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Gary

Letting the rest of the world go by

Las Cruces, NM, United States | Member Since 2014

900
HELPFUL VOTES
  • 186 reviews
  • 209 ratings
  • 0 titles in library
  • 3 purchased in 2015
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140

  • Dark Pools: High-Speed Traders, A.I. Bandits, and the Threat to the Global Financial System

    • UNABRIDGED (11 hrs and 39 mins)
    • By Scott Patterson
    • Narrated By Byron Wagner
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (241)
    Performance
    (209)
    Story
    (207)

    In the beginning was Josh Levine, an idealistic programming genius who dreamed of wresting control of the market from the big exchanges that, again and again, gave the giant institutions an advantage over the little guy. Levine created a computerized trading hub named "Island" where small traders swapped stocks, and over time his invention morphed into a global electronic stock market that sent trillions in capital through a vast jungle of fiber-optic cables.

    Gary says: "Definitive history on Electronic Trading"
    "Definitive history on Electronic Trading"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    The author covers the material so well that even for those who aren't interested in the development of electronic trading will find the story an exciting read. He puts the context around the development and has written the definitive history on the subject.

    I'm a big fan of "The Singularity is Near" by Ray Kurzweil and I thought a lot of his telling of the story was influenced by Ray Kurzweil's thinking on AI and such. Near the very end of the book the author brings up Kurzweil and his thinking. He really didn't fit into the story's arc, but I took it as an ode to Kurzweil.

    I warn you. The book will give you a queasy feeling in your stomach because he documents so thoroughly how the HST (high speed traders) are systematically taking money away from us because there is not a level playing field for small players like us who invest through our mutual funds or individual stocks and ETFs.

    5 of 5 people found this review helpful
  • Doubt: A History: The Great Doubters and Their Legacy of Innovation

    • UNABRIDGED (24 hrs and 41 mins)
    • By Jennifer Michael Hecht
    • Narrated By Martha Harmon Pardee
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (112)
    Performance
    (58)
    Story
    (61)

    Hecht champions doubt and questioning as one of the great and noble, if unheralded, intellectual traditions that distinguish the Western mind. From Socrates to Galileo and Darwin to Wittgenstein and Hawking, this is an account of the world's greatest intellectual virtuosos - who are also humanity's greatest doubters and disbelievers - and their attempts to reconcile the seeming meaninglessness of the universe with the human need for meaning.

    Darwin8u says: "Surveys doubt with amazing narrative skill"
    "The more you doubt, the more you want to know"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    When one has certainty, there is no more room for further knowledge or understanding. Science and Reason never prove, at the most they can just show things to be less false than other things. There is a long history of people who haven't been certain and their story makes for a much more interesting revealing of human history than the ones who pretend to have no doubt.

    There are two recurring characters in this marvelous book about doubters throughout history, the Stoic, Cicero and his "On the Nature of the Gods", and the Epicurean, Lucretius, and his "On the Nature of Things". Both get major play in this book, firstly when they are introduced and secondly they keep popping up through the rest of the story because their influence with latter sages has been immense.

    Survey of philosophy books with their chronological presentation can often be dull since they lack a narrative to tie the story together. This book gives that necessary narrative and gives the listener a thread to understand the connections while telling a good story that includes snippets of world history, religion and summaries of what great doubters thought throughout the ages.

    The author gives enough of the major points and sometimes long quotations from the primary sources to make the book or person under consideration come alive and make the listener feel as if he understands the person who wrote it. For example, I now realize why I enjoy the book of Ecclesiastics so much more than any of the other books in the Bible (it's mostly a Epicurean type polemic on the meaning of life). Her considered amount of time she spends quoting Marcus Aurelius is well worth it for the listener. I've never found anyone who I tend to agree more with and would strongly recommend his "Meditations" which is available at audible, but it might not be necessary to read it if you listen to this book instead.

    The other thing to like about this book: she does not ignore the East at all. She gives them equal weight to the West throughout the text. Eastern Religions are fully explored since there is a much richer tradition of not being certain, "the more you doubt, the more you understand" would be a typical Eastern religion answer to the refutation of the certainty found in revealed religions.

    Overall, this book gives a great survey of doubt throughout the ages, with many synopsizes of great thinkers, and all within an overriding narrative tying all the pieces together. I would recommend this book for anyone who does not like to "pretend to know things that they do not know", and wants to understand the firm foundation that entails.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Age of Ambition: Chasing Fortune, Truth, and Faith in the New China

    • UNABRIDGED (16 hrs and 47 mins)
    • By Evan Osnos
    • Narrated By Evan Osnos, George Backman
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (175)
    Performance
    (150)
    Story
    (152)

    As the Beijing correspondent for The New Yorker, Evan Osnos was on the ground in China for years, witness to profound political, economic, and cultural upheaval. In Age of Ambition, he describes the greatest collision taking place in that country: the clash between the rise of the individual and the Communist Party’s struggle to retain control.

    cynthia p benson says: "Best overview of the current emerging China!"
    "Puts China into context for future understanding"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    The last ten years of China is told by mostly telling the stories through second person accounts of people the author has interviewed. He tells the story with three different perspectives at play, China's phenomena growth, the corruption and intimidation the government uses, and the third perspective of what the author refers to as faith, by that he means a belief in tradition and a distrust in the system working fairly for the individual.

    At first, I thought the author was giving too many second person accounts, but then I started to realize he really did have a central overriding narrative tying all the stories together in a cohesive whole. The concept of freethinking never seems to enter in his stories. Respect for authority and tradition usually seems to permeate all the stories.

    The book does seem very up to date and it seems that China (as represented by its Politburo) is trying to transition from an autocracy to an aristocracy. They are doing everything in their power to shut down free speech on the internet (e.g. banning the search on the word "The Truth"), sometimes their corrupt official defense is "they were sisters not twins", and a young child can grow up saying "I want to become a corrupt official".

    The second volume of "Political Order and Political Decay" made me realize how different China is from the rest of the world and how little I knew about what was going on today in China. I would recommend reading Fukuyama's book before reading this one.

    The book does a lot in bringing me up to speed on where China is today. I'm anxious to see what steps China takes in the future and because of this book I'll be able to put future articles in to their proper context.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Big History: The Big Bang, Life on Earth, and the Rise of Humanity

    • ORIGINAL (24 hrs and 25 mins)
    • By The Great Courses
    • Narrated By Professor David Christian
    Overall
    (329)
    Performance
    (297)
    Story
    (295)

    How is it possible for the disciplines of cosmology, geology, anthropology, biology, and history to fit together? These 48 lectures answer that question by weaving a single story from accounts of the past developed by a variety of scholarly disciplines. The result is a story stretching from the origins of the universe to the present day and beyond, in which human history is seen as part of the history of our Earth and biosphere, and the Earth's history, in turn, is seen as part of the history of the universe.

    John P. Gillespie says: "The Big Picture of Big History"
    "All steps for apple pie making included"
    Overall
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    Story

    This is the perfect reference guide for the transcendental non-material Artificial Intelligent machines of the future who want an apple pie since as Carl Sagan said "If you wish to make an apple pie from scratch, you must first invent the universe". All the steps necessary for making an apple pie are included in this lecture.

    This lecture is a really profitable way of looking at history. He uses certain themes to tie all of history together. Most of our way of thinking about our place in the universe has started with thinking that the way things are today is the way things have always been. Even Einstein accepted the static universe at one time. the originator of the continental drift was laughed at up till the 1960s, evolution today is denied by a large significant number of people, and so on.

    All of history can be tied together by many themes, there's a Recursive nature to processes, once an algorithm has been developed it can act on itself and give complexity and create things such as stars, solar systems and mufti-cellular life. From complexity we can get Emergent properties, characteristics that are part of the whole but could not be predicted from the parts. Think of the neurons in our brain. They give us consciousness. So, one can say the sum of the parts is greater than the whole since consciousness transcends individual neurons. The other theme is Entropy, useful energy only arises when there are differences within a system. When everything is the same, no exploitation is possible. This is true in the universe as the whole and true in the development of civilization or in capitalism. The Networking of complex systems make for better galaxies and better civilization. Our true strength as the most complex entities in the universe is our ability to Network and our advancements are based on developing ever better ways of communicating from the invention of symbolic communication (talking), through farming, living in cities and the development of the internet for sharing pictures of our cats.

    The lecture does a marvelous job at tying all the pieces of making an apple pie (or more properly, developing a great service like Audible) into a coherent whole. The lecture listens more like a book than a series of independent lectures since the lecturer never forgets his central narratives.

    Most of the audible books and Great Courses I listen to have covered the same topics as this lecture but did so in much more depth. So, therefore, most of this lecture seemed to be a review for me. I didn't mind that, because I need to hear the same thing presented in three different ways before I can fully understand it, and with that warning that this course could be mostly review for most people I can still highly recommend this course since he has such a good way of tying all the pieces together.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • The Barkeep

    • UNABRIDGED (12 hrs and 6 mins)
    • By William Lashner
    • Narrated By Luke Daniels
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (188)
    Performance
    (163)
    Story
    (164)

    Justin Chase is the perfect barkeep, tending bar as he lives his life, in a state of Zen serenity, until Birdie Grackle, a foul-mouthed alcoholic, walks into his bar and makes a startling confession. Six years ago Justin’s life was ripped apart when he discovered his mother’s bludgeoned corpse. Now Justin’s father is serving a life sentence and Justin drowns his emotions in a pool of inner peace. But when Birdie claims he murdered Justin’s mother for cash, Justin is hurled back to the emotions, back to the past, and, most frightening of all, back to the father he tried to leave behind.

    Charles Atkinson says: "Pour me another!"
    "The Tao of Bartending and murder solving"
    Overall
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    Story

    The mystery is given to the listener in the first few minutes of the story. A crazy sounding old man approaches the barkeep and tells him he killed his mother and his father is falsely imprisoned. The charm for the story lies elsewhere. The barkeep uses one book as his guide book, "The Tibetan Book of the Dead" and embraces the Tao of that book giving him a Zen like detachment from the rest of the world. The barkeep also keeps the code of the bartender and knows how to separate himself from patrons of the bar.

    There's a lot to like with this story: the dialog between characters was full of witty repartee, the code that any barkeep (or for that matter, any person) needs to keep ones distance from others, the process of discovery one learns about oneself while focusing outside of oneself , finding the actual murderer of the barkeeps mother, and the problem with detachment all add to a very fun story to listen to in spite of the serious nature of the crimes under investigation.

    I enjoyed the narrator. He gave voices to most of the characters, exaggerated voices and emotions, and really let the theater of my mind go to town. The author and the narrator made for a good diversion and helped me detach further from the world much in the same way that the barkeep was in the beginning of the story.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Living the Secular Life: New Answers to Old Questions

    • UNABRIDGED (8 hrs and 9 mins)
    • By Phil Zuckerman
    • Narrated By Andy Paris
    Overall
    (2)
    Performance
    (2)
    Story
    (2)

    A guidebook for living a life without religion, combining sociological insight and personal inspiration. Over the last 25 years, "no religion" has become the fastest growing religion in the United States. Around the world, hundreds of millions of people have turned away from the traditional faiths of the past and embraced a secular - or nonreligious - life, generating societies vastly less religious than at any other time in human history.

    Gary says: "Anecdotal based approach for understanding"
    "Anecdotal based approach for understanding"
    Overall
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    Story

    This book is mostly a series of anecdotes based on first person accounts from persons who consider themselves secular and why they embrace that world view. There's nothing inherently wrong with using anecdotes for telling a consistent story and this book does a good job while doing it. I found all the characters profiled interesting and worth learning from.

    There are two ways I try to understand my place in the world and the world view that I have. One is by looking at fact based non-fiction books and the other is by reading fiction. To me, the anecdotal ultimately reads like fiction because the plural of anecdote is not data, and it can only provide understanding through empathy but not knowledge.

    The characters talked about in this book all seem to refute the generalizations theist often assert such as "I've never met a non angry atheist" (Rick Warren actual quote), "without god anything is possible" (Bill O'Reilly and Dostoevsky), "you must be angry at god", or "it's impossible to be an atheist" and so on.

    For those who learn best by way of fiction or anecdotes this book will be a good and entertaining listen, as for me, give me data, which leads to information, that becomes knowledge and ultimately leads to understanding and wisdom.

    p.s. I really think the author is wrong in equating secular beliefs with no belief in an after life. He did it in multiple places but I belief that one doesn't necessarily follow from the other.

    1 of 2 people found this review helpful
  • Political Order and Political Decay: From the Industrial Revolution to the Globalization of Democracy

    • UNABRIDGED (24 hrs and 5 mins)
    • By Francis Fukuyama
    • Narrated By Jonathan Davis
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (90)
    Performance
    (71)
    Story
    (70)

    Fukuyama examines the effects of corruption on governance, and why some societies have been successful at rooting it out. He explores the different legacies of colonialism in Latin America, Africa, and Asia, and offers a clear-eyed account of why some regions have thrived and developed more quickly than others. And he boldly reckons with the future of democracy in the face of a rising global middle class and entrenched political paralysis in the West.

    Jean says: "Interesting look at society."
    "Understanding our place thru Poly Sci"
    Overall
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    There is a certain beauty to this book. The author completely convinces the listener that there is no more important field of study to understand the world and how we got where we are then Political Science. The author is that good at laying the foundations for his points. Moreover, the author is telling an incredible complicated story with many different moving parts but he excels at telling you what he's going to tell you, tells you, and then tells you what he just told you, and then just in case you didn't understand his points he'll explain them once again by comparing and contrasting with some diametrically opposed counter examples.

    This volume can be read independently from the first volume. The listener should just pick the area he is most interested in. This volume looks at the more direct relationships to how our current political entities evolved to their current configurations.

    He explained China to me in such a way that I have to reconsider how I perceive them. For the last 30 years, their form of authoritarian rule might have been much better than a democracy since they have such a small middle class relative to the other classes. The concerns expressed at Tiananmen Square have fallen on the wayside in today's China. Overall, he gave a fascinating discussion concerning China.

    I know that Political Science isn't the most important way to understand who we are, but it definitely helps in our understanding by thinking about our institutions, rule of law, and state structures. The one thing that the author did that really irritated me was in parts of the book he would make the false equivalence claim such as "both the Tea Party and progressive Democrats are to blame for ...", any sentence that starts that way is flawed. He argues there is a mushy middle between the two extreme positions and neither one is correct. I'll let the listener decide for himself, as for me I disagree. He also made a statement that our current congress wanted to shut down the government rather than pay for past debts owed by the federal government and putting us into a fiscal catastrophe. I just don't see it that way. It was only one political party that wanted to renege on past government debt.

    Overall, the book is very likeable, makes one appreciate the role for Political Scientist and gives one valid way for describing how we got where we are today.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  • The Riddle of the Labyrinth: The Quest to Crack an Ancient Code

    • UNABRIDGED (7 hrs and 44 mins)
    • By Margalit Fox
    • Narrated By Pam Ward
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (42)
    Performance
    (37)
    Story
    (36)

    In the tradition of Simon Winchester and Dava Sobel, The Riddle of the Labyrinth: The Quest to Crack an Ancient Code tells one of the most intriguing stories in the history of language, masterfully blending history, linguistics, and cryptology with an elegantly wrought narrative. When famed archaeologist Arthur Evans unearthed the ruins of a sophisticated Bronze Age civilization that flowered on Crete 1,000 years before Greece's Classical Age, he discovered a cache of ancient tablets, Europe's earliest written records.

    Gary says: "Deciphering needs a process"
    "Deciphering needs a process"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    The author tells the story in three acts: the discovery of the tablets, the unsung heroine, Alice Kober, striving to crack the code, and the actual code cracker Michael Ventris.

    There's so much of human nature tied up in this story. You have the discover of the tablets, Arthur Evans, not wanting to share the tables as a whole and wants to keep them as esoterica for his own attempts at solving them. The story of the obsession and logical approach that Alice employs is inspiring and is tinged always with the fact that we the listener knows she will be dying soon.

    This story completely held my interest and my mind did not wander while listening, because I was riveted by the details and the process. As the author kept explaining the task at hand I saw the main story as a metaphor for how we learn in life. There's two kinds of approaches to learning (cracking the code of nature), one is deductive (reason) and the other inductive (empirical). To crack the code it first took faith in a deductive approach and certain assumptions needed to be made. But reason alone was not going to crack the code. That's why so many crackpots kept showing up in this story. Coherent stories explaining nature can be told, but coherence alone is not a sufficient condition to explain nature, but coherence is a necessary condition to explain. The crack-pots and amateurs used coherence but not a consistent solution corresponding to reality. The code cracking needed knowledge beyond the tablets themselves for the ultimate decipherment.

    The topic is exciting, well explained and the main character and the process they used were inspiring.


    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • Catastrophe 1914: Europe Goes to War

    • UNABRIDGED (25 hrs and 26 mins)
    • By Max Hastings
    • Narrated By Simon Vance
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (254)
    Performance
    (225)
    Story
    (216)

    From the acclaimed military historian, a new history of the outbreak of World War I - from the breakdown of diplomacy to the dramatic battlesthat occurred before the war bogged down in the trenches.

    Jean says: "outstanding"
    "Mythbuster and denier destroyer"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    Everything I thought I knew about The Great War was wrong. This book has set me straight. The author writes a book with attitude and has the goal of destroying the myths about the starting of the war and correcting the lies about the war and explaining why it was important in its day and is still relevant for understanding today.

    I always thought that "both sides were to blame", and that the sacrifices the triple entente (France, Britain, and Russia) made did not justify the cause. I was wrong. The author lays out the case on how the Germans are to blame with their blank check, their invading neutral Belgium and the Austrians with their wanting to punish all of Serbia for the actions of one teenager, Princip for the assassination for an Archduke that most of his fellow countrymen didn't even care for. The author states that "it's really not that complicated, July 23, 1914 Austria declared war on Serbia, the next day Russian responded", and so on. The book is much more nuanced than that one sentence indicates, but he makes clear Germany wanted war and they made it happen. So, that they could gain complete Hegemony of Europe and impose their will.

    Also, the author points out that Germany didn't really play by the rules of the game and by orders of magnitude were more servere and, for example, were more likely to kill civilians who were taken hostage and commit multiple other atrocities and did the acts by orders from their hierarchical chain of command in contrast to the Allies who would have do such things only by rogue actions. Another strong argument the author makes is that German Hegemony of Europe would have had dire consequences going forward the rest of the world.

    The author did quote the magazine "The Economist" twice. Once was how Serbia wasn't worth Britain's trouble and another how an early negotiated peace should be attempted. It's nice to see that "The Economist" is just as wrong today as they were 100 years ago.

    There was another similar thing the author kept bringing home. The Germans after the war kept building up a denier mythology about the war: "if only they had more men", or "if that general had fought harder" Germany would have won the war. That kind of denier mentality is most certainly not true.

    The book gave me an interesting trivia question, "what do Ronald Coleman, Herbert Marshall, Claude Rains, and Basil Rathbone all have in common?". Answer: besides being four of my most favorite actors they were all in the same regiment in Belgium during the first year of the war.

    Overall, the book is necessary reading for understanding about the war and why it matters today and at the least might destroy a falsehood or two one might have about it.


    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  • The Goldfinch

    • UNABRIDGED (32 hrs and 29 mins)
    • By Donna Tartt
    • Narrated By David Pittu
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (10795)
    Performance
    (9849)
    Story
    (9871)

    The Goldfinch is a haunted odyssey through present-day America and a drama of enthralling force and acuity. It begins with a boy. Theo Decker, a 13-year-old New Yorker, miraculously survives an accident that kills his mother. Abandoned by his father, Theo is taken in by the family of a wealthy friend. Bewildered by his strange new home on Park Avenue, disturbed by schoolmates who don't know how to talk to him, and tormented above all by his unbearable longing for his mother, he clings to one thing that reminds him of her: a small, mysteriously captivating painting that ultimately draws Theo into the underworld of art.

    B.J. says: "A stunning achievement - for author and narrator"
    "Our secrets determine who we are"
    Overall
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    Story

    I would recommend this audiobook more than any other audiobook that I've listened to for someone who is thinking about signing up for audible for the first time and using their free credit, because this performance highlights more than any other why I love audible. The narrator makes the story come alive by his choice for voices and inflections and at times when I reflect upon the book, I'm not sure if I was watching a movie of the book or had been listening to the book since the narrator is as good as the writer (good job! David Pittu) at setting the imagination on fire.

    The first half of the book is driven by the character who never speaks, "The Goldfinch". The listener is at all times aware of the character who does not speak and is in on the secret that all listeners of the book are aware of. This alone keeps the listener hooked to the story.

    At the heart of the story is the story of a friendship between two very flawed characters from the age of 13 onward. Each are corrupt characters but need each other to see the truths that surround them.

    I can really appreciate the author for another reason. She's dealing with universal truths that the smart listener can pick up on, but for the non-smart listener like me, she explains the points that should have been learned from the book by stating them explicitly in the last parts of the book. I would even say the author is a Hegelian and thinks understanding comes about from the knowing the whole (meaningless digression: when her character talks about "The Goldfinch" and what it means to understand art, she is also allowing her character to explain why literature is another gateway for universal truth, the whole must be understood to understand the pieces (very Hegel like). I prefer non-fiction and its Aristotelian linear fact based approach for understanding the pieces that lead to the whole, but I know Newton is a counter example when he takes the works of Galileo and Copernicus and made an Ideal out of their facts. That's what this author does and I can appreciate the lessons learned in this book; end of meaningless digression).

    This book transcends mere fiction by becoming literature, because the author had some truths about being human to make and luckily for me she explains them so that all listeners can understand them. She even has her main character tell the listener "That our secrets determine who we are" and what is meant by that and why art (and literature) is necessary for seeing those kinds of truths.

    I would highly recommend this book to anybody who is thinking about signing up for audible with a free credit. This book has depth and would not always be apparent to a reader of the book but is present in the audiobook since the narrator provides subtlety to the characters and the narrative that a reader will often miss. An audible book like this shows why audiobooks can be more rewarding than actually reading.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  • Arrival of the Fittest: Solving Evolution's Greatest Puzzle

    • UNABRIDGED (8 hrs and 29 mins)
    • By Andreas Wagner
    • Narrated By Sean Pratt
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (14)
    Performance
    (13)
    Story
    (12)

    In Arrival of the Fittest, renowned evolutionary biologist Andreas Wagner draws on over 15 years of research to present the missing piece in Darwin's theory. Using experimental and computational technologies that were heretofore unimagined, he has found that adaptations are not just driven by chance, but by a set of laws that allow nature to discover new molecules and mechanisms in a fraction of the time that random variation would take.

    Gary says: "Robustness makes for an interesting life and book"
    "Robustness makes for an interesting life and book"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    Life is robust and its neutral states provide for easier suitability for overall fitness within environments leading to the fittest set of genes. Yes, that sentence is a mouthful but the author will step you through all of the steps necessary for understanding what is meant by it.

    The author looks at life from its beginning to today mostly at the genotype and the resulting phenotype level. The going does get tough at times, but the author is very good at stepping the listener through. He states the two key components of life are its universal currency of energy, ATP, and the Universal Genetic Code, DNA and/or RNA.

    He never misses sharing a good example while explaining the complex nature of amino acids, proteins, and metabolisms (5000 known). I didn't know dogs can synthesize vitamin C and humans can't. We need 13 vitamins, there are 20 amino acids making up the proteins we need, the body can synthesize 12 of them but needs 8 from our food sources and so on. I did not realize there were so many cool things to know about bacteria until he explained how they exchange genes and reproduce. Interesting stuff.

    His professional work is in analyzing the movement necessary for viable genomes giving workable phenotypes through large scale computer modeling. He talks about this hyperspace of almost all potential combinations and how the process of evolution can move towards only viable solutions to biological configurations thus leading to the fittest.

    There's definitely enough interesting things in this book to hook the average listener. His discussions on hyperspace and his computer work can get detailed, but he gives plenty of interesting discussions on many related topics making this book an interesting read.

    4 of 4 people found this review helpful

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