Book 211: Mapping the Heavens by Priyamvada Natarajan

cover85505-mediumMapping the Heavens: The Radical Scientific Ideas That Reveal the Cosmos by Priyamvada Natarajan

Finished reading on April 22nd, 2016

Rating: 8/10

This book started out pretty much the same way as many books about cosmology do – with Edwin Hubble and Albert Einstein, Fritz Zwicky and others and the discoveries that the Universe is expanding, that there was a specific beginning in time for it, dark matter and dark energy etc.

But then for my surprise I found myself reading about black holes and then back to the more usual for cosmology – cosmic microwave background and the fact that the Universe is expanding ever faster. But then in the end you get to read even about SETI and at some point you’ll find a long-ish tirade about how modern science in many fields is done in large teams and how Nobel prize doesn’t do justice for discoveries that have been made by large teams – someone will always be left out, who shouldn’t be.

In the beginning I found myself getting slightly bored while reading this book – how many books about Hubble and Einstein can I possibly even bare to read? There’s only a certain amount after which you feel they’re maybe not that exciting people to read about in EVERY book (but you can’t get away without them in case of the history of 20th century cosmology and astronomy etc).

I did find however that this book has a great side to it, that I haven’t met in (as far as I remember) any others – namely the author also discusses why scientists who came up with an idea before might not have been the people known for a discovery. That made for very interesting reading.

If you’ve never read about 20th century discoveries in cosmology (and some mentions of a lot earlier scientists and philosophers), it is a great book to read – you get a pretty much full 360 degree view of the most important ideas and the stories behind them with some extra things to think about.

I probably would have given this book a 10/10 if I wouldn’t be so fed up with reading about history of 20th century astronomy all the time, so 8/10 is even really high.

Also there’s no mathematics or difficult concepts that you would need to grasp to read this book, so it is quite an easy read. And there’s an awesome long”Suggested Further Reading” section at the end. It’s awesome because I’ve read a lot of those books and I know they’re great, and everything I haven’t read I’ve added to my To-Read list :).

 

I got early access to this book via NetGalley.com

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Book 210: Le Morte D’Arthur Volume I by Sir Thomas Malory

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Le Morte D’Arthur Volume I by Sir Thomas Malory

Finished reading on April 18th, 2016

Rating: 8/10

First off – don’t be afraid, it’s not in French!

I picked this book up because I was watching BBC’s Merlin on Netflix and I figured it would be great to read more about King Arthur and the knights of the Round Table etc. So out of my own free (but bonkers) will I picked up a volume of late fifteenth century literature.

This is what I made of it:

It is about a lot more than just King Arthur.
To me it seemed that it was just men wanting to play with their swords and lances. So many people grow shorter by a head and many castle holders have crazy customs (but to each their own…)

In the first volume you do find out how Arthur becomes king, and how he’s born as well, and we meet Sir Lancelot du Lake and Arthur’s sister Morgan Le Fay and Queen Guenevere and lots of knights. And then you follow them as one knight after the other goes looking for adventures.

I always had the idea that it must have been quite difficult to become a knight, but considering how many die in the first volume, and still there are so many more knights, there must be exponential growth somewhere….

I enjoyed most the book (VII)  about Beaumains – a young man who arrives at King Arthur’s court and asks for three gifts (and just the concept of going along to the court and asking for stuff – crazy?), one to be fulfilled now and two in a year. The one he wanted now was to be fed for a year at the court. And he is granted his wishes (although knights make fun of him and he ends up being a kitchen boy for a year). After the year has passed, he asks for the other two gifts – first that he’d be granted an adventure and second that Sir Launcelot make him night when he sees him fit to be one. Sounded like just an arrogant brat to me there…. but it gets better. He is granted the adventure, where he has to help a damsel in distress, but the lady isn’t too happy that her request for a knight to help her, ends up with her having a kitchen boy following her (apparently he stinks, literally).
It’s just lovely from then on 🙂 I’d tell you what happens and who the boy is, but maybe you’d enjoy some Sir Malory’s writing rather than mine…

So in general I’ve very much enjoyed reading it, and I will soon continue and read the second volume (because to be honest, also SPOILER! – Arthur, Merlin, Mordred, Sir Launcelot and Morgan le Fay and Morgawse are all alive at the end of vol I, book IX).

Also I found myself thinking of maybe picking up Cervantes’ Don Quixote some time – that never made sense to me how Don Quixote was mentioned so much in my literature classes in school, but we never actually had to read anything that had any knights in it – maybe it’s to make sure we don’t read too much and end up like Don Quixote 🙂

Also I’d point out that if you’ve enjoyed George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire, Sir Malory would be nice too – style’s different, but lots of people die, crazy things happen and you’ve got Sirs instead of Sers 😀

Book 209: The New Cosmos by David J. Eicher

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The New Cosmos: Answering Astronomy’s Big Questions by David J. Eicher

Finished reading on April 16th, 2016

Rating: 9/10

There are certain topics that you end up against now and again when for example dealing with young children at an observatory – you can be sure that someone will ask about black holes, someone might ask why Pluto isn’t a planet etc. This book pretty much also answers anything that an intelligent person who’s slightly interested in astronomy might ask or want to know about.

In that sense it’s an excellent book – it doesn’t make things too simple and short, but rather goes into quite a bit of depth about the history behind some of the topics – the size and shape of the Milky Way, the end of the Universe etc.

In this book you get a decent amount of information that should be enough for a first contact with astronomy.

I thought that the big questions have been chosen well – couldn’t think of anything more that really would have to be in there, nor was there anything that you’d really not need to know.

I’m sure it’s great reading if you only ever choose to read one book about astronomy. However if you keep up to date with astronomy news and literature anyway, then this book is more of a reminder of who were/are the people behind some of the knowledge we now have about the universe.

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I did have fun reading this book right after finishing Carl Sagan’s Cosmos. The biggest difference was that while reading Cosmos I could hear it in Sagan’s voice and that in The New Cosmos I wasn’t thinking “…but now we know more”.

My favorite bit in the book :

Too few people anchor themselves in reality in our culture that seems to be centered on laying back and watching s stream of mostly nonsense on TV, in movies, and online.

David J. Eicher “The New Cosmos”, p 15.

Comic Book 4: Superman Vol 1. Before Truth

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Superman Vol 1. Before Truth by Gene Luen Yang

Illustrated by John Romita Jr., Klaus Janson and Dean White

Finished reading on April 11th, 2016
Rating: artwork 8/10, plot 7/10

In order not to give any spoilers I’ll just stick to general terms.

I enjoyed that the comic book starts with Justice League and some humorous exchanges between it’s members. The general idea of the villain in this comic book, that is mentioned on the back-cover, Hordr, is interesting  – they try to find out the biggest secret of the person and control them using it – usual blackmail? But it seems more to be at the line of surveillance and security issues and instead of just releasing a secret (or secret documents for that matter) to the public Hordr uses it for it’s profit.

I didn’t really like the part that Lois Lane played in the book.

My major issue with this comic book was the name of Superman’s new power – “solar flare” – if there’s a flare on a different star, it’s a stellar flare, I’d be fine with Superman’s flare…

I got early access to this book via NetGalley.com

Book 208: Cosmos by Carl Sagan

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Cosmos by Carl Sagan

Finished reading on April 9th, 2016
Rating: 10/10

I have had this book for ages. And it took me ages to read. I just wonder how do other people manage to read big format hardback books? It’s too heavy to hold up for reading just before going to sleep, it’s too big and bulky to take with you while travelling or going to work or school…

Cosmos deals with some of the most fascinating aspects of astronomy from ancient myths to the insides of stars and galaxies etc.

I love Sagan’s style of writing, and reading the book brought into my mind the “Cosmos” TV series, and Sagan talking about pretty much the same things, not exactly but almost same.

The initial problem I had with even the idea of reading “Cosmos” was that the edition I have was published in 1981. Since that time a lot of new information has become available about the planets and stars and the Universe, and I was afraid that it would be obviously outdated. It wasn’t.  All of it is so general, that you can only feel that it was written a while back is when Sagan mentions the USSR doing something or mentioning that there hasn’t been a Mars mission with a rover yet and we haven’t sent a mission to land on a comet nor to Titan. But that was actually a fun part to read, because there are several rovers on Mars 35 years later, a spacecraft has landed on a comet and on Titan.

Something that I noticed in the beginning half or so in the book was the proportion of illustrations that were paintings or artist’s visions. It makes sense when you think about the space telescopes that only came into being later on, and now you’d most likely have the same objects as photographed by the Hubble space telescope  for example.

I would recommend reading it – it does carry a bit of a sense of the time when it was written – the dark cloud of nuclear weapons making it’s way into the book, but it is really very enjoyable. (Although slightly depressing)