What If? – Randall Munroe

What If? – Randall Munroe

Man this is one hilarious book, it is a collection of answers to absurd and weird hypothetical questions he has been sent via his website for his comic strip. Having a degree in physics and previously working for NASA before leaving  to work on his XKCD comic strip full time leaves Randall in a unique position to answer these questions

There is an assortment of hilarious hypothetical questions such as

  • what would happen if the entire human population met at one place and then jumped all at the same time
  • From what height would you need to drop a steak for it to be cooked when it hits the ground
  • Is it possible to build a jet pack using downward firing machine gun
  • If a ten metre wide drain opened at the bottom of the ocean how long would it take to drain all the oceans

There are many more hilarious questions many of which he adds his signature stick figure drawing too. He takes the time to detail his research into these questions and walks the reader through the process to find the answer.

Good for a laugh and an informative read, best of both worlds!

 

 

 

Bad Astronomy – Philip Plait

Bad Astronomy – Philip Plait
This was an interesting book, i actually got it because while i have quite a passion for Astronomy it gets rather repetitive during conversations having to constantly debunk silly ideas people have about Astronomy. Ideas such as is their sound in space? to the most infuriating, confusing it with the ridiculous hogwash that is Astrology.   I thought if i could find a book that answered all these i could just give them out.
Turns out (obviously) its much more fun to share knowledge and talk to people and debunk silly or misleading ideas than to simply hand over a book. Nothing to do with the fact there are people who simply just don’t like reading – a concept i just cant fathom. Interesting point i noticed was that many of the people who don’t read are also the ones who believe in Astrology
But this book does serve a purpose. It has a wonderful collection of ideas and misleading things popular culture has about science. From bad science in movies featuring explosions and sounds in space and lasers that can be seen and dodged once fired . To dispelling rumours about why the moon looks bigger on the horizon or what causes the tides.
Its a great quick reference guide to helping understand the reality behind some situations.  While anyone with a science background will already understand the reasons behind most of the issues, like why is the sky blue, Does water really spin opposite directions when draining in different hemispheres, Did the moon landings actually happen and why astrology is complete hogwash. There are a few unique surprises in there such as my favourite. The optical illusion of the moon looking bigger when its near the horizon, actually disappears and it looks normal when you bend over and view it between your legs. I so have to try this!!!
It is definitely a book for all types, a fun and yet informative read.

An Astronaut’s Guide to Life – Chris Hadfield

An Astronaut’s Guide to Life – Chris Hadfield

What boy doesn’t dream of becoming an astronaut when he grows up? For most, like myself that dream doesn’t come to fruition. However Chris tells a different story. He takes us from those first moments of when he saw Neil walk on the moon all the way to life in space. I suppose his journey isnt too different from many astronauts. Tried and true method of becoming a pilot then a test pilot and then moving to the US. but whats different about this story is Chris explains in detail the mental attitudes that got him there. shares numerous funny stories along the way and gives us a real good insight into life of an astronaut such as how to really fix a broken toilet in space and the issues that causes.

Chris did things a little different than other astronauts he tried to share what it was like with as many people as possible via his social media pages. from the sights and sounds of space to making a music video. Chris gives us a rare insight into a world so few get to know.

This was a great read not just to read a bit about what living on a space station is like but also to read just how hard it is to get there. Probably the best read and insight into an astronauts life i have encountered. A must for any bookshelf

Into Thin Air – Jon Krakauer

Into Thin Air – Jon Krakauer

Not sure what drew me to this book,  I think i may of picked it up after reading a fictional story about an Everest disaster. Needless to say the real life story while less detail is there (hard to get details about what happened from a dead person) the story feels a bit more real as you read the mental anguish the survivor goes through. The book details the author’s presence at Mount Everest during the 1996 disaster, when eight climbers were killed and several others were stranded by a “rogue storm”. there were several groups trying to summit on the same day

Our story starts with a description of this mans life and the events that led him to be sent to chronicle a summit attempt for the magazine he writes for.Much like every other attempt at Everest it isn’t just get to base camp and then climb to the top. There are a series of acclimatization climbs to several of the lower camps to get everyone’s body used to lower atmospheric pressure. Already we the reader discover just how difficult a climb is as that at these lower camps we already read about climbers getting struck down with illness due to oxygen deprivation, over  exposure to UV and numerous other ails.

After numerous acclimatization runs, finally they are working their way to the top and have a good spout of weather but now we discover some of the events that lead to so many deaths. Several groups climbing at once lead to some bottle necks, Guides going off ahead of their group, In the planning stages of the climbs a turn back time is set up. On summit day once an agreed upon time is reached everyone turns back no matter where they are to ensure they make it back safely. This time came and went and was ignored by some. Then the nasty weather rolls in.

Oxygen deprivation can make it hard for the person to think and so the next few hours there is a lot of uncertainty. The author acknowledges that  there a several moments when his actions inadvertently led to the deaths of others. For starters he mistakenly identifies an individual in-front of him as another member of the party. So when they are doing a head count they mistaking agree that man is here when in fact he is still lost. Had they gone out looking they may of found him who knows. There is also the incident of the author discovering some fellow climbers in a real bad shape. Numerous documentaries about high altitude climbing always talk about making the call and leaving a man behind if they are too far gone and that’s all well and good in theory but i think in practice that must be a hard thing to deal with. The Author makes the call to leave a fellow climber where they were lying as to help them would result in his death. The climber left behind did in fact die

Events  like this take us the reader on a powerful journey through the mind of the climber especially as this one comes to terms with the events that happened up there. I guess what was made worse was another survivor in their own book made some comments that contradicted what was said in this book. The author does clarify and reject some of those point in the back half of the book. which just highlights how little is known for sure about the events up there.

The book also had some pictures in there as well, and while reading what was occurring anytime i’d read about the death or someone was lost id flick to the pictures and find one of them. kind of made it seem more real if that makes sense.

I’m not a huge fan of journalists or the media for that matter they always warp a story to what attracts readers and sometimes that alters the truth about events. but none the less this was a great read and surprisingly not too egotistical from a journalist

Man’s Search for Meaning – Viktor E. Frankl

Man’s Search for Meaning – Viktor E. Frankl

I had picked this book up with a few others based around the holocaust and prison camps.  Wasn’t so much a desire to learn more about what happened in  there, we hear enough about that but it was more an interest into what a man goes through emotionally to deal with and get through it.

Much like my above comment the book doesn’t describe too much about what happens in there as the author states  there is plenty of info out there about that. The author takes us through his mental state of mind and how he deals with and gets through his incarceration

We are led to believe its pure chance on who survives  the camps but it is as much their mental attitude and holding on to hope/a reason to live that gets men through this.

The author presents  his idea that the meaning of life is to help others find meaning in theirs. He then follows up this idea in The second half of the book  which i found a bore and quite a chore to get through as it was dedicated  to explaining  his psychiatric  approach of logotherapy

Quite a powerful read well the first half is anyway.  And does make you think if people in camps with what appear nothing to live for can still help each other and show kindness. Why cant we in the modern world still do the same.

How the States Got Their Shapes – Mark Stein

How the States Got Their Shapes – Mark Stein

Boredom and Wikipedia can lead to long nights in front of the PC. Sometimes you can start looking into one subject and proceed to change subjects over the course of a few hours. Ah the Wikipedia wormhole trap. Needless to say one such adventure led me into trying to find why the US State borders are so weird. Much of the research kept referencing this book so I bought it.

This book solely is a reference for how each of the US States got its borders, which to some may sound quite boring but it can be an interesting tale

Naturally starting in alphabetical order we proceed through each of the states. Discussing the reasons for the peculiarities of its borders. For a non us citizen this was quite interesting but most US citizens probably take this info for granted.

Rivers, wars, treaties and charters, these reasons are far more interesting than the reasons behind Australia’s state borders probably because we only have a few of them

A great reference book good for brushing up on some trivia knowledge

If only my own countries state borders were as interesting

How to teach Quantum Physics to your dog – Chad Orzel

How to teach Quantum Physics to your dog – Chad Orzel

Sometime you pick up a non-fiction title based on a scientific field and you think its going to be a good read and it turns out to read just like a text book. this most certainly was not like that. The Author added humour to this discussion of quantum physics through a high unlikely means. by writing the book as if he was discussing it with his dog

Chad has made reading about quantum physics a bit more fun. Converting many aspects of this topic into layman’s terms and using the dog based analogies, from  quantum tunneling squirrels to Schrodinger dog treats, it was such a laugh.

Chad has done what many authors have tried to do and failed, he has made a book about science that is just as entertaining as an adventure or crime novel. Many just try to crack quick witted one liners, or tell jokes.  but chad goes one better and rethinks the whole medium of telling a story. Chad joins the elites of  Michio Kaku and Neil Degrasse Tyson who likewise create books that are entertaining and informative.

Personally one of the best aspects of this book was the ending, now that may sound a bit harsh but bare with me. Most authors end with a boring epilogue that either thanks the reader or tries to pass off some motivational message. Nope not chad, he ends with a chapter on debunking, Where he dismisses all those crackpots who try to use the terminology of quantum physics in the wrong way. such as those crazy holistic healers or people trying to sell perpetual motion machines. I thoroughly enjoyed this chapter as i love seeing crackpots, con artists and false beliefs being debunked.

While i was already a fan of physics based books as i am quite passionate on the subjects of astrophysics and astronomy. I don’t normally buy too many books from authors i don’t know because too often they just read like text books. But i think i will definitely be keeping an eye out for Chad Orzel when im next in a bookstore.