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Audrius Alkauskas (Lithuania and Switzerland)

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Not Even Wrong: The Failure of String Theory and the Continuing Challenge to Unify the Laws of Physics
Not Even Wrong: The Failure of String Theory and the Continuing Challenge to Unify the Laws of Physics
by Peter Woit
Edition: Hardcover

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A scientific page-turner: extremely interesting, but slightly fanatic, 29 May 2010
First I have to say that prior to reading this book I had no idea of what string theory was. I am too a theoretical physicist, but my research is focused on condensed matter and materials physics. I was inspired to read more books on particle physics by the successes of the recent experiments in CERN (the LHC) and my efforts to understand the meaning of those experiments.

Peter Woit's book consists of two parts. In the first one he summarizes achievements of modern physics from the beginning of the XX century to 1970s, culminating in the formulation of the standard model. This includes the laws of quantum mechanics, then quantum electrodynamics, and quantum chromodynamics, as well as the summary of experimental achievements in the field. Personally I found mathematical arguments difficult to follow, but at least I got a feeling what it was all about.

The second part of the book concerns with the description (and ultimate criticism) of the string theory. While again I could not follow the details of the technical aspects, at least I got a feeling what string theory was about. Certain remarks of the author are certainly just, while others probably reflect his own point of view.

The book is a page turner. While a very difficult read, I could not put it away before I finished the last sentence - it sucked me in. The book has the story to tell, and this is its strong side from the fictional point of view. However, in the second part of the book one starts to feel that the author is becoming more and more fanatic in criticizing string theory (whatever it is) and in defending his own point of view. That is not a healthy attitude. Particle theory is the branch of science which strives to understand the most profound laws of nature, and in this discipline one has to be open-minded to all ideas, but certainly not to be fanatic about one particular idea. For example, the author disqualifies the "anthropic principle" in cosmology as utter nonsense, but such a presumption is based on a certain philosophical world-view of the author himself.

In addition to author's point of view, a book provides a list of other popular books and articles on the matter. Peter Woit's "Not Even Wrong" provoked by interest in the field, and I will certainly try to find and read all those other books, many of them presenting a completely different perspective.


Moon Palace
Moon Palace
by Paul Auster
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
Price: £8.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Intriguing, interesting, catchy. But above all - it's a piece of art., 28 Jan. 2010
"Moon Palace" by Paul Auster is a brilliant work of art. It is a "tip-of-the-iceberg"-kind of novel, which only shows the outside of the story. The inside is left for the reader. The novel contemplates loneliness, one's identity and attachment to the place on Earth that is called homeland. And it is a page-turner which absorbs you from the first paragraph. "Moon Palace" is also a very surprising book. I have frequently caught myself thinking I knew where the story was heading. "Even though it is a cliché, it would be nice if the plot would turn out this way",- I was thinking. But Paul Auster would make an unexpected twist instead, which would appear to be even nicer. And if sometimes you wondered what it was all about, an unexpected episode would put everything into place.

All that said, the plot is not perfect. One of the biggest surprises happened on approximately page 220 - an astonishing finding, clarifying many issues. But it turned out that I misunderstood the whole point and this surprise appeared once again on about page 270, almost at the very end. Thus, 50 pages of the book were spoiled to me, as it later turned out.

In any case, this was one of the most addictive novels I have read in the last couple of years. It's intriguing, interesting, catchy. But above all - it's art.


Postwar: A History of Europe Since 1945
Postwar: A History of Europe Since 1945
by Tony Judt
Edition: Paperback

51 of 54 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A huge work - in terms of size and in terms of quality, 8 Sept. 2009
This is a huge piece of work. It took me more than two years to finish the entire book, and I took long breaks resting from it. Nevertheless, it was worth the effort. This volume is now one of the most important works in my collection of history books.
Three things impressed me in "Postwar".
1. English. In the globalized world where everybody seems to speak English it is quite easy to loose good taste for language, especially in the academic literature. We read books on history and science without any expectations of their language having the richness of a fictional literary work. Tony Judt certainly breaks this rule - he writes in a beautiful language, cleverly formulated sentences, and carefully constructed paragraphs. One often forgets one is reading a book on history. Thus, it was a huge pleasure to read "Postwar".
2. Broadness. The depth and broadness of topics covered is impressive. Each country, small and big, each important aspect of social life, is covered. For people mostly familiar with the history of their own country, like myself, this book will provide a lot of valuable information and a lot of insight about what was happening in other countries in Europe after 1945. Whether you would like to know about national conflicts in Belgium or the origins of the Hungarian revolution, this book is the book to look at, at least to get the most important information.
3. Objectivity. I am very pleased with the objectivity of the book. In my opinion, Tony Judt does not take any initial opinion on a subject described. The reader is left with sufficient information to have his/her own judgement on each of the topics. In this regard the present book is a pleasant exception.

In summary: a huge work, both in terms of size and in terms of quality. Highly recommended.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Dec 13, 2011 11:55 AM GMT


Kafka On The Shore (Vintage Magic)
Kafka On The Shore (Vintage Magic)
by Haruki Murakami
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
Price: £5.84

6 of 12 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Do such characters exist? If not, are they interesting?, 1 Nov. 2007
Imagine a world in which everybody knows Beethoven. And not just the name of the great German composer, but the piece of Beethoven called "The Archduke trio". Everybody has an opinion about the subtleties of the piece. Or imagine the world in which the 15-year old reads thick books, but not "Harry Potter", not "Lord of the Rings", not science fiction sagas of Isaac Asimov, but books about the adventures of the Napoleon Army in Russia. Or imagine the world in which teenagers contemplate about medieval philosophy with the details that have to be checked in encyclopedia. In this world, everything has a metaphysical meaning, everything is a metaphor...
Many loose ends seem to need no explanation, because this is the essence of a metaphor - to have loose ends. This world is filled with numerous characters, but when they speak you tend to forget who is speaking, because their thoughts do not differ much. If character A knows Hegel, character B appears to be familiar with him, too. This is the world of "Kafka on the shore".

Nonetheless, this world is seductive. Once you are there, you cannot escape. You turn page after page, because the creator of this world, Haruki Murakami, is a talented storyteller.

But when that world ends, you are happy to return to the real world. People in our real world are much more different, much more complex, and not single-sided. And, besides, not everybody knows "The Archduke trio" in our real world. That makes the world only more interesting.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Oct 27, 2010 5:26 AM BST


Strangefolk
Strangefolk
Price: £11.04

13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Back in the Kula Shaker universe. What an album!, 19 Aug. 2007
This review is from: Strangefolk (Audio CD)
Whenever a band reforms after years of non-existence, there is a lot of scepticism around. A lot of suspicion that the guys came back to collect some additional money while riding on the glory of the past. While this can be true sometimes, the reunion of the Kula Shaker boys is of a different kind. On the contrary, it would have been a crime for people, who have music flowing in their veins, not to come back. And the result? Another masterpiece of the sonic universe of Kula Shaker: Indian mantras, Sanskrit texts, the Hammond organs immersed in the sea of guitars. Strangefolk.

The album kicks off with the sad magnetic rock of "Out on the Highway". Sad tunes mix with mysticism in "Second Sight", which in addition features Hammond, as if taken directly from "Child in Time" of Deep Purple. The album slows down in "Die for Love", a dark and emotional piece about war. Gloomy mood put away, the topic continues in an anti-Bush "A Great Dictator (of a Free World)". The teenage riot and irony of the song is much superior to that of "How Much Do You Suck?" (of the Jeevas, a previous group of Crispian Mills, the leader of Kula Shaker) on the same topic. "I'm a dic-, a dic-, a dictator, dictator of the free world - come on!". Mysticism returns in "Strangefolk", a scary story about death, read by a robot voice in the background of Indian music, and blooms in "Song of Love (Narayana)", a simple, but hypnotizing tune. The album loses its pace for the next four songs. After a peaceful "Shadowlands", comes "Fool that I am", a love song and another song in a minor tune. "Hurricane season" contemplates about the cruelty of hurricane Katrina with yet another interlude of 70s rock. "Ol' Jack Tar" finally puts an end to sad mood. Being one of the best songs on the album, it stays on the same key 70% of the time. In "6ft down", hard rock rhythms and distorted guitars take their turn. We can take a brief rest in a psychedelic "Dr. Kitt", and then there's an announcement by a French woman: "Et maintenant, en exclusivite, pour votre plus grand plaisir, une titre bonus!" which makes you laugh. The album finishes energetically with a fun "Super CB Operator" and leaves us with a wish to replay the whole album once and once again.

I only hope that this is not the last album of Kula Shaker.
Welcome back!


Zeitgeist
Zeitgeist
Price: £10.42

3 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars ZWAN-shing Pumpkins, 20 July 2007
This review is from: Zeitgeist (Audio CD)
Blly Corgan received a lot of critisism for using the name "Smashing Pumpkins" to name the band which recorded the album "Zeitgeist". This critisism is fair - why was his latest band called "Zwan", while this one is called "Smashing Pumpkins", despite both having the same two members of the older Pumpkins?

In fact, "Zeitgeist" is the second album of "Zwan". There are a lot of similarities between "Zwan"s only album, "Mary, Star of the Sea", and the present album. Even the structures of some songs ("Mary, Star of the Sea" and "United States") are very similar. The melodic concept is also partially inherited from "Zwan". So, if you liked "Zwan" (which I did), you will like this album (which I do). By itself, "Zeitgeist" is not a bad album. While some songs are certainly weaker than those of earlier Pumpkins, some of the songs make me shiver. And the guitars are, as always, fantastic.

Having seen "Smahing Pumpkins" this summer in an open-air festival, having enjoyed their performance, and having liked "Zwan", I cannot help but give "Zeitgeist" four stars. Comme on, guys, "Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness" hasn't disappeared anywhere. It is still in our CD collections, to which "Zeigeist" can be a valuable addition.

Thus, four stars. However, if it was the second album of "Zwan" rather then the seventh of "Smashing Pumpkins", I would probably rate it with five.


Arthur & George
Arthur & George
by David Edgar
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.99

6 of 13 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A sincere and frank story, but rather weak, 22 Jun. 2007
This review is from: Arthur & George (Paperback)
I learned about Julian Barnes after reading his short story "Evermore" - one of the saddest and brilliant short stories I have ever encountered. And then I decided to try one of his novels - "Arthur and George" was recently released, and therefore I bought it.

The novel is based on a true story which took place in England at the turn of the 20th century. George Edalji, half-Indian, is accused of crimes he never committed. He is wrongly sentenced and then released prematurely. George is both innocent and guilty. Being raised as a true Englishman, he cannot agree with such a verdict. He asks Arthur Conan Doyle, the famous creator of Mr. Sherlock Holmes, for help. Sir Arthur, being a natural-born fighter for truth, helps to clear George's name in England.

This is the plot. The rest is filled with historical and biographical details, thoughts and feelings of the main characters, description of the social life at the dawn of the XX century. The strong part of the novel is its frankness and sincerity. These are the times of good ol' England, the times of gentlemen and their humane deeds and attitudes, the times of devoted women, the times when good could have been distinguished from bad, and the times when injustice could not have been left unnoticed by people of high moral standards. There is something "Dickensian" in this novel - in its best sense. Maybe because like Dickens' novels, "Arthur and George" made me nostalgic for good old times.

But... Being humane does not mean being not boring. There are some elements of a detective story, but it never goes further than what you already predicted several tens of pages before. And, besides, I found the characters of the novel to be slightly too ideal to be real - they are some romantic creatures lacking passion for life and looking sometimes so terribly similar to each other.

So... It is a sincere and nice novel, certainly worth reading. Its strong part is sincerity. Its weak side is naÔveté.


Send Away The Tigers
Send Away The Tigers
Offered by Bridge Media UK
Price: £3.90

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars As good as ever, 19 Jun. 2007
This review is from: Send Away The Tigers (Audio CD)
People tend to say that "Send Away the Tigers" is a return to form after the disappointing "Know Your Enemy" and "Lifeblood". I do not agree. I enjoyed "Know Your Enemy" very much, and "Lifeblood" was also a very very good album. "1985", a song from "Lifeblood", is, in my opinion, one of the best Manics' songs, second only to "Motorcycle Emptiness". Therefore, I do not consider "Send Away the Tigers" to be a return to form - it is as good as ever. It is different from "Lifeblood" - more energetic, less electronic, but as melodic. It is also different from "Know Your Enemy" - more mainstream, less punk, but as hard.

"Send Away the Tigers" is indeed a brilliant album. The guitar riffs of James are there ("Imperial Bodybags"), killer-ballads are there ("Second Great Depression", "Indian Summer"), hard-rock is there ("Rendition")... Concerning the best songs on the album - "Your Love Alone is not Enough", "Autumn Song" and "I'm just a Patsy" - it suffices to say that each of them had more than 30 play counts on my iPod two weeks after the release of the CD.

The Manics are not back. They have always been with us. And they stay here.


Pure Cult (Best Of The Cult)
Pure Cult (Best Of The Cult)
Price: £7.99

12 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Long live rock n' roll, here come The Cult, 15 April 2007
Rock music is a universe on its own. It is a reality with all possible colours, flavours, emotions and philosophies. The Rolling Stones are as far from U2 as Oasis from Nirvana. But all of them do rock. And rock hard. Similarly, The Cult is a group like no other. While I do not buy all their albums, since then I would have to buy albums of many other groups and would be out of money, "The Pure Cult" is a must-have for all funs of rock. Each song is a perl, covering a bounty of rock 'n' roll flavours. You will find a psychedelic "Resurrection Joe", typical grunge "In The Clouds", early R.E.M an The Cure - like "Spiritwalker". And by far my most favourite are "The Witch", "Revolution", "The Rain" and "Go West". It fills my heart with enormous pleasure listening to this CD.

Vocalists were always a strong point of British rock. And in my opinion, Ian Astbury, the lead singer of The Cult, is one of the finest tenors of British rock scene. His place is certainly among ones like Ian Gillan from Deep Pruple, Robert Plant from Led Zeppelin, James Dean Bradfield from Manic Street Preachers, Brett Anderson from Suede, and Freddie Mercury from Queen.


A Widow For One Year
A Widow For One Year
by John Irving
Edition: Paperback
Price: £9.98

2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Mixed emotions - is this art, o just an entertainment?, 13 Mar. 2007
This review is from: A Widow For One Year (Paperback)
John Irving is a famous author, and "A Widow For One Year" is a famous book. Dozens of reviews are written about it by professional critics, and hundreds are written by normal readers like me. Why bothering writing another review?

Because I have mixed emotions about this book. And because I do not seem to agree with many critics.

John Irving writes in a beautiful language. "A Widow For One Year" is a page-turner, which will be an interesting part of your life for the time you will be reading it - two days, a week, a month - depending on how fast you read. The book has a plot, it has a murder, it has an intrigue, contains many beautiful episodes. Here you will find a love story of a young boy with a mature woman, you will find grief, loss of children, several European tours of Ruth Cole, the main character. Sounds familiar? Like in a "World According to Garp", you will find here the details of lives of many writers, even writers who write books about other writers, you will find lots of sex, lots of words in French, German, and Dutch, written in italics, you will find prostitutes, lust, a male cook, who is better than a female cook, you will find sports, etc. This is book is a good story. It is a pleasant read.

But... What does it want to tell me? What is the message the author gives?

Does the book want to tell something at all? Or is it just a nice story without a deeper intellectual background? Is it just like a soap opera which makes you feel great as long as you watch it and leaves nothing what you can think about after it is finished? If I look at "A Widow For One Year" in such a way, I can say that it has fullfilled its purpose.


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