Walnut Creek, CA, United States | Member Since 2002
These stories are all modern, somewhat dark, explorations into the meaning of the mind, emotions, belief, and will. As such, the language, situations and characters may be quite off-putting to many. Question such as how malleable are our deepest desires and is romantic love simply a chemical reaction may be uncomfortable questions to explore. I don’t mind uncomfortable and found these stories fascinating, thought provoking and enjoyable. None of these stories were predicable, commonplace, or simplistic (the most common sins of the short story). The author’s narration is excellent, bringing subtle emotions to the unusual characters in unfamiliar situations. Sometimes the characters are talking fast, so the listener has to be attentive. Many of the stories border on science fiction but remain firmly literary explorations. I would not recommend these stories for young/pre-teens or the faint of heart. This is probably not the best book you will read this year, but it is a good listen if you appreciate looking at all sides of human emotions.
The author attempts to present some basic principles of science, then explains his Authorized Version of Reality (a history of science), then explains some of the various cutting edge physics theories (multiverse, string theory, mathematic universe) and attempts to demonstrate these theories are unscientific.
The author presents six principles of science; Reality is a Meta-Physical concept; Facts are inherently based on a Theory; Theory formation is complex and intuitive and often involves hidden assumptions; A scientific theory must be testable, but sometimes failure of a test just leads to adjustment of assumptions; Scientific Truth is transient; and finally Humans are not privileged observers.
The book presents a history of physics and cosmology in a reasonable but uninspired way. There are a lot of books that present this stuff. I found this version somewhat dry, with no excitement, very little (or amazingly dry) humor, no insightful explanations, and no unifying theme.
The author, while presenting his Authorized Version of Reality, doesn’t seem to accept it deeply. He makes subtle, yet telling, mistakes. Like the atomic electron wave function giving a probability of where the elector is. That is not what the theory says. Instead the wave function is the probability of an interaction occurring somewhere if we look. This seems similar, but is quite fundamentally different, the first presumes the existence of an electron when it is not observed, the other does not. The author makes several such misstatements, each time subtly and incorrectly assuming the existence of unobserved particles. This is not the Authorized Version. Instead this is a physicist who thinks classically attempting to explain, and persuade about, non-classical physics.
The author also seems biased when referring to theories he likes as “discovered”, and theories he does not like as “proposed”. Again this seemed telling (and a bit funny).
Baggott does not seem to like (or understand) the Mathematical Universe of Max Tegmark. He basically calls Tegmark stupid and suggests he shut up. I just finished Tegmark’s book and found Tegmark’s history of physics and descriptions of why physicists feel the need to introduce multiverses significantly more interesting than Baggott’s. Not to mention Tegmark’s theory of a Mathematical Universe which seems both obvious and brilliant. Bagott’s refutation of the Mathematical Universe is that it does not make sense to him.
I largely agree with Baggott about non-testable aspects of multiuniverses and string-theory, but this was covered better in Smolin’s The Trouble with Physics.
Baggott seems to fear that a generation of theorists may lose their way on these paths of fairy tale physics. They may. So what? 99.9% of theorist are always on the wrong path 99.9% of the time. The final theory of everything is more likely to come from an outsider (like Einstein) anyway.
It seems to me Baggott does not realize that sticking with his Authorized Version of Reality and the historical scientific method is unlikely to make progress in our current environment. I believe the world has been poised on the edge of a final theory of everything for nearly a hundred years. Only the abandonment of some absolutely fundamental aspect(s) of his Authorized Version of Reality will lead to progress. Theorist must think outside this box. Which of the fundamental aspects must go? How far is too far? We may be quite surprised when it happens.
Of course I have seen the movie and loved the subtle story and Audrey Hepburn and Moon River, but I never noticed the story was written by Truman Capote. An Audible banner ad pointed this out and got me to order this short novel. It was great. Narrated wonderfully by Michael C Hall (Dexter and Six Feet Under) this novel is more enjoyable than the movie. But this is a rare case where you should see the movie first. Having Audrey Hepburn in your head while reading this is definitely not a bad thing. The writing is beautiful, with full and interesting characters and a story that is subtle yet extravagant. I have always appreciated Capote’s writing, and appreciate it even more now. This is a book I will likely come back to, and share with others.
If you like gossip and seamy stories of wild, violent, dirty, sexual, drug infused behavior with respectful references to wise-guys and some cooking professionals you may be quite entertained by this book. If you are an aspiring chef, don’t waste your time, unless you aspire to make good money as the boss of a huge, good (yet run-of-the-mill) two star NYC restaurant. If you love eating in restaurants (especially swordfish, mussels, bread, or just about anything else) and you are the least bit squeamish or impressionable don’t read this book. Many reviewers seem to find the references to violence, the mob, drugs, crime, and dick jokes colorful. I found it mostly tedious. At one point the author stabs a guy for patting his butt. The whole thing had a weird vibe of intense insecurity, fierce mediocrity, and homophobia.
There are a few nice bits. These were: The story of Bourdain’s first oyster (sweet); the very brief comments on equipment for the serious home cook (see instead a free trial of Cooks Illustrated dot com); the short bit of does and don’ts of eating out; and the section on Scott Bryan (a successful and truly creative chef that does everything exactly the opposite of Bourdain).
I love restaurants and chefs as well as home cooking. Give me Scott Bryan, or Jacques Pépin or Julia Childs any day. Bourdain is (I presume deliberately so as to make money) provocative in his writing, which I think is counter-productive. He suggests not eating swordfish, mussels, and some other stuff. Arg. Swordfish is good. Mussels are good. Ten minutes of research would have resolved his issues with swordfish; a nose & sending it back will protect you from bad mussels.
The writing style is quite approachable and conversational and (at times) passionate but is loaded with clichés and other unpolished bits that drove me nuts. My favorite cliché was “needless to say”. OK if it is needless then don’t waste my time saying it. The writer has a Henry V style youth, but seems never to make the transition to maturity. Instead he changes just barely enough to find a nitch of survival with some achievement but seems not quite happy and does not quite excel. Bourdain (since this writing) seems to have become exactly what, he says in this book, he hates.
The synchronized illustrations worked great on the iPhone and iPad. This is a very nice little bedtime story with very nice illustrations and very simple bedtime focused story. I personally like a bedtime story with a bit more of a message, nevertheless this is an excellent book for a sleepy child, particularly one who has been having bad dreams, or is scared of the monster in the closet. The narration is wonderful as are the illustrations that are displayed as the story plays. NOTE this is only 5 minutes and 69 cents so don’t use a book credit!
Excellent narration is the cap to the fascinating and enjoyable novel. As much as I enjoyed this novel, I can see that many people would really not appreciate it. This is largely an inner stream of consciousness and there are a lot of four letter words and frank thoughts about sex and death. In the first chapter involving a death from cancer I was literally laughing and crying and nauseated and uplifted at the same time. I don’t mean alternately, I mean at the very same instant. This is pretty unusual writing. I was thinking Gen-X meets James Joyce. The characters, even some very minor characters, are quite well presented. If you want a story where the protagonist faces adversity only to take heart and overcome, you might not want this book (but maybe you should read it anyway). The characters do change, but not in pat ways, instead in the ways people really change. The protagonist is often not very likeable, yet he is human and the beauty of his existence sporadically flashes through. I am nearly as far as it gets from being a Gen-Xer but I really liked this book. The narration more than does justice to the text, shouting and crying, mumbling and enunciating when the writing called for it.
I love science and I am quite happy reading science history and biography, so I am not quite sure why we need modestly good fiction with a science bent. These are a few weakly linked short stories each with a science back-story. The best story, by far, was the last, and namesake story, Archangel. This story had more depth and strength of character than the other stories, and made the rest of the listen worth the time. The other stories are just fine, but are a bit simplistic in story and characterization. The science is mildly interesting and at a level approachable by anyone, but this does not overcome the weaknesses in most of the stories.
This is a quite academic and high level lectures on world history which tries to treat all countries equally, but ends up covering everything from such a high level as to separate the history from the humanity. This breaks up history into periods with clear themes and historical theoretical models are proposed and argued. There are virtually no readings from original texts, no quotes of historical figures, and very few specific examples of historical activity to bring the history being discussed to life. There was very little actual analysis of why things happened the way they did. There were tiny references to Germs, Guns and Steel and the like, but so superficial as to be almost funny. I like history a lot, but this kind of history leaves me cold. For me the best history is a thoughtful non-auto biography, the next best is a thoughtful treatment of an event or movement or time of change, less good are chronological histories of a country, this history was of everything (which became largely a history of nothing).
There were a few moments of interest, but far too few. The lecturer makes many references to “quite interesting” stories, people and events, but does not waste any time on these interesting things, instead he must continue to describe the very broad thrusts of history (of course giving equal time to every culture and every country an award for effort). I really like alternative histories and histories from non-western perspectives, but I want history that is rich with ideas and art and action and sweat and blood and greed and passion with quotes and poetry, art and science, examples and quantities.
I find “Uh”, “OK”, and “Alright” thrown in audio books really quite annoying. Each of these ‘OK” and “Alrights” seemed to me to say “there, I have finished that section, not great, but let’s move on.”
This is not really bad, just really not my thing. It reminds me of any average college world history class needed to meet the general-ed requirement. I did finish it, and it did not put me to sleep, but I certainly would not recommend it or listen to it again.
This is a very positive story with heart and love and friendship, family and community, fear and courage, hugs and kisses, dogs, and an uplifting ending. It is heartwarming, yet ultimately quite hollow. Stories that deeply move people, and make a real difference, must possess balance, with realistic fear or pain or loss to make the positive aspects truly powerful. This is a written for a young audience, but that does not justify saccharin. Kids can appreciate, and actually need, this balance.
There was one brief interlude by the character Miranda that borders on some realistic balance. I wish the rest of the book had the real heart glimpsed in these few pages.
I had hoped this would be a powerful, moving, and transformative story; instead it is a simplistic positive story.
Great ideas and great narration makes this a great audio book. The last quarter of this book has some of the most interesting ideas in physics I have heard. I think these ideas are, by far, the most likely to lead to progress in physics. The first three-quarters is good, but is just a nice rehash similar to a bunch of other speculative physics books covering a brief history of cosmology leading to the theory of inflation and various levels of multiple universes, Boltzmann brains and such, finally culminating in the Measure Problem (one cannot assign consistent probabilities to infinite sets). Then the book gets really interesting! The author proposes that math does not model the universe, but that math IS the universe. The relations defined by a mathematical structure is all that is needed for us to believe all we see and feel is real. Nothing physical is needed. I really thought I was alone in being a strong proponent of this Mathematical Universe idea, so I have quite pleasantly surprised to find this excellent presentation. I was led to my conclusions by a much different path (Bell’s Theorem & Bell Test Experiments) and take these ideas to even greater extremes than Tegmark, but this is the best (the only?) popular presentations of these ideas I have seen.
It may just be awkward editing or just these ideas are heady stuff, but by the end of the book Tegmark seems a bit schizophrenic. He seems to reject continuums and infinities and randomness as unreal (which is what I think), but then he continues to refer to, and use, these as if they were real. Also a good new model in fundamental physics should address multiple issues in physics, but Tegmark does not use his ideas of the Mathematical Universe to clarify the understanding of quantum mechanics (particularly Bell’s Theorem) and the problem linking General Relativity and Quantum mechanics. I think Tegmark underestimated the depth of the Measure Problem. The underlying problem is in any reality, it is simply not possible to take a random sample from an infinite set. Thus any assignment of probability to such constructs is nonsense. Tegmark seems to still be hoping for a resolution of the Measure Problem.
The author has a really pleasant way of covering the history of cosmology, making the story like a mystery novel, using detective work to explain one mystery after another. Yet what makes this book really worth reading is the last quarter where the ideas about the Mathematical Universe are explored. I suspect that in a few hundred years the conception of the Mathematical Universe will be considered the great turning point leading to a final, simple and beautiful, Theory of Everything.
I hope many people listen to these first two in the series to encourage Audible to get the rest. This is the second of The Story of Civilization series covering the history of Greece. I had read this in hardback and listened to it on cassette many years ago but enjoyed it every bit as much this third time. The narration annoyed me a bit when I started to listen, it seemed way too slow, but as the book gathered steam and ideas were flying at my head faster than I could cope, I came to appreciate the slower pace. The narration is still slightly dry for my tastes, but after an hour or so I really found the writing came through nicely.
The author’s tone is really pleasant, making the history human and approachable, ribald, and interesting. This material is perhaps a bit better known that almost every other volume in the series, but I (re)learned more on this third go through than I learn from most books. The material comes from a very western perspective and was written in the forties thus is sometime dated both in research and in political correctness. Nevertheless this is worthwhile reading for almost any adult reader. At over 32 hours this book seemed unbelievably short. This is a sit in your car in the parking lot to finish the chapter good book. After just finishing the first two at over 80 hours, one might think I would be ready for a break from history, but instead I am in a funk at having to wait for the next volume not yet in Audible format.
Some dislike the thematic instead of chronological approach to history, but I much prefer it. This story follows the trails of events and ideas and blood through time, then jumps back to another trail seeing some of the same events and characters again from another perspective.
Many might hesitate from taking on a 500+ hour series, but I would encourage any adult to give these a try. This series helps put every other book you read, and every news story you hear, in context. It shows both how little, and how much, has changed over the millennia.
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