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Robert Lomas (Univ of Bradford)

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Wizards of Science
Wizards of Science
Price: 2.63

5.0 out of 5 stars Makes you question the stability of Space-Time., 16 Jun 2012
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Carl Frederick has the ability to ask disturbing questions and then to provide answers in the form of exciting stories. The premise of this book is that observers of quantum events can change the past by their choice of what to observe. The hero of the tale is Paul, a postgraduate physicist working for his Phd, who gets involved with a world changing experiment, intended to investigate the true nature of space-time, which strands him a thousand years in the past. There he meets Wulf, a scientist from his own future who has been inspired to travel back in time by a paper Paul has not yet written. But Wulf has become stranded in the wrong part of the past, where he has developed a theology of science which he teaches by rote to a monastery he founds in Anglo-Saxon Britain. His purpose is to set up a centre of knowledge which can teach Paul the additional theory needed to untangle the mess which his initial experiment has caused to the time-line of the human race.
The pace, excitement and disturbing plausibility of the story reminds me of Fred Hoyles "October the First is Too Late" and in my view Carl Frederick is a worthy successor to Hoyle in this genre of exciting science fiction based in strange ramifications of real theories.
Even if you don't care about the science the story is a real page-turner. .

The Trojan Carousel
The Trojan Carousel
Price: 2.65

5.0 out of 5 stars A Multi-layered Parable of the Conflict between Art and Science, 8 May 2012
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The Trojan Carousel is a title with many overtones that is totally appropriate for a story which also works on many levels. At one level the title conjures up an image of a whole parade of Trojan horses, each packed with G(r)eeks ready to storm the citadel of artistic ignorance and proclaim the true uncertainly of reality. At another level it creates an image of an insidious tract of seemly helpful software which is just waiting for the chance of empty your bank accounts, sell your wife and children into slavery and wipe out all the data on your hard drive.

The book tells the story of an well-intentioned attempt to create the perfect school for teaching quantum physics to young minds. This was suggested by scientific maverick, skilled lock-picker and Nobel prize winner, Richard Feynman. Carl Frederick knows his physics, he understands Feynman and he wears his science lightly as he tells the tale of Kip and his friends Wolfgang and Paul. (A nice hidden tribute to Wolfgang Emst Pauli, the discoverer of the exclusion principle, which Kip, Wolfgang and Paul experience when they try to make friends with boys of the traditional Amdexter Boarding School)

Like the very best science fiction the story succeeds on many strata, and the technique of hiding the physics in appendices which can be bypassed if you want to follow the action, works well. At the simplest level it is tale of two groups of differently motivated boys being forced by circumstance to interact and live alongside each other. At another level it is a story of how the hero Kip learns to reconcile the strange ideas of quantum physics with the reality of life. It is also a parable about different approaches to education, the styles of different teachers and how the experience affects the children being taught in ways the teachers' don't always realise.

Above all it is a good story. If you are a physicist you can chuckle at the in-jokes and if you don't know any physics you can read the appendices and see how truth is much stranger than any fiction but anyone can enjoy the pace of the story and feel the tension between the school bully and the suffering underdog whilst wondering how it will end. And I won't spoil that ending for you so you can enjoy it for yourself.

SF++ Science Fiction Stories for Linux Geeks
SF++ Science Fiction Stories for Linux Geeks
Price: 2.51

5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful Sci-fi to Nourish the Nerdy Geek in you, 5 May 2012
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I found this book quite by accident whilst looking for manual to help me persuade, bully or bribe my paranoid iMac into sharing files with my trusty Linux box. (Or even forcing the totally smug iMac to admit that it knew where it was putting the files I created) As a C++ coder battling with the counter intuitive, nanny knows best, draw pictures and don't frighten the horses by admitting computers use code, Apple operating system how could I resist the title
SF++ Science Fiction Stories for Linux Geeks - the title ticked all the right boxes.
I wasn't disappointed. This is a beautiful little book of short stories which assumes you know something about the odd way computers interact with wetware and then paints knowing word-pictures of the sort of peculiar people who enjoy writing code and feel at home using text driven computer interfaces.
The moment the book posed the question Why is Linux like a Tipi? And answered "No Gates, No Windows and Apache inside" I was hooked, although I would have answered "No Gates, No Windows, better than a Macintosh at keeping you out of the rain and with Apache inside." but that's only because I find Apple's OS X Lion operating system the most secretive, evasive and counter intuitive computer control freak assumption-ware I have ever been forced to use - just to get access to the wonderful video editing suite of iMovie.
SF++ not only writes from a knowledgable viewpoint and doesn't patronise its readers by explaining the obvious but is wonderfully funny. It fact it has embarrassed people sitting near me as I read it by forcing me to laugh out loud and made innocent non-geeks wonder about my sanity when I repeated the joke.
This is the first Carl Frederick book I have read but I intend to read more of his work.
It does exactly what it says on the cover
As a fellow dyslexic I know that spelling is either a creative adventure or a task left to a fuzzy-lookup table. (just to help the rest of the world who are reading disabled) If you are not a Linux geek but just blessed with the outsider's viewpoint of the dyslexic then The Dyslexicon alone is worth the purchase price,
Thank you Carl for speaking up for us dyslexically logical scientists,

I.Asimov: A Memoir
I.Asimov: A Memoir
Price: 2.96

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Really Uplifting Story, 5 May 2012
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I have long been a fan of Asimov's science fiction and have also enjoyed his non-fiction. He has a clear and deceptively simple style of writing which is appealing and engaging which keeps you turning the pages.
This is one of the last books he wrote and it is wonderful roller-coaster of a read. Asimov tells the story of his life as it was. He makes no bones about not liking to travel and how his hard working childhood gave him a work ethic which never failed until he died.
This book, however, is different from anything else of his that I have read because it deals not just with what he did but it also tells how he felt about people, events and his achievements.
As the stories came closer to modern times and the little content slider showed fewer and fewer pages left to read I found myself rationing how much a read a session in order to make it last. I knew in my mind that it must end with his death but wanted to listen to him musing about life the universe and everything for as long as I could. I finished with a sense of sadness that such a wonderful story teller had writing his closing sentence but inspired by just how much he wrote over
his prolific writing lifetime.
I throughly recommend it to anyone who as ever enjoyed an Asimov book. Thank you Isaac for a magnificent last testament.

Duo # 1 Vigilante/The Consultant (VIGILANTE Series)
Duo # 1 Vigilante/The Consultant (VIGILANTE Series)
Price: 4.18

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Reminiscent an early Ian Fleming - James Bond Book, 26 Feb 2012
Claude Bouchard writes with a page turning power which sucks you into his plot and encourages you to suspend belief. He creates a parallel world of ruthless righteousness where no crime goes unpunished, except for the crimes committed by the hero in pursuit of the wrongdoers. It has enough detail to be real and enough unnerving insights to make the reader worry that some of it might be true.

Bouchard's here, Chris Barry, is James Bond with Alan Turing's computer skills grafted onto him. And yet he makes mistakes, has human failings and is far more sexually faithful than Bond ever was.
This duo of novella's fit together well, with a delightful and unexpected twist in the second one. (Don't be tempted to read them out of order as you will spoil the intriguing surprise Bouchard has crafted into the sequence for your delight)
This is exactly the sort of escapist thriller which suits the Kindle format and is ideal leisure reading from blokes who want to feel macho and invincible. (So not a book for those into romance or chic lit)

I enjoyed it and was disturbed by it in equal measures. All in all a good read.

The Science Delusion: Freeing the Spirit of Enquiry
The Science Delusion: Freeing the Spirit of Enquiry
by Rupert Sheldrake
Edition: Hardcover

70 of 89 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Readable Insight into the Challenges of Modern Physcis, 10 Jan 2012
Dr Rupert Sheldrake is a biologist with a distinguished track record as fellow of Clare College Cambridge where he served as Director of Studies in cell biology before heading up the Perrott-Warwick Project to investigate human abilities at Trinity College, Cambridge. He has published over 80 peer reviewed scientific papers and ten books. He studied natural sciences at Cambridge University where he got a double first in botany and biology. He then spent a year a Harvard studying the history and philosophy of Science before returning to Cambridge to take a Phd in biochemistry. His scientific credentials are sound, which makes the questions he poses in The Science Delusion worth considering. Having studied the science of living things for all of his academic life he has noticed that there is an interaction between consciousness and the structure of reality which fits uncomfortably alongside the reductionist assumptions of neo-darwinist school of materialist biologists, led by Prof Richard Dawkins. The neo-Darwinists believe that life is simply a complex, but accidental, automation. It consists of chemical and physical interactions between purposeless particles and self-awareness is nothing more than a post hoc rationalization of predetermined outcomes ruled only by chance. The main thrust of their thesis is that life is a pointless and purposeless accident.

As a physicist I have long known that my intent when devising a quantum experiment can have a considerable impact on the results I observe, even to the extent of creating a past for an experimental particle which had a multiple range of possible histories until I decided to observe it. I am also aware that I can force instantaneous action on quantum entangled particles over vast distances in total defiance of the relativistic speed limit of light. As Sheldrake points out there is not one scientific approach to understanding the nature of the universe, there are three. For the very large we have Relativity, for the very small we have Quantum Mechanics and for the human sized we have Newtonian Mechanics, and these three systems do not agree. Once we get down to the level of single atoms and sub-atomic particles then quantum probabilities take over, but the moment we string together wires four atoms wide and 1 atom deep then the rules of Newtonian objects (Ohms Law) applies and the system become determinist.

The problem Shedrake identifies for the neo-Darwinist school is that they are seeped in Newtonian thinking and fail to notice the role of the conscious observer in relativity and quantum mechanics. As a result they have created what is in effect an atheistic religion with its own dogmas and creeds. Sheldrake sees the issues of conscious purpose which arise when trying to reconcile the three viewpoints of science and in this book poses ten probing questions to address the boundaries between these conflicting areas of scientific knowledge. These range from asking life is simply a complex, mechanism of dead matter, through whether memories are storied and retrieved from in quantum fields (he names these fields as morphic fields), rather than as material traces in brain matter to sweeping questions such as are the laws of nature fixed or do they evolve by interactions with conscious observation? The book is a carefully argued investigation of the main articles of faith of the neo-Darwinist materialist religion and musters considerable evidence to suggest that their view is nowhere near a full explanation of universe. He also puts forward a series of challenging questions which offer ways of testing the currently accepted assumptions about hidden mysteries of nature and science in order to open up understanding of the greater mystery of the function of consciousness. He closes his discussion with these powerful words.
"The realization that the sciences do not know the fundamental answers leads to humility rather than arrogance and openness rather then dogmatism. Much remains to be discovered and rediscovered, including wisdom."

Although he is addressing issues at the forefront of modern physics Sheldrake is eminently readable and clear in his writing. A most enjoyable book which will challenge you to think again about the nature of conscious life.
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Varieties of Scientific Experience
Varieties of Scientific Experience
by Carl Sagan
Edition: Paperback
Price: 10.21

5.0 out of 5 stars An Inspirational View of Science from a deep Thinker, 2 Jan 2012
I received this book as a Christmas present and was both surprised and pleased to see part of Carl Sagan's unpublished archive had made it into the public domain. The work is a series of transcripts of a series of Gifford lectures, on the topic of natural theology, which Sagan delivered in Glasgow during 1985. The style of the book is different from those such as Cosmos of Contact which he deliberately prepared for written publication, as in this case the text is transcribed from his verbal presentations in public lectures and includes his impromptu responses to unscripted questions.
The end results, sensitively edited by his widow Ann Druyan, is a delightful opportunity to experience the rhetorical skill and depth of thinking, of a man who had been brought up a Jew, had a great respect of the pervasive sense of order he discovered through his telescopes and remote controlled space craft and was genuinely opened minded about the root causes of reality.
The lecture topics begin with the sense of wonder which anyone can feel by looking out into the heavens on a clear night, move on discuss the place of humanity in the universe and then discuss the origins and probability of the emergence of life. Having established a foundation of the cosmos humanity inhibits Sagan's next lecture begins to pose the question "Are we alone?". He looks at the possibility of discovering and communicating with any intelligences which might have developed elsewhere in the universe, and whether any such contact has already taken place. Next his lectures move on to discuss the nature of the concept of God, and whether either human religious experiences or science can offer any insights. His penultimate lecture looks human condition and humanity's future prospects. He makes a strong case for the need to learn to love our fellow humans and to learn how to cooperate with individuals whose views we do not accept, it we as a species are to survive long-term. He makes the powerful point, in discussing the potential destructive power of humanity, that such cooperation is not needed to save the planet, as he comments
"Whatever the causes that divide us (humanity)... it is clear that the Earth will be here a thousand or a million years from now. The question, the key question, the central question - in a certain sense the only question - is, will we?"
The final lecture is an inspirational exhortation to use the skills of science, the insights of religion and the common cause of all earthlings to make the most of a tiny, island of life.

The book is a wonderful inspirational read. It shows the strength of science method, the motivational urge of religion and urges all humanity to realise how unusual or "pale blue dot" of a home is and how we should all try to take care of it.

My Stroke of Insight
My Stroke of Insight
by Jill Bolte Taylor
Edition: Paperback
Price: 6.99

5.0 out of 5 stars A Remarkable Insight into the working of the Human Brain, 31 Dec 2011
This review is from: My Stroke of Insight (Paperback)
I was given this book as gift and was a little dubious about its subject. Why would I want to read about somebody having a stroke, it hardly seemed a cheerful topic? But once I started to read the story of this bright woman brain researcher who undergoes a major lesion of the left hemisphere of her brain, I found the topic quite fascinating.
There are many books written about the different functions and abilities of the two halves of a human brain, but hardly any descriptions of what it feels like to have the left side of your brain totally knocked out of commission, to live for months with only the right brain fully functioning and then to have the left brain restored to almost full working capacity. And the writer of this account is a woman who understands the anatomy and internal operations of the brain.
If you want to really understand the difference between the functions of the left and right brains this book is the fullest and most lucid account you are every likely to find. It is not unusual for a trained scientist to have a stroke, but it very rare such a skilled observer of brain functions to live through a major stroke and then recover fully and be able to write about it is in such intimate detail.

The Incandescent Ones (Penguin science fiction)
The Incandescent Ones (Penguin science fiction)
by Sir Fred Hoyle
Edition: Paperback

4.0 out of 5 stars An Exciting yarn which ends too soon., 28 Dec 2011
Fred Hoyle is a story teller who invents stories based in scientific fact and when he writes with his son, their characters have greater depth. The world the Hoyles' create in this novel is set in a technically plausible future and deals with an on-going interest of Hoyle Senior in the possibilities of extra-terrestrial life and how humanity might react if forced to interact with it.
In this book you will be taken to a world strangely similar to our own, yet with a shadowy presence of alien science and alien politics, hiding just below the surface.
The hero gets involved with this alien culture and discovers remarkable truths about himself and the human condition.
My only real complaint it that it finishes too soon. I was left wondering what would happen after the hero makes contact with these hidden powers, but then again perhaps posing that question was the intent of the book.
It's a good read, well up to the Hoyles' best storytelling standards, but raises more questions that it answers.

In the center of immensities (World perspectives ; v. 53)
In the center of immensities (World perspectives ; v. 53)
by Bernard Lovell
Edition: Hardcover

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Little Dated although still Interesting, 23 Dec 2011
Although this book is well out of print and quite hard to get hold of it, is an interesting attempt to pose and answer the questions which drive a scientist to study the universe. Sir Bernard Lovell was the founder of the Jodrell Bank Radio Astronomy Observatory and good at writing about the complex matters which inspired him as a scientist in terms which are easy to read. He carries his scholarship lightly and ranges over the whole history of man's attempts to understand the lights which appear in the sky above us.
The scope of this book is vast. Lovell deals with the earliest known works on astronomy down to the most controversial insights of the early 1970's and he ends with some startling predictions for his future, which is now our past. In particular he worries about the discharge of too much carbon into the atmosphere and what the result of such an action might be.
Although some of the science is dated, in particular where he speculates about the possibility of space based telescopes and the future prospects of the US space shuttle, the is well worth reading for the insight it gives into the mind and thinking processes of a great scientist.

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