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The Da Vinci Code
The Da Vinci Code
by Dan Brown
Edition: Hardcover

4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Dan Brown is no Umberto Eco, 21 Jan 2004
This review is from: The Da Vinci Code (Hardcover)
If you are not too much concerned with the details, Da Vinci code is a gripping page-turner which will keep you amused for a couple of hours. The plot opens with the murder of the Louvre curator, which brings together an American professor of symbology and a French female cryptographer, and leads you through a handful of scenic location, unveiling a lot of unorthodox history of Christianity on the way. With only four protagonists, the plot is somewhat predictable, though.
The research behind the book is a bit shallow, though. Not only are the geographical descriptions inaccurate, perhaps even more disturbing is that "the extensive library of the world's leading expert" contains no more than four titles, all international bestsellers available at Amazon. Even the the atbash code that the protagonist must decypher at some point is taken verbatim from the Messianic Legacy by Baigent, Leigh and Lincoln.
Save your money. Buy this book second-hand, or borrow it.


The Rough Guide to the Ionian Islands (Rough Guide Travel Guides)
The Rough Guide to the Ionian Islands (Rough Guide Travel Guides)
by John Gill
Edition: Paperback

9 of 18 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A perfect counterpart to Lawrence Durrell's Prospero's Cell, 30 Nov 2001
John Gill is no Lawrence Durrell, and this is not necessarily bad. While it is highly unlikely that anybody will show any interest in this guide 60 years after its publication, I have to admit that it is quite useful now. Having returned from a two-week holiday spent with friends on Corfu and Paxos in August, I can confirm that we put the guide to good use. It contains the usual blend of the descriptions of attractions, historical information, an occasional topical articles (like The Ionian School of Painting), and of course practical information.
As for practical information: the author himself admits that the situation with ferries changes from one year to another, so you have to check it yourself. Most ferry companies have their own Web sites nowadays, and you can also make reservations there. The yearly inflation rate in Greece is about 5%, which you have to take into account when comparing prices in the guide with the actual ones. As for kafenios and tavernas - use your own sense. Recommending or - rarely - advising against some taverna can be useful sometimes, but sticking strictly to your guidebook without looking around, you are no different than the rest of the tourist crowd, are you?...The attitude of "travellers" towards "tourists" is snobbish in its own way, and if you are put off by it, you probably won't like this guide. If you do consider yourself a traveller rather than a tourist, though, then the Ionian islands might be a good destination for you. I don't remember seeing any McDonald's joint there, so the charming idyllic picture might not be completely lost yet. And, speaking of idyllic pictures, Durrell's autobiographic Prospero's Cell, describing his years on Corfu before WWII, might be a perfect counterpart to this guide.


Diagnostic Ultrasound: Principles and Instruments
Diagnostic Ultrasound: Principles and Instruments
by Frederick W. Kremkau
Edition: Hardcover

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An introductory textbook on medical ultrasound, 20 Jun 2001
I actually came across Professor Kremkau's textbook accidentally, when I was looking for some not too dated text on the physics of medical ultrasound. Although it was obviously aimed at a practicing ultrasonographer preparing for some ARDMS or ARRT exam rather than a physicist trying to brush up his knowledge of medical ultrasound, it proved to be a valuable source of relatively recent information on the current state of the area.
The textbook starts with an overview of the basic physics of waves and ultrasound, proceeds to the transducers and beam shape, and continues to the computer technology used for imaging. Next comes a chapter on the Doppler effect, being followed by a discussion on spectral analysis. A synthesis of these two techniques is the color Doppler imaging, and an entire chapter is devoted on the recent techniques like Color Doppler and Color Power Doppler. The textbook is concluded by a chapter discussing the artifacts, and finally a chapter on performance and safety.
The style is highly readable, although the text is somewhat repetitive. One striking observation - for a physicist at least - is that professor Kremkau denies the efforts spent in inventing a readable representation of mathematical relations over the past 500 years or so, and has invented his own system. So instead of the usual "wavelength equals propagation speed divided by frequency" written in mathematical symbols, we see frames like "frequency UP, wavelength DOWN" throughout the book. Strange, and probably not particularly efficient.
Each chapter is accompanied by a list of over 100 questions, and the answers are provided at the end of the book after the summary chapter. Each chapter also contains a small handy glossary. The book is lavishly illustrated and has a useful index, while the list of references is not particularly impressive.


Seizing the Enigma: Race to Break the German U-boat Codes, 1939-43
Seizing the Enigma: Race to Break the German U-boat Codes, 1939-43
by David Kahn
Edition: Paperback

21 of 22 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A history book that reads like a thriller, 20 Jun 2001
The year is early 1941, and the Battle of Britain is intensifying. The Kriegsmarine submarines, organized in groups - wolfpacks - are trying to cut the life-line the British defense depends on - the convoys which supply Britain with food, military supplies and raw materials. And they are pretty much successful in it, sinking more ships each month than Britain and United States can build. Meanwhile, a group of mathematicians, linguists and other odd characters located a top-secret base in Bletchley Park, Buckinghamshire, is trying in frenzy to decode the German naval code, Enigma...
David Kahn has produced a well researched and clearly written book on this segment of naval history, which has long remained classified. The story of Enigma is traced from the Arthur Scherbius's design, through the first successful decoding made by Marian Rejewski's group in Poland, and finally to Alan Turing and the Hut 8 staff in Bletchley Park. We learn that while direct attack on the cipher was mindbogglingly impossible, the chances for decoding being 150 million million million to one, the Brits had to find bypasses, raiding German boats for the on-board code books, employing "kisses" (identical messages transmitted in two different cryptosystems), and finally mechanising the solution finding with the "bombes".
The emphasis of the book is more on the naval war than on the cryptology. Although the operation of Enigma machine is described to some extent, you will not be able to fully understand its workings from it alone. Singh's Code Book, for instance, has a much better introduction to it. It also limits its scope quite narrowly, not spending one single word on the fact that while Hut 8 was busy solving naval Enigma, some hundred yards away the world's first electronic computer - Colossus - was built in attempt to solve the German Lorenz cipher.
The book comes with an exhaustive list of notes, an excellent bibliography and a useful index. There are also over thirty b/w photographs.


The Penguin Dictionary of Physics (Penguin Reference Books)
The Penguin Dictionary of Physics (Penguin Reference Books)
by Valerie Illingworth
Edition: Paperback

23 of 24 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Useful reference, 20 Jun 2001
It is tempting to compare this dictionary with the Dictionary of Physics (Oxford Paperback Reference, ISBN 0-19-280013-1). They are both coming from an established British publishing house, both are paperbacks, both the same size, both updated in the same year (2000), and, curiously, they have both been prepared by Market House Books, Ltd.
Jumping to the conclusion that we are talking about variations of the same book would have been erroneous, though. A quick glance at the inside reveals the differences. Although the difference in the nominal number of terms defined is not that great (4500 for Penguin vs. 3500 - sometimes claimed even 4000 - for Oxford), the subjective feeling is that Penguin knows a lot more terms. Oxford, on the other hand, also contains short biographies of selected scientists, articles on each of the 109 chemical elements, some dozen two-page feature articles on selected topics like Big Bang, Free Electron Theory etc, and about just as many chronologies of selected areas of physics. Also, the definition of terms are on average longer in the Oxford dictionary - the definition of "orbital" is, for instance, two whole pages long, "death of a star" takes up one and a half page, etc. The illustrations in Penguin vastly outnumber those in Oxford, but I found those latter more informative. Both delve into technology as well, especially semiconductor technology, and, for my opinion, spend (or waste) too much space on computer science technology. Do we really need CPU, RAM, CD-ROM, DAT etc. defined in a Physics dictionary?
Which one is more useful? As a non-native speaker, it is likely that I use it differently than a native speaker would, so your mileage may vary. I've been educated in physics in my native language, and I think in it when I think physics. When I have to write in English, I occasionally encounter a term which I am not quite sure whether I know the correct English expression, although it is lurking somewhere in the back of my head. So it's a time to check it in the dictionary. It is likely that I will already find it in Penguin, and not find it in Oxford. In the latter case, I have to look for a broader term to find it. Searching through Oxford is therefore somewhat more time-consuming. However, the process is reversed when I don't already know in advance the term I want to check, but I do know the broader term, then Oxford comes in more handy. So, in a way, I find the two dictionaries complementary.


A Dictionary of Physics (Oxford Paperback Reference)
A Dictionary of Physics (Oxford Paperback Reference)
by Alan Isaacs
Edition: Paperback

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Useful reference, 20 Jun 2001
It is tempting to compare this dictionary with the The Penguin Dictionary of Physics (ISBN 0-14-051459-7). They are both coming from an established British publishing house, both are paperbacks, both the same size, both updated in the same year (2000), and, curiously, they have both been prepared by Market House Books, Ltd.
Jumping to the conclusion that we are talking about variations of the same book would have been erroneous, though. A quick glance at the inside reveals the differences. Although the difference in the nominal number of terms defined is not that great (4500 for Penguin vs. 3500 - sometimes claimed even 4000 - for Oxford), the subjective feeling is that Penguin knows a lot more terms. Oxford, on the other hand, also contains short biographies of selected scientists, articles on each of the 109 chemical elements, some dozen two-page feature articles on selected topics like Big Bang, Free Electron Theory etc, and about just as many chronologies of selected areas of physics. Also, the definition of terms are on average longer in the Oxford dictionary - the definition of "orbital" is, for instance, two whole pages long, "death of a star" takes up one and a half page, etc. The illustrations in Penguin vastly outnumber those in Oxford, but I found those latter more informative. Both delve into technology as well, especially semiconductor technology, and, for my opinion, spend (or waste) too much space on computer science technology. Do we really need CPU, RAM, CD-ROM, DAT etc. defined in a Physics dictionary?
Which one is more useful? As a non-native speaker, it is likely that I use it differently than a native speaker would, so your mileage may vary. I've been educated in physics in my native language, and I think in it when I think physics. When I have to write in English, I occasionally encounter a term which I am not quite sure whether I know the correct English expression, although it is lurking somewhere in the back of my head. So it's a time to check it in the dictionary. It is likely that I will already find it in Penguin, and not find it in Oxford. In the latter case, I have to look for a broader term to find it. Searching through Oxford is therefore somewhat more time-consuming. However, the process is reversed when I don't already know in advance the term I want to check, but I do know the broader term, then Oxford comes in more handy. So, in a way, I find the two dictionaries complementary.


Krushevo
Krushevo
Price: 13.09

12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Odd-meter rhythms, archaic tunes and two virtuoso guitarists, 20 Jun 2001
This review is from: Krushevo (Audio CD)
What can be the outcome when two virtuoso guitar players with similar cultural roots, but different musical careers meet for a common project? In mid-seventies, Vlatko Stefanovski founded the Macedonian art-rock group Leb i sol (Bread and salt, the traditional Slavic welcome), which gained international fame and recorded in total 13 albums before the group was dismissed in the early nineties. In his subsequent solo career, Stefanovski turned more towards etno and jazz, recorded more albums, and wrote music theatrical performances and motion pictures. Miroslav Tadic, also a former Yugoslavia native, left his home country during study, which led him to Italy and finally USA. Since 1985, he has been teaching at the Californian Institute of Arts in Los Angeles. In their January 1997 issue, the editors of GUITAR PLAYER magazine voted Miroslav Tadic one of the world's 30 most radical and individual guitarists.
In summer of 1997, Stefanovski and Tadic met for a recording session in Makedonium, in the small town Krushevo in the central Macedonia. Two acoustic guitars are recorded in a specific, almost sacred, chapel-like atmosphere of the interior of the Ilinden uprising memorial site.
Recorded are ten Macedonian folk songs or dances - usually in an odd-meter rhythms and archaic scale structures - arranged for two acoustic guitar players (Tadic plays flamenco guitar on most tracks, and Stefanovski plays dobro on the last two tracks). The sound is clear with no often disturbing studio post-processing. Indeed, the guys sound just as splendid when you hear live (I had one such privilege at the Ljubljana Jazz festival last year).
The whole project bears resemblance in spirit with earlier John McLaughlin/Paco De Lucia fusion sessions. If you like them, it is worth giving this album a chance, for not only you will hear two virtuoso guitarists at their best, but will bring you to - most likely - new and exotic rhythms and tunes of Macedonia.


Rebel Code: Linux and the Open Source Revolution
Rebel Code: Linux and the Open Source Revolution
by Glyn Moody
Edition: Paperback

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The greatest history of Linux that (n)ever was, 23 Feb 2001
As someone who has been tracking the progress of Linux since 1992, and has been using it continuously since 1994, I have been looking for some years now - at least since 1998, when Linux hit the mainstream news - who is going be the first to come up with a history of Linux; something among similar lines as Gleick did for chaos theory. Now we have the winner: Glyn Moody, a British IT journalist.
Not always organized in a chronological order, Rebel Code follows the progress of Linux and several other open-source projects (XFree86, Sendmail, Perl, Apache, Samba...) from the grandfather of Linux, Unix, in late sixties; then we follow the stories of Andrew Tannenbaum's Minix system and Richard Stallman's project GNU through the eighties, until we finally arrive to the beginnings of Linux in 1991. From then on, we follow it rise and blossom, with its added functionalities, with the first contributors to the kernel starting to appear, and then the first Linux distributions.
If the first half of the book deals mostly with technical topics, the second half - following the decision of Netscape Corporation to open the source code of their Web browser - is mostly concerned with the socio-economical issues of the open source model, the differences between it and the idea of free software; the huge initial success of the IPOs of open-source companies (Moody is much less vocal about the fact that they lost most of their values a year later), possible alternative uses of Linux (handheld and internet appliances) and musings on the possible future of the free/open source movement.
Speaking of the latter, I miss a more thorough and independent analysis on whether the author sees the free/open source development model as a sustainable strategy or just a part of the dotcom craze. In that aspect, Rebel Code doesn't bring much one would not already know from the writing of Larry McVoy and Eric Raymond. I may not be alone here. Anybody who has already been tracking the progess of Linux - and I believe the majority of readership ought to be sought in this audience - will probably find some 80% of the book already familiar. The rest present the interviews the author conducted with some principal contributors throughout the 2000, and contained many new and interesting facts to me. The whole is packaged in a fairly pleasant and readable form.
There is something about Moody that makes me uneasy, though. I cannot quite decide whether it is his intellectual criticism, or is he simply looking for some cheap drama. His best known writing on Linux before this book was his 1997 HotWired article titled "The Greatest OS That (N)ever Was" where he depicts his worrisome views about the future of Linux in dramatic tones ("...But Linux also sits at a critical juncture..."). In Rebel Code, he seems to be especially proud of his description of the schism that was threatening in Linux development in 1998, which "... nobody outside the Linux world noticed."
Finally, there is no apologize for the complete omission of references. Linux is a child of Internet, its development was carried out in the open, and so it is perhaps the best documented OS ever. This book had a wonderful chance to become the authoritative list of resources concerning the Linux history, and flunked it. On the positive side, Rebel Code does have a decent index.


Where Wizards Stay Up Late: The Origins of the Internet
Where Wizards Stay Up Late: The Origins of the Internet
by Katie Hafner
Edition: Paperback
Price: 7.90

11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Internet is older than you thought, 22 Jan 2001
This is an excellent book for all those who would guess that Bolt, Beranek and Newman is a law firm. It may sound like one, but it isn't. BBN - now a subsidiary of GTE/Verizon - is a company which is most intimately tied to the birth of what is nowadays known as the internet. And if the BBN's marketing guys would have been half as good as their engineers, we would probably hear a lot more about BBN today and less about, say, Cisco.
In a clear and highly readable style, Hafner and Lyon have covered the history of the packet switching networks with encyclopedic breadth. You'll learn both about the early theoretical fathers of packet switching, like Paul Baran and Donald Davies; you have the people in the DoD's Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA) like Joseph Licklider, Bob Taylor or Larry Roberts, who not only had a grand view of computer networking or obtained the necessary governmental funding, but were also able to specify their wishes precisely enough that the engineers were able to build the network based on their plans. And finally, there is Frank Heart's team at BBN, guys who actually built the darn thing.
The subtitle - The origins of the internet - is well chosen. Most of the book focuses on the years 1968-1972, from Roberts' draft proposal, to the 1972 international conference on computer communication. Other development, either earlier or later, is covered only fragmentary. There are other interesting stories, like the origins of USENET, internet news exchange service, but they are not the scope of this book.
The book leaves a pleasant impression that the authors actually understand the necessary technical background of the topic they are writing about. Some diagrams might help further, but I am sure that numerous metaphors used in the book will also alone help the casual reader to understand the idea of packet switching. Chapter notes and bibliography section deserve special praise, and the subject index comes in handy, too. Overall, a very satisfying book.


Complexity: The Emerging Science at the Edge of Order and Chaos (Penguin Science)
Complexity: The Emerging Science at the Edge of Order and Chaos (Penguin Science)
by M. Mitchell Waldrop
Edition: Paperback

15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Making of the Santa Fe Institute, 20 Dec 2000
I bought this book back in 1994, when it was released as a paperback in the UK. I liked it tremendously, and although I let a dozen friends or so borrow it from me to read, I was keeping its track very meticulously in order to get it back every time. Complexity is one of those books that easily gets lost if you are not careful, you know.
In short, the book is a chronicle of at the time seemingly unrelated ideas that finally led to forming of the Santa Fe Institute in 1984, and the people who created them: the economist Brian Arthur and his lock-in theory of "increasing returns" (better known to engineers as "positive feedback"); Stuart Kaufmann and his "autocatalytic" models for evolving biological systems; John Holland and his genetic algorithms and genetic programming; Christopher Langton and his "artificial life"; Doyne Farmer with all his experience with chaos theory; and of course the "founding fathers" of the Santa Fe Institute: George Cowan, Kenneth Arrow, and two Nobel-prize winners, Murray Gell-Mann and Philip Anderson.
With a PhD in Physics, MA in Journalism and over ten years of service as a senior science writer for one of the world's most prestigious science journals - Science - M. Mitchell Waldrop seems like a role-model science writer. Complexity is his second book, being predecessed by Man Made Minds, a survey of artificial intelligence. This book, however, bears much greater resemblance in style with James Gleick's bestseller Chaos than with his own previous work.
Some "historical distance" allows us also a somewhat more critical view on the complexity theory itself. Contrary to the popular expectations of the time, complexity was since forced to follow the same path that chaos, fractals or catastrophe theory - to name a few - traveled before it, and admit that is not The Great Universal Theory of Everything. On the other hand, while the hype is gone, we have to admit that complexity - or "nonlinear science", if you want - is still very actively worked on.
So is this book for you? Yes, if you want vivid explanation of one of the most important ideas that shaped the end of the 20th century, and colorful portraits of the people behind it. If nothing else, it will wet your mouth. If Complexity will succeed in winning your interest, you may want to proceed with other popular reading on this topic - almost everyone of the people mentioned before has himself published at least one book. For learning more hard science, however, you should reach for other science monographs and papers.


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