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Last Updated Wednesday December 12, 2018



 

Books Currently Reading


The Equations Of Life, Cockell Charles, LA Public Library, Due: 2018-12-25. ''Any reader of science fiction or viewer of Star Trek will be awake to the dream that there may be life elsewhere in our universe that isn't like life here on Earth. Maybe, like E.T., it has new letters in its genetic alphabet! Maybe it's made of silicon! Maybe it gets around on wheels! Or maybe it doesn't. In The Equations of Life, biologist Charles Cockell makes the surprising argument that the Universe constrains life, making its evolutionary outcomes quite predictable-in short, if we were to find, on some distant planet, something very much like a lady bug eating something very much like an aphid that had itself just been feeding on the sap of something very much like a flower, we shouldn't at all be surprised. Considering the vast pantheon of creatures that have existed on Earth, from pterodactyls to sloths, it is tempting to think that the possibilities for life are limitless, and that a ladybug is a marvelous oddity. But as Cockell reveals, the forms and shapes of life are guided by a limited sets of rules. There is just a narrow set of mathematical solutions to the challenges of existence. Any natural environment usually has multiple challenges to survival in it, each associated to a physical equation'--' Kindle. Currently-Reading 2018-12-04.

The Big Picture, Sean Carroll, Weebcentral Library. How do we gain knowledge from the world? The physicist Sean Carroll examines the big ideas in science, and to a lesser degree, some outside of science, and probes the structure of the knowledge we have built up in pursuing those ideas. Kindle. Currently-Reading 2018-11-07.
 
 

Recent Books


Gene Machine, Venki Ramakrishnan, LA Public Library. Ramakrishnan's account of his part in the elucidation of the structure of the ribosome, the cellular protein-making factory, was episodically effective in describing the science and the scientists involved. In this first person and highly personal account, it is clear that the author attempts to mirror for the ribosome what James Watson did for DNA in his celebrated science memoir The Double Helix. Unfortunately, he falls well short of that standard, both in describing the science and the sociological and psychological world of scientists. Kindle. Read 2018-12-12.

Junk Dna, Nessa Carey, LA Public Library, Hold: 2018-12-20. 'For decades after the indentification of the structure of DNA, scientists focused only on genes, the regions of the genome that contain codes for the production of proteins. Other regions that make up 98 percent of the human genome were dismissed as 'junk,' sequences that serve no purpose. But researchers have recently discovered variations and modulations in this junk DNA that are involved with a number of intractable diseases. Our increasing knowledge of junk DNA has led to innovative research and treatment approaches that may finally ameliorate some of these conditions. Junk DNA can play vital and unanticipated roles in the control of gene expression, from fine-tuning individual genes to switching off entire chromosomes. These functions have forced scientists to revisit the very meaning of the word 'gene' and have endangered a spirited scientific battle over whether or not this genomic 'nonsense' is the source of human biological complexity. Drawing on her experience with leading scientific investigators in Europe and North America, Nessa Carey provides a clear and compelling introduction to junk DNA and its critical involvement in phenomena as diverse as genetic diseases, viral infections, sex determination in mammals, and evolution. We are only now unlocking the secrets of junk DNA, and Nessa Carey's book is an essential resource for navigating the history and controversies of this fast-growing, hotly disputed field. --' Kindle. Partially-Read 2018-12-03. Read a Kindle sample. Eagerly awaiting the full book.

The Tangled Tree, David Quammen, Multnomah County Library, Hold: 2019-02-15. ''In the mid-1970s, scientists began using DNA sequences to reexamine the history of all life. Perhaps the most startling discovery to come out of this new field-the study of life's diversity and relatedness at the molecular level-is horizontal gene transfer (HGT), or the movement of genes across species lines. It turns out that HGT has been widespread and important. For instance, we now know that roughly eight percent of the human genome arrived not through traditional inheritance from directly ancestral forms, but sideways by viral infection-a type of HGT. In The Tangled Tree David Quammen, (3)4z(Bone of that rare breed of science journalists who blends exploration with a talent for synthesis and storytelling(3)4y ((BNature), chronicles these discoveries through the lives of the researchers who made them-such as Carl Woese, the most important little-known biologist of the twentieth century; Lynn Margulis, the notorious maverick whose wild ideas about (3)4z(Bmosaic(3)4y (Bcreatures proved to be true; and Tsutomu Wantanabe, who discovered that the scourge of antibiotic-resistant bacteria is a direct result of horizontal gene transfer, bringing the deep study of genome histories to bear on a global crisis in public health. (3)4z(BQuammen is no ordinary writer. He is simply astonishing, one of that rare class of writer gifted with verve, ingenuity, humor, guts, and great heart(3)4y ((BElle). Now, in The Tangled Tree, he explains how molecular studies of evolution have brought startling recognitions about the tangled tree of life-including where we humans fit upon it. Thanks to new technologies such as CRISPR, we now have the ability to alter even our genetic composition-through sideways insertions, as nature has long been doing. The Tangled Tree is a brilliant guide to our transformed understanding of evolution, of life's history, and of our own human nature.' -- Publisher annotation.' Kindle. Partially-Read 2018-12-03. Read a Kindle sample. Eagerly awaiting the full book.

The Deep Learning Revolution, Terrence J. Sejnowski, Multnomah County Library, Hold: 2019-01-25. 'How deep learning-from Google Translate to driverless cars to personal cognitive assistants-is changing our lives and transforming every sector of the economy. The deep learning revolution has brought us driverless cars, the greatly improved Google Translate, fluent conversations with Siri and Alexa, and enormous profits from automated trading on the New York Stock Exchange. Deep learning networks can play poker better than professional poker players and defeat a world champion at Go. In this book, Terry Sejnowski explains how deep learning went from being an arcane academic field to a disruptive technology in the information economy. Sejnowski played an important role in the founding of deep learning, as one of a small group of researchers in the 1980s who challenged the prevailing logic-and-symbol based version of AI. The new version of AI Sejnowski and others developed, which became deep learning, is fueled instead by data. Deep networks learn from data in the same way that babies experience the world, starting with fresh eyes and gradually acquiring the skills needed to navigate novel environments. Learning algorithms extract information from raw data; information can be used to create knowledge; knowledge underlies understanding; understanding leads to wisdom. Someday a driverless car will know the road better than you do and drive with more skill; a deep learning network will diagnose your illness; a personal cognitive assistant will augment your puny human brain. It took nature many millions of years to evolve human intelligence; AI is on a trajectory measured in decades. Sejnowski prepares us for a deep learning future.' Kindle. Partially-Read 2018-12-03. Read a Kindle sample. Eagerly awaiting the full book.

Lost In Math, Sabine Hossenfelder, LA Public Library, Hold: 2019-02-01. ''Whether pondering black holes or predicting discoveries at CERN, physicists believe the best theories are beautiful, natural, and elegant, and this standard separates popular theories from disposable ones. This is why, Sabine Hossenfelder argues, we have not seen a major breakthrough in the foundations of physics for more than four decades. The belief in beauty has become so dogmatic that it now conflicts with scientific objectivity: observation has been unable to confirm mindboggling theories, like supersymmetry or grand unification, invented by physicists based on aesthetic criteria. Worse, these 'too good to not be true' theories are actually untestable and they have left the field in a cul-de-sac. To escape, physicists must rethink their methods. Only by embracing reality as it is can science discover the truth'--' Kindle. Partially-Read 2018-12-03. Read a Kindle sample. Eagerly awaiting the full book.

War Of The Wolf, Bernard Cornwell, Clackamas County Library, Hold: 2018-12-20. 'Uhtred of Bebbanburg has won back his ancestral home but, threatened from all sides by enemies both old and new, he doesn’t have long to enjoy the victory. In Mercia, rebellion is in the air as King Edward tries to seize control. In Wessex, rival parties scramble to settle on the identity of the next king. And across the country invading Norsemen continue their relentless incursion, ever hungry for land. Uhtred – a legendary warrior, admired and sought as an ally, feared as an adversary – finds himself once again torn between his two heritages: fighting on what he considers the wrong side, cursed by misfortune and tragedy and facing one of his most formidable enemies. Only the most astute cunning, the greatest loyalty and the most spectacular courage can save him. For decades, Uhtred has stood at the intersection between Pagan and Christian, between Saxon and Viking, between the old world he was born into and the new world being forged around him. But as the winds of change gather pace, the pressure on Uhtred as father, as politician and as warrior grows as never before.' Hardcover. Read 2018-12-02.

A Crack In Creation, Jennifer Doudna & Samuel Sternberg, Amazon Prime.

The Chinese scientist He Jiankui recently claimed to have opened yet another of Pandora's seemingly endless set of boxes: Germline gene editing. He proudly announced that two babies were recently born whom he had genetically modified to provide resistance to HIV, changing their embryos, their germline, in vitro prior to their implantation in their mother's wombs by employing gene editing techniques based on the new phenomenon CRISPR-Cas9, a recently characterized bacterial immune system.

Jennifer Doudna's book A Crack in Creation: Gene Editing and the Unthinkable Power to Control Evolution warned against such a premature application of CRISPR-Cas 9 to the human germline. If you are interested in this new technology, its enormous promise and power, and the potential consequences, good and bad, this book is must read. The ability to directly and much more easily modify the genome of any living organism, via somatic or germline modification, has become a reality.

Kindle. Read 2018-11-29.

The English And Their History, Tombs Robert, Weebcentral Library. My initial interest in this book was to read a good summary of the history of the English Civil War, from James I to William and Mary. I found Tombs' account to be brisk, clear and reasonably complete, which propelled me to continue reading. I am particularly enjoying his judicious mix of historiographical review while attempting to pick that elusive clean line in historical narrative. He is a historian who respects the Butterfield approach to history, attempting to interpret historical events in light of their own times and thereby minimizing an overly modern bias. In particular, the approach ideally avoids that cherry-picking that is consciously or unconsciously introduced by the preconceptions of an ideological outlook, and thereby exaggerates the influence of some events while leaving out critical factors. Yet taken too far this approach can reduce history to an overwhelmingly chaotic jumble of fact, so simplifications must still be made to tell a coherent story; even though this ideal cannot be fully attained, the history is improved by the awareness, by the very striving. Kindle. Partially-Read 2018-11-28.

Killing Floor, Lee Child, LA Public Library. 'Jack Reacher jumps off a bus and walks fourteen miles down a country road into Margrave, Georgia. An arbitrary decision he's about to regret. Reacher is the only stranger in town on the day they have had their first homicide in thirty years.The cops arrest Reacher and the police chief turns eyewitness to place him at the scene. As nasty secrets leak out, and the body count mounts, one thing is for sure. They picked the wrong guy to take the fall.' Kindle. Read 2018-11-23.

Odessa Stories, Isaac Babel, LA Public Library. ''Everyone makes mistakes, even God.' In the original Odessa Stories collection published in 1931, Babel describes the life of the fictional Jewish mob boss Benya Krik - one of the great anti-heroes of Russian literature - and his gang in the ghetto of Moldavanka, around the time of the October Revolution. Praised by Maxim Gorky and considered one of the great masterpieces of twentieth-century Russian literature, this is the first ever stand-alone collection of all Babel's narratives set in the city, and includes the original stories as well as later tales.' Kindle. Read 2018-11-21.

One Shot, Lee Child, Multnomah County Library. 'Six shots. Five dead. One heartland city thrown into a state of terror. But within hours the cops have it solved: a slam-dunk case. Except for one thing. The accused man says: You got the wrong guy. Then he says: Get Reacher for me. And sure enough, from the world he lives in—no phone, no address, no commitments–ex–military investigator Jack Reacher is coming. In Lee Child’s astonishing new thriller, Reacher’s arrival will change everything—about a case that isn’t what it seems, about lives tangled in baffling ways, about a killer who missed one shot–and by doing so give Jack Reacher one shot at the truth.…The gunman worked from a parking structure just thirty yards away–point-blank range for a trained military sniper like James Barr. His victims were in the wrong place at the wrong time. But why does Barr want Reacher at his side? There are good reasons why Reacher is the last person Barr would want to see. But when Reacher hears Barr’s own words, he understands. And a slam-dunk case explodes. Soon Reacher is teamed with a young defense lawyer who is working against her D.A. father and dueling with a prosecution team that has an explosive secret of its own. Like most things Reacher has known in life, this case is a complex battlefield. But, as always, in battle, Reacher is at his best.Moving in the shadows, picking his spots, Reacher gets closer and closer to the unseen enemy who is pulling the strings. And for Reacher, the only way to take him down is to know his ruthlessness and respect his cunning–and then match him shot for shot….' Hardcover. Read 2018-11-19.

Inhabited, Charlie Quimby, LA Public Library. Inhabited, Charlie Quimby's follow-up novel to his excellent Monument Road, focuses on life as a homeless person in a small city in western Colorado. This story is both edifying and compelling because he draws sympathetic and realistic characters, not just of those who migrate uncertainly from one temporary abode to another, but of those inhabitants who try to help the homeless and those who oppose such help, which can even be the same person under differing circumstances. Kindle. Read 2018-11-16.

The Origins Of History, Herbert Butterfield, Weebcentral Library. 'Discusses the origins of history in ancient Mesopotamia, Egypt, and China, tracing its development from the Hebrew Scriptures, the concepts of the Greeks and early Christians, to the birth of modern historical criticism' Hardcover. Partially-Read 2018-11-13.

Molly’s Game, Molly Bloom, Amazon Prime. 'In the late 2000s, Molly Bloom, a twentysomething petite brunette from Loveland Colorado, ran the highest stakes, most exclusive poker game Hollywood had ever seen—she was its mistress, its lion tamer, its agent, and its oxygen. Everyone wanted in, few were invited to play.' Kindle. Read 2018-11-10.

1066 And All That, W.C. Sellar, R.J. Yeatman, Multnomah County Library. 'A comic satire upon textbook history squeezing in all the history you can remember from the Olden Days and dashing Queen Woadicea to the reigns of the Eggkings (Eggberd, Eggbreth and Eggforth, and their mysterious Eggdeath), from the dreadful story of Stephen and his aunt Matilda to the Magna Charter, from the six burglars of Calais to the disillusion of the monasteries and the life of Broody Mary, from Williamanmary, when England was ruled by an orange, to the Boston Tea-Party and the annoying confusion between Napoleon and Nelson, to the Peace to end all Peace. This light-hearted look at England and history provides a colourful commentary for all those with a curiosity for the past.' Paperback. Read 2018-11-09.

The Whig Interpretation Of History, Herbert Butterfield, Weebcentral Library. 'A classic essay on the distortions of history that occur when historians impose a rigid point of view on the study of the past. It is not as easy to understand the past as many who have written it would have us believe. The historians who look at it from the Protestant, progressive, '19th Century gentleman' viewpoint are defined by Professor Butterfield as 'the Whig historians.' The Whig historian studies the past with reference to the present. He looks for agency in history. And, in his search for origins and causes, he can easily select those facts that give support to his thesis and thus eliminate other facts equally important to the total picture.' Kindle. Read 2018-11-08.

Slouching Towards Bethlehem, Joan Didion, Amazon Prime. Joan Didion's set of personal essays from the mid-60's, an exercise in the emerging New Journalism and most in the first person, are episodically brilliant, but just as often facile and self-indulgent. Kindle. Read 2018-11-01.

The Book That Changed America: How Darwin's theory of evolution ignited a nation, Fuller Randall, Multnomah County Library. 'In early 1860, a single copy of Charles Darwin’s ON THE ORIGIN OF SPECIES was read and discussed by five important American intellectuals who seized on the book’s assertion of a common ancestry for all creatures as a powerful argument against slavery. THE BOOK THAT CHANGED AMERICA offers a fascinating narrative account of these prominent figures as they grappled over the course of that year with Darwin’s dangerous hypotheses. In doing so, it provides new perspectives on America prior to the Civil War, showing how Darwin’s ideas became potent ammunition in the debate over slavery and helped advance the cause of abolition by giving it scientific credibility.' Kindle. Read 2018-10-29.

Great Essays in Science, Martin Gardner, Weebcentral Library. This a a superb collection of science essays, in part because the essays are chosen for their broad range, typically beyond just science and touching literature, poetry, culture, religion, philosophy and other of the intellectual arts. Gardner's knowledge across many disciplines informs his choices, including the brilliantly mocking voice of GK Chesterton, who is unlikely to be found in any other collection dedicated to things scientific. Paperback. Read 2018-10-18. A gift from my Ben and Jenn, Christmas 2013.

Astrophysics For People In A Hurry, Neil deGrasse Tyson, Amazon Prime. 'The essential universe, from our most celebrated and beloved astrophysicist.What is the nature of space and time? How do we fit within the universe? How does the universe fit within us? There’s no better guide through these mind-expanding questions than acclaimed astrophysicist and best-selling author Neil deGrasse Tyson.But today, few of us have time to contemplate the cosmos. So Tyson brings the universe down to Earth succinctly and clearly, with sparkling wit, in tasty chapters consumable anytime and anywhere in your busy day.While you wait for your morning coffee to brew, for the bus, the train, or a plane to arrive, Astrophysics for People in a Hurry will reveal just what you need to be fluent and ready for the next cosmic headlines: from the Big Bang to black holes, from quarks to quantum mechanics, and from the search for planets to the search for life in the universe.' Kindle. Read 2018-10-15.

These Truths, Jill Lepore, Multnomah County Library, Hold: 2019-01-20. ''In the most ambitious one-volume American history in decades, award-winning historian Jill Lepore offers a magisterial account of the origins and rise of a divided nation. The American experiment rests on three ideas--'these truths,' Jefferson called them--political equality, natural rights, and the sovereignty of the people. And it rests, too, 'on a dedication to inquiry, fearless and unflinching,' writes Jill Lepore in a groundbreaking investigation into the American past that places truth itself at the center of the nation's history. In riveting prose, These Truths tells the story of America, beginning in 1492, to ask whether the course of events has proven the nation's founding truths, or belied them. 'A nation born in contradiction, liberty in a land of slavery, sovereignty in a land of conquest, will fight, forever, over the meaning of its history,' Lepore writes, finding meaning in those very contradictions as she weaves American history into a majestic tapestry of faith and hope, of peril and prosperity, of technological progress and moral anguish. A spellbinding chronicle filled with arresting sketches of Americans from John Winthrop and Frederick Douglass to Pauli Murray and Phyllis Schlafly, These Truths offers an authoritative new history of a great, and greatly troubled, nation'--' Kindle. Partially-Read 2018-09-25.

I, Alex Cross, James Patterson, Multnomah County Library. Perhaps the biggest surprise on the Great American Read list was one of the many novels by James Patterson, king of airport throwaway fiction: I, Alex Cross. I decided to read this book as a last summer read fling. It was a quick read, despite its 500 page length, chopped up into 100 5 page chapters, each designed to lead you to the next, with mini-cliff-hangers galore. The story was over-the-top suspense detective fare, but not excessively so; the main story was one of caring for an ailing grandmother juxtaposed with searching for a violent killer, with plenty of gore along the way. All in all, one James Patterson novel is was sufficient for me to appreciate the appeal and to tire of the genre. Hardcover. Read 2018-09-21. The Great American Read.

The Future Is History, Masha Gessen, Weebcentral Library. 'Award-winning journalist Masha Gessen's understanding of the events and forces that have wracked Russia in recent times is unparalleled. In The Future Is History, Gessen follows the lives of four people born at what promised to be the dawn of democracy. Each of them came of age with unprecedented expectations, some as the children and grandchildren of the very architects of the new Russia, each with newfound aspirations of their own--as entrepreneurs, activists, thinkers, and writers, sexual and social beings. ' Kindle. Partially-Read 2018-08-31. A gift from my brother-in-law, Greg, Christmas 2017.

Space Opera, Catherynne M. Valente, Clackamas County Library. 'The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy meets Eurovision in an over-the-top galactic science fiction spectacle from bestselling author Catherynne Valente where sentient races compete for glory in a universe-wide musical contest—where the stakes are as high as the fate of planet Earth.' Hardcover. Read 2018-08-05.

Herzog, Saul Bellow, Clackamas County Library. 'This is the story of Moses Herzog, a great sufferer, joker, mourner, and charmer. Although his life steadily disintegrates around him--he has failed as a writer and teacher, as a father, and has lost the affection of his wife to his best friends--Herzog sees himself as a survivor, both of his private disasters and those of the age. He writes unsent letters to friends and enemies, colleagues and famous people, revealing his wry perception of the world and the innermost secrets of his heart.' Hardcover. Partially-Read 2018-06-12.

Everybody's Fool, Russo Richard, Multnomah County Library. 'A best-selling and beloved author, at the very top of his game, now returns to North Bath, in upstate New York, and the characters who made Nobody's Fool, his third novel, his first great success. The irresistible Sully, who in the intervening years has come by some unexpected good fortune, is now staring down a VA cardiologist's estimate that he only has a year or two left, and he's busy as hell keeping the news from the most important people in his life: Ruth, the married woman he carried on with for years... the ultra-hapless Rub Squeers, who worries that he and Sully aren't still best friends. Sully's son and grandson, for whom he was mostly an absentee figure. Doug Raymer, now Chief of Police and still obsessing over the identity of the man his wife might have been having an affair with before she died in a freak accident. Bath's mayor, the former academic Gus Moynihan, who also has a pressing wife problems and then there's Carl Roebuck, whose lifelong run of failing upwards might now come to ruin. Everybody's Fool is filled with humor, heart, hard times, and characters who you can't help but love for all their faults. It is classic Russo and a crowning achievement from one of the greatest storytellers of our time' Kindle. Read 2018-06-12.

The Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Night-Time, Mark Haddon, Clackamas County Library. This novel provides a fascinating journey through the world of Christopher Boone, a teenager with Asperger's syndrome, who, by telling his own story of his life over an eventful couple of months, provides the reader an immersive experience of what it might feel like to see the world through the startlingly different lens of autism. Kindle. Read 2018-06-08. The Great American Read

Particle Physics: A Very Short Introduction, Frank Close, Weebcentral Library. 'In Particle Physics: A Very Short Introduction, best-selling author Frank Close provides a compelling and lively introduction to the fundamental particles that make up the universe. The book begins with a guide to what matter is made up of and how it evolved, and goes on to describe the fascinating and cutting-edge techniques used to study it. The author discusses particles such as quarks, electrons, and the neutrino, and exotic matter and antimatter. He also investigates the forces of nature, accelerators and detectors, and the intriguing future of particle physics. This book is essential reading for general readers interested in popular science, students of physics, and scientists at all levels.' Kindle. Partially-Read 2018-06-03.

The Help, Kathryn Stockett, Multnomah County Library. 'In Jackson, Mississippi, in 1962, there are lines that are not crossed. With the civil rights movement exploding all around them, three women start a movement of their own, forever changing a town and the way women--black and white, mothers and daughters-' Kindle. Read 2018-05-28. The Great American Read on PBS.

An Imaginary Tale: The Story of i [the square root of minus one], Paul J. Nahin, Weebcentral Library. Of interest because it provides a decent explanation of complex geometry. Paperback. Re-Read (2) 2018-05-15.

Hackers, Steven Levy, Multnomah County Library. 'Steven Levy's classic book traces the exploits of the computer revolution's original hackers -- those brilliant and eccentric nerds from the late 1950s through the early '80s who took risks, bent the rules, and pushed the world in a radical new direction. With updated material from noteworthy hackers such as Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, Richard Stallman, and Steve Wozniak, Hackers is a fascinating story that begins in early computer research labs and leads to the first home computers. Levy profiles the imaginative brainiacs who found clever and unorthodox solutions to computer engineering problems. They had a shared sense of values, known as 'the hacker ethic,' that still thrives today. Hackers captures a seminal period in recent history when underground activities blazed a trail for today's digital world, from MIT students finagling access to clunky computer-card machines to the DIY culture that spawned the Altair and the Apple II.' Kindle. Partially-Read 2018-05-13.

QED, Richard Feynman, LA Public Library. 'Celebrated for his brilliantly quirky insights into the physical world, Nobel laureate Richard Feynman also possessed an extraordinary talent for explaining difficult concepts to the general public. Here Feynman provides a classic and definitive introduction to QED (namely quantum electrodynamics), that part of quantum field theory describing the interactions of light with charged particles. Using everyday language, spatial concepts, visualizations, and his renowned 'Feynman diagrams' instead of advanced mathematics, Feynman clearly and humorously communicates both the substance and spirit of QED to the layperson. A. Zee's new introduction places both Feynman's book and his seminal contribution to QED in historical context and further highlights Feynman's uniquely appealing and illuminating style.' Kindle. Read 2018-05-05.

Quantum Theory: A Graphic Guide To Science's Most Puzzling Discovery (Introducing...), J.P. McEvoy, Oscar Zarate, Amazon Prime. 'A step by step tour of a notoriously difficult subject, tackling the puzzle of wave duality and the famous questions raised by Bohr's 'Copenhagen Interpretation'. Scientific discoveries of the earliest 20th century destroyed assumptions about basic physics laws. At subatomic level things work very differently, one particle seems to know what others are doing, limiting how accurately nature can be observed. Yet quantum theory explanations are widely applied and very accurate.' Kindle. Partially-Read 2018-04-25.

Ordinary Geniuses, Gino Segrè, Clackamas County Library. This is a good but not great biography of two lesser-known 20th century scientists, George Gamow and Max Delbrück, both of whom show up in many historical accounts of the history of molecular biology, hence my interest. I was particularly interested in the author's depiction of Delbrück, a Nobel Prize winner late in his life for work done thirty years prior. Delbrück, who is routinely depicted as a great thought leader and a fiercely intelligent scientist, is elusive in other historical accounts, begging the question: What did he contribute, and why was his input so prized? Hardcover. Read 2018-03-26.

The Little Book Of Common Sense Investing, John C. Bogle, Clackamas County Library. 'Investing is all about common sense. Owning a diversified portfolio of stocks and holding it for the long term is a winner’s game. Trying to beat the stock market is theoretically a zero-sum game (for every winner, there must be a loser), but after the substantial costs of investing are deducted, it becomes a loser’s game. Common sense tells us—and history confirms—that the simplest and most efficient investment strategy is to buy and hold all of the nation’s publicly held businesses at very low cost. The classic index fund that owns this market portfolio is the only investment that guarantees you with your fair share of stock market returns. To learn how to make index investing work for you, there’s no better mentor than legendary mutual fund industry veteran John C. Bogle. Over the course of his long career, Bogle—founder of the Vanguard Group and creator of the world’s first index mutual fund—has relied primarily on index investing to help Vanguard’s clients build substantial wealth. Now, with The Little Book of Common Sense Investing, he wants to help you do the same. Filled with in-depth insights and practical advice, The Little Book of Common Sense Investing will show you how to incorporate this proven investment strategy into your portfolio. It will also change the very way you think about investing. Successful investing is not easy. (It requires discipline and patience.) But it is simple. For it’s all about common sense. With The Little Book of Common Sense Investing as your guide, you’ll discover how to make investing a winner’s game: Why business reality—dividend yields and earnings growth—is more important than market expectations How to overcome the powerful impact of investment costs, taxes, and inflation How the magic of compounding returns is overwhelmed by the tyranny of compounding costs What expert investors and brilliant academics—from Warren Buffett an' Hardcover. Read 2018-03-21.

Ready Player One, Ernest Cline, Multnomah County Library. 'At once wildly original and stuffed with irresistible nostalgia, READY PLAYER ONE is a spectacularly genre-busting, ambitious, and charming debut—part quest novel, part love story, and part virtual space opera set in a universe where spell-slinging mages battle giant Japanese robots, entire planets are inspired by Blade Runner, and flying DeLoreans achieve light speed.It’s the year 2044, and the real world is an ugly place. Like most of humanity, Wade Watts escapes his grim surroundings by spending his waking hours jacked into the OASIS, a sprawling virtual utopia that lets you be anything you want to be, a place where you can live and play and fall in love on any of ten thousand planets. And like most of humanity, Wade dreams of being the one to discover the ultimate lottery ticket that lies concealed within this virtual world. For somewhere inside this giant networked playground, OASIS creator James Halliday has hidden a series of fiendish puzzles that will yield massive fortune—and remarkable power—to whoever can unlock them.   For years, millions have struggled fruitlessly to attain this prize, knowing only that Halliday’s riddles are based in the pop culture he loved—that of the late twentieth century. And for years, millions have found in this quest another means of escape, retreating into happy, obsessive study of Halliday’s icons. Like many of his contemporaries, Wade is as comfortable debating the finer points of John Hughes’s oeuvre, playing Pac-Man, or reciting Devo lyrics as he is scrounging power to run his OASIS rig.And then Wade stumbles upon the first puzzle.Suddenly the whole world is watching, and thousands of competitors join the hunt—among them certain powerful players who are willing to commit very real murder to beat Wade to this prize. Now the only way for Wade to survive and preserve everything he knows is to win. But to do so, he may have to leave behind his oh-so-perf' Kindle. Read 2018-03-09. The Great American Read

Maigret Sets A Trap, Georges Simenon, Multnomah County Library. Audio Book. Read 2018-03-07.

Between The World And Me, Ta-Nehisi Coates, LA Public Library. 'Hailed by Toni Morrison as “required reading,” a bold and personal literary exploration of America’s racial history by “the single best writer on the subject of race in the United States” (The New York Observer) “This is your country, this is your world, this is your body, and you must find some way to live within the all of it.” In a profound work that pivots from the biggest questions about American history and ideals to the most intimate concerns of a father for his son, Ta-Nehisi Coates offers a powerful new framework for understanding our nation’s history and current crisis. Americans have built an empire on the idea of “race,” a falsehood that damages us all but falls most heavily on the bodies of black women and men—bodies exploited through slavery and segregation, and, today, threatened, locked up, and murdered out of all proportion. What is it like to inhabit a black body and find a way to live within it? And how can we all honestly reckon with this fraught history and free ourselves from its burden? Between the World and Me is Ta-Nehisi Coates’s attempt to answer these questions in a letter to his adolescent son. Coates shares with his son—and readers—the story of his awakening to the truth about his place in the world through a series of revelatory experiences, from Howard University to Civil War battlefields, from the South Side of Chicago to Paris, from his childhood home to the living rooms of mothers whose children’s lives were taken as American plunder. Beautifully woven from personal narrative, reimagined history, and fresh, emotionally charged reportage, Between the World and Me clearly illuminates the past, bracingly confronts our present, and offers a transcendent vision for a way forward.' Kindle. Read 2018-03-05.

Outermost House, Henry Beston, LA Public Library. 'A chronicle of a solitary year spent on a Cape Cod beach, The Outermost House has long been recognized as a classic of American nature writing. Henry Beston had originally planned to spend just two weeks in his seaside home, but was so possessed by the mysterious beauty of his surroundings that he found he 'could not go.' Instead, he sat down to try and capture in words the wonders of the magical landscape he found himself in thrall to: the migrations of seabirds, the rhythms of the tide, the windblown dunes, and the scatter of stars in the changing summer sky. Beston argued that, 'The world today is sick to its thin blood for the lack of elemental things, for fire before the hands, for water, for air, for the dear earth itself underfoot.' Seventy-five years after they were first published, Beston's words are more true than ever.' Kindle. Partially-Read 2018-02-26.

The Beak Of The Finch, Jonathan Weiner, LA Public Library. One of the difficulties in the study of the Theory of Evolution is to find clear evidence of natural selection at work, and to find evidence of the process of the formation of new species. Darwin postulated long periods of time, many thousands of years, which severely handicaps those who employ the modern scientific approach: to look back so long a time is to find only trace evidence, much being either destroyed or simply unrecorded, so to speak. Peter and Rosemary Grant, in their recent studies of the finches of the Galapagos Islands, watched the entire finch population closely for over twenty years, and found measurable evidence of natural selection operating in the finch population, and the populations of other organisms in their ecosystem. The author helps to show that natural selection is demonstrably operating on the scale of seasons, and that it is ubiquitous, no more clearly relevant than in the study of resistance to human biological control efforts for pests and infectious diseases. Kindle. Read 2018-02-19. Recommended by my friend David Wilson.

What Men Live By, Leo Tolstoy, University of Adelaide. Tolstoy remains one of my favorite writers. His War and Peace and Anna Karenina were reading investments that still pay dividends. These four short stories, in particular What Men Live By, represent some aspects of Tolstoy's later turn to a simpler and more universal religious outlook, when he eschewed organized religion, and embraced a code based on Christ's teaching alone, centering on the Golden Rule and the Sermon on the Mount. eBook. Read 2018-02-12. Recommended by my friend David Wilson.

The Hunters: A Novel, James Salter, LA Public Library. Salter, a former fighter pilot, writes directly from experience in this novel of U.S. fighter pilots in the Korean War. He draws an internal picture of the psychology of the single combat warrior, and it feels genuine. His portrayal of heroism in the cloistered world of aerial combat does not always translate into obvious laudable accomplishment. Kindle. Read 2018-02-08.

Mink River , Brian Doyle, Clackamas County Library. The Department of Public Works in the coastal village of Neawanaka on the Mink River, besides performing the ordinary public works of cleaning streets and repairing sidewalks, slowly expands over time to 'preserve history, collect stories, repair marriages, prevent crime, augment economic status, promote chess, manage insect populations, run sports leagues, isn't that a bit much? We even give haircuts.' ( page 15) Worried Man and Cedar are its two aging employees, idealists who doggedly work to carry out their mission statement: 'Brains against Pains.' ( page 45) Hardcover. Read 2018-02-05. Recommended by my friend David Wilson.

Monument Road, Charlie Quimby, Weebcentral Library. It was a pleasure to soak in the deep water that is this novel. Charlie Quimby brought back alive a world I have had only episodic contact with in my life: small towns in the far country, where as a teenager, I spent successive summers, first in a small ranching and farming town in central Oregon, second in an oil and fishing town on the Kenai peninsula in Alaska. It was not as much the characters in this novel, but their sensibility, their rhythms of speech and actions that were recognizable from my past forays beyond the city.

After the pleasure of remembrance past is the pleasure of a deceptively simple love story. It is not one of gushing romance or erotic desires, but one of sharing a full life, of living for the other person, of being deeply grateful that fate brought a companion who could see you for what you are, and who unselfishly did the everyday things that add up to a lifetime of devotion. Kindle. Read 2018-01-14. Recommended highly by my friend David Wilson.

Uncommon Type, Tom Hanks, Weebcentral Library. I read a couple of these short stories, and they were flat and a bit amateurish. Tom Hanks is a brilliant performer, but I think this book doesn't get published, or get 4/5 stars on Amazon, without his deserved fame as an actor. Hardcover. Partially-Read 2018-01-06. A gift from Cindy, Christmas 2016

Perfect Rigor, Masha Gessen, Clackamas County Library. The Poincaré conjecture, one of the great unsolved topological problems, was finally proven at the end of the 20th century by Grigoriy Perelman, a Russian mathematician of genius. Topology might be described as distilled geometry. The historian Masha Gessen, who grew up herself in the Russian mathematical culture, invites us into the Aspergian milieu of world-class geometers to tease out the tale. Hardcover. Read 2018-01-06.

Palace Of Treason, Matthews Jason, Weebcentral Library. 'A novel about star-crossed Russian agent Dominika Egorova and CIA's Nate Nash in a desperate race to the finish. Captain Dominika Egorova of the Russian Intelligence Service (SVR) has returned from the West to Moscow. She despises the men she serves, the oligarchs, and crooks, and thugs of Putin's Russia. What no one knows is that Dominika is working for the CIA as Washington's most sensitive penetration of SVR and the Kremlin. As she expertly dodges exposure, Dominika deals with a murderously psychotic boss; survives an Iranian assassination attempt; escapes a counterintelligence ambush; rescues an arrested agent and exfiltrates him out of Russia; and has a chilling midnight conversation in her nightgown with President Putin. Complicating these risks is the fact that Dominika is in love with her CIA handler, Nate Nash, and their lust is as dangerous as committing espionage in Moscow. And when a mole in the SVR finds Dominika's name on a restricted list of sources, it is a virtual death sentence...' Hardcover. Read 2017-12-24. Gift to Cindy from Duane Christmas 2017

Introduction To The Russian Mennonites, Wally Kroeker, Weebcentral Library. Excellent short history of the Dutch Mennonite migrations from Holland to Prussia to Russia to all points on the compass, particularly North America. Paperback. Re-Read (2) 2017-12-23.

Protestantism And Progress, Ernst Troeltsch, Weebcentral Library. Ernst Troeltsch was a fin de siècle Protestant theologian who wrote Protestantism and Progress: A Historical Study of Protestantism and the Modern World. This work, along with his friend Max Weber's The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism, both written just before World War I, are reasoned historical treatments of the influence of Protestantism on the perceived and potential progress of Western society. They provide effective contrast to the often simplistic and one-sided efforts by Protestant Evangelicals to do the same, such as Francis Schaeffer's How Should We Then Live? Paperback. Re-Read (2) 2017-12-13.

Nature and the Greeks, and, Science and humanism, Erwin Schrödinger, Weebcentral Library. Schrodinger was one of the great physicists of the 20th century. His wave equation transformed quantum mechanics. He has proven a thoughtful historian and philosopher of science. Nature and the Greeks offers a historical account of the twentieth-century scientific world picture, tracing modern science back to the earliest stages of Western philosophic thought. Science and Humanism addresses some of the most fundamental questions of the century: what is the value of scientific research? And how do the achievements of modern science affect the relationship between material and spiritual matters? Kindle. Partially-Read 2017-12-13.
 

Selected Recent Articles


Answering the Question: What is Enlightenment?, Immanuel Kant, Berlinische Monatschrift. 'Enlightenment is man's emergence from his self-imposed immaturity. ... Sapere Aude! (Dare to know!) Have courage to use your own understanding!' Kant's famous 1784 elucidation of the critical elements of the Enlightenment still has something of value for us today. He argues that the courage to think for ones self provides the impetus for a progressive society. This cannot happen without social and political conditions which support individual freedoms, but even with that, it requires ongoing courage to question various authorities and the societal pressure to conform. Kant particularly emphasized that church and state must forsake blind paternalism and be open to constructive criticism. Read 2017-12-21.

Protestantism and Progress, Theodore Plantinga, Calvin College, 1997-04-03. Calvinist philosophy professor Theodore Plantinga suggests that post-Enlightenment Protestants, so as to act progressively or correctly in support of individual liberties, should embrace the Protestant faith, building their responses to the world on the foundation of Calvin and Luther, rather than embrace short-sighted Enlightenment ideas. Yet Plantinga agrees with Protestant theologian Ernst Troeltsch's conclusions in his influential essay Protestantism and Progress, that the modern world and its ideas of Enlightenment progress did not spring from the spirit of Protestantism, whose Reformers remained medieval in their societal expectations of the individual and in full support of the state and the Church's coercive role in religion, even as they are argued for changes in theology. How does Plantinga justify his view that the societal and moral direction of Western civilization can be improved by removing the Enlightenment influence and replacing it with the Reformational Christian outlook of the 16th century? Re-Read 2017-12-21.

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