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Books Review

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The Physics of NASCAR: How to Make Steel + Gas + Rubber = Speed . Having caught, by chance, the broadcast of a multi-car NASCAR crash on television, Nebraska University physics professor Leslie-Pelecky found herself compelled to understand why it happened. Soon, a growing list of scientific questions ("How do you build an engine...that can run at 9,000 rpm for three hours without blowing up?") steer her to meetings with engineers, ground crews and drivers who work together "at the limits of what we understand about aerodynamics, structural engineering and even human physiology." The first part of the book deals with materials, and looks at how combustion, power and aerodynamics work together to maximize speed. But it's the driver and his crew who win the race, and Leslie-Pelecky gets plenty of time with the men behind the machines, joining Ray Evernham's crew to watch him race, and taking a turn behind the wheel herself. Along the way, the nanotech specialist becomes an unlikely racing fan; this fun physics primer should give any NASCAR aficionado a similar appreciation for science.

405 Views 0 Comments Permalink Tags: sport, speed, nascar, gas, rubber

 

Search Engine Optimization For Dummies . You have a cool Web site, and a really great product, service, or cause you want people to know about. But visitors aren’t beating down your cyber-door. What happened? The answer, most likely, is that you haven’t made your site irresistible to search engines or SEO.

 

Search engines have a great deal of control over the volume of traffic a Web site gets, because they put your site in front of people searching for your product or service.

316 Views 0 Comments Permalink Tags: seo, dummies, search_engine_optimization

 

The Age of Spiritual Machines: When Computers Exceed Human Intelligence . How much do we humans enjoy our current status as the most intelligent beings on earth? Enough to try to stop our own inventions from surpassing us in smarts? If so, we'd better pull the plug right now, because if Ray Kurzweil is right we've only got until about 2020 before computers outpace the human brain in computational power. Kurzweil, artificial intelligence expert and author of The Age of Intelligent Machines, shows that technological evolution moves at an exponential pace. Further, he asserts, in a sort of swirling postulate, time speeds up as order increases, and vice versa. He calls this the "Law of Time and Chaos," and it means that although entropy is slowing the stream of time down for the universe overall, and thus vastly increasing the amount of time between major events, in the eddy of technological evolution the exact opposite is happening, and events will soon be coming faster and more furiously. This means that we'd better figure out how to deal with conscious machines as soon as possible--they'll soon not only be able to beat us at chess, but also likely demand civil rights, and might at last realize the very human dream of immortality.

 

 

*The Age of Spiritual Machines *is compelling and accessible, and not necessarily best read from front to back--it's less heavily historical if you jump around (Kurzweil encourages this). Much of the content of the book lays the groundwork to justify Kurzweil's timeline, providing an engaging primer on the philosophical and technological ideas behind the study of consciousness. Instead of being a gee-whiz futurist manifesto, Spiritual Machines reads like a history of the future, without too much science fiction dystopianism. Instead, Kurzweil shows us the logical outgrowths of current trends, with all their attendant possibilities. This is the book we'll turn to when our computers first say "hello."

334 Views 1 Comments Permalink Tags: spiritual, science, machine, computer, intelligence

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The Universe in a Single Atom: The Convergence of Science and SpiritualityAs the Dalai Lama observes in this wise and humble book, dialogue between scientists and those interested in spirituality is important because science is not neutral; it can be used for good or ill, and we must approach scientific inquiry with compassion and empathy. Similarly, a spirituality that ignores science can quickly become a rigid fundamentalism. Sometimes the Dalai Lama discovers similarities between the two fields. For example, Einstein's idea that time is relative dovetails neatly with Buddhist philosophical understandings of time. Still, His Holiness does not accept all scientific thinking as holy writ: though he is intrigued by scientific stories of origins, like the Big Bang theory, Buddhism holds that the universe is "infinite and beginningless." The penultimate chapter brings ethical considerations to bear on technological advancements in genetics. The Dalai Lama gently suggests that although parents who select certain genetic traits for their children may intend to give their children a leg up, they may in fact simply be capitulating to a social pressure that favors, say, boys over girls or tall people over short. He also cautions that we do not know the long-term consequences of genetically modifying our crops. In fact, it is disappointing that the Dalai Lama devotes only 18 pages to these urgent and complex topics. Perhaps this prolific author has a sequel in the works.

293 Views 0 Comments Permalink Tags: spiritual, science, religion, buddhism, dalai_lama, universe, atom

 

Evolutionary Analysis (4th Edition) . By presenting evolutionary biology as an on going research effort, this best-seller aims to help readers think like scientists. The authors convey the excitement and logic of evolutionary science by introducing principles through recent and classical studies, and by emphasizing real-world applications. Features a new chapter one Phylogenomics and the Molecular Basis of Adaptation (Ch. 15). Offers an earlier presentation of Reconstructing Evolutionary Trees, reflecting the growing importance of this topic in the field. Includes the latest research and examples, giving students access to the most current developments in the field. Includes full-color photographs, diagrams and data-graphics throughout, developed by the author.

385 Views 0 Comments Permalink Tags: analysis, science, phylogenomic, biology

 

Seeing What's Next: Using Theories of Innovation to Predict Industry Change .This book argues that it is possible to predict which companies will win and which will lose in a specific situation—and provides a practical framework for doing so.

 

 

Most books on innovation—including Christensen’s previous two books—approached innovation from the inside-out, showing firms how they can create innovations inside their own companies. This book is written from an “outside-in” perspective, showing how executives, investors, and analysts can assess the impact of a new innovation on the firms they have a vested interest in.

320 Views 0 Comments Permalink Tags: science, industry, innovation, theory

 

Medici Effect: What Elephants and Epidemics Can Teach Us About Innovation . Johansson, founder and former CEO of an enterprise software company, argues that innovations occur when people see beyond their expertise and approach situations actively, with an eye toward putting available materials together in new combinations. Because of ions, "the movement of people, the convergence of science, and the leap of computation," a wide range of materials available for new, recontextualized uses is becoming a norm rather than an exception, much as the Medici family of Renaissance Italy's patronage helped develop European arts and culture. For cases in point, Johansson profiles, among others, Marcus Samuelsson, the acclaimed chef at New York's Aquavit. An Ethiopian orphan, Samuelsson was adopted by a Swedish family, with whom he traveled widely, enabling him to develop the restaurant's unique and innovative menu.

289 Views 0 Comments Permalink Tags: science, innovation, medici_effect, epidemic, elepant

 

Biomimicry: Innovation Inspired by Nature . Innovations, whether in farming, composite science, or computing, are a product of human creativity. Science writer Benyus (Beastly Behaviors, LJ 9/1/92) uses these subjects and others to demonstrate how nature's solutions to situations have been the creative jumping-off points for individuals seeking solutions, developing, or simply revitalizing processes or products. The first seven chapters are a prelude to the final chapter, which tackles industrial ecology. Here, Benyus proposes "ten lessons" that an ecologically astute company, culture, or economy could practice to promote a healthier existence for us all.

308 Views 0 Comments Permalink Tags: nature, science, biomimicry, innovation

 

Apocalypse 2012: A Scientific Investigation into Civilization's End . In New Age circles, the idea that some sort of world-spanning cataclysmic event will take place in December 2012 has been gaining traction for years, thanks largely to the calculations of ancient Mayan astronomers who pegged that moment as the end of a cycle of eons. Joseph uses that prophecy as a starting point, but claims that his interest lies in more substantial scientific threats to the planet—including cracks in Earth's magnetic field, the eruption of supervolcanoes and flareups of sunspot radiation. On the other hand, he also gives credence to planetary alignments and The Bible Code before veering into a rant about how the real problem is Christian fundamentalists who want to manipulate the Middle East into Armageddon. When he sticks to science journalism, Joseph is a lively tour guide, introducing readers to Mayan shamans and Russian scientists with equal aplomb. But when he encourages readers to start praying they survive the coming apocalypse, he comes off as exactly the sort of crackpot he claims to eschew. Still, there's less kookery than in other 2012 books, making Joseph a reasonably straightforward guide to the theory.

317 Views 0 Comments Permalink Tags: science, 2012, apocalypse, civilization, investigation

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The World Is Flat: A Brief History of the Twenty-first Century .Thomas L. Friedman is not so much a futurist, which he is sometimes called, as a presentist. His aim in The World Is Flat, as in his earlier, influential Lexus and the Olive Tree, is not to give you a speculative preview of the wonders that are sure to come in your lifetime, but rather to get you caught up on the wonders that are already here. The world isn't going to be flat, it is flat, which gives Friedman's breathless narrative much of its urgency, and which also saves it from the Epcot-style polyester sheen that futuriststhe optimistic ones at leastare inevitably prey to.

 

What Friedman means by "flat" is "connected": the lowering of trade and political barriers and the exponential technical advances of the digital revolution that have made it possible to do business, or almost anything else, instantaneously with billions of other people across the planet. This in itself should not be news to anyone. But the news that Friedman has to deliver is that just when we stopped paying attention to these developmentswhen the dot-com bust turned interest away from the business and technology pages and when 9/11 and the Iraq War turned all eyes toward the Middle Eastis when they actually began to accelerate.

348 Views 0 Comments Permalink Tags: world, history, science

 

< a href="http://www.amazon.com/dp/0143038583?tag=agaboo-20&camp=14573&creative=327641&linkCode=as1&creativeASIN=0143038583&adid=0JGARDMCER6F1DWTYDMJ&" rel="nofollow">The Omnivore's Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals </a>. Most of us are at a great distance from our food. I don't mean that we live "twelve miles from a lemon," as English wit Sydney Smith said about a home in Yorkshire. I mean that our food bears little resemblance to its natural substance. Hamburger never mooed; spaghetti grows on the pasta tree; baby carrots come from a pink and blue nursery. Still, we worry about our meals -- from calories to carbs, from heart-healthy to brain food. And we prefer our food to be "natural," as long as natural doesn't involve real.

 

 

 

 

In The Omnivore's Dilemma, Michael Pollan writes about how our food is grown -- what it is, in fact, that we are eating.

371 Views 0 Comments Permalink Tags: science, meals, omnivore, book_review