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Beiträge von Craig MACKINNON
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Craig MACKINNON (Thunder Bay, Ontario Canada)

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Einstein Intersection
Einstein Intersection
von Samuel R. Delany
  Taschenbuch
Preis: EUR 13,44

1 von 1 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
2.0 von 5 Sternen Not worth the effort, 1. August 2000
Rezension bezieht sich auf: Einstein Intersection (Taschenbuch)
This seems to be the type of book that would either raise admiration or ire in the bosom of the reader. I find myself in the latter category. This novel is one of those philosophical/mythological science fiction stories. I find that such books require a large investment of time to understand (flipping through encyclopedias and dictionaries) with my physical sciences education. Then, at 150 pages, after you've invested the effort, the book ends. Perhaps someone versed in the classics would enjoy this book, but for me it was simply not worth the effort.
This book is not really about anything, its about images. They come fast and furious, but there is little explained, and often times you are left wondering why a certain image is introduced at all. It seems like the author thought up a clever image and decided to write it in, heedless of its relevancy. This happens often enough to by irritating.
To sum up - if you are looking for a hard science fiction novel, this is not the route to go. It's not scientific at all! If you are looking for a modern mythological tale, I would recommend something like Lord of Light (Zelazny) where I also had to invest some extra effort, but the investment was well worthwhile.


Blood on the Hills: The Canadian Army in the Korean War
Blood on the Hills: The Canadian Army in the Korean War
von David J. Bercuson
  Gebundene Ausgabe

3.0 von 5 Sternen Comprehensive within its limits, fairly dry prose, 27. Juli 2000
This book is exactly what the subtitle implies - a history of the Canadian army in Korea. As such, the scope is limited to army operations and the political background required to justify the Canadian government's commitment of ground troops in this war. There is very little about the forces of other countries involved except where they are intimately related to the Canadian brigade. This is a strength of the book - it has well defined boundries and is thorough within those boundries, including copious endnotes and sources. The maps are limited, but easily accesible (all collected at the beginning of the book, for ease of reference).
The author is quite critical with the politicians both in Ottawa and Washington, as well as the middle-ranking officers (say, major to colonel) in the field and in the training camps. He is highly critical at the lack of training in Canada before shipping out, and the complacency that set in along the front in the final year and a half of the war. Interestingly, he does not blame the senior officers, but rather the politicians, for this complacency in the lines (not allowing vigourous offensive action while the peace talks were stalemated but continuing, even in the face of powerful Chinese attacks).
For someone unfamiliar with the Korean conflict, this book would be inadequate. Bercuson seems to assume at least a cursory knowledge of the major events in the war. I would suggest Hasting's "Korean War" before reading this. Additionally, it seems a little strange to go into such detail on the army operations without mentioning Canadian naval and air forces. At 300 pages, surely he could have included this material - it feels incomplete without it. Finally, the prose is a little too dry.
All in all, this is a good, but not great, book not up to the standard of the same author's Maple Leaf vs. the Axis.


Biology as Ideology: The Doctrine of DNA
Biology as Ideology: The Doctrine of DNA
von Richard C. Lewontin
  Taschenbuch
Preis: EUR 12,52

1 von 2 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
4.0 von 5 Sternen Political Philosophy meets Biology, 5. Juli 2000
This book is exactly what the title implies - a treatise on how many people in the scientific community (including physical and social science) and in the general public have come to regard biology, or more specifically DNA, as The Answer. Just as religion had The Answer in previous ages, so now, we "know" that all the answers lie in understanding our DNA. This has spread to all aspects of human society, from justification of our capitalist monetary system to modern medicine. To emphasise the point, a quote from the text: "[An] editor of Science, what asked why the Human Genome Project funds should not be given instead to the homeless, answered, 'What these people don't realise is that the homeless are impaired.... Indeed, no group would benefit more from the application of human genetics.'"
This is a chilling statement, and we're fortunate to have books like these pointing out the ethical and scientific problems in such pronouncements. Prof. Lewontin debunks the myth that DNA is the be all and end all. In a wide ranging series of essays, he attacks the claims of the Human Genome Project scientists (I want to point out that he does not attack the science itself, which is fine, simply the rationale in doing it) and others who are trying to find a panacea in understanding genetics. He argues that while DNA is important, it does not define what it means to be human, any more than a pile of bricks defines a house, and it certainly can't be used to justify capitalism, fascism, or anarchical government systems, as claimed by some political philosophers. Or that people are homeless because they have defective DNA.
There are two minor points that I must make objection to. The first is that he seems to imply that scientists (specifically, those working on the human genome) make wild claims as to how much their research will benefit mankind, and society is duped into believing them. While this is undoubtedly the case some of the time, in my experience, the media often exaggerate the claims of scientists to make a better story. "This project will help us understand cancer better, and will lead to better treatments" becomes "Cause of cancer discovered!" Lewontin tends to blame the scientist entirely for these grandiose claims. Secondly, I believe basic research is valuable, thus the Genome Project is important, something Lewontin doesn't seem to want to admit.
Those two points aside, however, this is an interesting and important book, if a little one-sided. Highly recommended.


Chemistry for Changing Times
Chemistry for Changing Times
von John W. Hill
  Gebundene Ausgabe

4.0 von 5 Sternen Best of the liberal arts texts, 29. Juni 2000
There are two people that would be interested in this book - those that are enrolled in a liberal arts chemistry course, and those that are just interested in learning about chemistry. This book suits either type of person admirably.
While setting up a liberal arts course in chemistry (i.e., Chemistry for Non-science Majors), we previewed a number of possible texts. This one, in my mind, stood above all the others that I looked at. There are a number of reasons why:
1. The scope - this book covers a vast number of topics, from basic structure of the atom to environmental chemistry to toxins and drugs to combustion and energy. We are designing a survey course, and this spread is ideal. Other texts tended to focus too much, especially on environmental issues (e.g., the ACS's Chemistry in Context).
2. Descriptive, non-mathmatical. Since this course has no prerequisites, not even grade 10 math, we needed a book that minimised mathematics. Other books, such as Kelter/Carr/Scott's Chemistry: World of Choices, was too mathematical for this type of course.
3. The pictures - this book simply looks good.
Thus, if you're looking for a text for a liberal arts chemistry course, or if you just want to know more about chemistry and are not mathematically inclined, I would recommend this book.


The Guns of August
The Guns of August
von Barbara W. Tuchman
  Taschenbuch

1 von 1 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
4.0 von 5 Sternen Almost a 5 - fascinating and even-handed, 28. Juni 2000
Rezension bezieht sich auf: The Guns of August (Taschenbuch)
This is a very entertaining and readable book about the first month of WWI. The scope is basically the assassination of the Archduke in Sarajevo to the eve of the Marne (and includes the Battle of Tannenburg on the eastern front). Because most of the action occurs in the western front at this stage of the war, the book concentrates there. It develops the Schlieffen Plan and the French war plans (Plan 17) and explains how the high commands of both countries attempt to carry out these plans irrespective of what the other side is doing.
Tuchman does not assign blame. She tries her best to give all sides of a disagreement in policy or action. This even-handed account is most welcome. The best example of this approach is her treatment of Lanrezac, commander of the French 5th army from the start of the war to a few days before the Marne - she points out that he was the man most essential to preventing the Germans from turning the French flank in the early battles, but then agrees with his dismissal at the eve of the Marne: "He was not the man to lead the offensive."
The only person she completely villifies is Sir John French, leader of the BEF. Although I get the impression that she would have forgiven his follies if only he hadn't written a book after the war full of inconsistencies and, to use Tuchman's word, "lies."
Most importantly, the book is very well-written, enjoyable and clear to read, and even witty. Unfortunately, there are some spots with vague allusions to historical events and people without explanantion. While a practising historian probably finds this humourous or helpful, it is murky for an amateur. This is a minor point, though, and on the whole, this book is stellar. Highly recommended.


General Chemistry Sixth Edition
General Chemistry Sixth Edition
von Darrell D. Ebbing
  Gebundene Ausgabe

1 von 1 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
4.0 von 5 Sternen Good, general, nice diagrams, 27. Juni 2000
We use this text for our freshman chemistry course at Trent University, and have for a number of years (previous editions). It is equal or superior to virtually all other texts that I am aware of for a general course that includes both chemistry majors and others (biology, physics, etc.). Concepts are explained well, diagrams are easy to understand, and there is a profusion of examples in the text. It also includes a biochemistry chapter, which many other texts do not have. With the addition of bichem to many 1st year curricula, this is important.
If teaching a more rigorous/physical course directed solely to chem majors, this book may not be the best choice (perhaps Oxtoby and Nachtrieb would be a better choice).
This book is generally superior in quantity and quality of questions at the back of the chapter. All questions are paired with the odd numbered question having the answer in the back of the book. Students really like this feature.
As an instructor, there are a number of extras that are very helpful, including an alternate example manual (with examples to use in class that are complimentary to the text), a full set of figures on a CD-ROM which are easily transferred to Powerpoint for use in lectures, and a complete solutions manual.
There are a few small problems. The order in the text is not the order I teach in, but the chapters are pretty good at delineating the material so you can teach out of order. For example, Chapter 6 is thermochemistry, and Chapter 18 is the rest of thermodynamics - why 12 chapters between them? (To be fair, this system is used in a number of freshman texts.) Web resources for the student are lacking in that they cost extra (at least, in Canada), something many other publishers offer for free.
All in all, this is a very good text for a general course in freshman chemistry. It is well indexed, and should also be of use to anyone that needs a chemistry reference book.


Inorganic Chemistry, Third Edition W/CD [With CDROM]
Inorganic Chemistry, Third Edition W/CD [With CDROM]
von Atkins
  Gebundene Ausgabe

3.0 von 5 Sternen Good scope, difficult to read, many errors, 21. Juni 2000
Perhaps I didn't pay as much attention to the 2nd edition, but it seems to me that this 3rd edition of Shriver and Atkins is not as well written and contains more errors than its predecessor. Or perhaps, the other author of the previous two editions, Cooper Langford, was the best writer of the three.
First, the good points. I chose this book as the text for my 3rd year inorganic courses because of the scope. No other textbook out there covers the same breadth of material. Meissler/Tarr and Cotton/Wilkinson both suffer from too heavy an emphasis on metal-based chemistry, which doesn't help those of us teaching 2 half-courses in inorganic chemistry - one on the main group, one on transition metals. The material has been kept current with examples from the (relatively) recent literature, something other texts do not do well.
Now for the bad. Atkin's books are usually difficult to read, but at least they are rigourous and complete (e.g., his Physical Chemistry, which I find an invaluable reference). Unfortunately, in this book he does not improve his prose, and the thoroughness is lacking, as well as the profusion of errors make it difficult and confusing for the student.
What does this all mean? Someone needs to write an inorganic text that is exactly this book, except better written. I will continue to use this text, but I will continue to check all the other new ones in the hope of finding a better one.


Korean War
Korean War
von Max Hastings
  Taschenbuch
Preis: EUR 17,47

1 von 1 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
4.0 von 5 Sternen An interesting look at the war, 19. Juni 2000
Rezension bezieht sich auf: Korean War (Taschenbuch)
This is the only book I have read on the Korean War. Another reviewer has suggested that this book is best viewed as a supplement to other, larger works. However, from the point of view of a novice, I found this book to be illuminating and interesting in its own right.
To me, this was an even-handed account of the war, trying to give at least some rationale to the actions of all the countries involved , including the Chinese (I was naturally disappointed, being Canadian, about the lack of information on our troops, but it was a relatively small complement).
All in all, I would call this an interesting analysis on this "forgotten" war. Recommended.


Starship Troopers
Starship Troopers
von Robert A. Heinlein
  Taschenbuch
Preis: EUR 8,80

1 von 1 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
5.0 von 5 Sternen Realistic science fiction warfare, 19. Juni 2000
Rezension bezieht sich auf: Starship Troopers (Taschenbuch)
There are only 2 books that I've read that present any kind of realistic interpretation of an interstallar army (as opposed to navy) - this book and Haldeman's Forever War. (and I've read a lot of SF) If you liked Troopers, I would recommend reading Haldeman's book.
Why is this book good? It feels right. Anyone who's watched an episode of Star Trek and thuoght to themselves, "what kind of military would allow this?" will appreciate the fact that these people are indeed soldiers, and they are fighting to protect the Earth from alien invaders.
Others have commented on the analogies to the Vietnam war. That's a little before my time, but I can assure you that this is a highly entertaining book in its philosophy as well as its action, irrespective of its status as a parable. Recommended.


Stranger in a Strange Land (Remembering Tomorrow)
Stranger in a Strange Land (Remembering Tomorrow)
von Robert A. Heinlein
  Taschenbuch
Preis: EUR 8,55

4.0 von 5 Sternen Entertaining if a bit preachy, 19. Juni 2000
Heinlein does not pull punches. He tells you exactly what he thinks about a number of things up to and including evangelists in this entertaining book. It is not really science fiction, but rather a fish out of water observing the human comedy as an outsider. The fact that Valentine Michael Smith was raised by Martians is a quaint notion today, but it doesn't matter if he's a Martian or an orphan raised by wolves. It allows Heinlein to step outside humanity.
Some of his points you'll find infuriating, some of them will ring a positive chord. But mostly it's presented in a way to make you think rather than to influence you (the end goes a little overboard in preachiness, but it's not too irritating).
Most importantly, it is not dated. The issues it comments on are still relevant today. And it is presented as a highly entertaining story! So kick back and enjoy this book.


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