Saturday, February 12, 2005

Suggested Reading (Warning: Non-Political Content Ahead)

This blog is about politics, and I'm a conservative (I know, you would have never guessed it). I'm guessing most of you are here because you, too, care about politics and conservatism. I'm going to get even bolder with my predictions now: I'm willing to bet you care about other things, too. So do I! Small world, isn't it?

One of my other interests is the fascinating intersection of science, mathematics, and philosophy (wait, don't click away yet! - darn, lost half of you already!). The more you find out about these topics, the more they seem to converge (and I'm not going to get into this here, but I find their convergence to be strong evidence of a Higher Being - you know, what us red-state hicks sometimes call 'God'). I'm no specialist in any of the above, so I look for good mass-market books aimed at the general reader. Here's a few that I've found to be very good reads:
  1. The Making of the Atomic Bomb, by Richard Rhodes: One of the great works of nonfiction, this truly remarkable book covers the scientific, military, and economic background of the Manhattan Project, but it also serves as a fascinating primer on the men and ideas that made nuclear energy a reality.
  2. Godel, Escher, & Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid by Douglas Hofstadter: an early look at articial intelligence research by an advocate, but much more than that - an astonishing tour de force of erudition that is really quite unique.
  3. The Emperor's New Mind: Concerning Computers, Minds, and the Laws of Physics by Roger Penrose: Penrose, a frequent collaborator of Stephen Hawkings, wrote this partially in response to Godel, Escher, & Bach. He argues that there is a quality of the mind, yet to be fully understood, that makes artificial intelligence impossible on any meaningful level, and further, that only the discovery of the bridge between quantum and classical physics will provide insight into that elusive quality. A tough read at times, but worth the effort.
  4. Everything and More: A Compact History of Infinity, by David Foster Wallace: at times muddled, in typical Wallace style, with footnotes everywhere, this short book is nevertheless loads of fun and never boring.
  5. A Tour of the Calculus, by David Berlinski: the very mention of 'calculus' is enough to make most people's eyes glaze over, but Berlinski is a heckuva writer, and he stays focused on the revolutionary nature of the calculus: without it, we'd have no real way to understand the concept of continuity and curves.
That's enough for now; I don't want to try your patience. If you find yourself bored on a rainy day, you could do a lot worse than picking up one of these.

And now, back to your regularly scheduled blog...

No comments: