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Old 09-03-2009, 07:33 PM   #51
Ryanb9
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Re: Book "Gems" for SMP

This morning I started 'On Writing Well' by William Zinssera-- a 300 page book on nonfiction writing. I have set this book down twice since I opened it and and I'm now half way done. I have never read a book so packed with information that was this easy to read.
Chapter 14 is on Science and Technology and is a great introduction on how to write about science. I would definitely recommend this to anyone who likes to write, and more specifically anyone who wants to write about science related subjects for a general audience.
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Old 09-12-2009, 01:57 AM   #52
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Re: Book "Gems" for SMP

I'm not finished with this book but it is one of the better I have read in a while. If you are interested in the history of Atheism this is a must read.

Christianity Unveiled by Baron d'Holbach

http://search.barnesandnoble.com/boo...216835-_-&IF=N
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Old 09-15-2009, 02:09 PM   #53
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Re: Book "Gems" for SMP

Nietzsche: Also sprach Zarathustra
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Old 09-19-2009, 02:55 AM   #54
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Re: Book "Gems" for SMP

What do you guys think about Stephen Jay Gould? And his best books iyo?
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Old 09-19-2009, 02:59 AM   #55
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Re: Book "Gems" for SMP

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I'm not finished with this book but it is one of the better I have read in a while. If you are interested in the history of Atheism this is a must read.

Christianity Unveiled by Baron d'Holbach

http://search.barnesandnoble.com/boo...216835-_-&IF=N
update: I finished this book last night and it was amazing at least for me. Not only does it provide the most recent English translation of this text in over 200 years, the intro (kinda long) is all about d'Holbach and really gets you into the time period and what he was like as well as what being an Atheist was like in France at that time. It also includes a rebuttal that was done by a Catholic that was quite famous at the time, and at the very back of the book is a mini-encyclopedia for words in the book (bolded first time used) which you might not know much about. /my 2c
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Old 09-19-2009, 12:21 PM   #56
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Re: Book "Gems" for SMP

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What do you guys think about Stephen Jay Gould? And his best books iyo?
Here's a funny excerpt of Gould... Fwiw, I haven't read any of his books. I recall hearing his books on evolution aren't for the lay person and can be tough to get through.

Stephan Jay Gould, the famous evolutionist, recounts a meeting with a group of Jesuit priests who were scientists in 1984. He writes:
http://www.stephenjaygould.org/library/gould_noma.html

Incongruous places often inspire anomalous stories. In early 1984, I spent several nights at the Vatican housed in a hotel built for itinerant priests... Our crowd (present in Rome for a meeting on nuclear winter sponsored by the Pontifical Academy of Sciences) shared the hotel with a group of French and Italian Jesuit priests who were also professional scientists.

At lunch, the priests called me over to their table to pose a problem that had been troubling them. What, they wanted to know, was going on in America with all this talk about "scientific creationism"? One asked me: "Is evolution really in some kind of trouble. and if so, what could such trouble be? I have always been taught that no doctrinal conflict exists between evolution and Catholic faith, and the evidence for evolution seems both entirely satisfactory and utterly overwhelming. Have I missed something?"

A lively pastiche of French, Italian, and English conversation then ensued for half an hour or so, but the priests all seemed reassured by my general answer: Evolution has encountered no intellectual trouble; no new arguments have been offered. Creationism is a homegrown phenomenon of American sociocultural history—a splinter movement (unfortunately rather more of a beam these days) of Protestant fundamentalists who believe that every word of the Bible must be literally true, whatever such a claim might mean. We all left satisfied, but I certainly felt bemused by the anomaly of my role as a Jewish agnostic, trying to reassure a group of Catholic priests that evolution remained both true and entirely consistent with religious belief.
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Old 09-25-2009, 09:02 PM   #57
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Re: Book "Gems" for SMP

I haz The Greatest Show on Earth, Dawkins's latest book. It's the audio book read by Richard and his wife Lala Ward.

I'm about 3/4 of the way through and love it so far. I've always been a big Dawkins fan though, so no surprise here.

I'm willing to upload and share with anyone interested in listening to the first few chapters before deciding on buying the book. PM me.
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Old 09-26-2009, 11:18 AM   #58
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Re: Book "Gems" for SMP

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Yes! That's the one. Has anyone read that book? Thoughts?
Taleb's Fooled by Randomness: The Hidden Role of Chance in the Markets and in Life (2001) is very readable and presents the idea that outliers ("black swans") happen a lot more often in markets than the experts think, mainly due to investor psychology.

In 2007 he published The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable (2007) which covers some of the same ground. "Fooled by Randomness" is better written, better edited and less self-indulgent, but both books are definitely worthwhile.
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Old 09-28-2009, 02:52 AM   #59
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Re: Book "Gems" for SMP

Sophie's World by Jostein Gaarder. Great intro to philosophy (how I got started), and a decent story as well.

The Elegant Universe by Brian Green

Darwin's Dangerous Idea by Daniel Dennett
Breaking the Spell by Daniel Dennett

Guns, Germs, and Steel by Jared Diamond. Intersections of anthropology, linguistics, and history in an easy to read format.

The following titles by John Gray (completely revolutionized my thinking about ideas and basically transformed me into an intellectual historian):
Straw Dogs: Thoughts on Humans and Other Animals
Heresies: Against Progress and Other Illusions
Al Qaeda and What It Means to be Modern
Black Mass: Apocalyptic Religion and the Death of Utopia
(There are others, but those are the titles I've read)

Why People Believe Weird Things by Michael Shermer. Great book about the merits of science, the folly of pseudoscience, and how to tell the difference, with great topics like: how to debunk common creationist arguments, how we know the Holocaust happened, how "weird" ideas emerge, the cult of Ayn Rand, and why smart people believe weird things.
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Old 10-11-2009, 06:01 PM   #60
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Re: Book "Gems" for SMP

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One I've always found fascinating, and quite a bit softer science wise, is Oliver Sacks' The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat: And Other Clinical Tales. Neurology primarily. It's a quick and fascinating read.

An old school epidemiology classic is Berton Roueche's The Medical Detectives. Not as highbrow as many other books listed here, but as it's certainly a "gem" it's worth mentioning.
Also excellent is Oliver Sacks' An Anthropologist on Mars: Seven Paradoxical Tales (1995). Sacks is a brilliant writer, a brilliant man and at once a scientist and a humanist.
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Old 10-11-2009, 06:24 PM   #61
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Re: Book "Gems" for SMP

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What do you guys think about Stephen Jay Gould? And his best books iyo?
Gould was both an incredibly prolific and lyrical writer of great erudition and a first class evolutionary biologist. Best known for his popular books such as Ever Since Darwin, The Panda's Thumb, etc., which are collections of his essays, Gould is the main proponent of punctuated equilibrium (the idea that evolution proceeds by long period of stasis punctuated by shorter periods of rapid change) and his use of the term "spandrels" to identify biological adaptations that have seemingly fortuitous consequences. His magnum opus is The Structure of Evolutionary Theory (2002) which runs to 1433 pages. I would like to say I have read it but I don't think I will ever get around to it.
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Old 10-15-2009, 12:09 PM   #62
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Re: Book "Gems" for SMP

Okay so I've seen "Elegant Universe" recommended twice. I am curious does anybody have a recommendation along these lines that isn't a discussion of string theory?
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Old 10-15-2009, 03:21 PM   #63
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Re: Book "Gems" for SMP

Only halfway done with it but I think it belongs in this list

What Is Thought?, Eric Baum
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Old 10-31-2009, 12:53 PM   #64
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Re: Book "Gems" for SMP

Here are some interesting books on our biological and cybor future that I've read:

Baldi, Pierre. The Shattered Self: The End of Natural Evolution (2001)
Fukuyama, Francis. Our Posthuman Future: Consequences of the Biotechnology Revolution (2002)
Kurzweil, Ray. The Age of Spiritual Machines: When Computers Exceed Human Intelligence (1999)
Naam, Ramez. More than Human: Embracing the Promise of Biological Enhancement (2005)

Fukuyama's arguments against biotechnology are very well presented (although I disagree with his gloomy conclusions). Kurzweil, who has also written at least one other book on the subject, is quite a cheerleader for the post human future. He is fun to read. Baldi is also very positive about our post human future. He sees humans as presently constituted just a place on the way to something grandly beyond what we are now. Naam is also enthusiastic, seeing biological enhancements leading to many new human-like species.
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Old 11-08-2009, 09:26 PM   #65
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Re: Book "Gems" for SMP

Primo Levi - If this is a man(might be called Survival in Auschwitz in the US).

A staggering work of incredible nobility and poise. I've recommended this countless times and it stands as a tragic and poignant tombstone.
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Old 11-09-2009, 04:18 AM   #66
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Re: Book "Gems" for SMP

I know Dawkins is a polarizing figure, but if you were to recommend 1 book on evolution/biology, would you start with something from him?
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Old 11-10-2009, 03:22 PM   #67
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Re: Book "Gems" for SMP

Not knowing other writers on evolution ex Darwin, Dawkins' the Selfish Gene is very good, Extended Phenotype I found less good, havent read his other books on evolution. I take it we are disqualifying the Origin of Species for not discussing genes/DNA?
Also, that book(SG), as far as I know, is not polarizing in the evolution/biology world, although it apparantly was a bit at the time, it is accepted now as the right way to think about these things.
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Old 11-15-2009, 11:48 PM   #68
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Re: Book "Gems" for SMP

Some of you may be interested in these books:

The Trouble With Physics Smolin

The Life of The Cosmos Smolin

The Black whole War Susskind

The Cosmic Landscape Susskind

The idea is to explore the debates about string theory,
what is science, the anthropic principle, cosmology theories in general and other topics as well.

You might want to look over Smolin-Suskind debate and many of the papers on this stuff are surprising accessible and available for download.

I kind of went back and forth, Smolin makes some great points but Susskind is a very interesting writer.

If you don't want to explore this whole landscape of books I highly recommend The Black Hole war by itself, it is worth it just to sense the craziness of black hole complementarity and the holographic principal, also Susskind's writing is at his best here.

I should note that I didn't actually read The Life of The Cosmos, couldn't find it yet but I read most of the papers on this theory.

Dave
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Old 11-18-2009, 08:01 PM   #69
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Re: Book "Gems" for SMP

Baby Rudin (aka Principles of Mathematical Analysis by Walter Rudin)
R+C Analysis by Walter Rudin
Algebra by Serge Lang

These books are a absolutely required of anyone who wants a firm understanding in mathematics. There are, of course, others. However, these are a great start. Do every exercise in Baby Rudin and you will be a much stronger mathematician for it.
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Old 11-23-2009, 06:00 PM   #70
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Re: Book "Gems" for SMP

I had an essay to write today but to avoid that I went through this thread and wrote down all the books to make a start on a reading list for next year. When this didn't take up enough time I went ahead and sorted them by subject. If anyone wants the list either PM me or explain how I can load it onto the interweb so I can link to it here.

I may have missed a few that were either listed as alternatives to a book containing the same stuff (as in the case of one Bertrand Russell example) or because it was listed without an author or in vague terms without a title. I also guessed for some of the categories as I don't know what every book in existence is about despite what everyone says. Flawed it may be but then again the only payment I received was the satisfaction of a thoroughly retained anus.
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Old 11-23-2009, 08:27 PM   #71
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Re: Book "Gems" for SMP

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Flawed it may be but then again the only payment I received was the satisfaction of a thoroughly retained anus.
Satisfaction indeed.
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Old 11-28-2009, 03:25 PM   #72
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Re: Book "Gems" for SMP

I'm currently reading The Big Questions by Steven Landsburg. Its really interesting, and I wanted some of you guys to read it and tell me what you think. The guy is a mathemetician by profession, and a physicist/philosopher/economist by hobby, or at least it appears that way. His book is sort of a rapid-fire, scatter-shot approach to a bunch of "big" philisophical, sociological and economic questions like "why is there something" and "does free will exist" and "do people ACTUALLY believe in God?" He brings his somewhat mixed past experience to bear on these issues.

My take is this: the guy seems to be genuinely insightful and clever. But his approach is so....SLOPPY. So lazy. It appears to me like he is a very bright guy who has spent a lot of time thinking about important questions, but has spent very LITTLE time arguing about them with intelligent opponents. Or at least, he has somehow miraculously managed to avoid arguing with intelligent NITS. His arguments lack any real sort of rigor, which is of course something you would expect in a pop philosophy book like this, but he makes the sort of extreme, bold claims that most authors like this refrain from. He spends like two paragraphs "proving" that of course we all have free will, we all KNOW we have free will, and the people who claim they dont believe in it are just lying. He does all this while, imo, focusing entirely on "will" and ignoring completely "free." And then moves on as if the problem has been solved. Now, I dont much care for the "debate" about free will since I think its sort of trivial and uninteresting, but this is a bit of a warning sign for some of his bigger issues. I've spent a fair amount of time arguing about free will, so I think I'm pretty comfortable with most of the arguments, and it seems like he is way off base, intentionally so. So what does that mean for my reading of topics that I am NOT very familiar with? How can I be confident at all that he is giving an honest review of the relevant arguments? Makes me a little nervous.

Anyhow, I'm about 2/3 through the book, and have had 3-4 genuine insights, like "LDO thats awesome, how have I never viewed it like that before?" so obv the book has been easily worth it.
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Old 11-28-2009, 10:53 PM   #73
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Re: Book "Gems" for SMP

www.popularscience.co.uk is a good site that serves much the same purpose as this thread. A bit like when I first found this thread one read through it just about doubled my amazon wish list.
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Old 12-18-2009, 07:44 PM   #74
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Re: Book "Gems" for SMP

This one is amazing but very technical.


http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Roa...f_the_Universe
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Old 12-19-2009, 03:35 AM   #75
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Re: Book "Gems" for SMP

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This one is amazing but very technical.


http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Roa...f_the_Universe
Agreed.
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