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  • The Autumn Throne

  • Eleanor of Aquitaine, Book 3
  • By: Elizabeth Chadwick
  • Narrated by: Katie Scarfe
  • Length: 18 hrs and 20 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 320
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 300
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 296

England, 1176. Imprisoned by her husband, King Henry II, Eleanor of Aquitaine, Queen of England, refuses to let her powerful husband bully her into submission, even as he forces her away from her children and her birthright. Freed only by Henry's death, Eleanor becomes dowager Queen of England. But the competition for land and power that Henry stirred up among his sons has intensified to a dangerous rivalry.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Beautiful story in the vein of Braveheart

  • By Reademandweep on 09-17-16

Eleanor was a badass!

Overall
5 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Story
5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 11-15-18

Eleanor of Aquitaine is no mere queen. She is THE Queen. Who else in history do you know of who dealt so well with not one but two power hungry, controlling, and sadistic kings? Who won the world? Eleanor did. But let me tell you, it wasn't easy. In this book we find Eleanor in her later years, after she managed to divorce and escape from sexist, insecure, and self centered King Louis VIII.

Eleanore, who had been blamed by Louis VIII for not bearing him sons, bore Henry II male heirs as well as used her mad skills to help him literally rule the world. What a woman, right? I bet you are thinking Henry II was very pleased and worshiped his wife. Nope. Having all that power, money, and land wasn't enough for him. Henry II made it his mission to punish Eleanor until she gave over her lands and her subsequent power. He punished her a very long time because Eleanore of Aquitaine did not allow him to defeat her.

You know how you say, "I would rather die than do (fill in the blank with some thing you think you are that resolved about)," and ask yourself if you *really* mean it. Do you really have the strength to endure hardship to hold onto what you claim to value? Eleanor did. Henry locked her away-- for a long, long time. She never once gave in. When she was taken from her children, when she didn't have adequate food, when she was practically going mad from the imprisonment, she held strong. Even when she could taste freedom, smell the air, dream of what it would be like to walk where she liked, to interact with people she desperately loved and missed, she refused to give in. She took her punishment and never let it crush her soul.

Through it all, she focused on the strength of her character. It reminds me of that scene in G.I. Jane where Jane told her fellow male soldiers that she would likely be raped. The enemy would do that to 1) destroy her inner self and 2) to upset her fellow soldiers. She told them that if she was raped, the rapists could take nothing from her. He would not have her permission to make her weak. She instructed her fellow soldiers to not react. If I made a sci-fi film, Eleanor of Aquitaine would somehow be able to time travel and she and G.I. Jane would have a discussion in which they would each think, I get you. I really get you. There were parts of her that Henry II could not defeat, no matter what he did, and because of this, because of her resolve, she is simply one of my favorite heroes of all time.

Her will was tested often, as the will of a queen often is. She endured the loss of two beloved sons and watched her daughters move to distant lands to make marriage alliances. However, she outlived Henry II by many years and enjoyed her rightful freedom and power for decades after his death. In the end, the men who tried to rule her were but a blip on her radar as she went on with her life.
#tagsgiving #sweepstakes

  • A Room of One's Own

  • By: Virginia Woolf
  • Narrated by: Juliet Stevenson
  • Length: 5 hrs and 1 min
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 777
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 707
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 704

A Room of One's Own, based on a lecture given at Girton College Cambridge, is one of the great feminist polemics. Woolf's blazing polemic on female creativity, the role of the writer, and the silent fate of Shakespeare's imaginary sister remains a powerful reminder of a woman's need for financial independence and intellectual freedom.

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Required reading for literary critics, feminists,

  • By Seth H. Wilson on 07-15-13

As relevant today as it was in 1929!

Overall
5 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Story
5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 11-15-18

As a teenager, A Room of One's Own and Orlando were two of my top 10 books and changed the way I thought about the world and my place within it. I often wonder whether books I rated highly when I was so young would be held in such high esteem if I read them now. Virginia Woolf doesn't just hold up, she surpassed every expectation I had and lived up to expectations I didn't realize I had. She is a razor sharp analyst with a pen. No amount of practice on my part could ever produce the phrases and structure that seem to so easily spill from her.

How does anyone make a mark on the world? How can an author be heard, a scientist bring their ideas to life and bring us theories that change the way we relate to the world? They are provided with a room of their own. Those who have access to that room have the chance to cultivate their ideas while those who are barred access are forever silenced.

In A Room of One's Own, Woolf lightly fictionalized her own life as she wrote about a female author who was asked to speak about women in fiction. She brilliantly used this platform to examine what it would take for women's voices to be heard in literature. Women were not even allowed to author books a generation prior to Woolf's birth. Woolf's character (who is herself and anyone like her) was very lucky because she was the recipient of the hard work gained by authors like Charlotte Bronte, Emily Bronte, George Eliot, and others who pretended to be men in order to have their work published.

Prior to women authoring novels, literature in general featured women who were only known in relation to men. The men made discoveries, conquered lands and people, created civilizations. Women were merely the characters that loved and supported them. They were the wives, the courtesans, or the competition to other women. When Jane Austen and later the Brontes and Eliot wrote about women, those women became real people and became known in ways readers had not known women before. Woolf imagined a novel in which two women spent all day in the lab working together and went home in the evening to their families, just like men do.

The central message was that in order to create anything, literature or the cultivation of any idea, a person needed a room of their own, leisure time to think and create, and money that afford them both of these necessities. Historically, society has created rooms for men in the form of Universities and libraries, from which women were barred and studies in their grand houses that were gotten with money that was passed down through the male line. Woolf indicated that until 48 years ago (from when this book was published), all money a woman earned or inherited was her husbands to spend at his will and wisdom. Women were largely kept out of university and lived an insular life that involved raising children, cleaning a house, and being constantly interrupted. This is why she was unlikely to create anything that could live in the larger world.

This breakthrough and eye-opening book made it crystal clear that instead of being inferior to men, which was largely assumed in Woolf's time, women could be every bit as brilliant as men and contribute just as much to society if they were given a space to study, to think, to work, and to create instead of given children to raise, houses to clean, and the job of maintaining the rooms of men. This is a must read for any human being because some of this still remains sadly true today.
#tagsgiving #sweepstakes #EqualRights #WomenStudies

  • The Quantum Labyrinth

  • How Richard Feynman and John Wheeler Revolutionized Time and Reality
  • By: Paul Halpern
  • Narrated by: Brian Troxell
  • Length: 10 hrs and 44 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 187
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 172
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 170

In 1939, Richard Feynman, a brilliant graduate of MIT, arrived in John Wheeler's Princeton office to report for duty as his teaching assistant. A lifelong friendship and enormously productive collaboration was born, despite sharp differences in personality. The soft-spoken Wheeler, though conservative in appearance, was a raging nonconformist full of wild ideas about the universe. The boisterous Feynman was a cautious physicist who believed only what could be tested. Yet they were complementary spirits.

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • A biography of two mad geniuses

  • By Philomath on 10-19-17

Incredible history of Wheeler and Feynman

Overall
5 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Story
5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 11-15-18

This book is a long overdue celebration of two of the world's most important physicists, John Wheeler and his student Richard Feynman. Every once in a while, there is a pairing so dynamic that a wealth of downstream reactions occur. The fortuitous pairing of Wheeler and Feynman was just such a pair. When these two minds got together and began a partnership that would last the rest of their lives, they became jointly obsessed with figuring out how the universe works. Using Einstein's theory of relativity as their guide, these two scientists went on to explain the world of quantum physics and, in so doing, changing the very way our species came to understand the universe in which we live. Their contributions to our knowledge base, as a whole, cannot be overstated. It is about time someone wrote this book, to collect in one place exactly what their contributions were. It would be impossible to read a book about quantum physics and not read about the work of either Wheeler or Feynman. However, to my knowledge, this is the first book that exclusively focused on what their knowledge union brought to the world.

It would take a book of my own to merely highlight the contributions that both Wheeler and Feynman provided the world of physics, but here are a few things you will read about when you get around to reading this extremely worthwhile book:

First and foremost, both physicists were visual thinkers and always made a habit of drawing out, in very simple terms, what they wanted to teach. I had known about Feynman's teaching methods that gave rise to the famous Feynman diagrams. Few people are unaware that Feynman's drawings changed the way we understood and exchange of particles on the smallest level we know of. I had not known, until reading this book, that it was Wheeler who often started his lectures and informal discussion with drawings. It was Wheeler who set Feynman on the path of making diagrams a staple in his teaching and thinking.

At the time Wheeler and Feynman were figuring out and explaining the strong and weak forces, they were thought to be the "meson force" because physicists thought protons were held together by the exchanged mesons. I love when I get a detailed glimpse into the evolution of thought. Halpern did a really nice job of explaining how the meson force evolved into the understanding that quarks were held together by the strong force, which involves gluons holding the quarks together. They discovered that the strong force only works at very short distances, the distance of the nucleus. Related, they came to understand the weak force was what allowed that same nucleus to come apart (e.g. the nuclear fission that occurs in the center of Earth). They did this, of course, by drawing out many different possible isotopes of uranium. When Wheeler drew out 235, the energy curve (barrier) was very low, which meant slower moving neutrons could bring about fission. Eureka!

One of my favorite sections involved Wheeler trying to better understand Compton scattering. Wheeler proclaimed, "Everything is scattering!" (This made me love him more than I can possibly put into words). Basically he loved that electrons eat light. If you shine light on an electron, the electron gains energy from ingesting the light. Subsequently, the photon of light loses energy. This means that when a high energy, fast moving wave of light (photon), it emerges (after being ingested by the electron) as a longer, less energetic wave of light (photon). Every single time researchers have tested this, the wavelength shift always matches the energy gained by the electron. This, to me, is one of the most beautiful things in all of nature. To read about Wheelers obsession with it was truly the highlight of this book for me. If I could travel back in time to different time periods, I would leap through the evolution of thought involving the photoelectric effect/ Compton scattering as the great minds of physicists throughout the ages came to understand this phenomenon. I would leap from the lunchroom table of Max Planck, to the outside tables frequented by Einstein when he would talk to Besso, to the lunch discussions of Compton and Wheeler and Wheeler and Feynman. To me, this was one of the most exciting shifts in understanding from Newtonian physics to quantum physics. Imagine being able to understand the quantum world, in a way no one had ever understood it before, simply by figuring out that you could measure the length of light waves, a real physical thing that gave you unexpected information about the laws of physics. HOW THRILLING!

Halpern recounted some experiments of physicists who made discoveries before and around the same time as Wheeler and Feynman (e.g. Ernest Rutherford's construction of the first linear accelerator, Einstein's relativity and Einstein Rosen bridge (which Wheeler termed a wormhole, and so much more)

Halpern excelled when it came to highlighting the more personal aspects of both Wheeler and Feynman's lives. He exquisitely captured their relationship with one another as well as their individual relationships with others. Pairing the personal narrative of both men and discussing their achievements made this an A+ book!
#tagsgiving #sweepstakes #Quantum

  • The Strange Order of Things

  • Life, Feeling, and the Making of Cultures
  • By: Antonio Damasio
  • Narrated by: Steve West, Antonio Damasio
  • Length: 9 hrs
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 145
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 132
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 129

The Strange Order of Things is a pathbreaking investigation into homeostasis, the condition that regulates human physiology within the range that makes possible not only the survival but also the flourishing of life. Antonio Damasio makes clear that we descend biologically, psychologically, and even socially from a long lineage that begins with single living cells; that our minds and cultures are linked by an invisible thread to the ways and means of ancient unicellular life and other primitive life-forms.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Homeostasis and Metabolism give self awareness

  • By Gary on 03-22-18

THIS IS A MUST READ!

Overall
5 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Story
5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 11-15-18

This is a hugely important book and one worth reading. Why? Because Damasio has joined the ranks of scientists such as Nick Lane (mentioned in the book) and Jeremy England (not mentioned) who are giving the "modern" synthesis of evolution a much needed update. This update replaces the gene centered theory with a theory centered on thermodynamics. As Damasio outlined in this book, there are 2 approaches scientists are taking when trying to understand the origins of life:

1. Genes first, championed by Dawkins and the like, which suggests genes came first and replicated.

2. Metabolism first, which suggests metabolism predated genes and in fact gave rise to genes. This dethrones the selfish gene (finally!) and paints a more accurate picture of the evolution of every species as yet another way for an organism to capture and circulate energy. Unlike genes first, metabolism first can account for the energy needed to create the molecules of life. Deep hydrothermal vents, which of course do not have genes, provide an acidic environment in which all that H+ acted like a battery, allowing bonds to be broken and made, thus making the molecules of life. RNA world and other gene centered theories simply cannot account for the energy needed to put these molecules and cells together so that evolution of living organisms can get a foothold. Damasio thanks Martin and Lane (and Russell) for their work on this front, as do I because it was paradigm shifting.

Damasio makes his arguments for metabolism first by focusing on the evolution of emotions. I cannot say I was a fan of the second half of the book, which offered a lot of philosophical musings I had heard many, many times before. But the first half of the book was truly exceptional. Damasio argued that feelings have shaped our culture and those feelings have arisen from homeostatic processes that can be traced back to single cells. If anyone can make this argument, it's Damasio's, whose research dominated my neuroscience textbooks. I cannot recall one professor at Penn who was not in awe of his excellent work over the many decades he has been studying the brain. Damasio argued that emotions themselves were a product of the very first hoeostatic processes at work *while* assembling genes at the hydrothermal vents, pre-dating genes. Thus, the evolution of emotions arises from those processes and not from genes. Genes themselves arise from homeostatic processes and not the other way around because homeostatic processes developed before the creation of genes. Homeostatic processes have been passed down through every generation. Genes were merely a way to help these processes occur inside organisms. At the end of the day, homeostatic processes arise because of the second law of thermodynamics. They are a thermodynamic process. Genes were created to aid this process. This process was not created to aid the passing down of genes. The passing down of genes certainly continues to help this process occur in each species, but the gene is a helper, not the star of the show.

As organisms continued to gain complexity, their homeostatic processes in turn became more complex as well. For example, when organisms evolved nerves, their homeostatic processes were regulated via these nerves. As the nerves (brains) became more and more complex, so too did the homeostatic processes that govern those nerve networks. As a result, we all have internal drives. (I cannot think of another scientists who has done more to study internal drives. See Damasio's work on impulse, galvanic skin response, etc to learn more about internal drives and associated brain regions). The internal drives common to population of humans served as the drivers for the very development of civilization. Consider bacteria and criminal justice. Bacteria do not even have nerves; and yet, they engage in punishing non cooperators. It's easy to imagine how this developed into a criminal justice system (flawed or not) in organisms with more complex bodies (namely brains). Other examples are provided about the evolution of punishment, creation, and other aspects of human existence that have helped build all of the civilizations from the beginning of recorded history.

Damasio suggested we take the "static" part out of homeostatic processes because they are anything but static. Rather, they are homeodynamic because these internal states are always active, striving to help the organism maintain the optimal state. Being in that state requires constant internal work that requires a lot of cooperation between cells, organs, hormones, etc -- a very dynamic process. His discussion on this type of cooperation inside organisms was very pointed at the Dawkins minded scientists who still subscribe to the conflict only, selfish gene paradigm. In the end, it is homeostasis and not genes that drive organisms to survive, thrive, and live on throughout the generations. It is this drive that has led to the cultural practices that appear to help global progress that has resulted in longer lives, on average, and will continue to focus on better sustaining the life process.

Damasio could not refrain from talking about the transhumanists who believe they can make an AI that preserves the brains of humans. He suggested they forgot about the fact that the brain had to work with the many microbes (and their homeostatic processes) and other cells inside the body. He, imo, is short sighted in this regard. I can imagine that eventually transhumanists will simply come to understand what role microbes and other cells, and their homeostatic processes, play in governing the brain and body and they will simply incorporate that into their AI. Seems shortsighted to be so confident in ruling that out. Instead, it would have been better to simply list the challenges to current models of AI. For example, being clear that they will need to take the role of microbes into account. That is something missing from Kurzweil's arguments. So it adds to the discussion. Ruling out the possibility that they can incorporate microbes seems far less helpful.

If for no other reason, you should read this book to understand, in great and fantastic detail, the evolution of our senses. Just brilliant.

One last note: Damasio mentioned the work of John Torday, whose work I love. He called him a kindred spirit but barely gave the reader an idea of what Torday's work entails. I highly recommend reading his academic articles on evolution and homeostasis.
#tagsgiving #sweepstakes #evolution

0 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • The Tangled Tree

  • A Radical New History of Life
  • By: David Quammen
  • Narrated by: Jacques Roy
  • Length: 13 hrs and 48 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 330
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 303
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 301

In the mid-1970s, scientists began using DNA sequences to reexamine the history of all life. Perhaps the most startling discovery to come out of this new field is horizontal gene transfer (HGT), or the movement of genes across species lines. For instance, we now know that roughly eight percent of the human genome arrived not through traditional inheritance from directly ancestral forms, but sideways by viral infection - a type of HGT. In The Tangled Tree David Quammen chronicles these discoveries through the lives of the researchers who made them.

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Very Enjoyable and Readable

  • By Dennis on 08-18-18

Not as good as I had hoped

Overall
3 out of 5 stars
Performance
4 out of 5 stars
Story
3 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 11-15-18

I feel so disappointed. It was like being a kid and getting a half eaten chocolate Santa on Christmas as your only gift. This seems like a book half written. When I got the the end, I just sat there in completely disbelief. Some parts of this book are exceptional. For example, this is an incredibly detailed and informative history of how scientists and the public came to understand the tree of life, how our understanding changed to see it as a web, and finally, merely a starting point with no shape. In many ways, biology mimics physics in this regard. Newton gave us the laws of the universe that work very well on the larger scale, but when you dig deeper, it is clear that the very small has quantum rules all its own. A similar thing is going on with the tree of life. The tree Darwin played around with works very well for later evolved species. We can, with great success, trace our ancestry back to earlier branches. However, when we get to the earliest species on the tree, archaea and bacteria, there was so much horizontal gene transfer (bacteria and archaea swapping genes instead of handing them down through generation) that we cannot trace a universal common ancestor. This story needed to be told. The only problem is, this story really wasn't told completely! And what a shame. Parts of this story never made it onto the page. This seems to be because Quammen wanted to focus on a biography of Carl Woese. Woese was a pioneer who discovered archaea and fought for their place on the tangled tree. He went to war with giants like Lynn Margulis, George Fox, and so many others. All of that was essential to include. However, there was a shocking turn of events when Quammen wrote about visiting Bill Martin (who he refers to as William F. Martin, and not Bill, which seemed odd to begin with). It was almost as if Quammen didn't really understand the work Martin has devoted his life to. Quammen talked about endosymbiosis being a single event; so he understood that part of Martin's research. He even discussed hydrothermal vents, but not in relation to Martin's work and discussed it so very briefly and it was clear he wasn't making the connections he was supposed to. He wrote about Martin and then *immediately* discussed that Woese guess that the RNA world is the correct hypothesis of how the first cells came to assemble. Did this just not come up when he spoke with Martin? I find that almost impossible to fathom. I find Qaummen not having read Martin, Russell, or Lane's work on the origin of life almost an impossibility. But yet, it seems he really wasn't familiar with it. Quammen went so far as to say he thought Woese was probably right about the RNA world. He then said that other people disagree but didn't say *how* they disagree. He never talked about Martin, Russell, and Lane's work (among others) who accounted for the energy needed for the cells to assemble. He never quite showed an understanding of how the hydrothermal vent hypothesis (or other processes that focus on the laws of thermodynamics and can show how free energy was available for the assembly of RNA, DNA, amino acids, fats, etc) challenge the RNA world hypothesis (and for damn good reason). I kept thinking, "Oh he must be saving Martin's objections to the RNA world for later in the book." Later never came.

There is too much missing in this extremely important story to rate this book well. How we view the tree is extremely important. So, I appreciate how much detail was included. There are incredible sections about the work of Margulis. She really got her due in this book. Quammen wrote about the things she got right and what she got wrong, but he had equal respect for her and her male peers. I don't find this is always the case and was extremely happy to see how he managed her story. His sections of horizontal gene transfer were some of the most important sections included in this book (but probably could have been done better). His depiction of the many fights people had over the tree (is it a web, 5 kingdoms, 3 domains), and if we should even call archaea bacteria (no, we should not) were great. The sections on Darwin, and even Woese hatred for Darwin, were wonderful. Jumping genes and how they created a womb were all top notch, and things the public really needs to know. Quammen even included exciting little tidbits, such as how sponges can be both a multicellular organism and yet a single cell organisms if the environment dictates (but this really lacked the wow factor that other writers have managed to capture) or the tale of wolbachia, one of my very favorite bacteria, who control the sex of the new wolbachia produced (again, told in much more captivating manner by Ed Yong, who Quammen recommends reading, as do I).

But none of his spectacular writing made up for the loss of what was missing from this story. I appreciate that Quammen chose this topic at all. But, I was left feeling like I do when I read a NYT science article that picked up the ball and ran with it before it was ready. When I finished this book, I found myself wishing, so desperately, that Nick Lane had chosen to write about this subject. It would have been a much better (more complete) book.
#tagsgiving #sweepstakes

  • The Queen

  • Aretha Franklin
  • By: Mikal Gilmore
  • Narrated by: Adenrele Ojo
  • Length: 3 hrs and 48 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 2,979
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars 2,686
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 2,674

You know her voice. Now hear her story.

Audible has teamed up with Rolling Stone to produce an uncompromisingly honest Audible Original that honors the life and legacy of the incomparable Aretha Franklin. Aretha’s universal appeal was evident from the release of her first album at age 14 through her nearly 50 Top 40 hits. Yet this intimate biography reminds us that Aretha knew pain as much as she knew glory. It was the blues, residing deep within her soul, that gave way to a voice able to lift millions with a profound sense of freedom, self-worth, and undeniable talent to rise above sorrow.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • I learned so much

  • By Amazon Customer on 10-15-18

Interesting life

Overall
4 out of 5 stars
Performance
4 out of 5 stars
Story
4 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 11-15-18


Review This was a free Audible Original. Ended up learning about Aretha's incredibly interesting life. Definitely worth readying.
#tagsgiving sweepstakes

  • What Is Real?

  • The Unfinished Quest for the Meaning of Quantum Physics
  • By: Adam Becker
  • Narrated by: Greg Tremblay
  • Length: 11 hrs and 45 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 217
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 186
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 183

Every physicist agrees quantum mechanics is among humanity's finest scientific achievements. But ask what it means, and the result will be a brawl. For a century, most physicists have followed Niels Bohr's Copenhagen interpretation and dismissed questions about the reality underlying quantum physics as meaningless. A mishmash of solipsism and poor reasoning, Copenhagen endured, as Bohr's students vigorously protected his legacy, and the physics community favored practical experiments over philosophical arguments.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Good, "light" "read"... potential caveat below...

  • By James S. on 03-31-18

Best Science Book This Year!

Overall
5 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Story
5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 11-15-18

If this book were a meal, it would be bursting with such flavor that you could not help going back for seconds. Indeed I read it a second time and chose to listen to Sean Carroll's Mysteries of Modern Physics lectures, from The Great Courses series, as the accompanying glass of wine and dessert because it reenforced the ideas presented in Becker's book. Listening to Sean Carroll's lecture series along with reading this book allowed me to think about how all of the discoveries made in the quantum world apply to time. I warn you though, it's a rabbit hole. Since there are no final answers yet, your brain might get caught in an obsessive trap. I have now moved on to re-reading Lisa Ranall's Warped passages, not because I am convinced of other dimensions, but because thinking about pocket dimensions and/or bubble universes seemed extremely important to me after reading Becker and Carroll together. I also can't seem to stop thinking about how all of this relates to gravity, and keep rereading sections of Gravity's Engines by Caleb Scharf. Sometimes I feel so sad when I realize I will die before someone can answer the burning questions in my mind about the way the universe works, but nothing feels better than thinking about what we do know.

While mainly focusing on the measurement problem in quantum physics (does the wave function collapse) , Becker recounts the history of many of the major discoveries and provided an extremely intuitive account of the following aspects of quantum mechanics:

Heisenberg's uncertainty principle
Double slit
Schrödinger's cat
Everett's many worlds
Copenhagen Interpretation (probability / wave function collapse)
The Bohr - Einstein debates
EPR paradox

Becker included in depth and intensely refreshing biographies of John Bell and his inequality and David Bohm's unorthodox ideas. The biography of Bohm was particularly of interest to me because not too long ago I finished a series of books about the discovery of quantum theory and while many of those books covered the other people highlighted in this book, none of them covered Bohm in the manner Becker did.

I really cannot recommend this book highly enough. Rating a book like this always makes me realize how my previous 5 star ratings muddy the waters. I want there to be a 6 star rating you could use once or twice a year, so that you can really set a book apart from others. This book would be worthy of that 6 star rating.
#tagsgiving #sweepstakes #BestScienceBook

  • Energy

  • A Human History
  • By: Richard Rhodes
  • Narrated by: Jacques Roy
  • Length: 11 hrs and 48 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 216
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars 198
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 196

Through an unforgettable cast of characters, Pulitzer Prize-winning author Richard Rhodes explains how wood gave way to coal and coal made room for oil, as we now turn to natural gas, nuclear power, and renewable energy. Rhodes looks back on five centuries of progress, through such influential figures as Queen Elizabeth I, King James I, Benjamin Franklin, Herman Melville, John D. Rockefeller, and Henry Ford. 

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Does not disappoint.

  • By Parts on 07-22-18

History of how humans used energy

Overall
3 out of 5 stars
Performance
4 out of 5 stars
Story
3 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 11-15-18

I read this book at the same time as Smil's Energy and Civilization. It proved to be a good compliment to Smil's book but left me feeling pretty disappointed at the same time. I wanted more from this book than it had to offer. Maybe I would have favored it more if I had not read at the same time as Smil's masterpiece.

This book started out more interesting than it ended. Rhodes asked thought provoking questions, such as how did humans figure out how to best harvest energy from nature. For example, should they use a plot of land as a crop for food? Should they use their horsepower to cultivate the land to grow oak trees? Planting oak trees was extremely important for the building of civilization. Great warships relied on the old, tall trees to construct the many masts required for these ships to defend their own land and conquer other lands. Warships were extremely valuable to national security back then, like aircraft are now. It took 2500 large oak trees to build a warship. However, it took 80-120 years for these oak trees to grow, a very long term investment. A farmer could make more money immediately growing food. So how many farmers would make the choice to grow the trees that paved the way not only for their country's victory in war but that built the railroads that allowed for easier trade, when they could make more money in a shorter time period for growing crops? It was a really great problem to think about.

When Rhodes asked, and attempted to answer, questions such as the one above, the book felt exciting. I wanted to think about the complexities of harvesting energy from wood, mining iron, and the other ways humans found to extract energy to build their civilizations. As the book traveled through time, to the industrial revolution, I felt bored and was not too disappointed when the book was done.
#tagsgiving #sweepstakes

  • Energy and Civilization

  • A History
  • By: Vaclav Smil
  • Narrated by: David Colacci
  • Length: 20 hrs and 9 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 55
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 49
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 49

In this monumental history, Vaclav Smil provides a comprehensive account of how energy has shaped society, from pre-agricultural foraging societies through today's fossil fuel-driven civilization and offers listeners a magisterial overview of humanity's energy eras.

  • 2 out of 5 stars
  • Not a good format for this book

  • By C. Hoogeboom on 05-19-18

Smil is the master!

Overall
5 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Story
5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 11-15-18

Now that I am done reading this book, I plan to start at chapter one again. My head was filled with so much information, I am positive my brain has not yet ingested nearly the number of treasures packed in this book. Smil does not gloss over facts or tell a story in the way many historians do. In this book, you will not find the kind of sweeping histories told in the captivating way Yuval Noah Harari brings to life in his book sapiens. Smil is not that kind of story teller. Telling the story Smil has told in his book, many historians might say something like:

How did humans build civilization? By using every ounce of energy they could get their hands on. Throughout history humans have used the energy stored in horses, in slaves, and in the machines they built. They stole energy from the sun (a lot of it), gaining them a share higher than seen in any other species. Humans harvested energy from the wind and water. They mined it from holes in the ground and sent it along railroads. From the dawn of civilization, humans coupled the energy from the sun, wind, and water with the energy (ATP) from the cells that reside in all living organisms (like slave and animal muscle) to build each aspect of civilization. Using this energy, in its various and wonderful forms, humans built villages, cities, and huge warring empires. They built food systems that fed and sustained incredible amounts of humans. Using energy, they built transportation systems to create a trade system that took on a life of its own and has transformed early humans into the modern humans of today. With that energy, they brought about the industrial revolution that gave humans more resources than they had ever imagined possible.

In order to set the stage for such a revolution, humans needed to stockpile a lot of energy along the way. Before the use of slaves and before the use of animals and machines to do work, humans spent all of their time harvesting just enough energy from nature to survive. That is to say, they were foraging for food, spending their energy roaming around, eating food to gain more energy to keep roaming around for food, and so on, using all the energy gained to keep the cycle in perpetual motion. No energy was left over for innovation. No energy was left over to build the great empires and cities that would be long in the future. Everything changed once humans switched from hunter gatherer strategies to trapping all that food in a smaller space, crops on farms, they produced more energy than they needed for mere survival. It was with the advent of agriculture that our civilization, for good or for bad, really emerged.

With this rapid advancement came about moral quandaries. There simply was no way to build early civilizations without slavery. From the earliest writings, we know that the very first laws ever constructed had to do with keeping the poor doing the work of the rich (who made the laws). It was just the way of life. When humans figured out that they could harvest the energy of non-human muscle, like the muscle power in horses, they used horses, meaning fewer humans had to donate their muscle energy. Slavery decreased (this was a fascinating aspect of this book and is something I want to spend more time thinking about-- how morality arose not from consciousness but from our energy needs!!!). When machines were finally build, horse muscles (horsepower) was replaced by machine power (still called horsepower). This reduced our need to use humans and animal muscle. Interestingly, humans began to focus more on human and animal rights only once they no longer needed their muscle power to bring about the advancement of their societies.

That is how a storytelling author might have written Smil's book.

Where Smil diverges from the story telling Harari's of the world is that he will not construct a story that flows, is easy to follow, where the facts are kept to a minimum. No, you will be overloaded with facts. Smil will not merely convey that there was a transfer of horsepower from horse muscle to machine energy output. He will tell you exactly how many Watts were harvested from horses, from slaves, from machines. Smil will do this on every page, and it will undoubtedly make this book much harder to read than other books. You will not be able to just sail along sinking into the type of daydream induced when reading deeply satisfying histories as told by authors like Harari. Your brain will have to constantly work to keep track of what these figures really mean for how energy transformed human existence from the prehistoric practices of hunting down one's food and roaming the earth to feed the human body to the advances we have witnessed so far, such as agriculture, the industrial revolution, the computer revolution, and conquering space, to the projected advances for the future of our species. You will have to ingest the extremely detailed facts and then remind yourself, constantly, where you are in the sweeping narrative. However, if you can do that, you experience reward beyond anything a more superficial book could produce. Smil's facts are relentless, but my god do they really drive home his points! I knew I would be interested in how much energy humans harvested from the power of water and the water-wheel driven mills that built our early modern cities or how much power it really took to build the pyramids (a much different answer than you will find from past experts), but never thought I would be interested in exactly how much energy humans could harvest from dung or whale oil. Turns out, I am very interested.

Smil examined the costs of the energy we harvest. For example, what happens when humans harvest so much energy from fossil fuels for so many years? We drive climate change/global warming on a very large scale. These are things we need to take into consideration as we decide exactly how we humans will go about harvesting energy in the future.

While reading this, I could not help but think of one scientist from the past who would have loved, so much, to have been alive to read this book. In 1944, Schrödinger asked, "What Is Life?". He answered that question by suggesting that life occurred when something went on resisting entropy longer than expected. That is, an organism is exceptional at creating a pocket of space in which energy is ingested and cycled. Schrödinger would have loved to have had access to Smil's data. Smil could have informed Schrödinger exactly how living organisms went about ingesting the energy from the sun or from the hot core of earth and how exactly those organisms went about cycling that energy. The entire reason I want to reread this book is to think deeply about how every single organism, from the first cells without mitochondria to the more advanced cells that captured it, from the first plants to boney fish, from tiktaalik to tree shrews to us and to Earth itself -- how each organism ingested, harvested, and repacked energy so that it could keep going on longer than expected. I don't just want to know that it did. I want to know exactly *how* it did.

Thank you Smil for this challenging, insightful, and exquisite book.
#tagsgiving #sweepstakes #CivilizationBuilding

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Fire and Fury

  • Inside the Trump White House
  • By: Michael Wolff
  • Narrated by: Michael Wolff, Holter Graham
  • Length: 11 hrs and 56 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 20,905
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 18,740
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 18,641

With extraordinary access to the West Wing, Michael Wolff reveals what happened behind-the-scenes in the first nine months of the most controversial presidency of our time in Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House. Since Donald Trump was sworn in as the 45th President of the United States, the country—and the world—has witnessed a stormy, outrageous, and absolutely mesmerizing presidential term that reflects the volatility and fierceness of the man elected Commander-in-Chief.

  • 3 out of 5 stars
  • Not as credible as one would like.

  • By Jerry R. Nokes Jr. on 01-29-18

Addictive

Overall
5 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Story
5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 01-13-18

If this book were a Star Wars movie, Bannon would be Yoda. So keep in mind that you are reading what Bannon wants you to read. When being compared to Trump, it is easy for just about anyone to appear sane, intelligent, strategic, and competent, but the portrayal of Bannon laid it on a bit thick. I have no doubt Bannon was much smarter than Trump and saw things coming that Trump was too foolish and arrogant to understand. It's just that the book would have been much better if Bannon had been scrutinized as thoroughly as Trump.

Even with this aspect of the book, which sets the entire tone, it is a must read because along with the newly revealed speculations, it serves as an excellent biography of facts that have been long substantiated by the NYT, WP, as well as other reliable sources. Given the buzz around this author, I expected the book to be far less measured and far more sensational that it actually was. When speculating, the author made sure to say things like, "According to one side, the events played out like this."

The author began his biography of this presidency with the magic maneuvering of Roger Ailes and Steve Bannon who got someone as moronic as Trump elected and moved through to the daily seedy details of Trump's web of lies and deceit. You may have read all the articles in the NYT and WP in piecemeal but I doubt you have read it through from beginning to end in the way Wolff recounts.

If you can stand the Bannon slant, you will be rewarded with some deeply satisfying discussions on the following subjects:

- Why politics requires that you know politicians and how this affected Trumps political appointments. You might think Trump was guided by Russian involvement when looking at his top appointments. So many of his appointees had shady Russian ties (ties they lied about). However, even if Russia were actually fake news, it's not, Trump would have appointed strange and unqualified candidates anyway. The author laid out his convincing case for why. Even Ann Coulter had to step in and inform Trump, "No one is telling you, but you can't appoint your own children. You just can't."


- What was Trump's reaction to the media portrayal of him, which was unlike any president, republican or democratic, before him, and how did it affect his behavior. This section had speculation but it was convincing. You also get to learn about what Trump himself and his family thought of his surprise win.

- The meat of the book involves the firing of Comey. Who pushed for it? What was the real timeline and did the president even seem competent enough to make these choices? This is where Bannon really seemed like Yoda, but even as someone who hates Bannon, I found it hard not to agree when it came to this. Wolff looked at the roles of Ivanka, Jared, and especially Jared's father Charlie Kushner. What a tale Wolff had to tell. Of course there is a lot of speculation and denial surrounding all of this. Hopefully time will sort it out, even with the constant lying coming from the Trump camp. The best part of this section involved Wolff's retelling of the likely obstruction of justice that occurred on Air Force One before and after Ivanka sat in for Trump at G20.

- Trumps hatred for, "That cunt Sally Yates," and her role in taking him down as well as Rosenstein's big, "fuck you" to Trump by appointing Mueller.

- Trump really believes all news is fake news because he himself admitted to constantly generating false news. The only point of releasing any type of news, in Trump's view, is to manipulate the narrative. He cannot conceive of any other motive.

This book is probably a 4 star book. I am giving it five because this is the type of book that attracts trolls who will give it 1 star to keep people from reading it. Plus, it's an addictive page turner that you will probably blow through in 2 days or less. Couldn't put it down.

4 of 6 people found this review helpful