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text 2017-03-21 16:34
Reading progress update: I've read 233 out of 320 pages.
Feynman Lectures On Computation - Robin W. Allen,J.G. Hey,Anthony Hey,David Pines,Richard P. Feynman

We arrived at the physics of MOSFET transistors and the like; this is a topic I found dull as an undergrad, despite liking other solid-state physics topics, such as phonon transport, band theory and even crystallography. This, it appears, is down to the fact that how semi-conductor devices work is really engineering, not physics.

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review 2017-03-19 16:48
Einstein: His Life And Universe - Walter Isaacson

This is an incredibly well researched, detailed account of all aspects of Einstein's life, personal, scientific and political that I can highly recommend to anybody interested. I learned heaps I didn't know and had the record set straight on a number of points, mainly regarding Einstein's political views, how they changed over time and his level of support for setting up the Manhattan Project.

 

I read the book with a specific research agenda, which was to independently form an opinion as to whether Einstein was autistic, an idea not first suggested by me and not on the author's mind either. Conclusion: Yep, autisticker than an autistic person with autism.

 

Towards the end there is an account of how Einstein was affected by and responded to McCarthyism. He was opposed, seeing in it the oppression of free speech and free thought characteristic of both Fascism and Communism. The author takes the view that McCarthyism was a passing fad, doomed to fail in the long term because of the greatness of the American Constitution. I found this level of complacency offensive to all the victims of McCarthy, all the people who spoke up in defense of freedoms and all the people who defended the constitution legally.

 

On it's own the constitution is nothing; without those people willing to risk reputation, career, even liberty, would McCarthyism have been a "passing fad"? Given the current political situation, we need such people more than ever. You disappoint me in this, Isaacson. Einstein, who used his world famous name to stand up for moderation, tolerance and freedom of thought and speech, does not.

 

Still, overall an excellent book.

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text 2017-03-15 19:10
Reading progress update: I've read 395 out of 675 pages.
Einstein: His Life And Universe - Walter Isaacson

Einstein was famously a pacifist but I did not know how publicly outspoken he was about it.

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text 2017-03-14 23:15
Reading progress update: I've read 326 out of 675 pages.
Einstein: His Life And Universe - Walter Isaacson

There was a private campaign to prevent Einstein being awarded a Nobel Prize. This seems to have been variously motivated by 1. a bias towards experimentalists 2. an old-timer scepticism of Special (let alone General) Relativity 3. anti-Semitism.

 

This explains why the photo-electric effect was cited when Einstein eventually won in 1922.

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text 2017-03-13 01:17
Reading progress update: I've read 288 out of 675 pages.
Einstein: His Life And Universe - Walter Isaacson

Einstein and General Relativity in the 1920s came under attack from German anti-Semitic Nationalists; "Jewish science" was somehow intrinsically, morally wrong. Recently, Harper, a right-wing pro-business, sod the environment nightmare, banned Canadian government employees (including scientists) from discussing climate change. The same has happened under Trump. I believe some science and scientists were repressed/persecuted under Stalin, also. The number of religious movements that deny all or some science is beyond easy count. There seems to be some connection between fervid Nationalist/Authoritarian/Totalitarian/Religious extremist thought that simply attempts to deny our best understanding of reality if it contradicts or inconveniences it and to impose this fake world-view on everyone else. It should rings as many alarm bells as loudly as those now sounding about blatant or more subtle anti-feminist, racist, Nationalist, militaristic, hetero-normative, trans-discriminatory policies and attitudes we are daily confronted with.

 

I would like to confirm that my view on Stalin is correct as I can't conjure any definite examples, it's just a vague notion that I've come across evidence of it before. I'd really like to hear from you if know of any supporting or contradictory evidence.

 

I'd also like to hear views on my thesis that science routinely comes into conflict with extreme views simply because it is the most balanced and sceptical world view humanity as ever invented.

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