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Rama Rao "Rama" (Annandale, VA, USA)

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Cosmos: The Story of Cosmic Evolution, Science and Civilisation
Cosmos: The Story of Cosmic Evolution, Science and Civilisation
by Carl Sagan
Edition: Paperback
Price: £9.09

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A brief history of the universe and its inhabitants, 29 Nov. 2011
This book has not been revised since its first publications in 1980, but in the meantime our understanding of physics and biology has advanced significantly. Although the book is dated, the physical principle on which the universe is founded remains unchanged. The author is a brilliant physicist & philosopher, a cosmologist, a sociologist and a humanist who is at ease when he is describing the physics of spacetime and matter from which this cosmos evolved or formation of life on this planet or the scientific, political and sociological issues surrounding the space exploration. The author quotes extensively from the history of physics and biology, religious literature, world history, media and numerous other sources with which he is familiar, and discusses our responsibilities and commitment for the preservation of the planet and the universe. He not only touches on diverse topics with deep understanding but also communicates with his readers equally well.

The author describes his experiences with the American space program and NASA. He briefed the Apollo astronauts before their flights to the moon, and his wok with missions that explored the solar system. He is responsible for the universal message from earth (on a plaque) on spacecrafts Pioneer 10, Pioneer 11, and the Golden Record (voice message) on Voyager mission. Many space missions he was associated with have left solar system; Voyager 1, Voyager 2, Pioneer 10, and Pioneer 11. These spacecrafts will probably survive in interstellar space lot longer than human race. He gives reasonable amount of information about voyager missions and the possible problems it could have faced while entering the Jupiter's outer shell of high-energy charged particles or the need for small nuclear power plant for energy for its long flight farther away from sun. The geological wonders of Jovian moons Io, and his optimism of Voyager spacecraft entering the heliopause, the outer boundary of solar system in the middle of 21st century.

While discussing the personal and professional conflicts faced by German mathematician Johannes Kepler with the local Roman Catholic Church, and challenges he faced with the imperial mathematician, Tyco Brahe, to get access to his experimental data, the author makes it all come alive. Kepler and Newton represent critical transition in human history and their discovery that fairly simple mathematical laws pervade all of nature. Their accurate predictions of planetary motions based on experimental data are the first step in understanding of our interaction with the rest of the cosmos. The city of Alexandria, Egypt was a home for learning and culture and how it tragically ended life of a brilliant woman scientist known by the name of Hypatia. She stood at the epicenter of social forces that were manipulating free thinking and intellectual pursuit. The slavery sapped classical civilization of its vitality. The growing Christian church was consolidating power and attempting to eradicate scientific thought that it claimed to be paganism. She continued to teach and publish until 415 A.D., when local Cyril parishioners murdered her and her remains burned. Her name was long forgotten while Cyril became a saint.

Does our cosmos expand indefinitely or at some stage it starts contracting? The author draws an interesting analogy with Hindu scriptures of Upanishads and Puranas, which predicts that the universe undergoes the cycles of birth and death every one hundred Brahma years, where one day and a night of Brahma are about 8.64 billion years, approximately half the age of our universe. It is supposed that a universe is a dream of God who after one hundred Brahma years dissolves himself into a dreamless sleep, and the universe dissolves with him. After another Brahma century, he recomposes himself to another great cosmic dream.

The author concludes this book by stating that since consciousness arose on this planet and our immediate concern is our own survival, but our own survival is balanced by numerous cosmic forces. We owe our obligations to this planet and the universe and not just ourselves.

1. The Demon-haunted World: Science As a Candle in the Dark
2. Pale Blue Dot: a Vision of the Human Future in Space
3. Billions and Billions: Thoughts on Life and Death at the Brink of the Millennium

Quest For The Original Gita
Quest For The Original Gita
by G S Khair
Edition: Hardcover

5.0 out of 5 stars The author(s) of Bhagavad-Gita: Who sung the song of God?, 22 Nov. 2011
This is an interesting book that makes a fairly extensive analysis of Gita and concludes that Bhagavad-Gita was written by three different authors over a period of several centuries, and these authors are Vyasa, Vaisampayana and Souti.

A summary of this book is as follows: The author observes certain textual difficulties and contradictions in Gita, and cites the following examples:

1. The repetition of the topics such as Jnana in Gita verses, 4.33-42; 7.16-19; 13.5-11; 18.18-22; and 18.70; the concept of Brahman in verses 5.20-26; 6.27-28; 7.29; 8.3-28; 13.12-17 and 18.50-53. And the contradictions found in Gita about the principles of Sankhya, Vedanta and yoga philosophy.

2. Supreme Being is described in different terms such as Purusha, Brahman, Ishvara, Paramatman, kshtrajna, akshara, and asat

3. Krishna Identifies himself as Brahman, Purusha and Tat in the third person-singular, but in chapters VII, IX, X, XI, XII, and XVI it is in the first person-singular. In chapter XII it is mainly in the third person singular form. Other chapters use a combination of the two.

4. Human beings and their activities are classified into sattvic, rajas and tamas in chapters XIV, XVII and XVIII but in chapter XVI it becomes a two fold classification like daivi and asuri.

5. The central theme of Gita sometimes is difficult to comprehend; it appears to be sanyasa or Jnana or bhakti, self-realization or mystical experience.

The author suggests the he came up with the idea of three authors as a result of an intensive textual study of the Gita with regard to its structure, grammar, exposition, style, diction, terminology, objectives and philosophy. Each author presented the metaphysical concepts that existed or evolving around his time mainly for readers of his time. The first author composed the first six chapters (first sextet) some time before the 6th century B.C. The second author added six more chapters (second sextet) and they form portions of the present VIII, XIII, XIV, XV, XVII and XVIII chapters. The third author added six more chapters (third sextet) in the middle of the poem and shifted the poems of the second author to the final sextet. His new chapters are VII, IX to XII and XIV. The author contends that the original author accepted the principles of Sankhya philosophy of his time, the immortality of soul, its aloofness from matter and senses, importance of spiritual knowledge, the psychological attitude of renunciation, the value of self realization, and the supremacy of Brahman. The Sankhya philosophers deduced absolute renunciation from these tenets, but the author of the first Gita deduced yoga (spiritual activism) disinterested in action or devotion to duty. The first author used the materials of Sankhya to propose his theory of ethics of action. He reduced the conflict between knowledge and action between Sankhya renunciation and the Vedic karma by creating Karma-yoga.

The second author added the new concepts to Sankhya and mimamsa of his time (about 2 or 3 century after the first author); concepts of Jnana, Kshetra-Kshetragna, Prakriti-Purusha, and Triguna-bheda. He did not create new philosophy, but faithful in reproducing Sankhya with impartiality and scholastic objectivity. The abstract theory of karma yoga is supplemented with three levels of existence, the sattvic, rajas and tamas. After about two centuries, the third author introduced the bhakti principle, and the worship of Lord Vasudeva-Krishna as the Godhead. He also extended the Vedanta philosophy that was developed at his time and brought about unification of Sankhya and Vedanta along with yoga philosophy, and he tried to sublimate the primitive traditional forms of worship into one incarnation of the Supreme Being. He tried to achieve conviction not with convincing argument but with the combined weapons of faith, mysticism, divinity, supernatural powers, admiration, superhuman forms, illusion and visions. This author is also a superb stylist and composer of great poetry. He uses new words and phrases not used by previous authors. There is a rhythm, grace and elegance in his style. The most sublime verses are those that describe God's relationship with people. The author reaches highest peak of imagination and grace in chapter XI. His description of the abstract nature of time and space is astounding. The third poet made bhakti as the main theme of his redaction.

The author of this book proposes an interesting theory but is not accepted in the academic world or by the seekers spiritual knowledge. Certain textual difficulties and contradictions could be resolved on the assumption of the oversight of a single author and or it could be dealing with several subject matters such as Sankhya or Vedanta or Yoga philosophy may cause some confusion and its hermeneutics.

1. The Gita as it Was: Discovering the Original Bhagavadgita
2. Modern Indian Interpreters of the Bhagavad-gita (SUNY Series in Religious Studies)
3. Interpretations of the Bhagavad-Gita and Images of the Hindu Tradition: The Song of the Lord
4. Teaching of the Bhagavad-gita: A Classical Interpretation for the Modern Mind

The German Gita (Studies in Philosophy)
The German Gita (Studies in Philosophy)
by Bradley L. Herling
Edition: Paperback
Price: £34.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Gita as the hermeneutical background in the thoughts of German philosophers, 16 Nov. 2011
In the waning years of 18th century, Gita drew attention of some of the most prominent intellectuals of Germany which included; Johann Gottfried Herder, Friedrich Schlegel, August Wilhelm Schlegel, Wilhelm von Humboldt, and Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel. This book is partly historical and refers extensively to the history of German Philosophy. The author focuses on the political and cultural climate in Western Europe during this period when many intellectuals were reluctant to accept the existence of philosophy in Indian literature. Johann Herder found a bridge to early forms of idealism and he was astonished to find a remarkable combination of philosophy and poetry in Bhagavadgita. This was the time when the European appraisal of Indian philosophy was characterized mostly by self understanding, self affirmation and self critique that lead to alternating moments of both interest and dismissal of Indian thought. But occasionally Indian philosophy was radically questioned by applying hermeneutical consciousness.

A significant part of the book is focused on the translation of Bhagavadgita and the understanding of its philosophy. The author discusses translation by Herder, Friedrich Schlegel, Wilhelm Schlegel and William Humboldt. Johann Herder's 1792 German translation brings Indian thought into a new hermeneutical realm. While taken up in a Eurocentric vision wrapped in Western modalities and interpreted for the European present, Herder's India played a significant role in the call for cultural renewal within German Romantic intellectual circles.

Friedrich Schlegel by studying Sanskrit and comparing with Greek and Latin confirmed the common origins of these languages, first discovered by William Jones, and they found the existence a parent Indo-European language from which all these originated. Sanskrit is fundamentally a religious language and this quality enforces a conservative rigor on its forms. Schlegel claims that Gita shows the dualistic principles within Sankhya and Vedanta that proposes a pantheistic system whose doctrines were constantly interpolated in the text. Schlegel did not see the primal essence of Hindu religious consciousness, but he saw that only as a historical inevitability. The hermeneutical progress in a cross-cultural understanding often faced significant resistance where one step was often followed by two steps back. He was also critical of British for failing to deliver texts with scholarly rigor. The goal of the British at that time was to translate Sanskrit literature to understand the culture and strengthen their political and economic interests in India. They were the real arbiters of Indian knowledge who were in possession of material riches and held the keys for the scriptural and aesthetic monuments of antiquity. Schlegel observed their work often lacked scientific rigor required to understand the Sanskrit language. Wilhelm Schlegel, brother of Friedrich translated Gita in 1823 which had many disjunctions in his work. Von Humboldt however refined the German inquiry of Hindu thought initiated by Herder. Humboldt's emphasis on linguistic science produced positive results in the reception of Indian literature, and new brand of responsible cross-cultural enquiry.

Hegel's response to Indian thought was negative and contrasted Humboldt's in many respects. His goal was the same as Friedrich Schlegel in that he wanted to denigrate Romanticism and devotion to Indian texts. Hegel's 1827 review of Humboldt's Gita lectures distanced Gita from European concepts and diluted cross-cultural effects in German thought. Hegel did not know Sanskrit and he compared the translations of Wilkins, Schlegel and Humboldt only to support his interpretation. One of the most consistent concerns in Gita is the conceptualization of dharma and action. Interpreting Gita 1.40, Hegel observes that concept of dharma or duty is offering cakes and water-libation, and dereliction of duty means partly the omission of such ceremonies or marriage into lower caste. Hegel contends that this view is unethical and driven by superstation and caste. Hegel's interpretation with its negative tone is couched in derogatory characterization.

Hegel undergoes a kind of transformation from his lectures of 1824, 1827 and 1831. He seems to make extra effort to understand Hindu philosophy in proper context, but doesn't quite make it. Although he dealt it in a subordinate and prejudicial manner but he did not forget that Gita has positive impact upon higher notions of understanding.

1. Die Bhagavad-Gita.
2. Bhagavad Gita: Der Gesang des Erhabenen
3. On the episode of the Mahabharata known by the name Bhagavad-Gita by Wilhelm von Humboldt, Berlin 1826
4. Vedanta-Philosophie im interkulturellen Kontext (Interkulturelle Bibliothek) (German Edition)

God Talks with Arjuna: The Bhagavad Gita
God Talks with Arjuna: The Bhagavad Gita
by Paramahansa Yogananda
Edition: Paperback
Price: £30.00

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Science of Kriya-yoga and pranayama meditation as taught in Bhagavad-Gita, 25 Oct. 2011
Swami Yogananda is the founder of Self-Realization Fellowship (SRF), and a leading observer of the kriya-yoga as taught in Bhagavad-Gita. His interpretation of Gita differs from other interpreters, but follows the beliefs in yoga philosophy of his progenitors, Yogi Mahavatar Babaji, Lahiri Mahasaya, and Swami Sri Yukteswar Giri (guru of Yogananda). The author finds that the teaching of Lord Krishna has many commonalities with the message of Jesus Christ, and he describes this in great detail throughout the book. In this volume we find the translation of each verse of Gita and its interpretation and how that is related to the overall message of Krishna. References to New Testament may also be found in many chapters.

The summary of the book is as follows: Bhagavadgita, the song of God is a profound scripture of yoga for seeking Eternal Bliss. The instructions are provided in a stepwise fashion in a dialogue between Krishna and Arjuna. The Gita teaches us the rightful duty in life and how to discharge with dispassion that avoids pain and nurtures wisdom and success in spiritual life. The enigmas of creation, life, suffering, the perpetual cycle of life and death could be avoided if man follows the message of Krishna. The mysteries that veil the Infinite Spirit will be revealed to all sincere devotees of the Lord. The right action, non-attachment to the material things in life and its sense pleasures, one can find union with the Supreme Cosmic Being by the highest yoga of pranayama meditation learned by an enlightened guru. The kriya-yoga taught by Krishna in the verses 4.29 and 5.27-28 is the supreme spiritual science of yoga meditation that leads to the victory of self-realization.

Interpreting verses 8.9-10;, and verses 8.17-19, the author states that the man has a choice to seek kriya-yoga in which consciousness and life energy (prana) are circulated up and down the spine equaling the effect of sun's passage through the signs of zodiac . The adept of kriya-yoga is a deep state of meditation and Samadhi which increasingly multiply the effect of each kriya. By quieting the heart through practice of kriya-yoga pranayama, the yogi disconnects his mind from his senses and breath. With this new freedom from bondage which ties consciousness to the body the yogi dissolves his ego in the blessed soul. Having attained soul perception, the yogi realizes the Cosmic Spirit behind all individual souls and all manifestation in the universe (Gita 9.6-8). The triple qualities of nature (three gunas) produces man's three bodies; physical, astral, and spiritual; the physical body consist of 16 gross elements, carbon, oxygen, hydrogen, etc. The astral; body is made of 19 elements; ego, mind, intelligence, feeling, etc. The causal body consists of 35 divine thoughts corresponding to 35 elements of physical and astral bodies. Death does not liberate the soul and unites with Cosmic Spirit, but the astral bodies and causal body within it travel together with soul all encased from the coverings of the three bodies in the after death state. The process of liberation from the three bodies takes time. Even the avatar of Jesus Christ took three days or three periods of spiritual effort to emerge from physical, astral and causal bodies before he rose again. Jesus asks Mary not to touch his body because his resurrection was not complete (John 20.17). By practice of yoga, a devotee can free the coverings of all three bodies before his soul commingles with the Supreme Spirit (Gita 13.1).

The true kriya-yoga way (life-force control) of divine realization is to ascend by leading the ego, mind and life force through the same spinal channel that was used by the soul originally descended into the body (Gita 6.46). In verse 6.47, the author states that there are several paths available to master the yoga. Karma yoga, the path of good actions; bhakti yoga, that path of unfailing deep devotion; Jnana yoga, the path of knowledge and wisdom; and raja yoga, especially the kriya-yoga is the quintessence of all yogas favored by royal sages and great yogis in ancient India. It is through this form of yoga, a yogi can withdraw his life force and mind from the body unites his soul free from ego with the Cosmic Spirit.

In verse 13.22; it is stated that a dreamer is the creator and experience of his own dreams. Similarly, the soul, the reflection of God is the great creator, supporter, enjoyer and transcendental observer of its own dream physical body and all its activities. The soul is the witness and it does not engage itself in the operation human intelligence, mind, and senses. It is an observer of the Cosmic Nature that is instigated by Parkriti and man's individual karma.

Swami Yogananda expresses his beliefs in the three philosophical system in interpreting verses 18.13, and 2.39 and 3.3: The advent of Self knowledge through renunciation of all actions as outlined in the Sankhya philosophy and the consummation of all actions after attaining this realization as described in Vedanta, both have to do with complex nature of action. Yoga philosophy teaches the technique to free ourselves from the threefold human affliction. Without the renunciation enjoyed in Sankhya, and without the technique of yoga, the devotee can not escape the misery producing entanglements of physical consciousness and realize the infinite. Vedanta describes this infinite Spirit, Oneness with the Absolute, beyond the domain of all activities, dissolving all illusions of Maya to enjoy the Eternal Bliss, the Brahman.

1. Autobiography of a Yogi
2. Metaphysical Meditations

The Uddhava Gita: The Final Teaching of Krishna
The Uddhava Gita: The Final Teaching of Krishna
by Swami Ambikananda Saraswati
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.99

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Uddhava's song of God, 13 Oct. 2011
The author has shown remarkable understanding of Vedic literature and Sanskrit which is reflected in her lucid rendering of Uddhava Gita into English. She considers both formal and dynamical aspect of the language and her translation remains close to clarity and inner beauty of the message of Lord Krishna. The style of translation is simple and easy to understand unlike other translations that restricts to polemical renderings that sacrifices versatility and simplicity for precision and academic merit. She explains some finer details of translation in the appendix section which may be found at the end of the book. At the beginning of each chapter, the author briefly introduces the gist of the message contained in that chapter. The fine tradition of Swami Sivananda Saraswati of Divine Life Society that emphasizes the practical application of yoga philosophy in daily life to attain Self-realization is practiced by many of his followers including the author of this book.

Uddhava Gita is the farewell message of the Lord; the spiritual instructions to Uddhava. The timing of this dialogue is when the Lord's incarnation is at its end. These teachings of Krishna to Uddhava spread over 23 chapters; from the 7th to 29th chapters of the 11th Kanda (Canto) of Bhagavata Purana. In Uddhava Gita, Krishna explains about spirituality, supremacy of devotion, and paths to enlightenment. He illustrates mind as a root cause of all miseries in the world. Krishna states; shake off all attachment and move about the world with a mind wholly centered on Krishna. You must always remember that whatever is thought by the mind, perceived by the eye and the ear and spoken by the tongue is creation of the mind and therefore illusory. The mind is a victim to the illusion of diversity; the good and evil, and discrimination between various types of actions. By controlling the mind you will see the whole world in your own self and your own self in the Supreme Lord. He who knows the truth of the Self will be a friend of all beings and will have peace of mind. Such a person will not undergo transmigration.

When asked who is a pious soul, the Lord emphasizes the importance of Satsanga or association with great souls, which puts an end to all attachments. Commenting on the extinction of the "I" sense, which causes Rajas guna to invade the mind, the Lord describes the teachings of Hamsa Gita. With regards to the path of devotion (bhakti yoga), Krishna states that without love for Him, virtues and learning are unfruitful. He who loves Krishna is made pure and is a purifying influence upon the whole universe. Krishna also teaches about the importance of varna ashrama dharma. Commenting on Jnana, Vijnana and Bhakti; Yama and Niyama which are prescribed in the scriptures for the attainment of final beatitude, Krishna stresses the importance of the three yogas of self-discipline.

In chapter 2, verse 21, the Lord states that "The self is most easily realized in the human form. Through Sankhya and Yoga, the path of knowledge and path of action; I can be experienced as the self of all, manifest in all." Sankhya is known to be atheistic thought. It teaches the existence of 25 basic constituents of matter derived from Parkriti. From Parkriti, buddhi evolves which gives rise to ahamkara, the concept of "I." At the end, the 25th constituent is the Purusha. Yoga is related to Sankhya, which is a system of self-analysis and self-discipline. It seeks a state of higher understanding through the control of body, mind and senses. The whole in Yoga is Ishvara that consists of both Parkriti and Purusha. Uddhava Gita like Bhagavadgita seeks to synthesize the yoga and Sankhya systems. Yoga strongly puts its weight on bhakti yoga and Sankhya does not completely disavow that. Chapter 5, verse 15, It is stated that "Or that performing the duties which the scriptures require will lead to the perpetuation of the individual soul or bringing some earthly benefits in the world of objects." Here and the subsequent hymns the Uddhava Gita discusses the Mimamsa thought which focuses on the correct form of performance of Vedic rituals, The Vedic priests are the chief interpreters of Veda and are the only ones to be eligible to perform rituals. The results of the ritual are dependent upon the correct performance and also on those that performing. In this thought, the performance of the sacrifice leads to apurva which is the fruit of Vedic ritual. Chapter 6, verse 4 expresses the Advaita Vedanta that only one Ultimate reality exist and that is an all pervasive immanent and transcendental Brahman: All the rest are due to illusion called Maya.

1. Krishna's Other Song: A New Look at the Uddhava Gita
2. Uddhava Gita: The Last Message of Sri Krishna
3. Uddhava Gita English

The Shape of Inner Space: String Theory and the Geometry of the Universe's Hidden Dimensions
The Shape of Inner Space: String Theory and the Geometry of the Universe's Hidden Dimensions
by Shing-Tung Yau
Edition: Hardcover

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The development of the concept of hidden spaces in string theory - A historical perspective, 7 Oct. 2011
This is a fascinating story about the development of the mathematical concept of extra spatial dimensions known as Calabi-Yau spaces and its application in the string theory. The author speaks candidly, and describes his excitement at emerging new ideas in physics and mathematics, and how it progressed in string theory, and in the process changed his perspectives. Over the last 35 years this idea has shaped our thought on the nature of physical reality and involved an entire generation of theoretical physicists in research. This is partly autobiographical and hence makes it very interesting to read as he explains his odyssey. We get to read the contributions of leading physicists in this adventure; the growth of string theory as major force in theoretical physics. This is an outstanding book to read, but requires undergraduate level physics and strong interest in geometry.

A summary of this book is as follows: In string theory, the myriad of fundamental particle types is replaced by a single fundamental building block, a string. As the string moves through time it traces out a tube or a sheet (the two-dimensional string worldsheet), and different vibrational modes of the string represent the different particle types. The particles known in nature are bosons (integer spin) or fermions (half integer spin). By introducing supersymmetry to string theory both bosons and fermions could be accounted for, and with ten-dimensions, the mathematical requirements of string theory are completely satisfied. In addition, the anomalies and inconsistencies that plagued string theory are vanished. Until superstring theory came into existence, any predictions and calculations yielded nonsensical results, and were incompatible with quantum physics. The ten-dimensions consist of two sets four-dimensional spacetime we live in, and six-spatial dimensions in a hidden state in an invisible state because they are compactified to minute size. In this geometry, every point has a six-dimensional Calabi-Yau manifold in a compactified form, thus bringing physicists to the doorsteps of Calabi-Yau geometry.

Some physicists had originally hoped that there was only one Calabi-Yau manifold that would uniquely describe the hidden dimensions of string theory, but there are a large number of such manifolds each having a distinct topology. Within each topological class there are an infinitely large number of such Calabi-Yau manifolds. The Calabi-Yau space is further complicated by the fact that it has twisting multidimensional holes (about 500) running through the space. Another problem is; what makes the six-dimensions of space stable in a compactified form? It would be like constraining an inner tube with a steel belted radial tire. Just as the tire will hold back the tube as you pump air into it. All the moduli of the Calabi-Yau, both shape moduli and size moduli needs to be consistently stabilized. Otherwise the there is nothing to keep six hidden dimensions from unwinding and becomes infinitely large. It turns out that the D-branes of string physics can curb the tiny manifold's inclination to expand.

Some physicists have considered other types of spaces besides Calabi-Yau manifolds; they include non-Kahler compactification, and some non-geometric compactification postulates. In the beginning of the book , the author states : If Einstein's relativity is proof that geometry is gravity, string theorists hope to carry that notion a good deal further by proving that geometry, perhaps in the guise of Calabi-Yau manifolds is not only gravity but physics itself." In the latter part of the book the author takes a conciliatory mode by stating "Despite my affection for Calabi-Yau manifolds - a fondness that has not been diminished over the past thirty-some years - I am trying to maintain an open mind on the subject," ............."If it turns out that non-Kahler manifolds are ultimately of greater value to string theory than Calabi-Yau manifolds, I'm OK with that."

There are many success stories of mathematical reasoning; one such is the prediction of positrons by Paul Dirac. The biggest shortcomings of the Calabi-Yau space and the superstring theory and brane world is even though there is beauty and elegance in the setup but it still needs to make predictions which can be confirmed by the experiments. The results of LHC experiments so far have not resulted in satisfactory conclusions.

1. The Hidden Reality: Parallel Universes and the Deep Laws of the Cosmos
2. The Fabric of the Cosmos: Space, Time and the Texture of Reality (Penguin Press Science)
3. The Little Book of String Theory (Science Essentials)

The Khmer Empire: Cities and Sanctuaries from the 5th to the 13th Century
The Khmer Empire: Cities and Sanctuaries from the 5th to the 13th Century
by Claude Jacques
Edition: Hardcover

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The influence of the Vedic culture: Archeological and architectural wonders of Khmer Empire, 21 Sept. 2011
Angkor is the main focus of foreign visitors to Cambodia, but Khmer empire included parts of today's Thailand, Vietnam and Laos. Although the Khmer empire may have started in the third century, a second Indian migration to Funan province took place at this time, and the sage Kaundinya who cam to Funan, set out to rule the country, after he married princess Soma, the daughter of Naga king. Sanskrit became the official language of the Funan kingdom, which continued till the fourteenth century. He also introduced the worship of God Shiva in his kingdom. King Jayavarman (Kaundinya-Jayavarman) (480 - 514 A.D) and his son Rudravarman were notable kings of Khmer empire, and the list also includes Jayavarman II (802 A.D) with a succession of kings all the way to Jayavarman VIII (1270 A. D.) and Srindrajayavarman (1307 A. D.)

The ruins of cities and sanctuaries of Khmer Empire from fifth to thirteenth centuries have been meticulously studied by the author and photographically illustrated with spectacular and breathtaking aerial views. The views of Phanom Bekheng (page 105), built by Yashovarman I in his new capital Yashodapura which has 108 small shrines (108 is a sacred number in Vedic cosmology); Pre Rup (Page 140) built in 926 AD; Prang, the highest mountain temple in the Khmer empire (page 120, 123); Angkor Wat (from the Sanskrit word, nagara (city)), the apotheosis of Khmer architecture (page 215), and Preah Vihar (pages 149, 151 and 160) are simply wonderful archeological masterpieces. The general plan of the Angkor covers about 500 sq kilometers over a period of five centuries, an almost uninterrupted succession of supreme kings who built their capitals, each centered on a state temple; Bakong, Phanom Bakheng, Pre Rup, Ta Keo, Phimea Nakas, Bapoun, Angkor Wat and Bayon. Three faiths were practiced in ancient Cambodia. They were Hinduism in the form of Shiva, and Vishnu worship and Buddhism.

The Vedic gods have largely vanished from the temples of India but the deities of rgvedic period may be found in many temples of Khmer Empire. The statue of God Surya at Prasat Thom (page 112) built before 921 A.D. Prasat Bak, the only Khmer temple dedicated to the worship of Ganesha; The statue of God Yama, the king of death in the central sanctuary of Banteay Pichiea (page 126); The statues of wrestling monkey kings, Sugriva and Valin at Prasat Chen is an episode from Ramayana, is found on page 128. God Varuna, borne on three hamsas at Muang Tan (page 166), and the structure of Muang Tan (pages 165-167) are simply great. Other statues of interest are; Krishna Govardhana statue from Wat Koh of Takeo province (late 6 and early 7 century) beautifully depicts God Krishna lifting the mount Govardhana to protect his flock from rain created by Vedic God Indra (page 46); Durga from Tuol Komnop (7 century)(page 47) and the standing Buddha from Tuol Lean and Angkor Borei (7 century) (page 50) illustrates fine workmanship of Khmer people.

The oldest inscriptions engraved in a script in Sanskrit dates back to fifth century and they all relate to Hindu and Buddhist temples. Unfortunately all ancient manuscripts have been lost or destroyed, but all Southeast Asian alphabets originated from Sanskrit, which was largely used to honor Vedic gods and communication among literary elite.

The temples of Khmers were different from Christian and Jewish places of worship. They were never designed as meeting places, but as dwellings of gods. They were generally made of durable materials; brick, sandstone, or laterite. The central sanctuary of Ankor Wat, one of the largest is only five square meters, and the sheer size of the temples in the 12 and 13 centuries is ascribed to accommodate large numbers of gods. Fire sacrifice, as in India, was commonly practiced in Khmer temples; the fire had to be ceremonially rekindled each morning before the ceremonial worship of the main deity and cooked food were offered to the god. They were symbolically consumed by gods and then distributed to devotees present at these rituals. Once a year, the solemn feast of god was celebrated with great ceremony and the deity was carried around the temple in a procession atop a chariot. This practice is still popular in India.

The history of the Khmer Empire has been briefly described in this book; this is by no means an academic discussion, but for a traveler interested to visit these places of ancient history, this is sufficient. The photographs and brief description of the history of the temples and the deities are helpful in choosing what you would like to see during your visit to Cambodia and Thailand.

1. Sacred Angkor: The Carved Reliefs of Angkor Wat
2. Angkor Archaeological Park Sights: a travel guide to the top 35 sights in Angkor Archaeological Park, Cambodia. Includes Angkor Thom, Angkor Wat, Bayon, Siem Reap and much more (Mobi Sights)

Knocking On Heaven's Door: How Physics and Scientific Thinking Illuminate the Universe and the Modern World
Knocking On Heaven's Door: How Physics and Scientific Thinking Illuminate the Universe and the Modern World
by Lisa Randall
Edition: Hardcover

8 of 15 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Are we close to heaven?, 21 Sept. 2011
The author is a popular writer of physics and her contribution in particle physics and her academic position at Harvard has brought her into contact with well known figures in public life including President Bill Clinton, many artists, television personalities, celebrities, and thinkers of our time.

In this book, the author describes the progress in our understanding of the laws of physics from Galileo to Ed Witten. In her previous book, "Warped Passages," the author observes that in many popular science books, often the authors do not give details about how a theory or a postulate is subjected to experimental verification and how they analyze the results of these experiments to confirm the theoretical predications. She lamented that often the books talk about the scientist who made the discovery and how great they were, but rarely talk about the scientific process. In this book she discusses the process of experiments and analyzing the results. She explores how to tackle the scientific problems, and examines the beauty and truth in scientific thinking, the nature of symmetry, classical and quantum realities, and religion. She also reviews the state of the art equipment, the super particle smasher, the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) about its functions and what it offers to the knowledge of physicists. The author summarizes the ATLAS and CMS detectors of LHC instrument, and the results the physicists are interested which includes detection of Higgs Bosons known as the God's particle. She predicts what the data from Planck and Herschel satellites and LHC may provide about the fundamental particles and what we can infer from them about the laws of nature and the structure of the universe. The author is known to quote from popular and rock music in her books. Here she uses part of Bob Dylan' song as the title for this book. How appropriate is this title for a book about understanding the universe when a guy is being shot and facing imminent death.

"Mama, put my guns in the ground
I can't shoot them anymore.
That long black cloud is comin' down
I feel like I'm knockin' on heaven's door." Bob Dylan

How realistic is the author; about being so close to the heaven's door, in terms of understanding the laws of physics, when we still have not understood the essence of existence and physical reality? We can hold that thought on heaven, come down to earth and sort out the results from LHC experiments first. There is still not a great deal of hope for Higgs Boson and KK gravitons needed for the Randall-Sundrum model for explaining the weak gravity in our universe. Even though the Standard Model (SM) of electroweak interactions perfectly describes almost all existing experimental data, but the model suffers from certain theoretical drawbacks. The hierarchy problem is probably the most fundamental of these: namely, quantum loop corrections in the SM destabilize the weak energy scale O (1 TeV), if the theory is assumed to remain valid to a much higher scale such as the Planck mass scale O (1019 GeV). Therefore, it is believed that the SM is only an effective theory embedded in some more fundamental high-scale theory that presumably could contain gravitational interactions. Models that involve extra spatial dimensions could provide a solution to the hierarchy problem in which gravity plays the major role. The Randall and Sundrum (RS) model proposes a 5D universe with two 4D surfaces ("3-branes"). All the SM particles and forces with the exception of gravity are assumed to be confined to one of those 3-branes called the visible or TeV brane. However, gravity lives not only on the visible brane, but also on the second brane (the "hidden brane") and in the bulk. All mass scales in the 5D theory are of order of the Planck mass. By placing the SM fields on the visible brane, all the order Planck mass terms are rescaled by an exponential suppression factor (the "warp factor"), which reduces them down to the weak scale O(1 TeV) on the visible brane without any serious fine tuning.

At the end of the book the author expresses optimism that her model to describe gravity has a chance of being proved right: This is perhaps a wishful thought. I wished the author, a brilliant physicist, had expressed reasons for such optimisms in her peer reviewed articles to academic journals.

1. Warped Passages: Unravelling the Universe's Hidden Dimensions (Penguin Press Science)
2. The Trouble with Physics: The Rise of String Theory, The Fall of a Science and What Comes Next
3. Not Even Wrong: The Failure of String Theory and the Continuing Challenge to Unify the Laws of Physics
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Sep 26, 2011 2:49 PM BST

Prime Time: Love, Health, Sex, Fitness, Friendship, Spirit; Making the Most of All of Your Life
Prime Time: Love, Health, Sex, Fitness, Friendship, Spirit; Making the Most of All of Your Life
by Jane Fonda
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £16.99

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Jane on Life, 8 Sept. 2011
Many of us remember Jane Fonda for some of her greatest movies, while few others remember her for her activism during the Vietnam War. Fonda's early fame came through her work in film industry and in the 1980s she became the fitness guru for many fans and keep-fit enthusiasts. In her new book, she covers every aspect of life. At the age of 73 with a new hip and knee she seems to be at peace; being older and wiser. Reading through this book is also a confessional and autobiographical in nature, which made me remember Shirley MacLaine's recent book, "I'm over all that: and other confessions," where she also touches upon very similar issues of life. It is interesting to know these two women of Hollywood bring similar wisdom to their listeners.

One would certainly like to know what it is like to be the daughter of a Hollywood icon. What we saw in the classic movie "On Golden Pond" was a true reflection of her relationship with her dad? She had great fondness for her father and respect in her heart which was seen when she reminisced about her father on TCM channel, and now in this book. "And Dad could not deal with emotion, he just couldn't," she continues. "He didn't know what to say, and if we had cried - which of course I wouldn't - he wouldn't have known what to do. But what can you do? Forgiveness. He did the best he could. I knew the kind of person that he wished he was. And I loved him." She continues, about who her father was and who he wished to be "is one of the reasons that I try to live my third act in such a way that I won't have regrets," Fonda says. "You never get there entirely, but you can spend your life working at it." In this book, she dishes her private life; sordid details affairs with co-stars; a swinging sex life with her first husband, Roger Vadim, and she partied with Roman Polanski and Sharon Tate. Second husband Hayden treated her like dirt and used her as a piggy bank for his left-wing radical causes. Third husband Ted Turner was a right-wing media mogul and an environmental hysteric. She regrets she didn't sleep with Cuban revolutionary Che Guevara.

After costarring with Jennifer Lopez and Lindsay Lohan, She says, she tried to mentor Lohan unsuccessfully: "She would see me coming and she'd flee," Fonda says. "For Lindsay to create a new norm, I would have to wrap my arms around her, or someone would, and take her far away, for a long, long time. I don't think she would allow it to happen. Her norm is chaos. Of course, when you know that about somebody, you can't help but love them."

Fonda is upbeat throughout the book and she recalls stories about her own struggles with self-esteem, relationships and health. She has plenty to say about retirement planning; according to this fitness guru, do not abuse alcohol, try to get enough sleep, and keep exercising; these are the graceful way of retiring.

1. On Golden Pond [DVD]
2. I'm Over All That: and Other Confessions
3. My Life So Far

Quantum Physics: Illusion or Reality? (Canto)
Quantum Physics: Illusion or Reality? (Canto)
by Alastair Rae
Edition: Paperback

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An analysis of the various interpretations of quantum reality, 8 Sept. 2011
In terms of classical physics, the physical reality may be defined as matter and energy behaving according to the laws of physics in classical spacetime, and the human being is a passive observer of this reality. According to quantum physics, matter and energy behave according to the laws of quantum physics in quantized spacetime, and the human observer is an integral part of this reality: The quantum physics include consciousness as an integral part of its laws.

In this book the author discusses the deficiencies of two major interpretations of quantum physics: The Copenhagen interpretation expounded by Niels Bohr and the Many worlds' interpretation proposed by Hugh Everett III. The author also discusses a third hypothesis called the consistent histories approach. The book starts with a traditional text book style introduction to Young's double slit experiments. In a popular book such as this, it is a turn off, because an ordinary reader would like to read more about the descriptive part rather than the experimental part. Complicating this further, some chapters require reasonable knowledge of physics and mathematics and an interest in experimental physics to appreciate the subject matter.

The quantum physical problem arises from how elementary particles at the microscopic level (quantum physics) are measured from the macroscopic instruments (classical physics). In the quantum world, an elementary particle or a collection of such particles can exist in a superposition of two or more possible states of physical being. It can be in a superposition of different locations, velocities and orientations of its spin anywhere in the universe, but when we measure one of these properties we see one of the elements of the superposition, but not a combination of them. The measuring macroscopic object will not be in this superposition. How do we explain this unique world of reality emerge from the multiplicities of alternative superposed quantum states? The wave functions that represent each quantum state treat each element of the superposition as equally real (but not necessarily equally probable.)

The Schrödinger equation delineates how a quantum system's wave function will change through time. This predicts a smooth and deterministic (no randomness) change. But mathematics contradicts this when humans observe a quantum system with an instrument. At the moment of measurement, the wave function describing the superposition of all states collapse into one member of the superposition, thus interrupting the smooth evolution of the wave function and introducing discontinuity in the system. The selected state at the moment of measurement is arbitrary, and its emergence does not evolve logically from the information packed wave function of the particle. In addition, the mathematics of collapse does not emerge from the seamless flow of the Schrödinger equation, but collapse has to be added as an additional process that seems to violate the equation. This is the main argument of the Copenhagen interpretation. This approach privileges the external observer in a classical realm distinct from the quantum realm of the object observed and the nature of the boundary between the quantum and classical realms remains unclear.

The Many worlds' interpretation addresses precisely this point by merging the microscopic and macroscopic worlds, thus making the observer an integral part of the quantum system. A universal wave function links macroscopic observers and microscopic objects as a part of a single quantum system, which would introduce a discontinuity in the wave-function collapse. Conversely, if we assume the continuous evolution of wave functions is not interrupted by the act of measurement. And if the Schrödinger equation holds good even for objects and observers alike with no elements of superposition banished from reality. Under these circumstances the wave function of an observer would, in effect, bifurcate at each interaction of the observer with a superposed object. The universal wave function would contain branches for every alternative making up the object's superposition. Each branch has its own copy of the observer, a copy that perceived one of those alternatives as the outcome (resulting in multiple universes). According to a fundamental mathematical property of the Schrödinger equation, once formed, the branches do not influence one another. Thus, each branch (universe) embarks on a different future, independently of the others.

The consistent histories is based on a consistency criterion that allows the history of a system to be described such that the probabilities for each history obey the rules of classical probability while being consistent with Schrodinger's equation. It turns out that none of these theories are completely satisfactory. At the end of the book, the author expresses hope that sometime in future, quantum physics will be able to distinguish the illusion and physical realty. This is farfetched because there is a growing consensus among many physicists that the answers to the problems in quantum reality may be found in string physics such as superstring theory or brane physics, and not through the unification of quantum physics with classical physics. Some physicists even believe that the unification of the two theories with respect to the gravitational force is inherently problematic if not impossible.

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