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What have you been reading?
Posted: 03 June 2010 12:05 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 16 ]
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Uncommon Sense: The Heretical Nature of Science by Alan Cromer

It’s hard to describe this book without making it sound dull, but the way he weaves history, science, math and psychology to make his case is fascinating.  For those like me with short attention spans, the book is pretty short and changes topics frequently. You can check out the first 26 pages here:

http://books.google.com/books?id=8cT2C87tb-sC&printsec=frontcover&dq=uncommon+sense&source=bll&ots=FXTqcIArSN&sig=lg7nuhy4UlNDPd1oot_P9poj94c&hl=en&ei=ivMHTLW_E4OB8gag4_ioAQ&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=11&ved=0CEUQ6AEwCg#v=onepage&q&f;=false

Here’s a review I ripped off from Amazon:

I found this book a paridigm shifter. It will permantly alter your thinking about the puzzle of why seemingly rational people will accept irrational attitudes. The author suggests that the rise of the “scientific method” was a (happy) historical accident that we owe to the greeks.

His experience as a physics teacher is used as an example of the difficulty in weening people away from subjective thinking. The central idea of this book is that objective thinking is a learned skill that does not come naturally to humans. While this may seem inherently pessimistic it seems to me more realistic than ignoring a major educational problem.

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Posted: 02 October 2010 04:18 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 17 ]
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Stuff I’ve been reading:

A Struggle For Power

A very well praised account of the American Revolution. Draper is known for his journalistic reporting of first line documents. He is generally reported as being “pitiless” in his accounts. If he found it, he printed it with no character protection or alteration. I’ve heard from more than one historian that this is the definitive book on the revolution, I just got it used from the Toronto library for like $2. It is a little dense and he keeps the period spelling in the direct quotes in the name of accuracy, but it gets irritating real quick. Example:

“Am Sorry to Se[e] and hear of Soe much Slightt and contemptt he metes with; that as poore as I am would nott for the province undergoe the Same.”

After a paragraph of that your head hurts, you just can’t divorce yourself from tripping over what to you, is a spelling error. I’ll deal with it in the name of a fresh perspective on one of my favorite topics.

Other stuff I’m reading:

Thomas Jefferson Author of America.

A really great and short telling of Jefferson’s life. An easy read and well worth it. This is the book that got me into Christopher Hitchens, prior to this I thought we was just a slick debater, but the guy is a tier 1 intellectual. I’ve been very impressed with his work and life experience.

Although of Course You End Up Becoming Yourself

This book is just interviews with the author David Foster Wallace. Who wrote the book Infinite Jest. Generally considered to be one of the greatest authors of the 20th century and committed suicide while still a young man. This book follows him up until a few months before his death. I’ve always been interested in DFW.

The Trail of Henry Kissenger

Another Hitchens book. Basically he digs into HK’s involvement with all of the U.S. wetwork in other countries without declaration of war and links Kissinger to all of it. He is pretty much advocating he be brought up on war crimes charges.

The God Delusion

Pretty self-explanitory. I kind of just pick and plod through this one. He is preaching to the choir after all.

Hitch 22

Just finished Christopher Hitchens’ autobiography. I’ve just been locked on the guy lately. Especially after he got diagnosed with esophageal cancer. He will likely die soon, and I just wanted to know more about him while he is still alive. His story is pretty amazing.

The Greatest Benefit to Mankind

This is a comprehensive medical history of humanity. I can never escape some sort of medical reading. I find the subject enthralling.

So if you couldn’t tell, I’m an ADD reader. I carry a book with me for a few days, and as soon as I find myself trudging through it, or mentally over-saturated, I swap to a different book. On the weekends I’ll jump around from book to book and take notes on especially interesting stuff.

I’ve reverted back to my old ways. I used to never have a TV and I would read all the time. Now the my roomate has one of the biggest TV’s on the market, I’m back to my old ways. I did have a few months of getting wrapped up in the warm glow, but it got old. I will admit to looking forward to the show House being back on. It is the one show I follow avidly. I also hang out in the evening with my room mate and watch a little TV to be social. But in 98% of my free time, its all books. Kind of strange, I thought the TV had me again. 

-RC

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Posted: 19 October 2010 07:38 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 18 ]
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This study claims that 3 year old children are very credulous of spoken assertions by adults.
http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/10/101014154755.htm

This warrior gene was mentioned on Law & Order: UK.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Monoamine_oxidase_A

The University of Arizona makes planets photographable.
http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/10/101015105935.htm

The blue shift from the “bad” sort of dark energy - that is incompatible with general relativity but is none the less popular - is not found.
http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/06/100613212708.htm

Michael J. Burns

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Posted: 12 December 2010 03:44 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 19 ]
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Quantum Gravity by Lee Smolin

This book represents a high state of art in academic physics. But I am still capable of alarm at the lack of insight into curved spacetime that is prevailing there. Why is three sets of field lines considered sufficient to represent a gravitational field? That breaks compliance with the principle of general covariance. Four sets are needed, and they must be orthogonal partitions that are second order and covariant, not contravariant lines.

Professor Smolin is due credit for his interest in topos theory. This sort of logic - with a dependence on context - is indeed a tool and subject needed for understanding new physics. It makes a start on the physics of symbolism. Even so, traditional logic can be made to emulate some of this content.

But the fiber bundle representation of fields once again appeals to the wrong tensor rank. And parts of the bundle representation are likely the orthogonal dual of what is required. This representation even identifies mass and not Kaluza-Klein charge as the composite entity.


Michael J. Burns

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Posted: 10 January 2011 02:20 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 20 ]
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“The American Prison” by William Alexander Patterson

This is an extended essay by Alex (my publisher). It is included in his book of selected works that is published under the publishers mark that he founded himself - Citizens House Publishers. It does not concern prisons in America, but instead the constraining aspects of society and culture in America - he writes as a passionate ex-patriot.

This extended essay is a jaw-dropping combination of passion, free association structure, advanced grammar and terminology, metaphor, analysis, and focus. Heavy artillery is much too mild of a comparison to represent his work here.

http://www.citizenshouse.com/


Michael J. Burns

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Posted: 22 January 2011 10:04 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 21 ]
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Just completed:

All The Devils Are Here:  The Hidden History of the Financial Crisis by Bethany McLean and Joe Nocera.

Present at the Creation by Amir Aczel.

Freakonomics
.

Atlantic by Simon Winchester is in waiting.

 Signature 

“The present age ... prefers the sign to the thing signified, the copy to the original, fancy to reality, the appearance to the essence ... for in these days illusion only is sacred, truth profane.”

Feuerbach

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Posted: 26 August 2011 01:34 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 22 ]
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http://hajoonchang.net/

I watched the talk by Professor Ha-Joon Chang on Book TV just now. I thought that I knew about market failure theory, but he threatens to break the entire theory of a free market in his book, “23 Things They Don’t Tell You About Capitalism”. He points out that the classical economist, Richardo, wrote in the 19th century that the accumulation of wealth by the landed gentry was insufficient for economic growth. A government policy on investment was an apparent necessity even then.


Michael J. Burns

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Posted: 03 October 2011 02:23 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 23 ]
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http://blog.vixra.org/2011/09/19/can-neutrinos-be-superluminal/#comment-11088

Scott Gray, writing as AZSquib, has discovered the problem with the neutrino experiment that was publicized last month. The timestamping of neutrino events was incorrectly designed and the error analysis was grossly incomplete. The timestamping was effectively dependent on standard Ethernet crystals and circuits that possessed specifications inadequate for the task and were never calibrated. A master clock was present but used ineffectively.


Michael J. Burns

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Posted: 11 October 2011 09:38 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 24 ]
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http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/08/science/08fukuyama.html?pagewanted=all

“The Origin of Political Order”, by Professor Francis Fukuyama, seems (to me) to make fundamental points. It is an ongoing struggle to suppress older methods of government: personal vengeance, gangs, tribes, priesthoods, war gods, and nepotism, as well as the graft, bribery and patronage that are very lively threats now.

http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/blogs/national-affairs/a-history-of-americas-eleven-nations-20111006

“American Nations”, by Colin Woodard, identifies me as a citizen of Yankeedom, a secular puritan who sees government as a serious contributor to an ideal society. Maybe the nation competing for sovereignty over Grand Rapids is the Midlands, where emotional and intellectual detachment from government is the norm.

http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2011/09/14/a_dictators_handbook_for_the_president?page=0,0

“The Dictator’s Handbook”, by Professors Bruce Bueno de Mesquita and Alastair Smith, expounds on the stability of systems other than democracies. President Obama’s inclusive coalition is a fairly fragile accident of history.

[ Edited: 17 November 2011 10:25 AM by mburns ]
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Posted: 25 December 2011 03:37 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 25 ]
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“The Authoritarians” by Bob Altemeyer

http://home.cc.umanitoba.ca/~altemey/

Daddict referred me to this book. It gives the plainest possible description of right wing authoritarian followers as dominated in their behavior by a father complex. Their leaders are driven instead by an Oedipal complex. Professor Altemeyer presents statistical correlations of these categories that he says are unusually high. He identifies authoritarianism as a deeper category than fundamentalist religion, although he reports that both are shared across the different world religions.

Of course the Professor does not use the psychoanalytic terms; he claims explanatory power anyway without appealing to that unifying analysis. He even repeats the rhetorical move by Karl Popper that blames psychoanalysis for reporting on elements of human character that can not be easily captured in a survey interview. The phenomenon of reaction formation is Popper’s example, but is there anyone not caught up in die-hard resistance to dispute that reaction formation can be treated in the course of several interviews? Lets not join Oedipus Rex and other authoritarians in banishing the messenger.


Michael J. Burns

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Posted: 25 December 2011 05:11 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 26 ]
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“Keynes Hayek: The Clash That Defined Modern Economics” by Nicholas Wapshott

https://sites.google.com/site/wapshottkeyneshayek/home/nicholas-wapshott-keynes-hayek-book-extract

There is a sect of Hayek, that I think is discernible more today than in past decades. There are many true believers, but also leaders who are only interested in the cover that the argument of Hayek provides for their self interested pursuits.

The power, I say, of the discovery by Keynes (of the nature and existence of chronic disequilibrium in the labor market) actually lies in the nonlinear and positive feedback mathematics that mandate this kind of disequilibrium.

Hayek has no counter to this mathematics that predicts high unemployment rates. He only makes a declaration of faith that full employment will be eventually regained, but mathematics implies at best a random walk wandering away from the mark. (There is a phantom thought here of famine finally reducing the work force to match the work.) Hayek impunes the efficiency of government intervention in the national economy, but the evidence of harm caused by austerity programs is to the contrary. Europe is probably now headed for trouble due to the imposition of austerity.


Michael J. Burns

[ Edited: 25 December 2011 05:22 PM by mburns ]
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Posted: 28 July 2012 07:37 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 27 ]
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http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/07/120726112729.htm

Actinobacteria as the Base of the Evolutionary Tree

[ Edited: 03 August 2012 12:21 AM by mburns ]
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Posted: 03 August 2012 12:32 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 28 ]
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The May Discover magazine has a piece on the seven moods shared by mammals: Dr. Jaak Panksepp has traced the physiology of SEEKING, RAGE, FEAR, LUST, CARE, PANIC/GRIEF, and PLAY.

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Posted: 21 September 2012 07:02 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 29 ]
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Humans gained the ability to thrive on vegetables quite late in their history. Then they could migrate away from the lake shores in Africa.

http://www.plosone.org/article/info:doi/10.1371/journal.pone.0044926

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Posted: 10 October 2012 01:01 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 30 ]
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This essay by Eric Michael Johnson that is critical of libertarian political philosophy does well. There are other reports that I have seen recently that that remark on the racism of Ayn Rand and Ron Paul.

http://www.slate.com/articles/health_and_science/human_evolution/2012/10/groups_and_gossip_drove_the_evolution_of_human_nature.single.html

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