Non-fiction: January 2008 Archives

Sailing used to be dangerous business. One of the major problems was determining the longitude (figuring out latitude is a lot easier). In 1714, Great Britain declared the Longitude Act, promising massive amounts of money to the inventor of a reliable method to determine longitude.

Sobel's book is about John Harrison, the amateur clocksmith who invented a reliable clock that works at sea. Sounds trivial by the modern standards, but it was very complicated process. With the clock, determining longitude was possible and Harrison was able to try to claim the prize. Which was another complicated process...

Longitude isn't a brilliant book, but reads pretty well nonetheless. If you're interested in the history of seafaring, this book is well worth reading. [ Longitude at ]Longitude at LibraryThing ]

Francis Wheen hates the mumbo-jumbo that seems to dominate the world these days. In particular, he attacks "holy warriors, antiscientific relativists, economic fundamentalists, radical postmodernists, New Age mystics [and] latter-day Chicken Lickens" who oppose rationalism and reason.

Wheen's style is entertaining, especially if you agree with him. The book's a bit shallow, perhaps, some of the cases could use deeper discussion. While he hits the nail on the head many times, the book isn't quite brilliant - just good. Some people would benefit a lot from reading it, but of course it's one of those books that's mostly read by the people who already agree with it (Dawkins' The God Delusion is another example).

Sure, the book could be better, but it's a good starting point to discover all the mumbo-jumbo that's filling the world. [ How Mumbo-jumbo Conquered the World: A Short History of Modern Delusions at ]How Mumbo-jumbo Conquered the World at LibraryThing ]

World is full of countries where musicians aren't safe, where governments and religious leaders persecute musicians and try to control the music they play and the words they sing. Islamic countries in particular don't seem to appreciate music, and in places like North Korea musicians must follow the orders from the glorious leader like anybody else.

But it's not just Afghanistan and North Korea, music is also censored in United States and France, for example. Censorship takes many forms: one says "you can't sing this, you can't play that, or we'll kill you", while the other says "sure, sing that, but we won't ever play it".

This collection of twenty articles is a good starting point for those interested in censorship of music around the world. Not the most entertaining read, no, but enlightening enough to make the time used reading it well spent. After reading this book, you can continue to Freemuse, the publisher of this book for more information about the topic. (Review based on the Finnish translation.) [ Shoot the Singer!: Music Censorship Today at ]Shoot the Singer! at LibraryThing ]

Ever Since Darwin is the first collection of Gould's essays, published back in the 1970s. Thirty years is a long time for a science book, but there's several essays worth reading in this one. Gould writes about Darwin, naturally, about human evolution, odd examples of evolution in practise, history of life, theories of Earth, abouts sizes and shapes, science in society and the science and politics of human nature.

It's a wide selection of topics and Gould sure knows how to write an interesting essay. There's plenty to learn between the covers and a fair dose of entertainment as well. Despite its age, Ever Since Darwin is well worth reading. [ Ever Since Darwin: Reflections in Natural History at ]Ever Since Darwin at LibraryThing ]

Powered by Movable Type 4.0