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J Abraham

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A Dance With Dragons: Part 1 Dreams and Dust (A Song of Ice and Fire, Book 5)
A Dance With Dragons: Part 1 Dreams and Dust (A Song of Ice and Fire, Book 5)
Price: £3.66

0 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Greatest novelist of all time?, 6 Aug 2012
The people giving this 1 star out of 5 aren't real fans of the series. They're probably the type of readers who feel obligated to say they've got X number of books read on Goodreads, and skim through to see which characters get killed.

The reality is that Martin firmly establishes his reputation as one of the greatest novelists of the age, or indeed any age. The depth of the characters, the shades of the grey, the story of consequences versus intention, are all on par with Dostoyevsky. You'll find that characters you root for you begin to question, and characters you disliked you begin to root for.

Such is the extent of Martin's craft that you can go over every word with a fine-toothed comb and you'll still miss stuff out. You don't find that in Dostoyevsky. I'm on my second read and enjoying the hell out of it!


A Feast for Crows (A Song of Ice and Fire, Book 4)
A Feast for Crows (A Song of Ice and Fire, Book 4)
Price: £3.66

5.0 out of 5 stars Different animal, 30 Dec 2011
Don't compare this to "Storm of Swords". It's a different animal. "Feast for Crows" is slower paced than the previous volumes. It's more about intrigue than about battles. A few chapters don't advance the plot, but only serve as "adventures" for the point of view characters. They're nonetheless enjoyable and intriguing.

Anyway, without giving any surprises away, what I liked most about "Feast". The religions of the Seven Kingdoms play more of a role, which gives the series more a historical and realistic feel. (This realism takes the series to a much artistically higher level.) The new characters are fascinating. Many of the previous characters are much further developed. Exotic places like Dorne and Braavos were alluded to repeatedly in the previous novels, but now you get to find out what they're like. The intrigue this time has a method to it, rather than being driven by bolts from the blue.

Admittedly I was only a matter of days between finishing "Storm of Swords" and beginning "Feast for Crows". If I'd waited five years, I probably wouldn't have remembered enough of the details to fully enjoy this novel. But there's no harm in revisiting old territory.


Quantum Electrodynamics (Corr Corr Print) (Theoretical Physics, V. 4)
Quantum Electrodynamics (Corr Corr Print) (Theoretical Physics, V. 4)
by W. Greiner
Edition: Paperback

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Clear, honest, and comprehensive, 29 Dec 2011
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The whole series of Greiner's books on quantum mechanics is absolutely outstanding. All the intermediary steps are contained within. There's no buck-passing references or exercises for the reader. I like solving problems as much as any physics nerd, but when I'm trying to come to grips with a theory, my enjoyment of solving problems is something that should take a back-seat. There's enough of that, anyhow, in other books on quantum field theory, where you have to reconstruct half the theory yourself. But with these Greiner books, that isn't a concern. All the theory is there, waiting to be read and re-read.

This book uses Feynman's intuitive method of getting a Green's function for the Dirac equation, then using it to get an integral for the S-matrix, then interpreting the elements of this integral according to Feynman diagrams. Then there's all the interesting stuff about higher-order processes, theorems related to them, and renormalization.

This isn't a book on quantum field theory, e.g. it has nothing on the formalism of creation and annihilation operators. But it did help me to understand books on quantum field theory, especially with regard to the original motivation of Feynman rules and all the topics I just mentioned. It's also very handy for reference, as all the theory is there. I've been reading the Greiner series for several years now, and again and again I keep going back!


Lying (Kindle Single)
Lying (Kindle Single)

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars If enough people read, this could change the world, 21 Sep 2011
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Why is it bad to lie? Read Sam Harris and change yourself for the better. Even if you think you already have an intellectual understanding of why it is bad to lie, still read. I thought I did, but it turns out I was hazy, and I really learned a lot from this Kindle single.


The Case for Israel
The Case for Israel

20 of 40 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Sincere, lucid, and informative, 30 Aug 2011
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Unlike Chomsky's writing on the Arab-Israeli conflict, this book is cogent and clearly argued. You don't need to "interpret" Dershowitz as one needs to "interpret" Chomsky.

The scholarship is first-rate. The core facts that Dershowitz relies on are for the most part pretty easy to verify. He uses less-known sources not to make his case, but for colouring and elaboration. There couldn't be more of a contrast with the leftist anti-Israel lobby, whose key arguments seem to be grounded wholly in arcane and completely ungoogleable documentation.

I'll mention the example of the 2000 Camp David Summit. Dershowitz tells us that Ehud Barak offered Yassir Arafat a new state for the Palestinians, with a hefty compensation package, and all the land the Palestinians could ever reasonably ask for. Chomsky denies this account of things, writing it off as lying propaganda. Well I spent a little time looking into this matter, for instance checking Clinton's autobiography, and I found that Dershowitz is almost certainly correct. I see no reason to believe in a cover-up conspiracy which would have to include not only Clinton, but also delegates from the Arab League who blamed Arafat for spoiling the negotiations.

Anyway, I encourage people to read this book, and read it with exactly the same open-mindedness that you'd read any other work of advocacy for any other marginalized and ostracized minority. Don't hold the book to unrealistically high standards, as the Jewish state is held to unrealistically high standards.


The Principles of Statistical Mechanics (Dover Books on Physics)
The Principles of Statistical Mechanics (Dover Books on Physics)
by Richard C. Tolman
Edition: Paperback
Price: £18.84

1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A masterpiece, 19 April 2011
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Not a recipe book of calculations, but a systematic exposition of the principles of statistical mechanics. Unparalled in its ponderousness, the derivations are beautiful, and the physical motivation for each one is always laid out in detail. This covers quantum as well as classical statistical mechanics. In fact, even the part on quantum mechanics alone is worth reading, because it gives insight into the state of quantum mechanics in the 1930s, as viewed by one of the deepest thinking physicists around. Back then, the fundamentals were plainly in sight, whereas now physicists are lost in the mathematical thicket.

Naturally, since it was written so long ago, it is not by any stretch the final word on statistical mechanics. It's still a masterpiece, which illuminates many deep questions in physics. This is not, repeat, NOT, just a book of historical interest.


Einstein: His Life and Universe
Einstein: His Life and Universe
by Walter Isaacson
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.99

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Fun and informative, but too opinionated, 4 Jan 2011
If you want to learn about Einstein's science and aren't afraid to get technical, then "Subtle Is the Lord" by Abraham Pais is far superior. That being said, I really enjoyed Isaacson's contribution, because it does an unpalleled job of putting you in the role of spectator of Einstein's personal life, not just his scientific career. From reading this book I became so familiar with Einstein's singular personality that by the end I almost felt as if I had lost a good friend.

This was a thrilling read, and is a superb database of Einstein quotations, but I'm rating it four stars instead of five as punishment for Isaacson's obnoxious habit of assuming that he knows better about physics than the 20th century's greatest physicist. This becomes most annoying when Isaacson turns to the subject of quantum mechanics. He simply does not do justice to the sheer depth and complexity of Einstein's views on quantum mechanics. Many physicists studying foundational problems in quantum mechanics believe that Einstein was almost the only voice of reason amid the confused and confusing babble of Copenhagen obscurantism. (See John Bell and Peter Holland if you want examples of such physicists.) Isaacson writes off the old Einstein as basically stubborn and reactionary. This could hardly be further from the truth given the exotic ideas that Einstein routinely played with in seeking his unified field theory. (For instance, he tried to account for wave-particle duality in terms of point-like solutions of field equations. This isn't evidence of a man eternally wed to naively outdated conceptions of physics.)

As a supposed example of Einstein's reactionary philosophy of physics, Isaacson cites Einstein's belief that physics ought to be simple. Einstein has been proved wrong, says Isaacson, by the large taxonomy of particles, many of which were discovered after Einstein's death. Actually, it's Isaacson who is mistaken, because simplicity of principles is one of the central attractions of quantum field theory, the subject which underlies the Standard Model. The messy jungle of seemingly arbitrary particles is only a superficial, incidental manifestation of the deeper amd much simpler truth.


Moral Landscape
Moral Landscape
by Sam Harris
Edition: Paperback

29 of 39 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars All thinking people should read this book, 4 Jan 2011
This review is from: Moral Landscape (Paperback)
Many "professional philosophers" seem to be completely certain that "The Moral Landscape" is based on some egregious and rather embarrassing, fundamental oversight. Actually, these philosophers have no right to condescend, because their arguments are almost infallibly pre-empted and brilliantly eviscerated in Harris' gem of a book.

Amusingly, some philosophers try to justify their condescension by delving into nuances which could not possibly be generally agreed upon. That's not how condescension works. If you're going to accuse somebody of committing a foolish schoolboy error, then you actually have to provide evidence of ignorance of at least one point of consensus. It's obviously circular to accuse Harris of being ignorant about a point of consensus given that the ENTIRE PURPOSE OF HIS BOOK is to deconstruct this very consensus.

Harris' analysis, whether you have reservations or not, is undoubtedly more interesting than the endless reiterating of the misleading bromide, "You can't get an ought from an is".
Comment Comments (8) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Aug 4, 2011 10:18 PM BST


Quantum Mechanics 2 Volumes
Quantum Mechanics 2 Volumes
by Albert Messiah
Edition: Paperback

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Masterful, comprehensive presentation of quantum mechanics, 4 Jan 2009
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I can't understand the complaint that the book doesn't begin with Dirac notation. Many texts don't follow this procedure, and Dirac notation wasn't even introduced until 1930 (at which point quantum mechanics had been in the air for more than two decades). I personally agree with Messiah's approach: first introduce the foundational concepts, and consolidate them later on with the full-blown formalism.

This isn't a book for undergraduates. I think it will mainly appeal to those such as myself, who already know quite a bit about quantum mechanics and are trying to gain a mastery of the subject. Not all in one go, of course: this book looks like it requires a good few years of off-and-on reading to adequately digest. It also functions as a superb reference text. Almost everything you'll ever want to know about quantum mechanics is contained in these pages (with a few bothersome absences, e.g. Feynman path integrals).

The level of detail here is very high. (For instance, angular momentum isn't given a substantial discussion until the beginning of the second volume.) Many of the problems are intriguing, but don't expect the book to provide any solutions or hints -- because it doesn't. Of special interest is the last part of the second volume, which discusses the Dirac equation in considerable depth, and provides the equivalent of an introductory course on relativistic quantum mechanics. The final chapter, devoted to radiation theory, is extremely useful, providing a bridge to quantum field theory, and showing how to solve a bunch of physically interesting problems in radiation theory without having to invoke the usual quantum electrodynamics.


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