Book 148: Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman! by Richard P. Feynman

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Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman! by Richard P. Feynman

Finished reading on August 1st, 2014

Rating: 10/10

I got this book on a hot summer’s day, right after which I had to read a whole chapter out loud in a café, as it is really entertaining and quite funny right from the start.

This book is a bunch of stories from the life of Richard Feynman – a well-known physicist, who got a Nobel Prize, and after whom the Feynman diagrams in elementary particle physics get their name.

Although written by a physicist, one might expect all of the stories to have something to do with science, but that’s not so, some have a little bit of science, but mostly they’re just funny and quite unexpected stories (because even I wouldn’t expect a physicist to be that odd and fun at the same time).

However some of the stories do have quite strong points to make about science education, which is rather sad.

In general I’d really recommend reading this book to anyone who isn’t frightened to read popular science books, as some of the things that you can encounter in the book include: the map of a cat, playing bongos, drawing models in the nude and life at Los Alamos and working on the Manhattan project.

It’s a joy to read!

Book 129: The Science of the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Michael Hanlon

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The Science of the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Michael Hanlon

Finished reading on April 7, 2014

Rating: 9/10

Teleportation, time-travel, manipulating genes and alien species – those are some of the topics in this book, that would be interesting to a popular science fan, even if they’re not a fan of Douglas Adams’ The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.

It is a well-written account of some of the most intriguing questions in science, starting with the search for extraterrestrial intelligence, without which Arthur Dent wouldn’t have any bigger problems than his house being demolished, and not his whole home planet blown up for example.

We also have such topics as the beginning of the  time, the Universe and everything, and the end of it all – what do scientists know about it, what are our options, etc. Maybe we can escape into a parallel universe by creating one inside a home-made black hole?

Or what about animals that would like to be eaten?

All in all it’s a nice little book, that will keep you occupied for a while not requiring too much brain-work, but it is fascinating enough to keep you glued to the book once you’re past the introduction and the first chapter.

I liked it quite a lot, although it took me about half a year to get past the first chapter. I started reading it again on a dreary Monday, when the sky was obviously feeling very sick and pouring it’s guts down, and there’s no better time really for reading about science in the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, than when you really miss your laptop and would really want to watch the movie with Martin Freeman playing Arthur Dent, but you just can’t, and have to be fine with science. It turned out okay though, as Hanlon’s writing is as fun as Adams’:

“Some physicists get quite snooty about time machines, referring to them instead as ´closed, time-like curves ´(CTCs). But despite this snobbishness – which is fast disappearing as the discipline makes its bid for sexiness – it seems at least probable that time travel may mot be banned by the laws of physics. All you need to do is find a way round the speed of light.”

But it ends with the ultimate questions, about which Hanlon has this to say:

“A good candidate for the Ultimate Question seems, to me anyway, to be ´Why is there anything here at all?` The more you think about this question the deeper and more unsettling it becomes, and the ability to unsettle is usually a sign that you are on the right lines.”

 

Book 7: What If the Earth Had Two Moons by Neil F. Comins

What If the Earth Had Two Moons? by Neil F. Comins (2011, St. Martin’s Griffin)

Finished reading on October 28

Rating 6/10

Having come across a reference to another Comins’ book, “What If the Moon Didn’t Exist?” and not having found one in my vicinity, I picked up this one instead. It took me a lot of time to actually really start reading it, although the last 200 pages or so went past pretty quickly on a cloudy cold night. Finishing it at 2 am this morning was a relief though, because although the concept of the book is great, not all the stories were that interesting.

There are 10 scenarios of slightly different solar systems.

My favourite was one forming 15 billion years from now, not because it would be particularly exiting to live at that time, but because with each story the author also explains some of the underlying astronomy and physics, and an Earth-like planet forming in a different galaxy that much later required some explanations of cosmology and difficulties in interstellar travel, so that was awesome. If you’d want to know some of the reasons why it’s difficult to colonize other worlds, read it!

The other stories weren’t bad either, but they did seem to stretch time longer and longer… And I fell asleep at least twice while reading the book and I’m not usually one to be found sleeping with my nose in a book.

I think this book would be a good read for anyone who hasn’t already been saturated by reading too many popular science books dealing with astronomy. However it’s not really a book every astronomy buff should or must read, you’d survive without it.

Besides, this book seems to deal slightly with the Rare Earth hypothesis. It’s probably just me though, no-one else might even notice it, but it has similarities to Ward and Brownlee’s “Rare Earth”, only the latter is better.