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Full title A Mathematician's Apology [permalink]
Language English
Author G. H. Hardy (author)
Categories Mathematics and science
Publication year 1940
Online version Link
Pages 52
Full title Accelerando [permalink]
Language English
Author Charles Stross (author)
Publisher Ace Books
Categories Novel and science fiction
Publication year 2005
ISBN 0-441-01284-1 [Amazon, B&N, Abe, Powell's]
Online version Link
Pages 390
Synopsis

Manfred Macx, a heavily augmented transhuman in the early 21st century, is a visionary and a so-called venture altruist: He roams the world, giving ideas away for free and turning paradigms upside-down as a matter of course. The novel follows him towards a technological singularity, his daughter Amber through it, and her son, Sirhan, after it.

Review

This novel is somewhat special in that it is chuck full of jargon (e.g. 419) and techno-speculation (e.g. utility fog). Have a dictionary handy if you want to avoid being drowned in it. It's when you understand all of it, if only superficially, that the novel becomes the brilliant flair of wild ideas that it is.

Images Back flap of Accelerando.Back of Accelerando.Spine of Accelerando.Front of Accelerando.Front flap of Accelerando.
Structure [Toggle visibility]
  • Part 1: Slow Takeoff
    • 1: Lobsters
    • 2: Troubadour
    • 3: Tourist
  • Part 2: Point of Inflection
    • 4: Halo
    • 5: Router
    • 6: Nightfall
  • Part 3: Singularity
    • 7: Curator
    • 8: Elector
    • 9: Survivor
Full title Alice's Adventures in Wonderland [permalink]
Language English
Author Lewis Carroll (author)
Categories Humor and novel
Publication year 1865
Online version Link
Pages 108
Structure [Toggle visibility]
  • I Down the Rabbit-Hole
  • II The Pool of Tears
  • III A Caucus-Race and a Long Tale
  • IV The Rabbit Sends in a Little Bill
  • V Advice from a Caterpillar
  • VI Pig and Pepper
  • VII A Mad Tea-Party
  • VIII The Queen's Croquet-Ground
  • IX The Mock Turtle's Story
  • X The Lobster-Quadrille
  • XI Who Stole the Tarts?
  • XII Alice's Evidence
Full title Apocalypsopolis [permalink]
Language English
Author Ran Prieur (author)
Categories Apocalyptic and science fiction
Publication year 2004
Online version Link
Synopsis

An asteroid of respectable size plunges into the Pacific, starting the apocalypse. The novel follows a group of people through it.

Review

Overall the story is very gripping, but at times I felt there were too many characters to make each of them stand out, which made it harder to sympathize with them. The writing is good and the pacing is OK; I definitely recommend it.

Full title Around the World in Eighty Days [permalink]
Original title Le tour du monde en quatre-vingts jours
Language English
Author Jules Verne (author)
Categories Adventure and novel
Publication year 1873
Online version Link
Pages 256
Synopsis

Phileas Fogg, a London gentleman of the Reform Club (which is actually a real club), and his French valet, Passepartout, make a £20 000 bet with the other gentlemen of the Reform Club that circumnavigation of the Earth is possible in fewer than eighty days.

Review

One would suspect that the novel would be boring nowadays, when circumnavigation can be done in far fewer than eighty days, but this is not the case. It's not so much the feat itself as the sense of adventure that makes the novel really good (and there is plenty of adventure to go around).

Full title The Art of War [permalink]
Original title Sūn Zǐ Bīng Fǎ
Language English
Authors Sun Tzu (author) and James Clavell (foreword)
Publisher Hodder & Stoughton
Categories Classic and warfare
Publication year 2005
Original publication year 1981
ISBN 0-340-27604-5 [Amazon, B&N, Abe, Powell's]
Online version Link
Pages 102
Synopsis

The Art of War is a classic treatise on war (and tactics in war) and covers topics such as the real purpose of war, different types of ground, how to treat your soldiers, and the use of spies.

Images Back of The Art of War.Spine of The Art of War.Front of The Art of War.
Structure [Toggle visibility]
  • Foreword
  • I Laying Plans
  • II Waging War
  • III Attack by Stratagem
  • IV Tactical Dispositions
  • V Energy
  • VI Weak Points and Strong
  • VII Manœuvring
  • VIII Variation of Tactics
  • IX The Army on the March
  • X Terrain
  • XI The Nine Situations
  • XII The Attack by Fire
  • XIII The Use of Spies
Full title Cosmic View: The Universe in Forty Jumps [permalink]
Language English
Authors Kees Boeke (author), Els de Bouter (illustrator) and Arthur H. Compton (introduction)
Publisher John Day Company
Categories Children's and science
Publication year 1957
ISBN 0381980162 [Amazon, B&N, Abe, Powell's]
Online version Link
Pages 48
Synopsis

Cosmic View is the inspiration for the 1977 IBM short video Powers of Ten. It's a pretty short book written for children (though it's very interesting for adults as well) about the relative sizes of things in the universe. The book differs a bit from the video, mainly in that it explores each scale at more depth.

The book starts out showing a girl in Holland, zooming outwards, each time by a factor of ten, 25 times (so that the scale ends up being 1:1025). Each image is accompanied by a bit of explanatory text. Halfway through, the book then zooms inwards, ending at a scale of 1012:1, about the size of an atomic nucleus.

Review

I found the book pretty fascinating, if a bit short and not as detailed as I'd wished it to be. However, I can't hold that against it as it's really a children's book. I can heartily recommend it.

Images Back flap of Cosmic View.Back of Cosmic View.Spine of Cosmic View.Front of Cosmic View.Front flap of Cosmic View.
Full title Engines of Creation: The Coming Era of Nanotechnology [permalink]
Language English
Author Eric K. Drexler (author)
Categories Nanotechnology and science
Publication year 1986
Online version Link
Pages 320
Review

This 1986 Drexler book is a seminal work on molecular nanotechnology. It's very well-written and very well-paced, and charts some of the possibilities and dangers with upcoming technologies such as nano-sized robots and true artificial intelligence. Despite being extremely future-optimistic (which it has every right to be, of course), it's also extremely rational; it gives examples of disagreements and somewhat tries to refute these.

The book describes how tiny robots might build a light-weight and sturdy rocket engine in a vat, how a person might be frozen and then thawed several years later (cryonics), and how tiny robots might act as a tight-fitting and light spacesuit. These are very excellent descriptions, and it's very hard not to imagine these things with awe.

The book is very quotable, too. Check out this one, for instance, which criticizes Jeremy Rifkin's Entropy: A New World View, a controversial book about entropy and how it relates to human activities:

"The entropy threat is an example of blatant nonsense, yet its inventors and promoters aren't laughed off the public stage. Imagine a thousand, a million similar distortions - some subtle, some brazen, but all warping the public's understanding of the world. Now imagine a group of democratic nations suffering from an infestation of such memes while attempting to cope with an era of accelerating technological revolution. We have a real problem."

Or how about this one (describing a limit of molecular technology):

"Trying to change a nucleus by poking at it with a molecule is even more futile than trying to flatten a steel ball bearing by waving a ball of cotton candy at it. Molecular technology can sort and rearrange atoms, but it cannot reach into a nucleus to change an atom's type."

Go read this book now.

Full title Flatland: A Romance of Many Dimensions [permalink]
Language English
Author Edwin A. Abbott (author)
Categories Classic, mathematics, novel and science fiction
Publication year 1884
Online version Link
Pages 68
Synopsis

Flatland chronicles the adventure of A. Square, a being in Flatland. Flatland consists of only two dimensions, as opposed to Pointland, which consists of zero dimensions, Lineland, which consists of one dimension, and Spaceland (the one we inhabit), which consists of three dimensions. It describes at length the society in Flatland, and how they go about tasks that we Spacelanders find trivial. For instance, everyone is a Polygon. The more equal all its angles and the more sides it has, the higher its social rank. Lowest are women (or the Frailer Sex, as they are often called) who are mere Lines and have no chance of rising in rank. Then come the Triangles, which are men. Then Squares (of which the narrator, A. Square, is naturally a member), Pentagons, Hexagons, Heptagons, Octagons, etc. The more sides a Polygon has, the closer it gets to being a Circle. They're the top leaders of every aspect of Flatland's society.

Review

Flatland is a classic, and even though it's written in the 1880s in Victorian English, it's still eminently readable (and funny). You might have to read a little carefully at first to get used to the age of the language, but once you've picked it up you'll have no trouble enjoying this excellent story.

Full title Free Culture: The Nature and Future of Creativity [permalink]
Language English
Author Lawrence Lessig (author)
Category Law
Publication year 2004
Online version Link
Pages 368
Synopsis

This is a book about copyright — what it meant originally, what it means now, what it regulated originally, what it regulates now — and about how new technology should force us to rewrite old laws so that common sense prevails.

Review

In my opinion, a must-read for anyone interested in freedom, culture, and copyright. Parts of the book are unfortunately very dull and not very well-structured (and also written in Lawyerese), but the subject matter is more important (besides, the parts that aren't dull are exceedingly good).

Structure [Toggle visibility]
  • PREFACE
  • INTRODUCTION
  • "PIRACY"
    • CHAPTER ONE: Creators
    • CHAPTER TWO: "Mere Copyists"
    • CHAPTER THREE: Catalogs
    • CHAPTER FOUR: "Pirates"
      • Film
      • Recorded Music
      • Radio
      • Cable TV
    • CHAPTER FIVE: "Piracy"
      • Piracy I
      • Piracy II
  • "PROPERTY"
    • CHAPTER SIX: Founders
    • CHAPTER SEVEN: Recorders
    • CHAPTER EIGHT: Transformers
    • CHAPTER NINE: Collectors
    • CHAPTER TEN: "Property"
      • Why Hollywood Is Right
      • Beginnings
      • Law: Duration
      • Law: Scope
      • Law and Architecture: Reach
      • Architecture and Law: Force
      • Market: Concentration
      • Together
  • PUZZLES
    • CHAPTER ELEVEN: Chimera
    • CHAPTER TWELVE: Harms
      • Constraining Creators
      • Constraining Innovators
      • Corrupting Citizens
  • BALANCES
    • CHAPTER THIRTEEN: Eldred
    • CHAPTER FOURTEEN: Eldred II
  • CONCLUSION
  • AFTERWORD
    • Us, Now
      • Rebuilding Freedoms Previously Presumed: Examples
      • Rebuilding Free Culture: One Idea
    • Them, Soon
      • 1. More Formalities
        • Registration and Renewal
        • Marking
      • 2. Shorter Terms
      • 3. Free Use Vs. Fair Use
      • 4. Liberate the Music—Again
      • 5. Fire Lots of Lawyers
  • NOTES
  • ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
  • INDEX
Full title Fyrsten [permalink]
Original title Il Principe
Translated title The Prince
Language Norwegian
Authors Niccolò Machiavelli (author) and Trond Berg Eriksen (translator)
Publisher Kagge Forlag
Categories Classic and warfare
Publication year 2007
Original publication year 1532
ISBN 978-82-489-0659-9 [Amazon, B&N, Abe, Powell's]
Online version Link
Pages 150
Synopsis

The Prince is the book which made the term "Machiavellian" enter language as meaning someone willing to ignore morality in favor of keeping power. The book is divided into many chapters, each dealing with a different aspect of keeping a prince in power.

Review

As I'm not a prince nor a real student of history, it didn't really speak to me, but it was an interesting read if only for the historical perspective.

Full title Kunstformen der Natur [permalink]
Translated title Art Forms of Nature
Language English
Author Ernst Haeckel (author)
Categories Biology and science
Publication year 1904
Online version Link
Synopsis

A beautifully illustrated book about the various life forms found on our planet.

Review

I wish I could read the original German, but I can't claim to have read the book. Maybe I'll someday find a good translation, but in the mean time, if you too don't read German, enjoy the wondrous images! See Kurt Stüber's wonderful 300 DPI scans, which are simply amazing.

Full title The Metamorphosis of Prime Intellect [permalink]
Language English
Author Roger Williams (author)
Categories Novel and science fiction
Publication year 1994
Online version Link
Pages 175
Structure [Toggle visibility]
  • Chapter 1: Caroline at Play
  • Chapter 2: Lawrence Builds a Computer
  • Chapter 3: Caroline and Anne-Marie
  • Chapter 4: After the Night of Miracles
  • Chapter 5: Caroline Approaches
  • Chapter 6: After the Change
  • Chapter 7: Caroline and Lawrence
  • Chapter 8: After the Fall
Full title Utopia: Concerning the Best Condition of the Commonwealth and the New Island of Utopia — A Truly Golden Little Book, No Less Beneficial than Entertaining [permalink]
Original title Libellus vere aureus, nec minus salutaris quam festivus, de optimo rei publicae statu deque nova insula Utopia
Language English
Authors Thomas More (author) and Stephen Duncombe (introduction)
Publisher [self-published]
Categories Novel and science fiction
Publication year 2010
Original publication year 1516
Online version Link
Structure [Toggle visibility]
  • Introduction
  • Chapter 1: Discourses of Raphael Hythloday, of the Best State of a Commonwealth
  • Chapter 2: Of Their Towns, Particularly of Amaurot
  • Chapter 3: Of Their Magistrates
  • Chapter 4: Of Their Trades, and Manner of Life
  • Chapter 5: Of Their Traffic
  • Chapter 6: Of the Travelling of the Utopians
  • Chapter 7: Of Their Slaves, and of Their Marriages
  • Chapter 8: Of Their Military Discipline
  • Chapter 9: Of the Religions of the Utopians
Full title The Varieties of Religious Experience: A Study in Human Nature — Being the Gifford Lectures on Natural Religion Delivered at Edinburgh in 1901–1902 [permalink]
Language English
Author William James (author)
Categories Philosophy, psychology and religion
Publication year 1902
Online version Link
Synopsis

This is the manuscript version of a series of lectures that the Harvard psychologist and philosopher William James gave in Edinburgh between 1901 and 1902 (the so-called Gifford series of lectures given annually at a number of Scottish universities). It explores, as the title implies, varieties of religious experience, from different parts of the world in different times and by different means (although, perhaps only to modern readers, the absence of a full discussion on animistic or primitive or tribal religion is conspicuous). These lectures contain a plethora of case studies, excerpts, and poignant vignettes on whatever the subject happens to be, which really helps give the expositions more context.

Review

I think I will have to re-read this book eventually, as I don't feel I can give a proper review not having really understood it completely.

Structure [Toggle visibility]
  • LECTURE I: Religion and Neurology
  • LECTURE II: Circumscription of the Topic
  • LECTURE III: The Reality of the Unseen
  • LECTURES IV AND V: The Religion of Healthy-mindedness
  • LECTURES VI AND VII: The Sick Soul
  • LECTURE VIII: The Divided Self, and the Process of its Unification
  • LECTURE IX: Conversion
  • LECTURE X: Conversion—concluded
  • LECTURES XI, XII, AND XIII: Saintliness
  • LECTURES XIV AND XV: The Value of Saintliness
  • LECTURES XVI AND XVII: Mysticism
  • LECTURE XVIII: Philosophy
  • LECTURE XIX: Other Characteristics
  • LECTURE XX: Conclusions
  • Postscript
Full title Sirius: A Fantasy of Love and Discord [permalink]
Language English
Authors Olaf Stapledon (author) and Graham Sleight (introduction)
Publisher Victor Gollancz Ltd
Categories Novel and science fiction
Series SF Masterworks
Publication year 2010
Original publication year 1944
ISBN 978-0-575-09942-5 [Amazon, B&N, Abe, Powell's]
Online version Link
Pages 194
Images Back of Sirius.Spine of Sirius.Front of Sirius.
Structure [Toggle visibility]
  • Introduction
  1. First Meeting
  2. The Making of Sirius
  3. Infancy
  4. Youth
  5. Sheep-Dog Apprentice
  6. Birth-Pangs of A Personality
  7. Wolf Sirius
  8. Sirius At Cambridge
  9. Sirius And Religion
  10. Experiences in London
  11. Man As Tyrant
  12. Farmer Sirius
  13. The Effects of War
  14. Tan-Y-Voel
  15. Strange Triangle
  16. Plaxy Constripted
  17. Outlaw

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