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Beiträge von Durand Sinclair
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Durand Sinclair

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Genome: The Autobiography of a Species In 23 Chapters
Genome: The Autobiography of a Species In 23 Chapters
von Matt Ridley
  Gebundene Ausgabe

4.0 von 5 Sternen Uneven, 28. Februar 2000
I'm not sure whether to give this book four or five stars...
FIVE STARS - because of how interesting the subject matter is. DNA, it seems, isn't a brilliant piece of software to make bodies. It's more a committee of chemicals each trying to propogate themselves, and often at odds with the other chemicals in DNA (97% of which don't actually do anything!) And this is the stuff that to a large extent makes us US!
FIVE STARS - because of how well written some sections are. Chapter 4, for instance, which talks about the researcher who not only can tell you IF you're going to get Huntington's chorea, but can tell you what age you'll get it, simply by counting the number of times a particular gene sequence repeats. I was left haunted by the question, if I had a high risk for H.C., would I get the test done, simply to know when the symptoms would start?
FIVE STARS - Because of the research. This is the most up to date book on the subject available at the moment. He cites research done as close as 1998.
BUT FOUR STARS - because although some parts were absolutely mind-blowingly interesting and could be considered _classic_ bits of writing, the prose in other parts seemed to get a bit heavy and tedious, and I had to put it down. I was surprised by my own reaction, having been so thoroughly entertained a few short chapters before. But it means I can't give it five stars, because that rating is for out and out classics. (Which this book nearly is. Damn.)


Timeline
Timeline
von Michael Crichton
  Gebundene Ausgabe

2.0 von 5 Sternen Cartoonish, 8. Februar 2000
Rezension bezieht sich auf: Timeline (Gebundene Ausgabe)
I was disappointed. Having read all of his other books, and being very interested in both physics & mediaeval history, I thought I'd love this book. The science parts are interesting, and the history seems well researched, but the plot lets it down. The whole story seemed to be one sword fight after another. The characterisations seemed a bit cartoonish and one dimensional too, with the evil and brusque corporation head, the wise college professor, the college students who are having the adventure (including the brainy kid, the girl, the leader, & the love-sick guy), and the nasty soldiers who are plotting evil plots. They Must Be Stopped! Before It's Too Late! Pass me a bucket...
Mind you, with all the action going on, I did keep turning the pages. But once it was finished, I didn't feel like I'd read a great book. All in all, if this is turned into a movie, it will be rated G, play in the school holidays, and will sell many action figures.


Darwin's Black Box: The Biochemical Challenge to Evolution
Darwin's Black Box: The Biochemical Challenge to Evolution
von Michael J. Behe
  Taschenbuch

5.0 von 5 Sternen Who cares if its true or not?, 8. Februar 2000
I'm going to review this book by different criteria than usual. It seems that some reviewers have given this book five stars if they agreed with the author's theory (ie, that you can't evolve the biochemical structures that we've got), and one or two stars if they disagreed. It just so happens that I was convinced by this book and now believe that Darwinism is a crock... HOWEVER, I also realise that I'm a professional accountant who wouldn't know biochemistry if his life depended on it. (Which it does, come to think of it). So my opinion on whether the theory is true or not is really irrelevant. Until I read books by Behe's opponents, (such as the ones mentioned by reviewer Patrick S of Lousiville Kentucky), I'm going to have to review this book based on the extent it drew me into the subject.
And on that note, Darwin's Black Box deserves 5 stars. Possibly 6. If you start talking to me in Latin about the structures of the human body, I fall asleep. But talk about the systems a security company uses to secure a building, and then show how those same systems are used by a bunch of teeny-weeny dumb chemicals in the immune system, and my jaw goes "bonk" as it hits the floor. Explain the blood-clotting system in terms of a Rube Goldberg comic strip and I begin to wish I studied biology. I lost count of how many times I went "wow" while reading this. And really, what else do you need in a popular science book?
Actually, you also need the theory to be true. Well, maybe it is, and maybe it isn't. (I'm just an accountant remember, so don't ask me). But having read this book, I'm quite looking forward to reading the other side of the argument from Dawkins, Orr, Miller, and the others mentioned below. Let's hope they write as well as Behe!
PS: Other biological "Wow" books that I've read include The Body at War by John Dwyer, and Origins by Robert Shapiro.


The Visual Display of Quantitative Information
The Visual Display of Quantitative Information
von Edward R. Tufte
  Gebundene Ausgabe

1 von 1 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
5.0 von 5 Sternen Extremely well researched book on what makes good design., 8. Februar 2000
You know what's so good about this book? The research, that's what. In showing both good and bad graphic design, Tufte has examples from as far back as 1686, and many examples from the 18th,19th & 20th centuries and from many different countries.
Good graphic design, he argues, reveals the greatest number of ideas in the shortest time with the least ink in the smallest space. Interestingly, some of the best examples of this come from the pre-computer era, when graphics had to be drawn by hand (and therefore more thought had to go into their design, rather than the author just calling up the Bar Graph template on the desktop.) For example, that picture you can see on the front cover of the book is actually a train timetable that packs a whole list of arrivals and departures at many different stations into a single little picture. A better example (and the "best statistical graphic ever drawn") shows Napoleon's route through Europe. It shows a) the map b) where he went c) how many people were in his army at each point and d) the temperature on the way back that killed off his army. At a glance you can see the factors that led to his army losing. AND it was drawn by hand in 1885 and is little more than a line drawing!
He also gives examples of really bad design, (including "the worst graphic ever to make it to print"), and shows what makes it so bad. His examples prove that information-less, counter-intuitive graphics can still look dazzlingly pretty, even though they're useless. In some examples, he shows how small changes can make the difference between an awful graphic and a really good one. My favourite example of this is how he drew the inter-quartile ranges on the x and y axes of a scatterplot, thus adding more information to the graphic without cluttering it up.
In summary, there's a lot more to good graphic design than being an Adobe guru. Reading this book made me feel like a more discerning viewer of graphics!


The Brethren
The Brethren
von John Grisham
  Gebundene Ausgabe
Preis: EUR 30,90

4.0 von 5 Sternen Another solid Grisham book, 7. Februar 2000
Rezension bezieht sich auf: The Brethren (Gebundene Ausgabe)
Firstly, this book is written by John Grisham, which means that you get the usual well-written book, so that once you start it, you don't put it down till you finish. (At least, that's what happened to me. I read it in a weekend.) What makes this one different is that there aren't really any good guys. It's the story of how some crooked judges are able to run a scam from inside a jail, paralleled with how a completely evil general tries to buy an election and start a war. The scam itself is really the hero of the story. I often caught myself thinking "Isn't that clever?". Also, Grisham shows his usual cynicism of lawyers with a funny character called Trevor. (Here's betting Steve Buscemi will play him in the movie!) Other reviewers have commented that the plot could have done with some more twists. But I didn't mind the way the plot developed. I found it more believable than The Firm, (whose main character seemed a bit too superhuman), but not quite as intriguing as The Runaway Jury (which is my favourite). All in all, it's a good solid Grisham book that will be well worth the price when it comes out in paperback.


Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies
Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies
von Jared Diamond
  Taschenbuch
Preis: EUR 13,95

5.0 von 5 Sternen Great popular science book, 20. Januar 2000
When I bought this book, I was looking for a popular science book that would explain a new subject, and maybe broaden my mind a bit. As such, Guns Germs and Steel is a great success.
Firstly, it's a fascinating subject. I mean, the question he's answering is how come Europeans ended up colonising the world, and not the other way round? Secondly, it's well researched. To answer the question, he compares the histories of human development on all the different continents over the last 13,000 years. By the end of it, you end up knowing a bit about the history of every continent. (eg, did you know that people on the island of Madagascar, off the coast of Africa, are actually the descendants of Polynesians?)
But the main reason it's so good is the way he structured the book. I've always thought that the best part of following a sports team is the pre-season, when you sit around comparing the strengths & weaknesses of the various teams in the comp and having endless debates about who's going to win. Guns Germs and Steel is a bit like a form guide for the sport called "human development". It starts by looking at the state of human development in each continent 13,000 years ago (in the "pre-season") so that you might make predictions about which continent should have ended up dominating the world. And then it traces human history in each continent to show why Europe ended up winning, which continents came close, and which were the non-contenders, and why.
Along the way, you learn a little history about every continent. You're also challenged by brilliant questions like how come horses were domesticated but zebras weren't? Or why weren't acorns ever domesticated as a food source when some acorns can be edible? Or how come when Europeans met Americans for the first time, European germs killed many Americans, but American germs didn't affect Europeans?
The general writing style the author uses is that he poses a question, then spends time answering it. But this leads to another question, which when answered leads to another question... and so on. It ends up that you can't put the book down, because at any given time, you've only just heard the question and haven't heard the answer yet! And if you did just hear the answer, you've got another question! I found that this really drew me into the whole subject. By the end of it, I wanted to study some more anthropology!
I was surprised that some other reviewers didn't rate this book highly. But many base their bad reviews on the fact that Diamond debunks the "White Race Is Superior" theory, which they subscribe to. But that shouldn't detract from the fact that this is a well-researched, well-written, deeply interesting book about a deeply interesting subject.


Ender's Shadow (Ender Wiggin Saga)
Ender's Shadow (Ender Wiggin Saga)
von Orson Scott Card
  Gebundene Ausgabe
Preis: EUR 37,57

3.0 von 5 Sternen Same story, 7. Januar 2000
Before I start, I thought that Ender's Game was the best science fiction book I've ever read. So I was really looking forward to Ender's Shadow. And the first few chapters (ie Bean as a kid) were really good - reading Amazon's excerpt sold me the book. But once the story gets to the point where Bean meets Ender, I found it a bit like watching a whodunnit movie where someone has already told you the ending. We already know what's going to happen. The great joy of having the story unravel in unexpected ways wasn't there.


The Long Walk
The Long Walk
von Stephen King
  Taschenbuch
Preis: EUR 7,52

5.0 von 5 Sternen Stephen King's best, 5. Januar 2000
Rezension bezieht sich auf: The Long Walk (Taschenbuch)
I read this book about 10 years ago. Since then, whenever I go on a hike I can't help but think of this book. How long would I last, I wonder to myself, if I were a character in The Long Walk? It's that sort of book. It remains in your brain long long after you finish reading it. And the plot keeps you turning the pages until dawn is breaking and your eyes are bleeding and you've finally finished reading it. But from the other reviews here, I guess you already knew that :) The only reason you may not want to get this edition is that it was originally published with three other novellae (I think the compilation was called Four Past Midnight... can't be sure though). It could be that a paperback edition of 4PM would be the same price as this one, and you'd get to read the other three stories too. (Mind you, this story is the best of the four).


The Code Book: The Evolution Of Secrecy From Mary, To Queen Of Scots To Quantum Crytography
The Code Book: The Evolution Of Secrecy From Mary, To Queen Of Scots To Quantum Crytography
von Simon Singh
  Gebundene Ausgabe

5.0 von 5 Sternen In the top echelon of "non-fiction for pleasure" books, 2. Dezember 1999
I'm on a non-fiction kick at the moment, and I'm loving reading books that tell you about anything science-y. Of the stack of 5 or 6 I've recently read, this one was the best. Firstly, Singh is an excellent writer - the writing just draws you in. Secondly, you learn how easy it is to crack the sorts of codes people write to each other as kids. And thirdly, I loved learning how Elizabeth 1st's spymaster outwitted Mary Queen of Scots by using decryption. Other books in my stack (which weren't quite as good) included The Perfect Storm, and The Making of the Atomic Bomb. Now, both of these were great. But that just shows how good I think The Code Book is.


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