Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Food Rules (Michael Pollan)

This “Eater’s Manual” is a quick and enjoyable read which goes through some basic food hygiene recommendations in 64 highly-digestible rules. Bye-bye diet fads, hello common sense. Like most books on the topic, this one also denounces the inner contradictions of the food and health industries and the collusion between them and the political power to keep us eating “healthy junk food” (read: which will still kill you, but not as fast - for more on this topic, see also The World is Fat by Barry Popkin). Most of the ideas in this book were not really new to me but I truly enjoyed the author’s spirit and wit. Can’t wait to read “The omnivore’s dilemma” and “The architecture of daydreams” (come on Amazon, faster!!).

Friday, March 5, 2010

Heisenberg Probably Slept Here: The Lives, Times, and Ideas of the Great Physicists of the 20th Century (Richard P. Brennan)

An excellent book for all the science dummies like me out there...From Isaac Newton to Murray Gell-Mann, everything you always wanted (needed?) to know about physics is gathered in one highly readable volume, explained in plain words and accessible language - beautifully simple. "Physics is the science that deals with matter, energy, motion, and force [...] the search for the fundamental laws of nature." This pretty elegant definition opens the book, which leads you through the lives, times and discoveries of the 8 most prominent physicists to date (featuring an international feline superstar - aka Schroedinger's cat). The book's conclusion hints at how much there is still left to understand. Reading through books on the evolution of species, you get used to the idea that the existence of conscious beings results from an unbelievable series of highly improbable events and the realisation of incalculably small probabilities. "Heisenberg probably slept here" will also require you to accept that even the existence of atoms results from such improbable events, and that the chances of there being nothing were actually much higher than the chances of there being anything at all. Sobering.