|The world is my idea.|
|Arthur Schopenhauer, the opening words from the book The World as Will and Representation.|
Recently in one of the reruns of the Biography channel I happened to watch the "Top 100 People of the millenium" program. Biography, being an American broadcast channel, no wonder was heavily biased. In their list about 50 were Americans. The rest come from all the world. There were the good men who changed the world by their individual ideas and works like Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Henry Ford, Alex Fleming, Einstein, Planck, villains who plundered the society and deprived the humans of their freedom like Hitler and also several useless people who for some reason were "forced" into Top 100 like Franklin Roosevelt. This was the guy who went to bed that August 8, 1945 night "completely satisfied" after hearing the news that millions died in the Nagasaki bomb blast. I wonder how different he is from Hitler in terms of atrocities committed against fellow humans. By the time they were getting towards top 1, I was sure that it would some useless guy which they would justify in some way. I was wrong. The man of the millenium is a much unknown person from Holland, without whose invention i cant imagine what we would be like- Johann Gutenberg. Good selection. At least they showed some sense finally. For those who dont know he is the inventor of printing press. In my view it is one of the greatest and at the same time worst invention of human mind in terms of its use and abuse.
Greatest in the sense that look at the way information reaches different people of the world. Books sort of revolutionized the world just like Internet is doing now. And Worst in the sense that look at the way how many trees are being cut and forest being damaged just to spread so much filthy information around the world.
Out of every 100 books printed I think only one of them is useful to mankind. Rest of them are pure filth perpetrated by useless and egoistic faces of the society. For eg, look at the horror novels of Stephen King's, unrealistic idealisms of Ayn Rand, Super Heroines of Sidney Sheldon, Advisory books for the sick kind like Sex for Dummies, How to make friends - are they useful in anyway to human society except for sickening the readers mind?
This page is one among such useless things. The only difference is, this page is stored in a magnetic form rather than a printed form.
Having said all that, here is a list of books from my growing library and a few comments on them. Dont get alarmed or annoyed by the reviews. The wise man realizes that all reviews are biased and subjective. Anybody who thinks that he is writing a perfectly objective review is a nut. One guy put that very succinctly and brilliantly. He was Arthur Schopenhauer.
|Physical and Mathemetical Sciences|
|Six Not so Easy Pieces|
|The Meaning of It All|
|QED: The Strange theory of Light|
|The Demon Haunted World|
|Emperors New Mind|
|Shadows of the Mind|
|Calculus Made Easy|
|The Elegant Universe|
|A Brief History of Time|
|Surely you are joking Mr.Feynman|
|What do you care what other people think?|
|Relativity Simply Explained|
|The Ghost in the Atom|
|The Story of Root -1|
|Encyclopaedia of Birds|
|Sexual Life in Ancient India|
|The Complete Kama Sutra|
|The Critique of Pure Reason|
|Leaves of Grass|
|The World as Will And Representation|
|Maya in Physics|
|The Story of Philosophy|
|The Best of Roald Dahl|
|Ray Bradbury Short Stories|
|O Henry Short Stories|
|A Dictionary of Modern American Usage|
|Readers Digest Reverse Dictionary|
|New York Public Library Reference Book|
Allright, you know what a butterfly is. If you are a keen biology student you may even remember that it goes through several stages of life. If I were a biologist and Hans Christian Anderson's reincarnation, I would have probably written "The Ugly Butterfly" instead of "The Ugly Duckling". Come on, ducklings are really cute, so there is no surprise if it turns out to be a beautiful swan. Are caterpillars cute? But when they turn into butterflies they really are fascinating.
Have you heard of the Butterfly effect? Here is a chance to know it. In layman terms the effect is described as "A storm can be cause or not caused in Florida depending on whether a butterfly flaps its wings in China". Sounds silly, but it may be true. Several fields are now turning up to find applications using this theory. This book is more about the history of Chaos theory than the mathematical sciences in it. But for a layman reader it is a good introduction to Chaos theory.
One of the best books on RT that I have read in recent times. The first 100 pages are worth the book's price. Brian Greene explains in easy-to-imagine examples how relativity would affect us nearing the speed light. If you know nothing about relativity but are very much inclined to know, the first 100 pages of the book is worth a read. The major theme of the book is String theory - the most elegant theory physicists have devised till now.
Light. Without those millions of photons striking your eyes from this screen, you wouldnt even be reading this article. It is no doubt that it is very strange. Richard P Feynman, one of the greatest physicists and teacher of physics of modern era, gives a unmatchable account of his Quantum electro dynamic theory. If you know Vector mathematics, you can understand light. As you start understanding light, you will just wonder whether wonders will ever cease. According to this theory, everythingin this universe is caused by or can be explained by three fundamental actions: 1. An electron absorbs photon. 2. An electron emits photon. 3. An electron moves from one orbit to another. Did I say everything? Well, almost everything is explained by this theory except that... ah the elusive gravity!
One of the lesser known books by Richard P Feynman. It mostly discusses philosophical aspects of science and Feynman's thoughts. This book was presented to me by my brother.
A book of vast knowledge that covers several aspects of Physics, Maths, Computer Science and Human mind. The author, Roger Penrose, is a brilliant mathematician of our times. His main theme is to disprove that AI can really match the human brains. Contains plenty of equations. Chapters illustrating complex numbers, fractals etc are very good. But I have never been able to complete this book. For me, whenever I am not able to sleep, I open this book and read a couple pages and buzz off. Its really soporific.
Though this books deals with the history of Root(-1), complex numbers, it contains equations in almost every page. So a math lover will not be disappointed. Whats disappointing though is, the equations are not numbered and the author frequently refers to the "previous equation", "above mentioned equation" etc and it can get very confusing. Apart from that a good book on a rare topic.
Believe me, in India, maths is taught much better than in foreign schools. The stress on Indian students is to memorize or rot all the subjects. But usually they find that they are very good in maths than compared to an average foreigner. For other sciences, I am really sad to say, we are far behind. Not much importance is given to practicals or physical training. Anyway coming back to Maths, Calculus is one of the most interesting subjects that has plenty of applications in real world. But have we really understood it from the school books? I bet that an average Indian student can do Integration and Differentiation in his sleep or even when fully drunk, but can he apply it to say aerodynamics? Though it is touted by the West that Newton is the father of Calculus (or Leibnitz, lets forget for the moment the animosity between Newton and Leibnitz), I still believe that the ancient Indian mathematicians knew Calculus much before Newton "invented" it. Anyway, this book is a very good introduction on Calculus. If you really feel that you really didnt understand Calculus at school and really want to understand it now, go for this book.
This is a fascinating book. If you are interested in astronomy, cosmology etc. you ought to read it at least once. Carl Sagan is one of the greatest scientists in recent times. His other books are Broca's Brain, The Demon Haunted World, Billions and Billions, The Pale Blue Dot.
Carl Sagan describes the development of brain in terms of evolution.
If you travel around in America or Russia, you will usually see several museums dedicated to some thing or other. Mostly it will be utterly useless. Once I went to a place called Uglich - on the banks of the great Russian river Volga. It was much touted that there is a fantastic gem museum there. I was extremely disappointed, since all I found was a few dull insignificant gems. The "golis" I used to buy for 5 paisa during my childhood days were more attractive. Now, why were they saying its a great museum? Its not their problem. Thats just marketing. They turn a worthless thing into monuments and museums and make money out of it. We Indians dont have that talent of boasting our treasures. Thats why Hampi, inspite of its great historical importance and fantastic architecture, stinks. There is no easy way to get there, forget about good accomdation. The nearest town Bellary, well, is a mass stupid place as you would have found out from recent elections. The Congress wallahs have been screwing them for 50 years and the people cheer them up by saying "Who else can screw us better than you? Thank you!".
Written from recollected memories by Puri Sankaracharya aka Bharathi Krishna Thirtha during his final days, its a very practical look into ancient Indian Mathematics. Here is a working proof of ancient Indian Mathematics. If the author is to be believed, there are several more hidden sutrascontaining wonderful insights into mathematics. Personally I think that Indian Maths and Sciences were far ahead of their time, even better than the Greeks. The only difference is the Greeks works have been preserved, while the Indian works have either been lost, destroyed or hidden by its successors. In other words, the West has discovered and accepted the Greeks while continuing to ignore the Orient. Meanwhile, the East has accepted exactly what the West says. The sciences behind the Hindu astrology, Hindu temple constructions etc. definitely define a great mathematical and physical indigenious background behind it.
For those who want to know what the universe is like, but are afraid of equations, this is a good book. Though Stephen Hawking makes some claims that are completley unjustified. Like he says that the book is "enquiry into the mind of God". I didnt quiet understand what he means by that. If God is personal, where is he? If God is impersonal, where is the mind? Sorry, Mr.Hawking, physics of the universe can be better understood from advaitic or atheistic point of view, rather than from the point of view of Son of the God.
One interesting incident he mentions is, when the Church, suddenly realizes that Bible is "lagging behind" in science, summons the physicists to advice them on the latest discoveries (so that they can change the bible text and probably use it later to spread Christianity to "poorer" countries saying Bible mentions quasars, black holes etc and hence it is scientific). And the head priest says "It is all good to discover such things. But please dont go beyond the big bang. That would be an intrusion on Gods nature". Well said Mr. Pope. 500 years ago your ancients tortured Galileo in his quest for truth. And you are still preserving the tradition.
The title says it all - "The adventures of a curious character". One of the brilliant physicists of this century he gives accounts of his amusing adventures. Makes a fantastic reading. If you never like physics before, give this book a shot.
An interesting sequel to the above book. The first part contains mostly about his early life, love life and his first wife Arlene. The second part deals with the Columbus disaster and how he solves the problem.
There is also a film made on Feynman called "Infinity". Directed and acted by Mathew Borderick. He is the guy who acts as "Inspector Gadget". The film is good, but is very slow moving.
See my review here.
After reading several novels of Robbins, Sheldon, Segal, I quit reading novels forever when I finally read Ayn Rand's Fountain Head. Thats when I found all novels are nothing but crappy imaginations of people-who-dont-have-anything-useful-to-do. Its only recently I had a chance to own and read the stories of Roald Dahl. If you like short stories, they are absolutely fascinating. If some of your friend likes reading, this is a wonderful gift to make. Some of his best are The Great Switcheroo, Genesis and Catastrophe, Mrs. Bixbie's Coat and the Adventures of Uncle Oswald - a lascivious character. Also dont forget to read The Hitchhiker - one of his fantastic short stories.
This is a guy who can send a shrill through your spine with his cruel imagination. Not the kind of horror from Hollywood films, but more subtle.
William Sydney Porter, or as he is well known as O'Henry among the literary circle, is the master of twists. You wont guess until the last line, what would be the end. (Unless you read the story backwards). Most of the stories were written when he was in prison. Its not clear why used the name O'Henry. The english words he choses are more literary than of Roald Dahl.
Candide is a revolutionary book. The battle between optimism and pessimism is just awesome. Written by Francis Marie Arouet, aka Voltaire - the man who carried the torch of French Revolution using just his pen, it is just enlightening. You have to read it to enjoy the book. No amount of review will help you feel it. If possible learn French and read the original version. (No I have not done that, but would love to someday).
N.C.Pande discusses all the modern advances of Physics like Quantum Theory etc. and tries to retrofit into the Sankara's Advaita Philosophy and has done a very good job. The book doesnt contain any religious pish-posh - but a purely scientific approach to explain Advaita. The first part of the book that discusses Physics covers most of the modern advances in Physics. If you are not convinced, some of the chapters discuss Feynman diagrams. Are you convinced now that how much science is used in the book?
The only popular book by my favorite "philosopher" - Arthur Schopenhauer. He was a born pessimist. His book is more or less a commentary on the much more acknowledged work - Critique of Pure Reason by Immanuel Kant. German, by birth he is one of the few philosophers who come close to the ideas of Upanishads. He advices us to read the book atleast twice! In fact in his forward he says "...if I say, the reader has also already received and assimilated the divine inspiration of the ancient Indian wisdom from the Upanishads, then he is best of all prepared to hear what I have to say to him...". The most striking aspect of the book is, in complete contrast to Kants work, is its straightforwardness. Arthur starts the book with the sentence: "The world is my idea". You may call it arrogant, but thats the truth. The world exists for us, only as long as we exist. He was against the Christian missionaries who try to spend their time spreading Christianty to the East. He says "Its futile to attempt to challenge the wisdom of Hinduism and Buddhism. All our charges against it are like bullets hitting a cliff". He called his dog "Atma".
I tried to find this book when I was in Germany in original untranslated version but couldnt find in local book stores where I stayed.
Johann Jacob Meyer quotes from various Sanskrit texts including Mahabharatha and Ramayana and gives an account of the position of women, sexual practices, motherhood, midwifery etc in ancient Indian society.
Swami Vivekananda called Walt Whitman "The American Rishi". Indeed he is. The only poet I have ever read (apart from the school texts, which I had forgotten the next day after exams), Whitman gives an impression from his poems that he might probably have been an ancient Indian Rishi in his previous incarnations. The Song of Myself, if ever translated to Sanskrit, would probably look like that it is a commentary on Upanishads - some thing like Vivekachudamani.