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Arbie's Unoriginally Titled Book Blog

It's a blog! Mainly of book reviews.

Currently reading

Charles Darwin: A New Life
John Bowlby
Progress: 204/527 pages
An Introduction to Magnetohydrodynamics
P.A. DAVIDSON, E.J. Hinch, S.H. Davis, Mark J. Ablowitz
Progress: 27/452 pages
Ursula K. Le Guin: The Complete Orsinia: Malafrena / Stories and Songs (The Library of America)
Brian Attebery, Ursula K. Le Guin
Progress: 359/700 pages
Plasma physics
R.A. Cairns
Progress: 4/244 pages
Selected Short Stories - Conrad (Wordsworth Classics)
Keith Carabine, Joseph Conrad
Progress: 37/272 pages
A Student's Guide to Lagrangians and Hamiltonians
Patrick Hamill
Progress: 7/180 pages
Complete Poems, 1904-1962
E.E. Cummings
Progress: 108/1102 pages
The Complete Plays and Poems
E.D. Pendry, J.C. Maxwell, Christopher Marlowe
She Stoops to Conquer and Other Comedies (Oxford World's Classics)
Henry Fielding, David Garrick, Oliver Goldsmith
Progress: 76/448 pages
Shakespeare and the Goddess of Complete Being
Ted Hughes
Progress: 367/517 pages
Einstein: His Life And Universe - Walter Isaacson

This is an incredibly well researched, detailed account of all aspects of Einstein's life, personal, scientific and political that I can highly recommend to anybody interested. I learned heaps I didn't know and had the record set straight on a number of points, mainly regarding Einstein's political views, how they changed over time and his level of support for setting up the Manhattan Project.


I read the book with a specific research agenda, which was to independently form an opinion as to whether Einstein was autistic, an idea not first suggested by me and not on the author's mind either. Conclusion: Yep, autisticker than an autistic person with autism.


Towards the end there is an account of how Einstein was affected by and responded to McCarthyism. He was opposed, seeing in it the oppression of free speech and free thought characteristic of both Fascism and Communism. The author takes the view that McCarthyism was a passing fad, doomed to fail in the long term because of the greatness of the American Constitution. I found this level of complacency offensive to all the victims of McCarthy, all the people who spoke up in defense of freedoms and all the people who defended the constitution legally.


On it's own the constitution is nothing; without those people willing to risk reputation, career, even liberty, would McCarthyism have been a "passing fad"? Given the current political situation, we need such people more than ever. You disappoint me in this, Isaacson. Einstein, who used his world famous name to stand up for moderation, tolerance and freedom of thought and speech, does not.


Still, overall an excellent book.

Reading progress update: I've read 395 out of 675 pages.

Einstein: His Life And Universe - Walter Isaacson

Einstein was famously a pacifist but I did not know how publicly outspoken he was about it.

Reading progress update: I've read 326 out of 675 pages.

Einstein: His Life And Universe - Walter Isaacson

There was a private campaign to prevent Einstein being awarded a Nobel Prize. This seems to have been variously motivated by 1. a bias towards experimentalists 2. an old-timer scepticism of Special (let alone General) Relativity 3. anti-Semitism.


This explains why the photo-electric effect was cited when Einstein eventually won in 1922.

Information Theory, James Stone

Information Theory: A Tutorial Introduction - James V. Stone

Eggzellent stuff!



What a great intro to a subject I found fascinating and is widely applicable: Digital communications, computing, neuro-science and other biological sciences, linguistics (a favourite) and then there's my secret application that made me want to read the book in the first place...but you won't find it in the book. There is a proper glossary of technical terms, something that long term readers of my reviews know I think is essential and yet all too frequently absent. There are also appendices on various topics in probability and statistics that are relevant and you may be unfamiliar with or in need of a quick refresher about. This is also good textbook writing, in my view, as is including XKCD cartoons (with permission). The latter are even relevant!


I found it straightforward to follow what was going on despite having been solidly rebuffed by my previous encounters with the subject. I think this is mainly because some opaque terminology is properly and thoroughly defined and explained and put into a practical context as soon as possible. I strongly recommend this if you ever have a need to learn the basics of the subject and thanks to whomever recommended it to me!

Reading progress update: I've read 185 out of 260 pages.

Information Theory: A Tutorial Introduction - James V. Stone

Stone says there is an energy limit (Landauer's Limit) below which acquiring information is impossible. This 0.693 Joules/bit. This apparently contradicts Feynman in his Lectures on Computation. The solution; Landauer's limit applies only to IRREVERSIBLE computations, where-as Feynman is talking about REVERSIBLE computing.

Reading progress update: I've read 288 out of 675 pages.

Einstein: His Life And Universe - Walter Isaacson

Einstein and General Relativity in the 1920s came under attack from German anti-Semitic Nationalists; "Jewish science" was somehow intrinsically, morally wrong. Recently, Harper, a right-wing pro-business, sod the environment nightmare, banned Canadian government employees (including scientists) from discussing climate change. The same has happened under Trump. I believe some science and scientists were repressed/persecuted under Stalin, also. The number of religious movements that deny all or some science is beyond easy count. There seems to be some connection between fervid Nationalist/Authoritarian/Totalitarian/Religious extremist thought that simply attempts to deny our best understanding of reality if it contradicts or inconveniences it and to impose this fake world-view on everyone else. It should rings as many alarm bells as loudly as those now sounding about blatant or more subtle anti-feminist, racist, Nationalist, militaristic, hetero-normative, trans-discriminatory policies and attitudes we are daily confronted with.


I would like to confirm that my view on Stalin is correct as I can't conjure any definite examples, it's just a vague notion that I've come across evidence of it before. I'd really like to hear from you if know of any supporting or contradictory evidence.


I'd also like to hear views on my thesis that science routinely comes into conflict with extreme views simply because it is the most balanced and sceptical world view humanity as ever invented.

Reading progress update: I've read 254 out of 675 pages.

Einstein: His Life And Universe - Walter Isaacson

Incredibly, possibly too, detailed. More interesting when talking about Einstein's work than his love life - which opinion probably says more about me than about Einstein.

Simply Dirac, Helge Kragh

Simply Dirac (Great Lives) - Helge Kragh

This is a brief introduction to Dirac's life and work. It's plain and day that he was autistic (probably had Asperger's Syndrome). It's also a shame he isn't more famous; his work on quantum theory has been extraordinarily influential, bringing field theories of fundamental interactions to dominance and inspiring popular and increasingly well supported ideas about cosmology (Inflation theories).


The book is unreliable regarding the state of current physical theory, suggesting that both electro-weak-strong unification and the cause of matter-antimatter abundance asymmetry are both correct and understood. Neither is the case. As far as I know the parts about Dirac's science are correct however, and hopefully the same is true of the biographical details.

Reading progress update: I've read 138 out of 260 pages.

Information Theory: A Tutorial Introduction - James V. Stone

I'm finding this to be an excellent intro to the field.

Reading progress update: I've read 1077 out of 1344 pages.

The Complete Works (Oxford Shakespeare) - William Shakespeare, John Jowett, Gary Taylor I worked out at the beginning of the year that to finish the Complete Works this year I would have to read 2/3 play/month. Since I have so far read >1.5 plays, I am actually ahead of schedule!

Reading progress update: I've read 96 out of 675 pages.

Einstein: His Life And Universe - Walter Isaacson

In stark contrast to that other "book", this is a well written, thoroughly researched, properly referenced, detailed account of Einstein's life.

Albert Einstein, by An Incomptent

Albert Einstein: The Life of a Genius - Jack Steinberg



This is like a bad wikipedia article written by an non-native English speaker with no training in any form of professional writing. The phrasing is bad. The material is disorganised, unreferenced, superficial and looks as if it has been culled from a bunch of secondary sources without acknowledgement. Every paragraph is followed by an acre of white space to no purpose except, perhaps, a failed attempt to disguise how short the work is. I abandoned it on p11.


A note at the back says, "Printed by Amazon." This book re-enforces all the bad stereotypes about self published works. I am kicking myself for not taking the time to check the nature of this piece properly before purchase. I feel ripped off.

Reading progress update: I've read 38 out of 160 pages.

The Earliest English Poems - Michael     Alexander, Various

Deor; A series of misfortunes retold, that could well have been a song lyric.

Reading progress update: I've read 92 out of 260 pages.

Information Theory: A Tutorial Introduction - James V. Stone

Yep; looks like I can use Mutual Information if I can obtain an appropriate table of probabilities of input and output for the system I have in mind. I need to check more thoroughly if anything like it has been done before. Pretty exciting!

Reading progress update: I've read 199 out of 320 pages.

Feynman Lectures On Computation - Robin W. Allen, J.G. Hey, Anthony Hey, David Pines, Richard P. Feynman

The chapter on how to design a quantum computer is even more conceptually demanding than that on reversible computers. No-one without a working knowledge of quantum mechanics will get beyond the introductory passages that essentially repeat earlier material.

Reading progress update: I've read 1073 out of 1344 pages.

The Complete Works (Oxford Shakespeare) - William Shakespeare, John Jowett, Gary Taylor

The initiating plot element has been completely disposed of, already; no idea where this is going now!