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text 2015-02-03 09:58
Steths: Cognition (Steths Book 1) - Karl Fields

Didn’t really know what to expect when I started this. To begin with, it was slow going as nothing seemed to be happening. However once you got about a quarter of the way through, the plot and characters got more interesting and the action took off, which caused it to become a real page turner for me. Recommend read as it’s a little something different from the normal.

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text 2014-12-11 18:47
TBR Thursday #18
Deviation (Imitation Book 2) - Heather Hildenbrand
Rite of Rejection - Sarah Negovetich
Under Different Stars - Amy A. Bartol
The Last Jews in Berlin - Leonard Gross
Ticker - Lisa Mantchev
The Rose Master - Valentina Cano
Steths: Cognition (Steths Book 1) - Karl Fields
Owlet - Emma Michaels
Danny Dirks and the Heir of Pendragon - S.A. Mulraney
The Shadow Soul - Kaitlyn Davis

Moonlight Reader started the TBR Thursday, and I think it's a good way to a) show what new books I've got and b) confront myself with my inability to lower my TBR. In fact, since I started recording it, it has risen significantly. I get the feeling I'm doing something wrong here...

 

It's been such a busy week for me. Next week - to complete my Christmas feelings, ahum - I've two important exams all the while I also need to write an article about my research-internship and some genius decided that December 26th (which is a holiday where I come from; and my little sister's birthday) is the perfect day to hand in the final review of my internship. While also studying for three major exams in January.

Anyway, what it bottles down to is: I'm stressed.

 

Reading however is a good way to set my mind at rest sometimes. I'm especially glad I finished the 840(!) pages long biography of Ivan Pavlov (the Russian physiologist known for his experiments on dogs with bells buzzers. They make a great deal about that 'mistake' in the book. The book biggest mistake is that, while interesting, it's also a couple of hundred pages too long.)

(I'd also bought some AC games, from Steam's Black Friday sale, but I don't get Uplay to work. Which is quite a downer because especially since I paid for the games I want to be able to actually play them. They are not installed to look pretty and take up space).

 

But back to books. It might have been too good a week as there are so many new additions. I've heard on a lot of my requests so I got loads of new ARCs. Well, perhaps it's almost Christmas after all...

 

TBR pile currently stands at 249. (+13)

(Netgalley ARCs at 85 (+8))

 

All new additions are ARCs I hope to be able to read soon!

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review 2014-11-18 01:57
Steths: Cognition by Karl Fields
Steths: Cognition (Steths Book 1) - Karl Fields

I received a copy of this from a giveaway here on booklikes.

 

Short Review;

Wow, this is so completely different from anything I have read before, it was fantastic I just wish it was longer! 

 

Long Review;

I had never heard of this book until I stumbled across it on here, and now its time to spread the word.

 

Say the phrase No two are ever alike, and most think of snowflakes or fingerprints. But Steths, with their ability to hear heartbeats – and the emotions within them – know that each one of those is unique as well.

Sixteen-year-old Devin Chambers wants nothing more than a football scholarship, his ticket to a life beyond the hardscrabble neighborhood he calls home. But it’s his abilities as a Steth that get him noticed by the prestigious Faulkner Academy.

Being a “Faulkner man” means a life of privilege and influence. In the wrong hands, it also means having the power to destroy lives, as Devin learns when he encounters a man being framed for terrorism. He hears innocence in the man’s heart, but it’s a belief no one else shares, and he’ll have to risk his new life and bright future to save a condemned man from the death penalty. (taken from Goodreads)

 

This starts out a little slow, there's a fair bit of character and world building which I enjoyed and sets up some good ground work for the next book. There better be a next book by the way.

 

I really love how some of the characters have supernatural gifts but they aren't ridiculously unbelievable, given evolution these types of things may be possible at some stage, its far more likely then being able to shoot lasers from your eyes at least.

 

I loved the characters in this, they are so well written and I got surprisingly attached to Devin and Travis, when they had a little bro fight I was so devastated!

 

I don't want to give to much away as this was fantastic not knowing at all where it was going, so give it a go, if you like books like The Athena Effect by Derrolyn Anderson or the Bloom trilogy by A.P Kensey then I think you will absolutely enjoy this.

 

Also, that ending, my god please say there's a book 2.

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review 2013-09-04 00:00
Language, Cognition, and Human Nature - Steven Pinker This is a first for me – to see a popular science writer bringing out a book of what you might call their "selected academic papers". I suppose it speaks to Steven Pinker's (justified) popularity, but even so it's difficult to know exactly who the intended audience is: the stuff in here seems far too advanced for those who merely take a passing interest in linguistic theory or cognitive science, but on the other hand working academics or students in the field presumably already have access to most of these studies via university libraries, academic websites, etc. I suppose there's something to be said for having it all pulled together in a nice bound copy?

Among linguists, Pinker has become just slightly…well, "divisive" and "controversial" are much too strong words, but let's just say that his success with the public has meant that some of his ideas are taken as fact now, when many would say they're still under debate. Notably his championing of Noam Chomsky's Universal Grammar theory, which definitely is still controversial and divisive. On the other hand, it's also unfair to characterise Pinker as a Chomsky cheerleader – perhaps his most important academic paper (certainly his most-cited) was a 1990 study coauthored with Paul Bloom which went dead against Chomsky's non-Darwinist ideas on language evolution.

Actually, this last paper was almost taboo-busting – the idea of how language evolved is so thorny, and so beset by competing arguments, that the Linguistic Society of Paris famously banned any mention of it back in 1866. I love the paper for its epigraph – a comment contrasting the birth of language with the supposed first spoken words of the infant Thomas Babbington Macaulay:

…once when he was taken out, his hostess accidentally spilled hot tea on him. The little lad first bawled his head off, but when he had calmed he said in answer to his hostess' concern, ‘Thank you Madam, the agony is sensibly abated.’


It was an important paper, and it led to a bit of a renaissance of language evolution studies in the 1990s. On the other hand, this collection is also at times a way for Pinker to promote papers that he feels have received too little attention: ‘As far as I know,’ he says of one study, ‘this article has attracted zero citations (except by me)’.

Of course much of his work is not to do with linguistics at all, or at least not directly – he has had a long involvement with cognitive science generally, though the studies in here that mark this involvement are mostly over my head. For the general reader, perhaps the most interesting part of the book is the thoughtful introduction, in which Pinker considers the value in maintaining an interest in both academic studies and also popular writing.

The demand for clarity [in works aimed at the general public] can expose bad ideas that are obscured by murky academese, and the demand for concrete detail in recounting experiments ("Ernie and Bert puppets" not "stimuli") can uncover flaws in design that would otherwise be overlooked.


Well, quite. Which brings us back to the question of who this book is aimed at exactly. Despite the witty introduction and the perceptive chapter-by-chapter commentaries, I suspect it has rather little general appeal – though that's not to detract from the fact that it's a very rich collection of often brilliant work.
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review 2007-02-01 00:00
Animal Minds: Beyond Cognition to Consciousness
Animal Minds: Beyond Cognition to Consciousness - Donald R. Griffin Revised edition. An argument in favor of the idea that consciousness in some form may be present throughout the animal kingdom.

As I read this book, I found myself very frustrated by it. The one huge problem that permeates it is the refusal to come to grips, even provisionally, with what is consciousness in the first place. To be sure, this is an issue no one has settled yet. But Griffin writes in accordance with this quote from Francis Crick: "Everyone has a rough idea of what is meant by consciousness. It is better to avoid a precise definition of consciousness because of the dangers of premature definitions." I do not agree that "everyone" has even a "rough idea" of what they mean when they talk of consciousness -- this assumption allows people to perhaps talk right past each other, and change their definitions in unpredictable ways during the course of discussion. Certainly I had that impression many times as I read Animal Minds.

Griffin's arguments are just not as careful as I would wish. He starts out by stating "It seems likely that conscious thinking and emotional feeling about current, past, and anticipated events is the best way to cope with some of the more critical challenges faced by animals in their natural lives." (p. 3) But he does not justify that statement in the following paragraph. And throughout the book he continues to hold that assumption, largely unstated. He introduces many and varied examples of behavior by all sorts of animals, will give a little discussion of interpretations, then state that consciousness is either a possible explanation, or the most likely explanation -- then simply move on to the next example. A few of the instances he cites seemed to me quite poorly chosen. The idea of consciousness seems more plausible to me in some of his examples than others, but he never really rigorously justifies himself in any case. The whole book adds up to a suggestive, but weak, argument; and he spends a lot of time criticizing other people who've written on the subject in terms that suggest to me that he's not being entirely fair to them.

On the upside, the book provides plenty of references for further reading, plus accounts of some fascinating research. My favorite was Cowey and Stoerig's experiments on blindsight in monkeys. Monkeys which have had their visual cortex surgically damaged can press a lever indicating the presence of a lighted square with some accuracy; but, if they have been trained to press a lever when a lighted square is not present, they will , when surgically blinded, invariably indicate that there is no square. So, there is a way in which these monkeys see and don't see at the same time. In human blindsight patients, the sense in which they don't see is known as conscious awareness. Should the same name be applied to what produces the same output in monkeys? Intriguing...
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