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review 2018-06-17 19:40
The Equations of Life
The Equations of Life: How Physics Shapes Evolution - Charles S. Cockell

[I received a copy of this book from NetGalley.]

Well, that was a pretty informative read. A little difficult to get into at times (although I suspect half of it was because I was trying to read it when I was too tired), but definitely informative.

To be honest, I’m not that well-versed in equations in general. I can solve basic linear equations with two unknowns, that kind of thing; just don’t ask me to memorise really complex ones. So, I admit that, at first, I was hesitant to request this book, thinking that maybe it’d be out of my reach. Fortunately, while it does deal with equations, it’s not just page after page filled with numbers and symbols, and the author does explain what each term of each equation stands for. In the end, this was all fairly understandable, both the math and the writing itself.

The book doesn’t simply deal with equations either, and delves into astrobiology and basic atomic and particles physics (electrons -are- subatomic particles, after all, and knowing what part they play in atomic interactions is useful to understand what exactly happens at the biological molecular level, too). In fact, I found that a couple of chapters do fit in nicely with quantum theory, if you’re interested in that as well, since they explain essential interactions at shell level. I hadn’t studied chemistry since… at least 21 years, but this sent me back to my old classes, and I realised that I still possessed the required knowledge to get what the author was talking about. Which is great, because 1) I’m interested, 2) I like it when I grasp something that old me would’ve dismissed as ‘too hard’, 3) did I say I’m interested?

Last but not least, the book also contains a list of references that I’ll try to check at some point. Not all of them, of course, but since he points to Sean B. Carroll and his works on evo-devo, that’s a win in my little world.

All in all, this was a set of really interesting and intriguing theories, theories that make a lot of sense when you think about it and take time to observe nature around you. (Why did animals develop legs and not wheels? Well, inequal terrain and all that… Logics, logics…) And if you’re wondering about the possibility of other forms of life, either carbon-based on other planets or not even carbon-based, the author also explores this, going to demonstrate why it may or may not work (hence why a basic lesson in chemistry is provided). A solid 4.5 stars for me (I just think it dragged slightly in the last chapter).

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text 2018-06-15 03:13
The Flat Book Society: Reminder - List is open for September nominations - Vote for your favorites!
Unlocking the Past: How Archaeologists Are Rewriting Human History with Ancient DNA - Martin Jones
Not Even Wrong: The Failure of String Theory and the Search for Unity in Physical Law - Peter Woit
Furry Logic: The Physics of Animal Life - Matin Durrani,Liz Kalaugher
Why We Sleep: Unlocking the Power of Sleep and Dreams - Matthew Walker
Buzz: The Nature and Necessity of Bees - Thor Hanson

Just a reminder that our list is still open for voting for the September read.  We currently have 10 nominees (we aim to keep it at a max of 12-15) and the current leader with just 3 votes is:

 

Unlocking the Past: How Archaeologists Are Rewriting Human History with Ancient DNA - Martin Jones 

 

In Unlocking the Past, Martin Jones, [...] explains how this pioneering science is rewriting human history and unlocking stories of the past that could never have been told before. For the first time, the building blocks of ancient life—–DNA, proteins, and fats that have long been trapped in fossils and earth and rock—–have become widely accessible to science. Working at the cutting edge of genetic and other molecular technologies, researchers have been probing the remains of these ancient biomolecules in human skeletons, sediments and fossilized plants, dinosaur bones, and insects trapped in amber. Their amazing discoveries have influenced the archaeological debate at almost every level and continue to reshape our understanding of the past.

 

In contention are 4 others with 2 votes each are (as listed above):

Not Even Wrong: The Failure of String Theory and the Search for Unity in Physical Law - Peter Woit 

Furry Logic: The Physics of Animal Life - Matin Durrani,Liz Kalaugher 

Why We Sleep: Unlocking the Power of Sleep and Dreams - Matthew Walker 

Buzz: The Nature and Necessity of Bees - Thor Hanson 

 

Be sure to get over to the Flat Book Society and vote if you haven't already, and if you have a dark horse entry, we still have a few spaces to fill.  If you're not a member already, it's never too late to join!

 

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review 2018-06-14 11:29
The Stars Look Different Today: “The Somnambulist's Dreams” by Lars Jerlach
The Somnambulist's Dreams - Lars Boye Jerlach


“’So what is it Enoch Soule? Why are you here? What are you here to tell me?’
[…]
‘I know why you’re here,’ he [the chess player] said.”

In “The Somnambulist's Dreams” by Lars Jerlach



2018’s been my year of reading some fundamental books on Physics. At least they are what some of my friends call Fundamental Books on Physics. After having read a bunch of them, some are not so fundamental: “Reality Is Not What It Seems” by Carlo Rovelli, “The Many Worlds of Hugh Everett III -Multiple Universes, Mutual Assured Destruction, and the Meltdown of a Nuclear Family” by Peter Byrne, “What is Real - The Unfinished Quest for the Meaning of Quantum Physics” by Adam Becker, “The Emergent Universe" by Wallace, “Our Mathematical Universe: My Quest for the Ultimate Nature of Reality” by Max Tegmark. My tiny brain is a hive of activity…Most of them were on the so-called Measurement Problem in Quantum Mechanics.

 

If you're into stuff like this, you can read the full review.

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review 2018-06-12 19:38
The Stages of Truth: "Our Mathematical Universe - My Quest for the Ultimate Nature of Reality" by Max Tegmark
Our Mathematical Universe: My Quest for the Ultimate Nature of Reality - Max Tegmark


The Stages of Truth: "Our Mathematical Universe - My Quest for the Ultimate Nature of Reality" by Max Tegmark


Forget about Tegmark’s 4 levels. The stages of truth I can remember are:

• Old Greeks saying "We only see a faint reflection of reality", i.e. we have observation, and that's flawed.
• Old Chinese saying "All we have is observation. Reality is observation, and observation is a function of the human form" which is a most interesting thing. They state that sense is inherently limited by our being. Excellent.
• Descartes saying "to know stuff, you must have doubt. Knowledge is developed by doubt" which means testing: the scientific method. Which he didn't invent, but put on a logical footing. And also founding it all on "I think, therefore I exist".
• Karl Popper saying that the essential property of what's knowable is what can be tested, questioned. This continues from Descartes and quite a few more in between including Kant obviously who's really cool but illegible.

 

 

If you're into stuff like this, you can read the full review.

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review 2018-06-10 19:00
Falsifiable Multiverse: “The Emergent Multiverse: Quantum Theory According to the Everett Interpretation” by David Wallace
The Emergent Multiverse: Quantum Theory According to the Everett Interpretation - David Wallace


"Readers familiar with typical discussions of the measurement problem may be surprised that I have mentioned neither the 'eigenstate-eigenvalue link' nor the 'collapse of the hidden variables' theories.”

In “The Emergent Universe: Quantum Theory According to the Everett Interpretation” by David Wallace



Surprising statement to say the least. If one accepts the truthiness of the eigenstate-eigenvalue link it follows that if states are relative, then so are the values of observables. Not accepting this. what have we got? If an observable has got a value at a certain moment, is that observable-relative or not? 

Uhm…

A long time ago I remember Fred Hoyle asking "Are there any constants for all the universes?” I thought the universe was a put up job. There always being "something" is what shivers my timbers. I know they say energy is eternal but what is energy?


If you're into stuff like this, you can read the full review.

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