Tuesday, April 6, 2010

What I've been reading

1. The Partition by Yasmin Khan

This is the only book I've looked at on the partition of India and Pakistan. The focus is mainly on the events a year before and after the Radcliffe line. The author offers her interpretation of some specific events that occurred during this time which I thought was interesting. Alas, I was looking for a grander insight - why after years of living together for so long was there so much violence? This question is also relevant for the ethnic violence in the Balkans after the collapse of Communism. In all, an interesting book but not quite what I was looking for.

2. The Recursive Universe by William Poundstone

This one was disappointing. The rule based "theory" for lack of a better word, is an alternative to the mathematics based laws of the universe. Unfortunately, it was not very coherent in tying together why a rule based universe is a contender to the math based universe. Most of the book seemed to cover various patterns that are the outcomes of Conway's Game of Life. Interesting if you are looking for a book that introduces the Game of Life and the various replicating patterns that can result but otherwise not.

3. An Old Man's Toy by A. Zee

This was surprisingly readable - probably the clearest description of gravity and the first few minutes of the Big Bang I've come across so far. If I had the time this would be worth a re-read. The author also relates his personal experience - choosing to specialize in quantum field theory at the time instead of string theory. The field of physics self selects in the same way that many fields do. Specializing in string theory at the time would have been academic suicide job-wise and the author chose not to take that path. Of course string theory is now having its day. See this post for my take on Paul Halpern's The Great Beyond which was readable until the part on tensor calculus.

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