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Dr. H. J. Ziman "Dr Harry Ziman" (Chester, UK)
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Mistakes Were Made (but Not by Me): Why We Justify Foolish Beliefs, Bad Decisions and Hurtful Acts
Mistakes Were Made (but Not by Me): Why We Justify Foolish Beliefs, Bad Decisions and Hurtful Acts
by Carol Tavris
Edition: Paperback

7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Its all about cognitive dissonance, 13 Mar 2011
The central idea in this book is the tension created when holding or faced with conflicting ideas and how we respond to it - cognitive dissonance. It's a great concept and explains a lot as it extensively illustrated in the book. There are many examples from police and prosecutors who persist with guilt in the face of evidence of the alternative, through to martial strife. The book is well written and entertaining and proceeds at a decent pace. It explains a lot about human psychology and the difficulty distinguishing between subjectivity and objectivity and demonstrates the breadth of the impact that this has on society.

The problem with the book is that there is only one idea - cognitive dissonance. As such it can get a little tedious and after a good start it becomes lacklustre as it needs injection of new insights. Consequently it can become a little laboured in later chapters as it explains things for the umpteenth time. Mercifully it is not too long.

It's worth reading, make no mistake, and it successfully explains why we justify our own actions.


Born to Run: The Hidden Tribe, the Ultra-Runners, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen
Born to Run: The Hidden Tribe, the Ultra-Runners, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen
by Christopher McDougall
Edition: Paperback
Price: 6.29

6 of 10 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars unreadable, 27 Feb 2011
I found this book unreadable and had to give up on it; most unusual. The complete point of the book escapes me as it meanders from one thing to another without coherence. I have to agree with "a keen runner" that the book was boring and above all the choice of vocabluary extraordinarily irksome. It is written in a relaxed laconic style that perhaps does not cross the Atlantic well. If it is an attempt to be vivid then it fails. I don't have the expertise of "Gerund" but this review seems to be spot on.

My advice, don't waste your time on this. I have no idea at all why it get so many rave reviews as it merits none!


Blind Spots: Why Smart People Do Dumb Things
Blind Spots: Why Smart People Do Dumb Things
by Madeleine L. Van Hecke
Edition: Paperback
Price: 17.99

9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An ABC of how to get things wrong!, 20 Feb 2011
This book is a systematic but not heavy survey of human fallibility in making statements and coming to decisions. There is a regular pattern to chapters, introducing a blind spot in our thinking, illustrating by examples and then introducing practical steps that one can take to avoid them.

The blind spots are easy to relate to; they are very human in nature and we will all be conscious of being guilty of most of them on many occasions. The text is readable and few accounts are given of research. This is perhaps a missed opportunity. Some of the examples introduced were not followed through. There were repeated references to investigations of a disease called kuru but no closure was achieved but the account was not finished. The probabilistic explanation of a TV game show was avoided.

This is not a bad book by any stretch of the imagination. The survey is fine. It perhaps lacks depth of insight and readers who have reflected on why and how people hold different perspectives may not learn much that is new. If you are curious as to human diversity and fallibility then this is a reasonable book for you.

Fittingly, for a book with a sub-title of "why smart people do dumb things," there are some glaring but perhaps unimportant errors. Neither Legionnaire's disease not kuru are due to viruses as stated in the text.


The 4-Percent Universe: Dark Matter, Dark Energy, and the Race to Discover the Rest of Reality
The 4-Percent Universe: Dark Matter, Dark Energy, and the Race to Discover the Rest of Reality
by Richard Panek
Edition: Paperback

21 of 26 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A human not science driven story, 6 Feb 2011
To be honest, I was disappointed in this book. I was expecting a text that told the development of the development of scientific ideas and evidence, but was rewarded with rather dumbed down science and an obsession with the personalities involved.

It is almost as if the author is unwilling to present the science for fear of losing his readers, but as a result it is handled timidly and without conviction and leaves more questions unanswered than than resolved. The author goes to great complexity to explain diagrams; it would have been much simpler to have included them. Given the keen interest in people and personalities it is surprising that no photographs have been included of the main protagonists.

Fortunately the book is not too long and proceeds at a decent pace. It is readable and retains one's attention. It makes low demands on the reader, and that is indeed my complaint. Had it been written at the level of, say, Scientific American, it would have been a great book but alas it isn't.


From Watt to Clausius: The Rise of Thermodynamics in the Early Industrial Age (History of Science and Technology Reprint Series)
From Watt to Clausius: The Rise of Thermodynamics in the Early Industrial Age (History of Science and Technology Reprint Series)
by Donald S. L. Cardwell
Edition: Paperback

5.0 out of 5 stars Masterpiece tracing the emergence of theoretical science from practical engineering, 3 Sep 2010
This is a great readable book.

Professor Cardwell traces the emergence of the science of heat though the insights of practical engineers and theoretical scientists. Today we take the first law of thermodynamics for granted, but in earlier times with no clear notion of temperature or reliable ways to measure it, no concept of heat and without clear understanding of specific heat capacities or the concept of latent heat, it is not so obvious. Cardwell adroitly traces identifies the thinking and experimental results that led through this, from the Newcomen engine, the challenges of waterwheels and observations arising from meteorology he develops thinking around the flow of heat and the famous Carnot cycle and well known equation limiting efficiency of a heat engine.

Although today much of this is taught as schoolboy science, it is the result of a great intellectual edifice. The text is readable and accessible to non-specialists; it is a good read.


Eisenhower: Soldier and President
Eisenhower: Soldier and President
by Stephen E. Ambrose
Edition: Paperback

4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A bit frustrating, 14 April 2007
This book was a little frustrating, lacking insight into the man, what mae him tick and why he stood out in the years between the first and second world wars. It is also rather cavalier with history at times. For example it fails completely to acknowlege the massive British planning effort prior to his appointment to lead Overlord, rather cariactures the British generals and frustratingly leaving events or stories incomplete. It feels rather like a book written in a hurry with limited sources; glueing together a series of events (some well told) and becoming rather cliche in places, such as the references to his millionaire friends. As an account, it is readable and enjoyable, as biography there are much more insightful books available. The books has written to a time budget, it shows.


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