The Structure of Scientific Revolutions

By Thomas S. Kuhn

Rating: 0 stars

I bought this book for an adult-education course on scientific paradigms which was cancelled. Since it seemed like quite a slim volume I decided to read it anyway, but found it very hard going. It’s written in a dry, academic style which I found very difficult to read more than a few paragraphs at a time of, and retained even less, so I eventually gave up, just a few chapters in. Maybe I’ll finish it someday, but I don’t hold out much hope.

Book details

ISBN: 9780226458083
Publisher: University of Chicago Press
Year of publication: 1962

The Original “Oz” Series (Oz, #1-15)

By L. Frank Baum

Rating: 0 stars

I’ve read some these, but not all. I do like the series though.

Book details

ISBN: 9780954840136
Publisher: Shoes and Ships and Sealing Wax
Year of publication: 1900

The Robert Sheckley Omnibus

By Robert Sheckley

Rating: 0 stars

It’s been a while since I read any and I’m glad to say that it’s as good as I remember. Sheckley’s promised presence at WorldCon 2005 was a major draw for me, and I’m sorry that ill health meant that he had to withdraw, just months before his death, meaning that I never got to meet him.

This volume is effectively two books in one, containing one novel, Immortality Inc. and enough short stories to form a book in their own right. I’ve always thought that Sheckley is at his strongest in short stories, so I skipped the novel and went straight there.

I don’t think I found anything that I hadn’t read before, but familiar stories like Specialist (Humanity finds its place in the co-operative community of the galaxy), Ask A Foolish Question (a device is built that can answer any question, but only if framed correctly), Pilgrimage to Earth (a colonist travels to Earth in search of true love) and many more are a joy to read and re-read.

Book details

ISBN: 9780575016774
Publisher: GOLLANCZ

Ten Technologies To Save The Planet

By Chris Goodall

Rating: 0 stars

Does exactly what it says on the tin. This book describes ten technologies that, when taken in combination, could help reduce the impact of climate change on the Earth. The technologies in question are: wind power, wave and current power, solar power, combined heat and power, super-insulated homes, electric cars, second-generation biofuels, carbon capture, biochar and sequestering carbon in soils and trees.

There’s a lot of interesting stuff here and the ways that the technologies can feed off and reinforce each other are described. Goodall is a pragmatist and although he discusses things like micro-generation of power he more or less dismisses it on the grounds that it’s just not efficient enough. Although he rejects nuclear power as one of his ten technologies, he’s quick to avoid the label of being a naive hippy, asserting instead that although all of the technologies he mentions are likely to come down in cost as the technology matures, this isn’t true of nuclear plants, whose costs has actually risen over the past 20 or so years.

I often felt a sense of frustration while reading this book – these are sensible ideas, why aren’t we don’t more to implement them? The biochar (burning organic matter into char and then turning it into the soil to increase its carbon content and usually make it better for crops) and soil sequestration ideas were particularly interesting, and cheap and easy to do as well. The problem is, as Goodall points out, political. It involves changing habits built up over many generations and especially these poorest people will need great incentives to do that such as including them in any large-scale carbon trading scheme.

In general he’s quite positive, not as doom-laden as someone like James Lovelock while not toning down the scale of the task in front of us. But we’re an inventive species, I suspect we’ll rise to the challenge. It’s not the technology that I’m that worried about, but the courage of our political leaders.

One issue that I have with the book is that there are no references at all, making it hard to read up on the technologies that are described and to ensure that Goodall isn’t talking out of his backside. That aside, this book has a lot to recommend it.

Book details

ISBN: 9781846688683
Publisher: Green Profile
Year of publication: 2008

The Colors of Space

By Marion Zimmer Bradley

Rating: 0 stars

Teenager Bart Steele is drawn into a web of mystery and murder as he tries to discover the secrets of interstellar travel and the mysterious eighth colour from the alien Lhari.

This is one of Bradley’s earliest novels and it doesn’t have any of her later feminist themes. Indeed, there’s only one minor female character who doesn’t appear until near the end of the book. But it’s still an entertaining space opera for younger readers.

Book details

ISBN: 9780898651911
Publisher: Walsworth Pub Co
Year of publication: 1963

Empire of the Stars: Friendship, Obsession and Betrayal in the Quest for Black Holes

By Arthur I. Miller

Rating: 0 stars

This pop science book tells the story of the life cycle of stars and the discovery of black holes. In particular, it focusses on the feud between Sir Arthur Eddington and Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar (Chandra). Chandra had concluded that white dwarves have a maximum mass, leading to the conclusion that a star above that mass would contract infinitely into a black hole. When he delivered a paper on this to the Royal Astronomical Society in 1935, Eddington subjected him to public humiliation and ridicule, which almost broke Chandra.

In the first part, the book goes into the background of the two protagonists and the events that led to the showdown. The second continues on from that, but takes a wider view at the science of the life cycle of stars and how it was gradually unravelled, leading eventually to the rediscovery of the black hole theory. The third part deals with Chandra’s later life, revealing a man who was embittered by his early showdown with Eddington, but one who still had a spark in him and went on to win every major science award going.

I enjoyed this book a lot, both for its biographical information, and the science. I have some elementary astronomy background which may have helped, but it seemed clearly laid out. Also, it was nice to see names which I knew off through equations and laws actually turning out to have real people behind them :-).

Book details

ISBN: 9780349116273
Publisher: Little, Brown Book Group
Year of publication: 2005

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