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David E. Perkins (East Herts, UK)
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Earth's Deep History: How it Was Discovered and Why it Matters
Earth's Deep History: How it Was Discovered and Why it Matters
by Martin J.s. Rudwick
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £22.05

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Deep History of ... History., 4 May 2015
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For me, this was a fantastic read, complementing other books by providing a real context for the earliest efforts of deciphering the past.. But be aware that that is mainly what it is - the 20th Century does not surface until about page 240 out of a total of 310ish pages. So there is little detail of anything cutting edge (though the brief description given IS very well presented).

After all, this is a 'History', and it gave me a fascniating perspective on how the author considered the context in which those early pioneers worked and understood nature. The attention given to the positive 'science'-based (in it's broadest interpretation) efforts of James Ussher for instance was an effective antidote to the largely dismissive writings by most (but not all) other authors. Though he does say that the precise timing of the creation seems bizarre to us now, I'm not sure that I fully agree - after all, if his extensive research into historical events and writings gave him 4004BC as the year of creation, to make the final assumption of it being the START of the Jewish New Year is perhaps the most logical assumption to make, given the context, ie that the Jewish calendar was started precisely at the creation of the world. - after all, our western calendar is similarly daterd from a religious historical event, even if 'BCE' is used by those uncomfortable with the implications of 'BC'.

So I was looking for a historical account, quite the opposite of my usual 'up to date' scientific reading, where the past is crammed into as few pages as possible, to get to where the action 'really is' as quickly as possible - and this is what I got - a highly readable and convincing description of how our knowledge and understanding gradullay improved through the discoveries and investigations into the field, rather than 'mere' interpretation of records. But the reader must be aware of this skew!

Wherre I thought the book was weaker was in two main areas - the subtitle is "How it was Discovered and Why it Matters", but although the first part is beautifully covered, the "Why it Matters" bit was pretty well completely absent as far as I could see. Not only were any relevant comments few and far between, they actually seemed rather fatalitistic, such as 'the wrold will get on fine without us but we can't get on without the world', and 'seemingly unaware of th INSIGNIFICANCE of any such short term trend' (in climate change).

The other was in the very brief appendix on Creationists. While their motivations are discussed, and the near-identical extremism of some secular/atheistic scientists and observers is rightly pointed out, it all seemed rather dismissive and inconsequential - I think that more detail and argument should have been given or, perhaps better, the comments left out altogether. As an example, though I know creationists/IDers try to explain it away, it would have done no harm to raise the issue of the TWO totally contradictory accounts of creation given in Genesis, all other life being created BEFORE man (in Chapter 1), and all other life being created AFTER man (in Chapter 2) visble on the SAME page! - it must take an amazingly flexible mind to be able to believe that BOTH of these are the literally true word of God!

But I have still left my review as a 5* rating, because the REAL purpose (as I take it) behind writing this book seems to have been admirably achieved, even if the editor did interfere with the subtitle!


Kingdom of Plants: A Journey Through Their Evolution
Kingdom of Plants: A Journey Through Their Evolution
by Will Benson
Edition: Hardcover

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Well, Third Time Lucky (Again)!, 13 Nov. 2014
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I bought this book with a little trepidation, as I am not interested (I'm afraid) in botany, as such, but in evolution and how things inter-react in nature. My worry was that it would just use a few pages for a gloss on evolution, with the rest of the book being nothing more than a "Gardeners' Question Time Book for Christmas".

No fear - it turned out to be the 3rd fascinating book I have read in succession recently. The first chapter deals with the majority of the evolutionary aspects, a high level overview with relatively little depth, but certainly more than gloss. I have no issue with that, as I read other books which provide more detail.

The remaining chapters really concentrate on the inter-relationships between plants and their environment, such as defence and predatory mechanisms, use of other animals in spreading their seeds and pollen, uses in medicine and waste cleanup (fungi chapter, really interesting), survival in challenging climates, their value to the human race and the importance to us of preserving diversity, and much more.

Just a couple of chapter headings to partly illustrate the scope:

"How Plants Have Shaped the World"

"Plant Communication"

"The Power of Fungi", and

"No Plants, No Humans"

A truly comprehensive and fascinating foray into the place of plants in our world. (Oh and terrific photographs)


Smashing Physics
Smashing Physics
by Jon Butterworth
Edition: Paperback

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars It was also nice to have someone who admits where he doesn't really ..., 1 Nov. 2014
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This review is from: Smashing Physics (Paperback)
What a refreshing read from a very practical perspective to counter the more theoretical (though very good) science books I mostly read. Very logical and progressive in its description of the science and practicalities involved, really carrying you along with the project's development.

It was also nice to have someone who admits where he doesn't really understand something, such as the background to some maths, but does know how to use it as a tool. And some of the explanations and analogies of the physics are sometimes much clearer as presented by a 'practical' and very gifted individual.

A great practical counterbalance to other science presentations..


Neanderthal Man: In Search of Lost Genomes
Neanderthal Man: In Search of Lost Genomes
by Svante Pääbo
Edition: Hardcover

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars and the excellent scientific background to his work, 1 Nov. 2014
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I don't want to repeat others (favourable!) reviews with which I agree wholeheartedly. But I was impressed with the thorough and detailed way with which the development and progress over the years was presented, and the excellent scientific background to his work. I found the personal aspects usually relevant in highlighting how dedicated the author is to his research. The description of all the setbacks and difficulties, and their resolution, added greatly to the impact of the 'story'.

It's also gives a very useful and interesting insight into project and person management and control, at a very practical level, without being boring (at least to me).

The over-riding impression I came away with was how good this book is in showing how false is the question sometimes raised by doubters "how can scientists possibly know/prove that from such scant evidence (like a tiny piece of bone)?" Unfortunately such people would soon get bored with the great detail needed to show how reasonable the conclusions are, so would never be 'converted'. Practical, down to earth, science at its best in my opinion.


Quantum Physics for Poets
Quantum Physics for Poets
by Leon M. Lederman
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £27.00

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars OK for poets, but perhaps rather older than the publishing date suggests., 15 Aug. 2014
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Quite an interesting read, with a slightly different take on some of the standard info about quantum weirdness. The captions to some of the graphs though, were incomprehensible without a lot more pondering than the 'poet' readers might want to do (or me come to that!) - totally out of sync with the text. I get the distinct (though maybe unfair) impression from this and a previous book I recently read by LL that he is more than a little proud of his achievements, which left a slightly bad impression on me, though not really a criticism of his material..

But the main reason for the 3* rating is that although the book is given as being published in 2011 (and there is no copyright page at the beginning of the book to date it from that - VERY unusual, I thought), right near the end he says things like

"Among the perceived obstacles to quantum computing is sensitivity to outside noise" - in fact the whole section, including that on cryptography seems to predate the work over the last 4/5 years in these fields (including experiments to turn noise into an advantage, and initial (slightly!) practical results);

"supersymmetry may be detected in experiments within the next few remaining years of the Fermilab Tevatron" (it shut down in 2011);

And then the real (apparent) giveaway - "yet all computer science, as realised in the best computer available in the year 2000 ..." - I don't think I saw any date quoted in the text that was any later than that.

So my impression is that the material had been written some years earlier and then dusted off to make a more up-to-date publication - if that's wrong then the editing has been a bit shoddy.

In summary, a good book for 'poets' looking for an initial introduction, but a bad (and misleading, perhaps?) one for anyone looking for a more recent update of the field, a la 2011. As I don't like being 'hoodwinked', I have given it a low rating.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Aug 12, 2015 5:42 PM BST


Love and Math
Love and Math
by Edward Frenkel
Edition: Hardcover

6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Another 'Dr Zhivago' Experience!, 16 Dec. 2013
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This review is from: Love and Math (Hardcover)
Like one or two other books I've read, I had to read this one twice to really enjoy it, as the first time through I did find it hard going, with 'sheaves' and the like, and not really sure where the book was going. I had almost decided to pass it on to Oxfam as soon as I finished!

But I hadn't really taken in the intro, where it was made clear that it would relate to advances in Quantum theory, which I have read a bit about, and once I got through to that late in the tale, I realised that the book was quite a masterly, ordered, presentation of how his maths experiences worked through to the culmination of explaining how the phsysics developed by Gell-Mann, etc., grew so naturally from the maths of previous generations (as was the case with Einstein).

So, I gave it a second go, and found the book then most interesting on several levels:

- his love of maths and physics, and why, and the fact that he made a film to try and popularise the subject;

- the problems of being a Russian citizen, together with the interesting comment that 1984 Russia was eerily similar to George Orwell's book of the same name (written in 1948 of course);

- his broad interests outside of maths;

- the interesting way (second time through!), the various chapters worked clearly and steadily towards a peak in his career, and logically towards the quantum physics work;

- some new maths concepts he introduced me to, including the way the Langlands Program (a principal maths project he was working on) was illuminating deep connections in quite separate areas of maths;

- comments on how 'pure' mathematics relates to the physical world, and whether it exists 'out there' or relates to our consciousness; a discussion I have come across several times, and always find intriguing, in spite of, or perhaps because of, the lack of any definitive answer!;

- the personal interest (not a major topic, but still quite touching) of and in his family, and his pride when they attended a seminar he was presenting at.

So, in the end definitely worth the time and effort.


Long Life Lamp G9 Halogen Energy Saving Light Bulbs Eco bulbs, 28 Watt, Pack of 10
Long Life Lamp G9 Halogen Energy Saving Light Bulbs Eco bulbs, 28 Watt, Pack of 10
Price: £9.37

4.0 out of 5 stars Good Value for Money, 25 Nov. 2013
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I have been using these for a couple of years now. I use 21 bulbs, and each year I replace about 8 or 9. So that's about £9 a year. Given that they give a very good light and and are about the only energy-saving G9 I have found, and have also enabled me to have reasonably attractive fittings, I consider them to be reasonable value, even if individual bulbs do sometimes fail quite quickly.


The Beautiful Invisible: Creativity, imagination, and theoretical physics
The Beautiful Invisible: Creativity, imagination, and theoretical physics
by Giovanni Vignale
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £12.99

5.0 out of 5 stars An Eye Opener of a Book, 3 Oct. 2013
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As one reviewer said, some prominent area are presented rather briefly, as if they were not the main focus of the author, but as I read quite a lot of such books that wasn't a problem to me, though it does mean that there may be surprises if someone were specifically expecting a particular topic. I however bought it just because it looked like a different take to the usual - and it certainly is. Very well written and presented, with a fair sprinkling of dry humour, it's an absorbing, though fairly long read - although the author doesn't get too rigorous, it still requires a fair bit of attention at times.

One of the things I particularly enjoyed is the very successful (for me) explanation of various topics, which before I have only seen mentioned in passing, and which I have been intrigued about. Spcifically, Hamiltonian operators, the links between symmetry and conservation laws, and a simple, brief, but clear example of how a quantum computer produces the answer required to break a modern cryptographic code.

The author is clearly fascinated by his subject, and you don't get many entertaining books on theoretical physics!


Dell Series USFF (Ultra Small Form Factor) PC - Intel Pentium 4 HT (Hyper Threading) - 2GB Ram - 1000GB (1TB) Hard Drive - DVD-ROM - WINDOWS XP PRO SP3 GENUINE PRE-INSTALLED
Dell Series USFF (Ultra Small Form Factor) PC - Intel Pentium 4 HT (Hyper Threading) - 2GB Ram - 1000GB (1TB) Hard Drive - DVD-ROM - WINDOWS XP PRO SP3 GENUINE PRE-INSTALLED

5.0 out of 5 stars Smart and compact. Glad to be able to retire my older, and much clumsier, floor-based tower., 11 Feb. 2013
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
AN UPDATE to the original review after about a year's use. I have contacted Sam several times with what turned out to be minor problems. A couple of queries were a long way past the 90-day 'warranty' period, but they were perfectly happy to still help. The last occasion was in September (AFTER 9 MONTHS!) last year when I was getting a 'low battery' warning. They sent me a link to a video showing how to replace it, and STILL said if I had difficulties to contact them again. But it was quite straightforward and everything's fine now. So I think I can say that I STILL RATE SAM MOST HIGHLY AS A SUPPLIER.

(ORIGINAL REVIEW) - Delivery was very quick - just a couple of days. Unfortunately, the initial installation did not go smoothly at all, which was a great disappointment after reading the other excellent reviews of how simple set up had been. In fact I was unable to connect my mouse and keyboard, which meant I was completely stuck and could not set up at all. So why the 5* rating you may wonder?

Well, my email was responded to very promptly with several phone calls to try and talk me through the problems and resolve them quickly. When these attempts failed, SAM said they would send a replacement PC which they would test with a keyboard and mouse before despatch, and to ensure that everything was OK, they would include the keyboard and mouse as well, at NO extra cost. The replacement arrived the following day and was fine.

SAM clearly value their positive rating very highly, and I have to say that I can't fault them - they were excellent. You should be confident of getting a reliable product generally, judging from the other reviews, and my replacement PC, but what is equally important, if you do hit a problem then SAM will go to great lengths to solve it and do so promptly. Great value for money compared with buying a DELL new.

So my overall rating remains at 5*!


TeckNet® C016 USB HD 720P Webcam, 5 MegaPixel, 5G Lens, USB Microphone & 6 LED
TeckNet® C016 USB HD 720P Webcam, 5 MegaPixel, 5G Lens, USB Microphone & 6 LED
Offered by Innovation Goal UK
Price: £11.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Initial impression is great, but have a query., 10 Oct. 2012
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Just plugged in and turned on. Seems pretty good, and quite smart.Focus is clearer than my Logitech (which has just stopped working after 11 months anyway). Instructions not too brilliant, but understood most things eventually. However, there's nothing about how to clamp the camera, so for the moment it's on its stand, which will probably do - that's what I did with the old one.

If I hit any problems, like lights packing up, I'll modify my review. But for the moment I'm mainly just wondering if any of you clever guys out there can help, by explaining briefly what I need to do to use the clamp rather than the stand; I don't want to break the base by not doing it right - must be fairly easy, judging from a few of the comments, but I'm at a bit of a loss! Thanks in advance.


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