through the workings of our eyes, Shubin makes clear how the evolution of the cosmos has profoundly marked our own bodies.

Nuclear Forces: The Making of the Physicist Hans Bethe (2012) by Silvan S. Schweber

 highly recommended

[Bethe was] the supreme problem solver of the twentieth century. (Freeman Dyson)

Nuclear Forces is a carefully researched, historically and biographically insightful account of the development of a profession and of one of its leading representatives during a century in which physics and physicists played key roles in scientific, cultural, political, and military developments. (David C. Cassidy, Author Of A Short History Of Physics In The American Century )

Schweber's account of Hans Bethe's life through his Nobel Prize-winning 1938 work on energy generation in stars reveals the origins of a charismatic scientist, grounded in the importance of his parents and his Jewish roots...[Schweber] recreates the social world that shaped the character of the last of the memorable young scientists who established the field of quantum mechanics. (Publishers Weekly 20120507)

A detailed and thoroughly researched study of Bethe's development as a scientist and as a human being...Schweber has trawled [Bethe's] correspondence [with Rudolf Peierls], together with Bethe's voluminous archive, with the finest of gauzes, and the result is a richly detailed picture of his life. Schweber tells it with compassion and admiration, although Nuclear Forces is no hagiography…This is a deeply rewarding book…[It's] an insightful account of how Hans Bethe became, in the constellation of 20th-century physicists, one of its most luminous stars. (Graham Farmelo Times Higher Education 20120614)

Nuclear Forces is a highly readable account of a remarkable period in physics, tracing the future Nobel laureate through his formative years and up to the eve of World War II. (Manjit Kumar Wall Street Journal 20120713)

Nuclear Forces, by the distinguished physicist Silvan Schweber, tells the story of the first three decades of Bethe's life and career, up to the time of his Nobel Prize–winning work on nuclear reactions in stars. But the book offers much more besides, with a history of the development of physics—atomic, solid-state and nuclear—in the first third of the twentieth century, and of the institutions in which Bethe worked. Schweber's analysis of the physics is the book's great strength. (Frank Cose Nature 20120628)

Schweber, a physicist and historian of physics, provides an engaging account of the life of Hans Bethe...The book essentially ends just before the beginning of WW II. It gives the intellectual, cultural, and scientific background needed to understand Bethe's scientific work and his advocacy for control of nuclear weapons after the war. (M. Dickinson Choice 20121201)

NSR Comments:

  1. The first half of this book focuses upon the Bethe Family along with their friends and colleagues in Europe. The second half of this book focuses upon the contributions of many people, including Hans Bethe, to developments in quantum mechanics resulting in stellar nucleosynthesis. In some ways, this book is similar to Turing's Cathedral: The Origins Of The Digital Universe in that it describes a veritable golden age in scientific research.
  2. Hans Bethe's father was Albrecht Bethe (professor and director of the Institute of Physiology at the University of Kiel beginning in 1912 then later became head of the new Institute of Physiology at the University of Frankfurt am Main in 1915). This means that much has been written about this family as well as the people coming into contract with them. This book, then, also provides a good glimpse of how anti-Semitism -and- conservative politics slowly destroyed European culture eventually driving out many of Europe's brightest people before the insanity of war inflected the final blow.
  3. Page 232 references a 1918 speech titled "Science as a Vocation" given by Max Weber to students of Munich University given shortly before the end of WW1. Quote: Weber also wanted to convey to his audience his belief that the antiscience and antischolarship temper that was prevalent in a very large segment of the defeated German population was symptomatic of "the cultural and political crisis facing modern Western civilization"
    What I find odd (and chilling) is that I hear similar anti-science sentiments almost every day coming from both the United States and Canada. These views do not appear to be greater than 50% (although the number appears to be increasing) but it does seem to me that people are already making choices where "political opinion" trumps "scientific evidence". I wonder if the west's recent infatuation with conservatism (starting with Thatcher and Regan) is an echo from an uglier time.
  4. Pages 226-229 provide a glimpse of how the Nazi Civil Service Law of 1933 (which forbade any non-Aryan from holding any state or federal position) affected the scientific community. Page 278 mentions the lesser known "Nazi intolerance of women in academia" making it difficult, if not impossible, for women in Germany (or Nazi influenced Europe) to have a career in science.
    Whatever Max Weber thought about "progress", this wasn't it. I think this quote from David Hilbert sums up the proper progressive view: When Emmy Noether’s appointment to the University of Göttingen was being blocked by stubborn faculty members, one of them complained to Hilbert that the students would resent learning “at the feet of a woman.” Hilbert replied that it should not matter. "We are a university, not a bath-house."

The Republican Brain: The Science of Why They Deny Science and Reality (2012) by Chris Mooney

Bestselling author Chris Mooney uses cutting-edge research to explain the psychology behind why today’s Republicans ("conservatives" for those people outside of the USA) reject reality—it's just part of who they are.

From climate change to evolution, the rejection of mainstream science among Republicans is growing, as is the denial of expert consensus on the economy, American history, foreign policy and much more. Why won't Republicans (conservatives) accept things that most experts agree on? Why are they constantly fighting against the facts?

Science writer Chris Mooney explores brain scans, polls, and psychology experiments to explain why conservatives today believe more wrong things; appear more likely than Democrats ("liberals" for those people outside of the USA) to oppose new ideas and less likely to change their beliefs in the face of new facts; and sometimes respond to compelling evidence by doubling down on their current beliefs.  

Certain to spark discussion and debate, The Republican Brain also promises to add to the lengthy list of persuasive scientific findings that Republicans reject and deny.

NSR Comments:

The Universe Within: From Quantum to Cosmos (CBC Massey Lecture) (2012) by Neil Turok
(Director of the "Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics" in Waterloo, Ontario, Canada)

"With [this book's] deeply thoughtful reflections on the place of science in society, on the need to educate the underserved, and on plenty of other topics rarely addressed in this sort of book, Turok takes you where no physicist has gone before. It's well worth making the journey with him." - TIME Magazine

Longlisted for the Charles Taylor Prize and selected as an Best Book

The most anticipated nonfiction book of the season, this year's Massey Lectures is a visionary look at the way the human mind can shape the future by world-renowned physicist Neil Turok.

Every technology we rely on today was created by the human mind, seeking to understand the universe around us. Scientific knowledge is our most precious possession, and our future will be shaped by the breakthroughs to come.

In this personal, visionary, and fascinating work, Neil Turok, Director of the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics, explores the transformative scientific discoveries of the past three centuries -- from classical mechanics, to the nature of light, to the bizarre world of the quantum, and the evolution of the cosmos. Each new discovery has, over time, yielded new technologies causing paradigm shifts in the organization of society. Now, he argues, we are on the cusp of another major transformation: the coming quantum revolution that will supplant our current, dissatisfying digital age. Facing this brave new world, Turok calls for creatively re-inventing the way advanced knowledge is developed and shared, and opening access to the vast, untapped pools of intellectual talent in the developing world. Scientific research, training, and outreach are vital to our future economy, as well as powerful forces for peaceful global progress.

Elegantly written, deeply provocative, and highly inspirational, The Universe Within is, above all, about the future -- of science, of society, of ourselves.

NSR Comments:

The Leap: How to Survive and Thrive in the Sustainable Economy (2011/2012) by Chris Turner

 highly recommended for citizens and investors alike

The most vital project of the twenty-first century is a shift from our unsustainable way of life to a sustainable one--a great lateral leap from a track headed for economic and ecological disaster to one bound for renewed prosperity. In The Leap, Chris Turner presents a field guide to making that jump, drawing on recent breakthroughs in state-of-the-art renewable energy, cleantech and urban design. From the solar towers of sunny Spain to the bike paths and pedestrianized avenues of the world's most livable city--Copenhagen, Denmark--to the nascent "green-collar" economies rejuvenating the former East Germany and the American Rust Belt, he paints a vivid portrait of a new, sustainable world order already up and running. In his 2007 book, The Geography of Hope, Chris Turner wrote about an emerging world of cleantech possibility. This led to a two-year stint as sustainability columnist for the Globe and Mail, during which many of the fringe developments covered in his book became vital. By the time those two years were up his reporting tracks were being retraced by mainstream outlets like the New York Times. In The Leap, he once again charts the world's near-future course.

NSR Comments:

  1. Almost every Ontario (Canada) resident would agree that the McGuinty Liberals did a poor job explaining to voters how a version of Germany's FIT (Feed In Tariff) is intended to transform Ontario's economy via the Green Energy Act 2009. This book (especially chapter 3) does a much better job explaining why FIT (Feed In Tariff) might be the only rational approach to reducing energy costs and CO2 emissions while simultaneously creating a high number of tax-paying  green-collar jobs .
  2. FIT (Feed In Tariff) deals with humanity's CO2 emissions from the opposite end of the problem.
    1. no carbon taxes
    2. no carbon trading schemes or emission trading schemes
    3. no dependency on intergovernmental agreements like Rio, Kyoto, or Copenhagen which would be almost impossible to verify or enforce (think about the current state of international anti-drug and anti-arms agreements)
    4. no government handouts (no subsidies or tax credits)
      • Germany's FIT program is funded by adding approximately 1-cent per KWH to consumers power bills which average $50 per household per year.
      • This created ~ 250,000 tax-paying energy-related jobs over the first 10 years
  3. Unlike Germany's actions, Ontario's were more of a stumble in the correct direction
  4. There was a time before the 1860's when numerous products from artificial lighting to locomotive lubricants were manufactured from Whale Oil.
    1. No one in those days would have believed it possible that humanity:
      • would have the ability to hunt all whales to extinction (they could not see the end in sight)
      • would have the ability to produce massive power projects (Niagara Falls and Boulder Dam are two noteworthy examples)
      • would have the ability to alter massive water ways (the Panama Canal and the Suez Canal are two noteworthy examples)
      • would have the ability to send twelve men to the surface of the moon then return them safely to the earth (in those days, polar expeditions were not as successful)
      • would have enabled an era of liquid-fuel powered "personal" machines including: automobiles, boats, airplanes, snowmobiles, lawn movers, whipper-snippers, etc.
      • would have enabled an era of personal communications devices which include: telephones, telegraph, internet. radios, televisions, computers, GPS receivers, MP3 players, etc.
    2. Everyone alive today will acknowledge that our modern technological society would never have been developed had humanity stayed with Whale Oil. Humanity is at a similar juncture today. Many citizens are unaware of the fact that a continually growing human population (currently at 7 billion and growing one billion every 12 years) will only cause humanity to burn through the remaining fossil-fuel resources faster while we ignore natural renewable energy around us in the form of falling water, wind, solar, and tide.
    3. A massive changeover to renewables will not hurt the fossil fuel industry as much as many business people fear. Humanity will always need energy-dense liquid fuel to power rockets, cargo ships, cruise liners, jet aircraft, trains, and tractor-trailer trucks to only name a few.
  5. There was a time before 1970 when the computer industry (sales, installation, maintenance, programming, operation, etc.) was done by a relatively small number of people working for a handful of large companies whose installations included: government, military, universities, and large corporations. Since those days we've seen a transition from main-frame computers to mini-computers to micro-computers resulting in just about everyone personally knowing one, or more, computer professionals. Likewise, FIT could potentially turn every power consumer into a power producer while creating a large number of new  green-collar jobs .
  6. Just as telephone companies were an obstacle to humanity shifting from "analog circuit switching" to "digital packet switching", large entrenched interests in the existing power system seem to be blind to the opportunities. The hub-and-spoke model for communications (mostly) went out the window with the internet and now the same is happening to power.

Applied Cryptography : Protocols, Algorithms, and Source Code in C, 2nd Edition (1996) by Bruce Schneier
ISBN: 978-0-471-11709-4
Eighteenth Printing, 784 pages

 highly recommended for software developers

Okay, so I said I wouldn't mention any computer books here but this book is too good to leave out. If you are starting out in this field then be sure to read The Code Book first then this book second.

The Hockey Stick and the Climate Wars (2012) by Michael Mann

 highly recommended

The ongoing assault on climate science in the United States has never been more aggressive, more blatant, or more widely publicized than in the case of the Hockey Stick graph -- a clear and compelling visual presentation of scientific data, put together by Michael E. Mann and his colleagues, demonstrating that global temperatures have risen in conjunction with the increase in industrialization and the use of fossil fuels. Here was an easy-to-understand graph that, in a glance, posed a threat to major corporate energy interests and those who do their political bidding. The stakes were simply too high to ignore the Hockey Stick -- and so began a relentless attack on a body of science and on the investigators whose work formed its scientific basis.

The Hockey Stick achieved prominence in a 2001 UN report on climate change and quickly became a central icon in the "climate wars." The real issue has never been the graph's data but rather its implied threat to those who oppose governmental regulation and other restraints to protect the environment and planet. Mann, lead author of the original paper in which the Hockey Stick first appeared, shares the story of the science and politics behind this controversy. He reveals key figures in the oil and energy industries and the media front groups who do their bidding in sometimes slick, sometimes bare-knuckled ways. Mann concludes with the real story of the 2009 "Climategate" scandal, in which climate scientists' emails were hacked. This is essential reading for all who care about our planet's health an dour own well-being.

Turing's Cathedral: The Origins Of The Digital Universe (2012) by George Dyson

 VERY highly recommended (a must-have for "computer hardware engineers" and "program coders")

In Turing’s Cathedral, George Dyson focuses on a small group of men and women, led by John von Neumann at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, New Jersey, who built one of the first computers to realize Alan Turing’s vision of a Universal Machine. Their work would break the distinction between numbers that mean things and numbers that do things—and our universe would never be the same.

Using five kilobytes of memory (the amount allocated to displaying the cursor on a computer desktop of today), they achieved unprecedented success in both weather prediction and nuclear weapons design, while tackling, in their spare time, problems ranging from the evolution of viruses to the evolution of stars.


NSR Comments:

  1. This book is mistitled. "Turing's Cathedral" is actually the title of chapter 13 which makes me wonder if the title of this book was set by the marketing department of publisher. Although Alan Turning's contributions to mathematics, science, computing and war-time decryption are covered, this book it mainly about:
    1. John von Neumann and the people surrounding him at Princeton's Institute for Advanced Studies.
    2. How the Institute for Advanced Studies designed and built a computer and (MANIAC) computer architecture (von Neumann) still in use today (albeit smaller and faster)
    3. Why these early computers were:
      • instrumental in creating the hydrogen bomb (they ran simulations in Neutron Diffusion) as well as...
      • early attempts at weather and climate prediction (funded by the Air Force who required better forecasts before committing to bomber missions) as well as...
      • simulations of self-reproducing automata
  2. CPU memory was based upon forty Williamson Tubes
  3. Unexpected developments in weather forecasts and climate models:

Space Chronicles: Facing the Ultimate Frontier (2012) by Neil deGrasse Tyson

Neil deGrasse Tyson is a rare breed of astrophysicist, one who can speak as easily and brilliantly with popular audiences as with professional scientists. Now that NASA has put human space flight effectively on hold—with a five- or possibly ten-year delay until the next launch of astronauts from U.S. soil—Tyson’s views on the future of space travel and America’s role in that future are especially timely and urgent. This book represents the best of Tyson’s commentary, including a candid new introductory essay on NASA and partisan politics, giving us an eye-opening manifesto on the importance of space exploration for America’s economy, security, and morale. Thanks to Tyson’s fresh voice and trademark humor, his insights are as delightful as they are provocative, on topics that range from the missteps that shaped our recent history of space travel to how aliens, if they existed, might go about finding us.

If you think North American governments should return to manned spaceflight, then this book is for you.

The Magic of Reality: How We Know What's Really True (2011) by Richard Dawkins

My parents were conservative Lutherans who refused to accept evolution primarily due to the fact that they possessed no scientific education whatsoever, and their church told them not to (you do not need to give up your belief in God to accept the evidence of Darwin's Theory). While reading this unexpected gem, I kept thinking "I wish my parents were still alive so they could read this lucid explanation of evolution (in chapter one)". Although not a book targeted toward young adults, I would have no problem gifting this book to pre-teenagers about to enter secondary school. What an unexpected surprise.

Our Angry Earth: A Ticking Ecological Bomb (1991) by Isaac Asimov and Frederik Pohl

A wake-up-call from 1991 which was ignored by almost everyone.

Steve Jobs (2011) by Walter Isaacson

Shocking revelations:

NSR personal comments:

The Inquisition of Climate Science (2011) by James Lawrence Powel

Knocking on Heaven's Door:
How Physics and Scientific Thinking Illuminate the Universe and the Modern World (2011) by Lisa Randall

Quantum: Einstein, Bohr, and the Great Debate about the Nature of Reality (2011) by Manjit Kumar

 science lover's "must have"

Quantum theory is weird. As Niels Bohr said, if you aren't shocked by quantum theory, you don't really understand it. For most people, quantum theory is synonymous with mysterious, impenetrable science. And in fact for many years it was equally baffling for scientists themselves. In this tour de force of science history, Manjit Kumar gives a dramatic and superbly written account of this fundamental scientific revolution, focusing on the central conflict between Einstein and Bohr over the nature of reality and the soul of science. This revelatory book takes a close look at the golden age of physics, the brilliant young minds at its core, and how an idea ignited the greatest intellectual debate of the twentieth century.

Quantum Man: Richard Feynman's Life in Science (2011) by Lawrence M. Krauss

Physicist Richard Feynman has a reputation as a bongo-playing, hard-partying, flamboyant Nobel Prize laureate for his work on quantum electrodynamics theory, but this tends to obscure the fact that he was a brilliant thinker who continued making contributions to science until his death in 1988. He foresaw new directions in science that have begun to produce practical applications only in the last decade: nanotechnology, atomic-scale biology like the manipulation of DNA, lasers to move individual atoms, and quantum engineering. In the 1960s, Feynman entered the field of quantum gravity and created important tools and techniques for scientists studying black holes and gravity waves. Author Krauss (The Physics of Star Trek), an MIT-trained physicist, doesn't necessarily break new ground in this biography, but Krauss excels in his ability, like Feynman himself, to make complicated physics comprehensible. He incorporates Feynman's lectures and quotes several of the late physicist's colleagues to aid him in this process. This book is highly recommended for readers who want to get to know one of the preeminent scientists of the 20th century.

The Information: A History, a Theory, a Flood (2011) by James Gleick

In a sense, The Information is a book about everything, from words themselves to talking drums, writing and lexicography, early attempts at an analytical engine, the telegraph and telephone, ENIAC, and the ubiquitous computers that followed. But that's just the "History." The "Theory" focuses on such 20th-century notables as Claude Shannon, Norbert Wiener, Alan Turing, and others who worked on coding, decoding, and re-coding both the meaning and the myriad messages transmitted via the media of their times. In the "Flood," Gleick explains genetics as biology's mechanism for informational exchange--Is a chicken just an egg's way of making another egg?--and discusses self-replicating memes (ideas as different as earworms and racism) as information's own evolving meta-life forms. Along the way, readers learn about music and quantum mechanics, why forgetting takes work, the meaning of an "interesting number," and why "[t]he bit is the ultimate unsplittable particle." What results is a visceral sense of information's contemporary precedence as a way of understanding the world, a physical/symbolic palimpsest of self-propelled exchange, the universe itself as the ultimate analytical engine. If Borges's "Library of Babel" is literature's iconic cautionary tale about the extreme of informational overload, Gleick sees the opposite, the world as an endlessly unfolding opportunity in which "creatures of the information" may just recognize themselves.

TThTThe Relativity of Wrong: Essays on Science (1988) by Isaac Asimov

Lots of neat stuff, but here is some material about chapter 17

Idea Man: A Memoir by the Cofounder of Microsoft (2011) by Paul Allen

Three "science oldies" from Isaac Asimov

A few months back I was routing through an box of old paperbacks when I rediscovered "Science, Numbers and I". It was too fragile to read but brought back lots of good memories so I used to buy used hardcover copies of:

What a pleasure to reread. I didn't encounter any errors but found the description of "Neutron Decay" in "Science, Numbers and I" a little anachronistic since there was no mention of a down quark turning into an up quark. However, this level of detail was probably beyond the scope of a popular science book. The third book titled "Please Explain" does contain three short essays involving quarks.

Dance of the Photons: From Einstein to Quantum Teleportation (2010) by Anton Zeilinger

The Master Switch (2010) by Tim Wu

Einstein Wrote Back: My Life in Physics (2010) by John W. Moffat

 science lover's "must have"

Professor John Moffat in 2007

An entertaining memoir about the peculiar and competitive world of modern physics.

John W. Moffat was a poor student of math and science. That is, until as a young man in the early 1950s in Copenhagen he read Einstein's famous paper on general relativity and Einstein's current work seeking a unified theory of gravity and electromagnetism. Realizing that he had an unusual and unexplained aptitude for understanding complex physics and mathematics, Moffat wrote two papers based on Einstein's unified field theory. Soon, he found himself being interviewed by Denmark's most famous physicist, Niels Bohr, and giving a seminar on unified theory at the Niels Bohr Institute. When he faced derision and criticism of Einstein's current research by the audience of physicists at the Bohr Institute, Moffat went home and wrote a letter to Einstein that would change the course of his life. Einstein replied to Moffat and they exchanged a series of letters in which they discussed both technical matters relating to the scientific papers and their views on the current state of physics. This correspondence led to Moffat being interviewed by influential physicists in Britain and Ireland, including Erwin Schrödinger. Their recommendations resulted in Moffat being enrolled in the PhD physics program at Trinity College, Cambridge, the first student in the College's 400-year history to be enrolled without an undergraduate degree.

Moffat and Einstein did not continue their correspondence, as the great man died shortly after Moffat began his studies. However, Moffat continued, over the next fifty years, to modify and expand on Einstein's theory of gravity.

Einstein Wrote Back tells the story of Moffat's unusual entry into the world of academia and documents his career at the frontlines of twentieth-century physics as he worked and studied under some of the greatest minds in scientific history, including Niels Bohr, Fred Hoyle, Wolfgang Pauli, Paul Dirac, Erwin Schrödinger, J. Robert Oppenheimer, Abdus Salam, among others.

Taking readers inside the classrooms and minds of these "giants" of modern science, Moffat affectionately exposes the foibles and eccentricities of these great men, as they worked on the revolutionary ideas that, today, are the very foundation of modern physics and cosmology.

Merchants of Doubt:
How a Handful of Scientists Obscured the Truth on Issues from Tobacco Smoke to Global Warming (2010)
by Naomi Oreskes & Erik M. Conway

 highly recommended  for any citizen wondering about science denial or the efforts of lobbyists

 This book is VERY highly recommended to anyone who...

Seeing Further: The Story of Science and The Royal Society (2010) edited by Bill Bryson

 science lover's "must have"

The Greatest Show On Earth: The Evidence for Evolution (2010) by Richard Dawkins

 science lover's "must have"

In Search of the Multiverse (2009) by John Gribbin

Personal Comment: For some reason I don't fully understand, many members of the public learned about quantum weirdness then use it to justify any other weird idea. IMHO, the many worlds interpretation of Quantum Mechanics only throws gasoline on the problem (so to speak). That said, this book is still worth a read even if just to understand why this idea hasn't been discarded by all scientists.

The Prism and the Pendulum (2003) by Robert Crease

 science lover's "must have"

The Great Equations: Breakthroughs in Science from Pythagoras to Heisenberg (2008, 2009) by Robert P. Crease

 science lover's "must have"

The Discovery of Global Warming (2008) by Spencer R. Weart

The Discovery of Global Warming very highly recommended  for anyone interested in science or climate change

SuperFreakonomics: Global Cooling, Patriotic Prostitutes, and Why Suicide Bombers Should Buy Life Insurance (2009) by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner

Collider: The Search for the World's Smallest Particles (2009) by Paul Halpern

A history of experimental particle physics (particle accelerators to colliders) from Ernest Rutherford to the LHC (Large Hadron Collider). This book also contains some shocking information about how and why the SSC (Superconducting Super Collider) was shut down after $2 billion was already spent and 13 miles of tunnel was already dug.

Blackberry The Inside Story of Research in Motion (2010) by Rod McQueen

Recommend for technology people who enjoyed books like "Hackers", "The Soul of a New Machine", and "Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance"

The BlackBerry is — quite literally — everywhere. President Barack Obama admits he can't live without it. Oprah Winfrey declared on her show that the BlackBerry is one of her "favorite things." BusinessWeek put the case for owning one bluntly in an article entitled "No BlackBerry: No Life." Launched in 1984 by Mike Lazaridis and Jim Balsillie with on a $15,000 loan, Research in Motion (RIM) has grown into one of the largest and most profitable companies in the world. The reason: the BlackBerry. RIM had sold more than 50 million BlackBerrys by 2009 and sales of the handheld device generates annual profits in excess of $11 billion. BlackBerry: The Untold Story of Research in Motion is bestselling author Rod McQueen’s fascinating and absorbing biography of the device’s incredible popularity, as well as a never-before-seen glimpse into its origins and development — and the geniuses who were its inspiration.

The Evolution of Charles Darwin (2009) by CBC Audio

 very highly recommended  for people wanting more details about Darwin, and the times in which he lived.Charles Darwin

Einstein's Mistakes (2008) by Hans Ohanian

He Knew He Was Right (2008) by John Gribbin

What an unexpected surprise. Not only does this book include a biography of James Lovelock along with a description of his Gaia Hypothesis, it also includes a general history of the physics and chemistry of atmospheric and geological sciences which starts in the 1700s with the work of Jean Fourier (heat) and Joseph Black (discoverer if Carbon Dioxide which was then known as "fixed air"). Maybe it is only because I am a science fan but I couldn't put this book down. It is highly recommended to the general reader wishing to learn more about climate change.

Younger Next Year: Live Strong, Fit, and Sexy Until You're 80 and Beyond (2007) by Chris Crowley and Henry S. Lodge M.D.

Thomas Paine's Rights of Man: A Biography (Books That Changed the World) by Christopher Hitchens

Thomas Paine and the Promise of America (2005) by Harvey Kaye

First Principles: The Crazy Business of Doing Serious Science (2009) by Howard Burton

Climate Wars (2008) by Gwynne Dyer

 highly recommended  for everyone in the modern world

We all know that "people who refuse to learn history are doomed to repeated it". I now believe this statement also refers to information from sources like the "fossil record", analysis of "ice cores", etc.

The Upside of Down : Catastrophe, Creativity and the Renewal of Civilization (2007) by Thomas Homer-Dixon

Moon Lander: How We Developed the Apollo Lunar Module (2004) by Thomas J. Kelly

Apollo in Perspective (2000) by Jonathan Allday

 highly recommended  for space enthusiasts

Reinventing Gravity (2009) by John W Moffat

  highly recommended  for people interested in scienceProfessor John Moffat in 2007

Playing With Planets (Dutch: 2006, English: 2009) by Gerard 't Hooft

Who Says Elephants Can't Dance? Inside IBM's Historic Turnaround (2002) by Louis V Gerstner, Jr.

RELENTLESS: True Story of Ted Rogers (2008) by Ted Rogers


Edward Samuel Rogers and the Revolution of Communications (2000) by Ian A. Anthony

On The Way To The Web (2008) by Michael A. Banks

Hacking: The Art of Exploitation (2008 2nd Edition) by Jon Erickson

Valley Boy (2007) by Tom Perkins

Classic Feynman: All the Adventures of a Curious Character (2006) by Ralph Leighton

Good Calories, Bad Calories (2007) by Gary Taubes

Everyone needs to read this book

Arthur C. Clarke - The Authorized Biography (1992) by Neil McAleer

Cosmic Consciousness (1901/2008) by Richard Maurice Bucke

Digital Apollo: Human and Machine in Spaceflight (2008) by David A. Mindell (MIT Press)

 highly recommended  for space enthusiasts and computer enthusiasts

"God's Mechanics" (2007) by Guy Consolmagno

"Heat: How to Stop the Planet from Burning" (2006) by George Monbiot

Just a few interesting facts from the first couple of chapters:

my 2 cents worth: Rather than save the planet for future generations, most older people seem more interested in ensuring their last 10 years of life are comfortable (makes you wonder why they bothered to have children). So all other open minded people need to lobby our politicians to take this topic seriously. And why not? Big businesses are lobbying.

Copyrighted excerpt from "Heat: Forward to the Canadian Edition"
In the court of international opinion, Canada has been let off lightly. Ask anyone who knows a little about climate change which nations are the worst offenders, and they will name the United States and Australia. This isn't surprising perhaps: the governments of both countries have not only refused to ratify the Kyoto Protocol on climate change, but have actively sought to sink it, by filibustering the negotiations and launching a rival initiative ("the Asia-Pacific Partnership on Clean Development and Climate") without binding targets or timetables for reducing greenhouse gas emissions. So it's a shock to discover that there is scarcely a whisker of difference between Canada's greenhouse gas emissions and those of the U.S. and Australia. In Europe climate change campaigners are-as we should be-heartily ashamed of our nations' contribution to the destruction of the biosphere. In the United Kingdom, we each produce an average of 9.5 tonnes of carbon dioxide in a year. The Germans turn out 10.2 tonnes, and the French 6.8. But the Canadians emit an average of 19.05 tonnes a year-just 50 kilos less than the Australians and a tonne less than the Americans. While emissions across much of Europe are falling, in Canada they have been rising for over 10 years. Yours is not the worst figure in the world. Gibraltar-that preposterous redoubt of British empire-somehow contrives to generate an average of 146.6 tonnes a year, largely because it has a tiny population which depends on shipping and tourism. But if you strip out the Gulf States and one or two curiosities among the very small nations, the only country whose emissions are significantly larger than yours is Luxembourg. You think of yourselves as a liberal and enlightened people, and my experience seems to confirm that. But you could scarcely do more to destroy the biosphere if you tried. I admit that yours is both a big country and a cold one. Crossing Canada requires a great deal more fossil fuel than crossing Britain. To us quivering limeys, your winters are unimaginably gruelling. But the climate doesn't care. It brooks no excuses. Every tonne of carbon you produce, however necessary you believe it to be, has the same impact on the climate as a tonne emitted by anyone else. Nice and well-intentioned as you are, you do as much to drown Bangladesh or starve the people of the Horn of Africa as the most obdurate throwbacks in the shrinking state of Bushistan. My calculations suggest that the sustainable limit for carbon dioxide emissions per capita is 1.2 tonnes. That's one-16th of what you currently produce. Thanks to the efforts of Stephen Harper and your environment minister, Rona Ambrose, Canada's global reputation is now beginning to catch up with its performance. When they say that Canada cannot reach its Kyoto targets for cutting greenhouse gas emissions, they mean that they do not intend to try. Their surrender within the first few months in office is an astonishing instance of political cowardice. Having presented himself to the Canadian people as a man who can make tough choices, Harper declared himself an irresolute wimp as soon as he was faced with a choice between upsetting a few industrial lobbyists and helping to save the planet. Keeping Canada's promise to cut emissions by six percent, he says, is just too hard. When I first heard that, I couldn't help bursting into bitter laughter. The calculations in this book suggest that Canada should cut her carbon emissions by 94 percent between now and 2030. It is true that the Liberal Party scarcely made it easy for him. When Harper took office, Canadian emissions were (depending on whose figures you believe) either 24 percent or 35 percent higher than in 1990. The Liberals waited until 2005 before publishing their plan for tackling climate change. They talked a better line than Harper, but presided over just as much environmental destruction.

"Inside the Machine: An Illustrated Introduction to Microprocessors and Computer Architecture" (2007) by Jon Stokes

iWoz (2006) by Steve Wozniak and Gina Smith

The Theory of Almost Everything (2005)
The Standard Model, the Unsung Triumph of Modern Physics
by Robert Oerter

science lover's "must have"

The Code Book (2000) by Simon Singh

 highly recommended  for people interested in computers, communications, or mathematics

Journey to the Moon: The History of the Apollo Guidance Computer (1996) by Eldon C. Hall

Time Technology Wiring Unit Cost Application
1945s Electromechanical Relays/Vacuum Tubes Hand wiring between components $$$$$$ Experimental - Academic (ENIAC)
1950s Vacuum Tubes Hand wiring between components $$$$$ Experimental - Academic (Whirlwind)
Military (SAGE)
1955s Germanium Transistors/Core Memory Printed Circuits $$$$ Mainframe/Batch
1960s Silicon Transistors/Core Memory
Integrated Circuits Core Memory
Printed Circuits with Integrated Circuits $$$ Mainframe/Interactive
Apollo Guidance Computer (AGC)
Minicomputer (DEC PDP-8)
1970s Microprocessors/Electronic Memory Printed Circuits with Integrated Circuits $$ Minicomputer (DEC PDP-11)
Desktop Computer (Apple II, TRS-80, etc)
1980s Microprocessors/Electronic Memory Printed Circuits with Integrated Circuits $ Desktop Computer (IBM-PC, Compaq, etc)

The Eternity Artifact (2006) by L.E. Modesitt Jr.

Five thousand years in the future, humanity has spread across thousands of worlds and has more than a dozen different governments existing in an uneasy truce. For all this expansion, though, human beings have found no signs of other live close to approaching that of human intelligence anywhere. This changes when scientists discover Danann, a sunless planet traveling the void just beyond the edge of the galaxy at such a high speed that is cannot be natural. It is a world whose continents and oceans have been sculpted and shaped, with but a single megaplex upon it - close to perfectly preserved - with tens of thousands of near-identical metallic-silver-blue towers set along curved canals. Yet Danann has been abandoned for so long that even the atmosphere has frozen solid. The preservation alone hints at a miraculous level of technology. Within a few years, Danann will approach an area of singularities that will make exploration and investigation impossible. Orbital shuttle pilot Jiendra Chang, artist Chendor Barna, and history professor Liam Fitzhugh are recruited by the comity government and its Deep Space Service [D.D.S.], along with scores of other experts - predominantly specialists in aspects of hard physical sciences- as part of an unprecedented and unique archeological expedition in an effort to unravel Danann's secrets. This is the story of their voyage beyond the galactic rim.

The main antagonists are:
  1. the Comity
  2. the Covenanters (Judeo-Christians ?)
  3. the Sunnite Alliance
  4. the Middle Kingdom (Chinese ?)

The more things change the more they stay the same :-)

(or maybe this author is telling a story 5k years from now in order to comment on the problems of today)

2001: A Space Odyssey (1968/2000) by Arthur C. Clarke

After rewatching this movie on New Year's day (2007-01-01), I visited to purchase a 1999 hardcover copy of the book. What a treat; so timeless and yet still relevant.

Some Observations (and spoilers):

DEC Is Dead, Long Live DEC: The Lasting Legacy of Digital Equipment Corporation (2003, 2004) by Edgar H. Schein

Digital Equipment Corporation achieved sales of over $14 billion, reached the Fortune 50, and was second only to IBM as a computer manufacturer. Though responsible for the invention of speech recognition, the minicomputer, and local area networking, DEC ultimately failed as a business and was sold to Compaq Corporation in 1998. This fascinating modern Greek tragedy by Ed Schein, a high-level consultant to DEC for 40 years, shows how DEC's unique corporate culture contributed both to its early successes and later to an organizational rigidity that caused its ultimate downfall.

MIT Sloan School of Management Professor Edgar Schein does a marvelous job telling the story of the rise and fall of Digital Equipment Corporation, the former #2 computer maker in the world behind IBM. The business reasons behind DEC's economic failure have been widely reported (missing the advent of the PC, having too many projects going at once, failure to market products effectively, etc.) However, the big question to be answered is why did these failures occur? To quote one passage, "Why did an organization that was wildly successful for thirty-five years, filled with intelligent, articulate powerful engineers and managers, fail to act effectively to deal with problems that were highly visible to everyone, both inside and outside the organization?"

Schein looks at DEC's failure through the lens of its corporate culture, and how it prohibited their executives from making the decisions, and taking the actions necessary to survive. Fans of Ed Schein will know his famous "Three Cultures of Management" paper, in which he describes the "Executive", "Line Manager" and "Engineering" cultures, all of which must exist and be balanced against one another for an organization to survive. Schein argues that DEC was dominated by the engineering culture, which valued innovation and "elegant" design, over profits and operational efficiency. This engineering culture dominated even the top levels of DEC, where proposals to build PCs out of off the shelf parts that were readily available in the marketplace, were shot down because the machines were thought to be junk compared to the ones DEC could build themselves.

That DEC was able to survive for as long as it did was largely attributable to its ability to innovate in a field that was so new it had not yet coalesced around certain standard systems, software and networks. However, as the computer industry became in effect a commodity market, and the buyers began to value price over innovation, DEC found itself increasingly unable, and in fact, unwilling to compete. The engineering culture which valued innovation and required creative freedom, did not want to subject itself to the requirements of being a commodity player which demanded autocratic operational efficiency and control over how resources were allocated.

Although DEC is now long gone, even readers who were too young to use computers at the time of its demise will find familiar truths in this book. As the old saying goes, the fish in the tank does not see the water it is in. Neither do we often see the cultures in which we are ourselves embedded. The real lesson of this wonderful book is to show us how our corporate cultures often prohibit us from doing the right things, even when we can see them clearly. Sometimes culture is most easily visible in the things you need to discuss, but that are simply "not on the table" for discussion.

There are many lessons here too, for companies that seek to innovate new products and services, and how to balance the creative freedom desired by the engineering culture with the "money gene" culture of sound executive management. The names of companies that have failed to realize the full financial benefits of their technical innovations is too long to list here. But the DEC story is a must read for anyone who seeks to balance innovation with sustainable economic success in any organization.

Showstopper! The Breakneck Race to Create Windows NT and the Next Generation at Microsoft (1994) by G. Pascal Zachary

How the World was One (1992) by Arthur C. Clarke

A hundred years ago, the electric telegraph made possible - indeed, inevitable - the United States of America. The communications satellite will make equally inevitable a United Nations of Earth; let us hope that the transition period will not be equally bloody.

Arthur C. Clarke, "First on the Moon", 1970

Brother Astronomer - Adventures of a Vatican Scientist (2001) by Guy Consolmagno

The Pentium Chronicles (2005) by Bob Colwell

"The Pentium Chronicles" describes the architecture and key decisions that shaped the P6, Intel's most successful chip to date. As author Robert Colwell recognizes, success is about learning from others, and "Chronicles" is filled with stories of ordinary, exceptional people as well as frank assessments of "oops" moments, leaving you with a better understanding of what it takes to create and grow a winning product. - A landmark chip like the P6 or Pentium 4 doesn't just happen. It takes a confluence of brilliant minds, dedication for beyond the ordinary, and management that nurtures the vision while keeping a firm hand on the project tiller. As chief architect of the P6, Robert Colwell offers a unique perspective as he unfolds the saga of a project that ballooned from a few architects to hundreds of engineers, many just out of school. For more than a treatise on project management, The Pentium Chronicles gives the rationale, the personal triumphs, and the humor that characterized the P6 project, an undertaking that broke all technical boundaries by being the first to try an out-of order, speculative super-scalar architecture in a microprocessor. In refreshingly down-to-earth language, organized around a framework we wish we had known about then, Chronicles describes the architecture and key decisions that shaped the P6, Intel's most successful chip to date. Colwell's inimitable style will have readers laughing out loud at the project team's creative solutions to well-known problems. From architectural planning in a storage room jimmied open with a credit card, to a marketing presentation using shopping carts, he takes readers through events from the projects beginning through its production. As Colwell himself recognizes, success is all about learning from others, and Chronicles is filled with stories of ordinary and exceptional people and frank assessments of oops moments, like the infamous FDIV bug. As its subtitle implies, the book looks beyond RTL models and transistors to the Intel culture, often poking fun at corporate policies, like team-building exercises in which engineers ruthlessly shoot down each other's plans. Whatever your level of computing expertise, Chronicles will delight and inform you, leaving you with a better understanding of what it takes to create and grow a winning product.

(Bob Colwell was Intel's chief IA32 architect through the Pentium II, III, and 4 microprocessors. He now writes in the At Random section of the IEEE magazine titled Computer.) Quote: We don't live long enough to accumulate enough personal experience from our own mistakes, so we amplify our learning by absorbing the experiences of others. This is the key to the collective wisdom of the human race.

Robots and Foundation Series (15 book collection) by Isaac Asimov

 highly recommended  for people interested in sci-fi

I had previously read a couple of these books in Secondary School (1966-1970) then some more in college. Prior to the Summer 2004 release of "I, Robot", I decided to purchase and read a Spring 2004 reprint. Since the 1950 publication of short stories didn't seem dated, I started on a quest to purchase new or used hardcover copies of Asimov's 12 making sure to read them in Asimov's suggested order. Since then, the 3 books that Asimov said to not bother reading have been republished. The last book of these 3 is titled "The Currents of Space" and will be republished in hardcover on April 28, 2009.

Big Bang: The Origin of the Universe (2005) by Simon Singh

 science lover's "must have"

Albert Einstein once said: 'The most incomprehensible thing about the universe is that it is comprehensible.' Simon Singh believes geniuses like Einstein are not the only people able to grasp the physics that govern the universe. We all can. As well as explaining what the Big Bang theory actually is, the book will address why cosmologists believe that it is an accurate description of the origin of the universe. It will also tell the story of the scientists who fought against the establishment idea of an eternal and unchanging universe. Simon Singh, renowned for making difficult ideas much less difficult than they first seem, is the perfect guide for this journey. Everybody has heard of the Big Bang Theory. But how many of us can actually claim to understand it? With characteristic clarity and a narrative peppered with anecdotes and personal histories of those who have struggled to understand creation, Simon Singh has written the story of the most important theory ever.

Sojourner: An Insider's View of the Mars Pathfinder Mission (2004) by Andrew Mishkin

Andrew Mishkin, a senior systems engineer at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory and a leader of NASA's robotic program, brings us this insider's look at the Mars Pathfinder probe that electrified the world's imagination. One hundred twenty-two million miles away from her controllers, a sophisticated robot smaller than a microwave oven did what had never been done before-explored the rocky, red terrain of Mars. Then, six-wheeled Sojourner beamed spectacular pictures of her one-of-a-kind mission back to Earth. And millions of people were captivated. Now, with the touch of an expert thriller writer, Sojourner operations team leader Andrew Mishkin tells the inside, human story of the Mars Pathfinder mission's feverish efforts to build a self-guided, off-roading robot to explore the surface of the Red Planet. With witty, compelling anecdotes, he describes the clash of temperamental geniuses, the invention of a new work ethic, the turf wars, the chewing-gum solutions to high-tech problems, the controlled chaos behind the strangely beautiful creation of an artificial intelligence-and the exhilaration of inaugurating the next great age of space exploration

American Empire? (hopefully this title got your attention)
Excerpt from the book "Colossus" (2004) by Niall Ferguson

Is America an empire? Certainly not, according to our (USA) government. Despite the conquest of two sovereign states in as many years, despite the presence of more than 750 military installations in two thirds of the world's countries and despite his stated intention "to extend the benefits of every corner of the world," George W. Bush maintains that "America has never been an empire." "We don't seek empires," insists Defense Secretary Rumsfeld. "We're not imperialistic."

Nonsense, says Niall Ferguson. In Colossus he argues that in both military and economic terms America is nothing less than the most powerful empire the world has ever seen. Just like the British Empire a century ago, the United States aspires to globalize free markets, the rule of law, and representative government. In theory it’s a good project, says Ferguson. Yet Americans shy away from the long-term commitments of manpower and money that are indispensable if rogue regimes and failed states really are to be changed for the better. Ours, he argues, is an empire with an attention deficit disorder, imposing ever more unrealistic timescales on its overseas interventions. Worse, it’s an empire in denial—a hyperpower that simply refuses to admit the scale of its global responsibilities. And the negative consequences will be felt at home as well as abroad. In an alarmingly persuasive final chapter Ferguson warns that this chronic myopia also applies to our domestic responsibilities. When overstretch comes, he warns, it will come from within—and it will reveal that more than just the feet of the American colossus is made of clay.

The European Dream: How Europe's Vision of the Future Is Quietly Eclipsing the American Dream (2005) by Jeremy Rifkin

The American Dream is in decline. Americas are increasingly overworked, underpaid, and squeezed for time. But there is an alternative: the European Dream--a more leisurely, healthy, prosperous, and sustainable way of life. Europe's lifestyle is not only desirable, argues Jeremy Rifkin, but may be crucial to sustaining prosperity in the new era. With the dawn of the European Union, Europe has become an economic superpower in its own rights--its GDP now surpasses that of the United States. Europe has achieved newfound dominance not by single-mindedly driving up stock prices, expanding working hours, and pressing every household into a double-wage-earner conundrum. Instead, the New Europe relies on market networks that place cooperation above competition; promotes a new sense of citizenship that extols the well-being of the whole person and the community rather than the dominant individual; and recognizes the necessity of deep play and leisure to create a better, more productive, and healthier workforce. From the medieval era to modernity, Rifkin delves deeply into the history of Europe, and eventually America, to show how the continent has succeeded in slowly and steadily developing a more adaptive, sensible way of working and living. In The European Dream, Rifkin posits a dawning truth that only the most jingoistic can ignore: Europe's flexible, communitarian model of society, business, and citizenship is better suited to the challenges of the twenty-first century. Indeed, the European Dream may come to define the new century as the American Dream defined the century now past.

quote: "Europeans should congratulate themselves for producing the most humane approach to capitalism ever attempted"

For a fair economic comparison of the USA to Europe
the author asserts that you must create a table comparing American "States" to European "Countries" (think "United States of Europe") ordered by economic output, then compare the entries line-by-line. Here is a partial list taken from page 65/66. Notice how Europe wins every time? So why does America cling to the fallacy that they are number one in anything?

European Country GDP ($ Billion) GDP ($ Billion) American State
Germany $1,866 $1,344 California
United Kingdom $1,400 $799 New York
France $1,300 $742 Texas
Italy $1,000 $472 Florida
Spain $560 $467 Illinois

Failure is not an Option: Mission Control from Mercury to Apollo-13 and Beyond (2000/2009) by Gene Krantz

Gene Kranz was present at the creation of America's manned space program and was a key player in it for three decades. As a flight director in NASA's Mission Control, Kranz witnessed firsthand the making of history. He participated in the space program from the early days of the Mercury program to the last Apollo mission, and beyond. He endured the disastrous first years when rockets blew up and the United States seemed to fall further behind the Soviet Union in the space race. He helped to launch Alan Shepard and John Glenn, then assumed the flight director's role in the Gemini program, which he guided to fruition. With his teammates, he accepted the challenge to carry out President John F. Kennedy's commitment to land a man on the Moon before the end of the 1960s. Kranz was flight director for both Apollo 11, the mission in which Neil Armstrong fulfilled President Kennedy's pledge, and Apollo 13. He headed the Tiger Team that had to figure out how to bring the three Apollo 13 astronauts safely back to Earth. (In the film Apollo 13, Kranz was played by the actor Ed Harris, who earned an Academy Award nomination for his performance.) In Failure Is Not an Option, Gene Kranz recounts these thrilling historic events and offers new information about the famous flights. What appeared as nearly flawless missions to the Moon were, in fact, a series of hair-raising near misses. When the space technology failed, as it sometimes did, the controllers' only recourse was to rely on their skills and those of their teammates. Kranz takes us inside Mission Control and introduces us to some of the whiz kids -- still in their twenties, only a few years out of college -- who had to figure it all out as they went along, creating a great and daring enterprise. He reveals behind-the-scenes details to demonstrate the leadership, discipline, trust, and teamwork that made the space program a success. Finally, Kranz reflects on what has happened to the space program and offers his own bold suggestions about what we ought to be doing in space now. This is a fascinating firsthand account written by a veteran mission controller of one of America's greatest achievements.

Hackers: Heroes of the Computer Revolution (1984/1994/2001) by Steven Levy

In this context, the term Hacker means someone who develops elegant hardware and software solutions rather than someone who does illegal things. But I had no idea that hacking began at MIT as part of their "model railroad club".

Mind Children: The Future of Robot and Human Intelligence (1988/1990) by Hans Moravec

[Mind Children] has the accuracy of a college text and the can't-put-it-down appeal of a good novel. Moravec has turned the flights of mind of one of the world's foremost roboticists into hard copy. And he has written a tremendously good book in the process.
--Eric Bobinsky (Byte)

Mostly Sci-Fi (in recently reread order)

The Stars, Like Dust (1951, 2008) by Isaac Asimov

The Currents of Space (1950, 2009) by Isaac Asimov

Robot Visions (1990) by Isaac Asimov

Robot Dreams (1986) by Isaac Asimov

Pebble in the Sky (1950-2008) by Isaac Asimov

First Born - A Time Odyssey: 3 (December-2007) by Arthur C. Clarke and Stephen Baxter

"Russ Manning's Magnus, Robot Fighter" (1963-2008) by Dark Horse Books

Asimov's "Robots and Foundation" 15-book Set

In one of Richard Feynman's books I recall him stating something like "If you really want to understand something then you must acquire books then be willing to read them at least twice". While I'm certain that Feynman was referring to math and sciences, no one would argue that this is also the key to fully understanding the collected works of William Shakespeare, Charles Dickens, or Arthur Conan Doyle.

 very highly recommended

It had been 7-years since I had read Asimov's Favorite Fifteen in the order recommended by the author. For this reason (along with the fact that I was in another sci-fi dry spell) I began reading Asimov's Favorite Fifteen again. Just like what happens whenever you replay a piece of classical music from Bach or Mozart, I am getting much more out of Asimov's stories.

  1. I, Robot
  2. Caves of Steel
  3. The Naked Sun
  4. Robots of Dawn
  5. Robots and Empire
  6. The Currents of Space
  7. The Stars, Like Dust
  8. Pebble in the Sky

Blade Runner 2: The Edge of Human (1995) by K. W. Jeter

Blade Runner2: The Edge of Human

Blade Runner 2: The Edge of Human is a 1995 book by K. W. Jeter meant to be a sequel to Ridley Scott's 1982 movie titled Blade Runner. According to the dust jacket, K. W. Jeter reportedly worked with Philip K. Dick before Dick's death in 1982 (the dustcover shows a picture of them standing over a desk; could this be fake? Better get out your Voight-Kampff machine)

I previously read this book back in 1995 but decided to reread it after Ridley Scott announced his intention to do a movie sequel to his movie. No one ever hinted that Scott's sequel would be based upon Jeter's book but here is something to ponder:

  1. Jeter produced very believable explanation(s) for "who was the sixth replicant"
  2. When Scott released his redigitized Blade Runner Five-Disc Ultimate Collector's Edition back in 2007, he overdubbed Bryant's dialog to now say "two of them got fried running though an electrical field" to fix Bryant's anomalous replicant count

Click here to read more about this book including story spoilers (don't worry, you need to click them to see them).

2010: Odyssey Two (1982) by Arthur C. Clarke

Rendezvous with Rama (1973) by Arthur C  Clarke

The new celestial body that appears in the outer reaches of our solar system in 2130 believed at first to be an asteroid, and named Rama by earthlings, soon proves not to be a natural object. It is a vast cylinder - about thirty-one miles long and twelve and a half across, with a mass of at least ten trillion tons - that is moving steadily closer to the Sun. The five-thousand-ton spaceship Endeavour lands on Rama, and when Commander Bill Norton and his crew make their way into its hollow interior they find a whole self-contained world - a world that has been cruising through space for at least 200,00 years and perhaps for more than a million. They have, at most, three weeks to explore Rama: a dead world, as it seems at first, though not without its perils, and with intensifying perils when it proves to be, in its own astonishing way, very much alive. Yet in the end it is Homo sapiens who poses the greatest menace, and whose exploits bring a continuously absorbing narrative to its highest pitch of excitement.

I read this book 39 years ago but did not realize (until now) that I had forgotten 90% of it.

Note: my just-like-new 1953 hard-cover copy was purchased here:

Childhood's End (1953) by Arthur C  Clarke

Large spaceships appear over Earth's largest cities. The Overlords have announced that they will not to show themselves until 50 years have past, but they do have a few demands: put a stop to racism; put a stop to war; put a stop to animal cruelty (like bull fighting).

I thought I had read this book but I was mistaken.

Note: my just-like-new 1953 hard-cover copy was purchased here:

Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? (1968) by Philip K. Dick

I "think" something has happened to "my brain" in the past 30 years. I first read this book at age of 29 but I got way more out of it at age of 59. For some reason I do not understand, portions of this book seem a lot closer to the movie Blade Runner than I previously thought. It is apparent to me now that this book could not be translated directly into a movie because the emphasis on human defectives (chicken-heads and ant-heads), which Dick included to be a literary foil for andys (replicants), would hurt the feelings of too many human movie goers.

Link: DADOES vs. Blade Runner (from a recent re-read in 2011)

Specialty Stuff: Genetics

Life at the Speed of Light (2013) by J. Craig Venter
Subtitled: From the Double Helix to the Dawn of Digital Life

In 2010, scientists led by J. Craig Venter became the first to successfully create “synthetic life”—putting humankind at the threshold of the most important and exciting phase of biological research, one that will enable us to actually write the genetic code for designing new species to help us adapt and evolve for long-term survival. The science of synthetic genomics will have a profound impact on human existence, including chemical and energy generation, health, clean water and food production, environmental control, and possibly even our evolution.

In Life at the Speed of Light, Venter presents a fascinating and authoritative study of this emerging field from the inside—detailing its origins, current challenges and controversies, and projected effects on our lives. This scientific frontier provides an opportunity to ponder anew the age-old question “What is life?” and examine what we really mean by “playing God.” Life at the Speed of Light is a landmark work, written by a visionary at the dawn of a new era of biological engineering.

The Epigenetics Revolution (2012) Nessa Carey
Subtitled: How Modern Biology Is Rewriting Our Understanding of Genetics, Disease, and Inheritance

Epigenetics can potentially revolutionize our understanding of the structure and behavior of biological life on Earth. It explains why mapping an organism's genetic code is not enough to determine how it develops or acts and shows how nurture combines with nature to engineer biological diversity. Surveying the twenty-year history of the field while also highlighting its latest findings and innovations, this volume provides a readily understandable introduction to the foundations of epigenetics.

Nessa Carey, a leading epigenetics researcher, connects the field's arguments to such diverse phenomena as how ants and queen bees control their colonies; why tortoiseshell cats are always female; why some plants need cold weather before they can flower; and how our bodies age and develop disease. Reaching beyond biology, epigenetics now informs work on drug addiction, the long-term effects of famine, and the physical and psychological consequences of childhood trauma. Carey concludes with a discussion of the future directions for this research and its ability to improve human health and well-being.

NSR comments:

Epigenetics: The Ultimate Mystery of Inheritance (2011) by Richard C. Francis

"The potential is staggering. The age of epigenetics has arrived." Time, January 2010
Epigenetic means "on the gene," and the term refers to the recent discovery that stress in the environment can impact an individual's physiology so deeply that those biological scars are actually inherited by the next several generations. For instance, a recent study has shown that men who started smoking before puberty caused their sons to have significantly higher rates of obesity. And obesity is just the tip of the iceberg many researchers believe that epigenetics holds the key to understanding cancer, Alzheimer's, schizophrenia, autism, and diabetes. Epigenetics is the first book for general readers on this fascinating and important topic. The book is driven by stories such as the Dutch famine of World War II, Jose Canseco and steroids, the breeding of mules and hinnies, Tasmanian devils and contagious cancer, and more.

NSR Comments:

The Code of Codes: Scientific and Social Issues in the Human Genome Project (1993/2000)
edited by Daniel Kevles and Leroy Hood

Another popularization of the Human Genome Project, this one has the distinction of being the first published as an anthology, and among its contributors are some leading scholars, scientists, and social critics. The three parts of the book present essays covering topics in "History, Politics, and Genetics," "Genetics, Technology, and Medicine," and "Ethics, Law, and Society." Some of the essays are quite provocative, especially editor Kevles's "Out of Eugenics: The Historical Politics of the Human Genome" (creepy to read but necessary so humanity doe not repeat this mistake - NSR) , Dorothy Nelkin's "The Social Power of Genetic Information", Ruth Schwartz Conan's "Genetic Technology and Reproductive Choice", and James D. Watson's "A Personal View of the Project." Still, there is a good deal of substantive overlap among the essays and, while the discussions by experts are more sophisticated and specialized than those appearing in other books, little new information is presented for general readers. Public libraries with either Jerry Bishop and Michael Waldholz's Genome ( LJ 7/90) or Robert Shapiro's The Human Blueprint ( LJ 9/1/91) do not need this title, but academic libraries should consider it.

Leroy Hood, MD, PhD, President and co-founder of the Institute for Systems Biology in Seattle, is a pioneer in systems approaches to biology and medicine. Dr. Hood's research has focused on the study of molecular immunology, biotechnology and genomics. His professional career began at Caltech, where he and his colleagues developed the DNA sequencer and synthesizer and the protein synthesizer and sequencer--four instruments that paved the way for the successful mapping of the human genome and lead to his receiving this year's prestigious Russ Prize, awarded by the Academy of Engineering. A pillar in the biotechnology field, Dr. Hood has played a role in founding more than fourteen biotechnology companies, including Amgen, Applied Biosystems, Darwin, The Accelerator and Integrated Diagnostics. He is a member of the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering, and the Institute of Medicine, one of only 10 people in the world to be elected to all three academies. In addition to having published more than 700 peer reviewed articles, he has coauthored textbooks in biochemistry, immunology, molecular biology and genetics, as well as a popular book on the human genome project, The Code of Codes. He is the recipient of numerous awards, including the Lasker Award, the Kyoto Prize and the Heinz Award in Technology. Dr. Hood has also received 17 honorary degrees from prestigious universities in the US and other countries.

NSR Comments:

The Eighth Day of Creation: Makers of the Revolution in Biology (1979/1996/2004)
25th Anniversary Edition
by Horace Freeland Judson

In the foreword to this expanded edition of his 1979 masterpiece, Horace Freeland Judson says, "I feared I might seem the official historian of the movement"--molecular biology, that is. If by official he means "authoritative; definitive; the standard against which all others are measured" then his fears are warranted. Detailed without being overly technical, humane without being fulsome, The Eighth Day of Creation tells of molecular biology's search for the secret of life. "The drama has everything--exploration of the unknown; low comedy and urgent seriousness; savage competition, vaulting intelligence, abrupt changes of fortune, sudden understandings; eccentric and brilliant people, men of honor and of less than honor; a heroine, perhaps wronged; and a treasure to be achieved that was unique and transcendent." And in Judson this drama found its Shakespeare.

This lay history of molecular biology now contains material on some of the principal figures involved, particularly Rosalind Franklin and Erwin Chargaff. The foreword and epilogue sketch the further development of molecular biology into the era of recombinant DNA.

NSR Comments:

DNA: The Secret of Life (2003/2004) by James Watson

What makes DNA different from hordes of competitors purporting to help readers understand genetics is that it is written by none other than James Watson, of Watson and Crick fame. He and his co-author Andrew Berry have produced a clear and easygoing history of genetics, from Mendel through genome sequencing. Watson offers readers a sense of immediacy, a behind-the scenes familiarity with some of the most exciting developments in modern science. He gleefully reports on the research juggernaut that led to current obsessions with genetic engineering and cloning. Aided by profuse illustrations and photos, Watson offers an enthusiastic account of how scientists figured out how DNA codes for the creation of proteins--the so-called "central dogma" of genetics. But as patents and corporations enter the picture, Watson reveals his concern about the incursions of business into the hallowed halls of science. After 1975, DNA was no longer solely the concern of academics trying to understand the molecular underpinnings of life. The molecule moved beyond the cloisters of white-coated scientists into a very different world populated largely by men in silk ties and sharp suits. In later chapters, Watson aims barbs at those who are concerned by genetic tinkering, calling them "alarmists" who don't understand how the experiments work. It is in these arguments that Watson may lose favor with those whose notions of science were born after Silent Spring. Nevertheless, DNA encompasses both sides of the political issues involved in genetics, and Watson is an enthusiastic proponent of debate on the subject.

Who better than James Watson to lead a guided tour of DNA? When he and his English colleague, Francis Crick, discovered the double helix structure of the DNA molecule in 1953, little could they imagine that a mere 50 years later scientists would be putting the finishing touches on a map of the human genome. In this magisterial work, Watson, who won the Nobel Prize with Crick for their discovery, guides readers through the startling and rapid advances in genetic technology and what these advances will mean for our lives. Watson covers all aspects of the genome, from the layout of four simple bases on the DNA molecule through their complex construction into genes, then to the mechanisms whereby proteins produced by genes create our uniquely human characteristics-as well as the genetic mutations that can cause illnesses or inherited diseases like Duchenne muscular dystrophy and Huntington's disease. Watson may have mellowed a little over the years since he displayed his youthful brashness in The Double Helix, but he still isn't shy about taking on controversial subjects. He criticizes biotech corporations for patenting genes, making diagnostic medical procedures horribly expensive and damping further basic research. He notes that while China and other countries with large populations to feed have eagerly grasped the potential of genetically modified foodstuffs, America squandered $100 million on a recall of taco shells and the genetically modified corn used in them. He pleads passionately for the refinement and widespread use of prenatal genetic testing. Watson will probably provoke the most controversy with his criticism of scientists, corporations and government funding sources for their avoidance of important areas of research-notably the genetics of skin coloration-for political reasons. Every reader who wants to understand their own medical future will want to read this book. 100 color and b&w illus.

Specialty Stuff: Engineering Math

"Understanding the FFT" by Anders E. Zonst
"Understanding FFT Applications" by Anders E. Zonst

Understanding the FFT highly recommended  for hackers and math geeks

Anders E. Zonst is a retired aerospace engineer who authored two really good books each covering DFT (Discrete Fourier Transform) and FFT (Fast Fourier Transform).

The Scientist & Engineer's Guide to Digital Signal Processing (1997) by Steven W. Smith
Digital Signal Processing: A Practical Guide for Engineers and Scientists (2002) by Steven W. Smith

Other Literary Diversions

Forged: Writing in the Name of God -- Why the Bible's Authors Are Not Who We Think They Are (2011) by Bart Ehrman

The evocative title tells it all and hints at the tone of sensationalism that pervades this book. Those familiar with the earlier work of Ehrman, a distinguished professor of religious studies at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, and author of more than 20 books including Misquoting Jesus, will not be surprised at the content of this one. Written in a manner accessible to non specialists, Ehrman argues that many books of the New Testament are not simply written by people other than the ones to whom they are attributed, but that they are deliberate forgeries. The word itself connotes scandal and crime, and it appears on nearly every page. Indeed, this book takes on an idea widely accepted by biblical scholars: that writing in someone else's name was common practice and perfectly okay in ancient times. Ehrman argues that it was not even then considered acceptable—hence, a forgery. While many readers may wish for more evidence of the charge, Ehrman's introduction to the arguments and debates among different religious communities during the first few centuries and among the early Christians themselves, though not the book's main point, is especially valuable.

"Misquoting Jesus: The Story Behind Who Changed The Bible and Why" (2005) by Bart Ehrman

When world-class biblical scholar Bart Ehrman first began to study the texts of the Bible in their original languages he was startled to discover the multitude of mistakes and intentional alterations that had been made by earlier translators. In Misquoting Jesus, Ehrman tells the story behind the mistakes and changes that ancient scribes made to the New Testament and shows the great impact they had upon the Bible we use today. He frames his account with personal reflections on how his study of the Greek manuscripts made him abandon his once ultraconservative views of the Bible. Since the advent of the printing press and the accurate reproduction of texts, most people have assumed that when they read the New Testament they are reading an exact copy of Jesus' words or Saint Paul's writings. And yet, for almost fifteen hundred years these manuscripts were hand copied by scribes who were deeply influenced by the cultural, theological, and political disputes of their day. Both mistakes and intentional changes abound in the surviving manuscripts, making the original words difficult to reconstruct. For the first time, Ehrman reveals where and why these changes were made and how scholars go about reconstructing the original words of the New Testament as closely as possible. Ehrman makes the provocative case that many of our cherished biblical stories and widely held beliefs concerning the divinity of Jesus, the Trinity, and the divine origins of the Bible itself stem from both intentional and accidental alterations by scribes -- alterations that dramatically affected all subsequent versions of the Bible.

NSR Comments:

god is not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything (2007/2010) by Christopher Hitchens

"The God Delusion" (2006) by Richard Dawkins

My own 2-cents worth (part 1)

My own 2-cents worth (part 2)

The Landmark Thucydides: A Comprehensive Guide to the Peloponnesian War (1998) by Robert B. Strassler

The Trouble with Islam: A Wake-up Call for Honesty and Change (2004) by Irshad Manji

Having only been exposed to only Judeo-Christian history as a child, I was ignorant about Islam's contributions to humanity until I read this book. Unlike the bloody events associated with the protestant reformation 500 years ago, Irshad has convinced me that it may be possible for a bloodless reformation of Islam to occur, provided Muslims are allowed to openly debate and question their religion (Ijtihad). However, this will only happen when the Muslim silent majority begin to speak out against the actions and teachings of Muslim extremists. Everyone who believes in God (both Muslim and non-Muslim) should read this book. The official website of Irshad Manji, author of "The Trouble with Islam"
Quote: "Mulsim-Refusenik doesn't mean I refuse to be a Muslim, It simply means that I refuse to join an army of automatons in the name of Allah"

The Coming Dark Age (a collection of articles and books)

Humanity's Coming Dark Age
Humanity's Coming Dark Age - The rise and fall of empires
The Rise and Fall of Empires (published: 2003-01-29)
Symptoms before each collapse: ignorance, superstition, religious fundamentalism, xenophobia, intolerance, rejection of science
  1. Download a free PDF copy of the 418-page 2002 publication: The Phoenix Principle and the Coming Dark Age by Marc Widdowson (British military analyst and educator) 
  2. Download ($10) an eBook of The Coming Dark Age by Roberto Vacca - 153 pages in PDF format
  3. While there are many complicated and interacting reasons for the fall of the Roman Empire, I am now convinced that Edward Gibbon was correct when he stated that the primary reason was due to the the effects of organized religion. Today's world might collapse for nothing more that the reasons of religious intolerance or greed (materialism is another form of religion)
  4. Additionally, we know from the writings of Roman historians (Pliny the Elder is one of many) that Ancient Rome began its decline not long after Romans began to replace "observational science given to them by the Greeks" with so-called "common sense". Roman civilization stagnated then decayed from within
  5. Today it is no different. Earlier in my life, people were fond of this expression: "If we can go to the moon then why cant we ... ?". To be clear, it was only the Americans who were able to send 12 men to the moon between 1969 and 1972 then return them safely to the Earth. The rest of of humanity was merely sharing in their triumph. But after Richard Nixon gutted the American manned space program to help keep America solvent while it fought a ridiculous war in Vietnam, and Ronald Reagan cozied up to Jerry Falwell's "Moral Majority" to win the presidential election of 1980, America has barely been able to put humans into orbit and now must hitch a ride to the ISS (International Space Station) with their former cold-war enemy, Russia. Many Americans now joke "If we can go to the moon then why can't we go to the moon?" while ignoring shame or embarrassment. But will they change when astronauts from another country decide to plant a flag up there? Probably not. Just as the Ming emperor of China burned his fleet while claiming there is nothing in the world worth exploring, block-headed Americans of all stripes have lost their {space} fleet
  6. But it has gotten much worse: this side of y2k, North Americans with a Sunday-school understanding of the Christian bible actually think they are doing society a service when they stand up and argue with highly educated scientists about such topics like: evolution, the age of the earth, the importance of vaccines to only name three of many
  7. Religious Method (dogma): Fiction, Assertion, Suppression
    Scientific Method (pragma): Observation, Hypothesis, Experiment (test), Debate. Then publish and repeat.
  8. So now I urge you to return to the chart above and ask yourself "am I confortable living on the decline of the last bump?". If the answer is "no" then I suggest you suppress your personal expressions of: ignorance, superstition, religious fundamentalism, xenophobia, intolerance, rejection of science

The Roman Republic (1966)
The Roman Empire (1967)
both by Isaac Asimov

The Roman Republic (1966) by Isaac Asimov

The Roman Empire (1967) by Isaac Asimov

Good, but not everyone's cup of tea

Various Titles

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Neil Rieck
Kitchener - Waterloo - Cambridge, Ontario, Canada.