Friday, February 24, 2017

Dark Matter and the Dinosaurs

Dark Matter and the Dinosaurs: The Astounding Interconnectedness of the Universe
by Lisa Randall
Published: October 2015

 Lisa Randall (professor of particle physics and cosmology at Harvard) provides a comprehensive examination of how the Earth interacts with its cosmic environment. The first ~80% of the book presents both theoretical and data-driven explorations how particle physics, geology, and cosmology all contribute to our understanding of the history of the universe. But, as evidenced in the title, this all sets the stage for Randall's own research in dark matter -- specifically its potential role in influencing long-range comet trajectories.

4 out of 5 stars: A bit dense, but definitely still approachable thanks to Randall's light-hearted asides and palpable sense of awe and wonder.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Vampire in Love

Vampire in Love
by Enrique Vila-Matas, translated by Margaret Jull Costa
Published: September 2016

A very surreal and melancholic collection of short stories filled with narrators are just as unreliable and flawed as the madness they observe. The stories float between dream-like fantasies and very intense, fatalistic realities.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Dragon Teeth

Dragon Teeth
by Michael Crichton
Published: June 2017

Though my favorite Crichton novels are his techno-thrillers, he weaves a damn good historical fiction. Set in 1876, this story follows the rivalry of two (real life) paleontologists and the treacherous trade of fossil excavation in the West. Though not particularly seat-gripping, the tale is immersive and educational (and, as most of his novels are, extraordinarily well-researched).

3.5 out of 5 stars:  It wasn't bad, and honestly makes me want to give his other posthumous work a chance. Maybe.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Reality is not what it seems

Reality Is Not What It Seems: The Journey to Quantum Gravity 
by Carlo Rovelli, translated by Simon Carnell and Erica Segre
Published: January 2017

So much has happened in the world of physics since I was in school! Rovelli presents an easily accessible summary of the current state of theoretical physics. From Ancient Greek philosophers through the remarkable advances of the 20th century up through more recent theories of Quantum loops and thermal time.

5 out of 5 stars: If you're at all interested in immersing yourself in how much (and how little) we actually know about the universe, I sincerely can't recommend this enough.

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Run the World

Run the World: My 3,500-Mile Journey Through Running Cultures Around the Globe
by Becky Wade
Published: August 2016

Rice grad Becky Wade takes the year after college to explore and learn from running cultures around the globe. Making pit stops in England, Ethiopia, Australia, Japan (among others) she becomes fully immersed in a variety of running communities and brings the reader along for the ride. I especially loved the tidbits of history that litter each new adventure: this book is as informative about the global histories of running as a sport as it is about different methods and strategies for training.

5 out of 5 stars: Really fun read. Even though I will never be an elite athlete, it still offers inspiration for setting goals and bettering oneself with exercise.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Elon Musk: Inventing the Future

Elon Musk: Inventing the Future 
by Ashlee Vance
Published: March 2015

This biography is an easily digestible page-turner covering everything from Musk's family history to present day* in excruciating detail: a wide ride of childhood torment, risky start ups, celestial highs and inches-away-from-bankruptcy lows. Elon Musk is truly larger than life and his optimism is infectious. Yet somehow the enormity of his accomplishments --manufacturing electric cars, building rockets from scratch, or funding accessible solar energy -- are still just steps along his true calling of paving the way for humans to colonize Mars.
*epilogue was updated Jan2017

5 out of 5 stars: I for one, welcome our new SpaceX/Tesla/SolarCity overlords.