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review 2018-01-22 01:08
When the Earth was Flat: All the bits of science we got wrong
When the Earth Was Flat: All the Bits of Science We Got Wrong - Graeme Donald

In my review of The Accidental Scientist, I raved about how much I enjoyed the book, but that I had reservations about the way the author's style, no matter how entertaining it was.  Turns out those reservations are well founded.  In When the Earth was Flat, his penchant for pedantry and generalisations are so broad as to be misleading.  

 

The book is broken up into chapters that each cover a "scientific" theory believed to be fact at some point in history.  Flat Earth, Hollow Earth, Phrenology, Hysteria, etc.  Each includes a basic description of the belief and the effect it had on humanity both at the time, and sometimes, up to the present day.

 

Most of these are, I believe, pretty well researched, and they are well written; I learned a lot, and while I won't take any of it as gospel truth without some additional fact-checking, I have a level of confidence that the book is generally sound.  I'm agog at the implications of certain medical "advancements" of the 1920's and their possible links to HIV.  

 

But where he loses ground is in his breakout boxes that list "Popular Scientific Ideas Debunked".  These are just bullet point statements refuting what are widely believed to be scientific facts.  Most of them are gimmes; anyone who has read any similar book would recognise them as myths rather than facts.  But a number of them are - while factually correct if your pedantic - irresponsibly phrased.  For example:

 

Heat does not rise but disperses itself equally and evenly throughout its environment. 

 

Yes, but no.  Or not immediately.  A gas that is heated up will have less mass and more volume, and therefore will rise up through a colder gas until the heat is dispersed equally and evenly throughout.   That's how weather works.  Anyone who has ever seen a thunderstorm form, especially a microcell, has seen the hotter air rising up through the atmosphere (really, the colder air is sinking, but anyway...).  This is nature's way of re-establishing equilibrium, or as close as it can get before the sun comes back out.

 

The same applies to water (until water hits the freezing point); cold water is denser than warm water, so the colder water sinks to the bottom and the warmer water rises to the top, until the temperature is equal throughout.  We're lucky that that equilibrium is never achieved in our oceans, else life on Earth would become rather untenable. 

 

So while his statement is factualit's oversimplified to the point of being wrong, and since he does not trouble himself, or the reader, to explain beyond these casual, throw-way refutations, I find them incredibly irresponsible.   This is why there are so many ignorant people who cannot see that they are ignorant: they read things like this and think themselves informed... and then run for political office.  Simplification, like everything else in life, should only be practiced in moderation.

 

To sum up, it's not a bad read; I believe 90% of the information can be relied upon and for the reader who is new to science or just enjoys fun facts, this is entertainingly written. But, as in any non-fiction book, the reader should be cautious of single sentence statements of facts.  It's rarely that simple.

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text 2018-01-20 19:19
2017 Year in Review: Stats
Shadowhouse Fall - Daniel José Older
Ninefox Gambit - Yoon Ha Lee
A Conspiracy in Belgravia (The Lady Sherlock Series) - Sherry Thomas
Food of the Gods: A Rupert Wong Novel - Cassandra Khaw
The Ballad of Black Tom - Victor LaValle
The Stars Are Legion - Kameron Hurley
The Heiress Effect - Courtney Milan
An Extraordinary Union - Alyssa Cole
The Stone Sky (The Broken Earth) - N.K. Jemisin
Clean Room Vol. 3: Waiting for the Stars to Fall - Gail Simone,Jon Davis-Hunt
Did anyone else end up with a broken counter on the Goodreads stats page? I know they had an issue with the date read field earlier in the year. While that eventually worked itself out, my total for 2017 is way off. The states page claims over 100, but the list is really only 79.
 
My breakdown of the 79 "books" I finished in 2017:

anthologies: 0
collections: 0
Adult novels: 50
YA novels: 8
MG novels: 0
graphic novels: 1
art book: 0
comic omnibus: 15
magazine issues: 0
children's books: 2
nonfiction: 3
 
I make a demographics list every year as a way of giving myself the opportunity to think about who I've read and how I can do better.
 
Across all categories:
  Written by Women: 53 (67%, down from 72% in 2016)
  Written by POC: 29 (37%, up from 17% in 2016)
  Written by Transgender authors: 5 (6%, up from 1% in 2016) 
  Written by Non-binary authors: 2 (3%, up from 1% in 2016)
 
While this looks like a large improvement from last year, I should note that this is not unique authors, but total across all my reading. I went on Cassandra Khaw and Daniel José Older benders this fall that account for a lot of my non-white reading. I also went on a Courtney Milan bender in January that is helping inflate the written by women category. 
 
My favorite book from 2017 were really hard to select! It was a great reading year, but I narrowed it down to 10. Please don't ask me to order them as that's clearly an impossible task. They should all appear in the banner at the top, but here's a list, alphabetically:
 
 
I reviewed all 79 titles read in 2017, which is really more than I expected. Not all those reviews are great, but in terms of quantity, I beat my expectations. 
 
My favorite new-to-me author of 2017 is Cassandra Khaw. She's talented and her range includes (nay, celebrates!) splatterpunk. 
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review 2018-01-04 13:42
Downward To The Earth - Robert Silverber... Downward To The Earth - Robert Silverberg
There have been many excellent reviews of this book and I agree with every one of them. Very good read and highly recommended.
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review 2017-12-28 15:58
Who is Tom Baker?
Who On Earth Is Tom Baker? An Autobiography - Tom Baker

Who indeed. There is so much I didn’t know about Tom Baker, but reading his autobiography has made me appreciate him so much more.

 

What an odd fellow he must have been in his youth, growing up in a labouring class environment in Liverpool, always feeling a bit dissatisfied and out of touch with his fellow human beings. As much as I was trying, I just cannot picture this goofball as a monk (even less after reading about the thoughts he had during that time).

 

One marriage, two sons and a quite remarkable number of odd jobs here and there later and he finally stars in different theatre and movie productions (with various amounts of success). In this time he also befriends people like Anthony Hopkins – just imagine those two staggering out of a pub and wobbling down the street together, uniting those mighty voices!

 

Before becoming the Doctor, Tom Baker had quite a roller coaster life and luckily he survived a lot of suffering, self-doubting and states of depression. Naturally, his autobiography features quite a bit on Doctor Who, but less than one might think. It was especially those parts that brought tears to my eyes though, because reading about how happy it made him being the Doctor and bringing as much joy to children as he possibly could is heart warming beyond anything.

 

Some other parts were quite bitter and my heart sank while reading how disillusioned and frustrated he is concerning some parts of life like religion, friendship and relationships with women, despite the fact that he disguises his retrospective with a thick coat of irony.

Additionally, Tom Baker swears a lot and is quite occupied with his dick.

 

Even though most of us probably know him as two hearted gallifreyan Time Lord from another time and space, the man behind this role is so incredibly human! Throughout most of his life he had a sense of confusion and simply did not know what and how and why to which I can relate to more than I would like to admit.

After all, this is his autobiography and the way he wants to be remembered. For me Tom Baker made it quite clear, that he is way more than the fourth Doctor and that his life still has so much more to offer. A great last book of 2017.

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text 2017-12-23 20:25
Reading progress update: I've read 104 out of 268 pages.
Who On Earth Is Tom Baker? An Autobiography - Tom Baker

Funny and witty, just as we know and love our Baker.

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