Archive for the 'books I’d like to read' category

Books I'd Like to Read

May 31 2010 Published by under books I'd like to read, education, science books

For your reading and collection development pleasure:

137: Jung, Pauli, and the Pursuit of a Scientific Obsession by Arthur I. Miller

"The history is fascinating, as are the insights into the personalities of these great thinkers."--New Scientist Is there a number at the root of the universe? A primal number that everything in the world hinges on? This question exercised many great minds of the twentieth century, among them the groundbreaking physicist Wolfgang Pauli and the famous psychoanalyst Carl Jung. Their obsession with the power of certain numbers--including 137, which describes the atom's fine-structure constant and has great Kabbalistic significance--led them to develop an unlikely friendship and to embark on a joint mystical quest reaching deep into medieval alchemy, dream interpretation, and the Chinese Book of Changes. 137 explores the profound intersection of modern science with the occult, but above all it is the tale of an extraordinary, fruitful friendship between two of the greatest thinkers of our times.

Sex, Bombs and Burgers: How War, Porn and Fast Food Shaped Technology As We Know It by Peter Nowak

War. Fast Food. Pornography. Pervasive in our culture, these three obsessions may seem to represent the worst qualities of humankind. But what have our lust, greed and rage driven us to achieve?

In this surprising and original book, Peter Nowak argues that most of the major technological advances of the last sixty years have stemmed from the trio of billion-dollar industries that cater to our basest impulses. From Saran Wrap to aerosols, digital cameras to cold medicine and GM foods to Google, many of the gadgets and conveniences we enjoy today can be traced back to either the porn, military or fast food industry.

Nowak reveals such unexpected links as:

-how the inventors of toys like Barbie and the Slinky perfected their creations with military-tech know-how.
-why "one giant leap for mankind" brought us better hospital meals and stricter food quality control guidelines.
-how innovations in the adult-film industry will help us build better robotic limbs.

If you've ever wondered what inspired the invention of Java, online video streaming or even Tupperware -- well, you might not want to know the answer. But you will find it in this book. (From Amazon.ca)

Cognitive Surplus: Creativity and Generosity in a Connected Age by Clay Shirky

Since we Americans were suburbanized and educated by the postwar boom, we've had a surfeit of intellect, energy, and time-what Shirky calls a cognitive surplus. But this abundance had little impact on the common good because television consumed the lion's share of it-and we consume TV passively, in isolation from one another. Now, for the first time, people are embracing new media that allow us to pool our efforts at vanishingly low cost. The results of this aggregated effort range from mind expanding-reference tools like Wikipedia-to lifesaving-such as Ushahidi.com, which has allowed Kenyans to sidestep government censorship and report on acts of violence in real time.

Shirky argues persuasively that this cognitive surplus-rather than being some strange new departure from normal behavior-actually returns our society to forms of collaboration that were natural to us up through the early twentieth century. He also charts the vast effects that our cognitive surplus-aided by new technologies-will have on twenty-first-century society, and how we can best exploit those effects. Shirky envisions an era of lower creative quality on average but greater innovation, an increase in transparency in all areas of society, and a dramatic rise in productivity that will transform our civilization.

A Better Pencil by Dennis Baron

A Better Pencil puts our complex, still-evolving hate-love relationship with computers and the internet into perspective, describing how the digital revolution influences our reading and writing practices, and how the latest technologies differ from what came before. The book explores our use of computers as writing tools in light of the history of communication technology, a history of how we love, fear, and actually use our writing technologies--not just computers, but also typewriters, pencils, and clay tablets. Dennis Baron shows that virtually all writing implements--and even writing itself--were greeted at first with anxiety and outrage: the printing press disrupted the "almost spiritual connection" between the writer and the page; the typewriter was "impersonal and noisy" and would "destroy the art of handwriting." Both pencils and computers were created for tasks that had nothing to do with writing. Pencils, crafted by woodworkers for marking up their boards, were quickly repurposed by writers and artists. The computer crunched numbers, not words, until writers saw it as the next writing machine. Baron also explores the new genres that the computer has launched: email, the instant message, the web page, the blog, social-networking pages like MySpace and Facebook, and communally-generated texts like Wikipedia and the Urban Dictionary, not to mention YouTube.

The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains by Nicholas Carr

The best-selling author of The Big Switch returns with an explosive look at technology's effect on the mind. "Is Google making us stupid?" When Nicholas Carr posed that question, in a celebrated Atlantic Monthly cover story, he tapped into a well of anxiety about how the Internet is changing us. He also crystallized one of the most important debates of our time: As we enjoy the Net's bounties, are we sacrificing our ability to read and think deeply?

Now, Carr expands his argument into the most compelling exploration of the Internet's intellectual and cultural consequences yet published. As he describes how human thought has been shaped through the centuries by "tools of the mind"--from the alphabet to maps, to the printing press, the clock, and the computer--Carr interweaves a fascinating account of recent discoveries in neuroscience by such pioneers as Michael Merzenich and Eric Kandel. Our brains, the historical and scientific evidence reveals, change in response to our experiences. The technologies we use to find, store, and share information can literally reroute our neural pathways.

Building on the insights of thinkers from Plato to McLuhan, Carr makes a convincing case that every information technology carries an intellectual ethic--a set of assumptions about the nature of knowledge and intelligence. He explains how the printed book served to focus our attention, promoting deep and creative thought. In stark contrast, the Internet encourages the rapid, distracted sampling of small bits of information from many sources. Its ethic is that of the industrialist, an ethic of speed and efficiency, of optimized production and consumption--and now the Net is remaking us in its own image. We are becoming ever more adept at scanning and skimming, but what we are losing is our capacity for concentration, contemplation, and reflection.

The World Is Open: How Web Technology Is Revolutionizing Education by Curtis J. Bonk

Whether you are a scientist on a ship in Antarctic waters or a young girl in a Philippine village, you can learn whenever and whatever you want from whomever you are interested in learning it from.

As technologies have become more available, even in the most remote reaches of the world, and as more people contribute a wealth of online resources, the education world has become open to anyone anywhere. In The World Is Open, education technology guru Curtis Bonk explores ten key trends that together make up the "WE-ALL-LEARN" framework for understanding the potential of technology's impact on learning in the 21st century:

  • Web Searching in the World of e-Books
  • E-Learning and Blended Learning
  • Availability of Open Source and Free Software
  • Leveraged Resources and OpenCourseWare
  • Learning Object Repositories and Portals
  • Learner Participation in Open Information Communities
  • Electronic Collaboration
  • Alternate Reality Learning
  • Real-Time Mobility and Portability
  • Networks of Personalized Learning

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Books I'd Like to Read

It's been quite a long while since I've done one of these. Here are some recently noticed books that look interesting from either a collection development or a professional development point of view.

Fans, Friends And Followers: Building An Audience And A Creative Career In The Digital Age by Scott Kirsner

An essential guide for filmmakers, musicians, writers, artists, and other creative types. "Fans, Friends & Followers" explores the strategies for cultivating an online fan base that can support your creative career, enabling you to do the work you want to do and make a living at it. Based on dozens of interviews with the artists pioneering new approaches to production, marketing, promotion, collaboration, and distribution, it presents strategies that work - in a straightforward, jargon-free way. Featured artists include YouTube star Michael Buckley; the animators behind JibJab, Homestar Runner, and Red vs. Blue; video artist Ze Frank ("theshow"); comedian Eugene Mirman; singer-songwriters Jill Sobule and Jonathan Coulton; OK Go frontman Damian Kulash; filmmakers M dot Strange ("We Are the Strange") and Curt Ellis ("King Corn"); writers Brunonia Barry ("The Lace Reader") and Lisa Genova ("Still Alice"); and artists Tracy White, Natasha Wescoat, and Dave Kellett.

Life Inc.: How the World Became a Corporation and How to Take It Back by Douglas Rushkoff.

Since the Renaissance, the corporation--the operating system of the market--has formed and controlled people, and Rushkoff describes how it has infiltrated all aspects of American life. In the twenty-first century, we continue to consider corporations as role models and saviors but engage other people as competitors to be beaten or resources to be exploited. The author bemoans extreme networking (called buzz marketing), which makes our personal, social interactions become promotional opportunities and the lines between fiction and reality and friends and market become blurred. Our lives are overextended, and there is no time, energy, or commitment to do anything but work and perhaps consider family. Rushkoff recommends that we fight back by "de-corporatizing" ourselves. His suggestions include thinking locally by participating directly with our neighbors in community activities and using various Internet sites that provide opportunities to contribute directly to a particular school or to extend a "micro loan" to a specific entrepreneur in the Third World. This is an excellent, thought-provoking book.

Fun Inc.: Why Play is the 21st Century's Most Serious Business by Tom Chatfield

Fun Inc. is a guide book to the gaming industry, written by one of the industry's leading analysts.

In the United States in 2007, the gaming industry was worth over $18 billion, while the second-biggest consumer of computer games -- Japan -- added $7 billion to a global total of almost $50 billion. It's the fastest growing media business in the world, and one of the very few industries that seem destined to resist the credit crunch. It's a powerful and dynamic industry and, in commercial terms, one worth understanding given that the gaming industry's innovations present a great opportunity for businesses to better understand both their workers and their clients.

A Better Pencil: Readers, Writers, and the Digital Revolution by Dennis Baron

A Better Pencil puts our complex, still-evolving hate-love relationship with computers and the internet into perspective, describing how the digital revolution influences our reading and writing practices, and how the latest technologies differ from what came before. The book explores our use of computers as writing tools in light of the history of communication technology, a history of how we love, fear, and actually use our writing technologies--not just computers, but also typewriters, pencils, and clay tablets. Dennis Baron shows that virtually all writing implements--and even writing itself--were greeted at first with anxiety and outrage: the printing press disrupted the "almost spiritual connection" between the writer and the page; the typewriter was "impersonal and noisy" and would "destroy the art of handwriting." Both pencils and computers were created for tasks that had nothing to do with writing. Pencils, crafted by woodworkers for marking up their boards, were quickly repurposed by writers and artists. The computer crunched numbers, not words, until writers saw it as the next writing machine. Baron also explores the new genres that the computer has launched: email, the instant message, the web page, the blog, social-networking pages like MySpace and Facebook, and communally-generated texts like Wikipedia and the Urban Dictionary, not to mention YouTube.

The First War of Physics: The Secret History of the Atomic Bomb, 1939-1949 by Jim Baggott

Rich in personality, action, confrontation, and deception, The First War of Physics is the first fully realized popular account of the race to build humankind's most destructive weapon. The book draws on declassified material, such as MI 6's FarmHall transcripts, coded Soviet messages cracked by American cryptographers in the Venona project, and interpretations by Russian scholars of documents from the Soviet archives. Jim Baggott weaves these threads into a dramatic narrative that spans ten historic years, from the discovery of nuclear fission in 1939 to the aftermath of 'Joe-1,' August 1949's first Soviet atomic bomb test. Why did physicists persist in developing the atomic bomb, despite the devastation that it could bring? Why, despite having a clear head start, did Hitler's physicists fail? Could the Soviets have developed the bomb without spies like Klaus Fuchs or Donald Maclean? Did the Allies really plot to assassinate a key member of the German bomb program? Did the physicists knowingly inspire the arms race? The First War of Physics is a grand and frightening story of scientific ambition, intrigue, and genius: a tale barely believable as fiction, which just happens to be historical fact.

Bright Boys: The Making of Information Technology by Tom Green

Everything has a beginning. None was more profound and quite unexpected than Information Technology. Here for the first time is the untold story of how our new age came to be and the bright boys who made it happen. What began on the bare floor of an old laundry building eventually grew to rival the Manhattan Project in size. The unexpected consequence of that journey was huge what we now know as Information Technology. And even more unexpected: trying to convince someone, anyone, that information was the key to most everything else. For sixty years the bright boys have been virtually anonymous while their achievements have become a way of life for all of us. Bright Boys brings them home. By 1950 they'd built the world's first real-time computer. Three years later they one-upped themselves when they switched on the world s first digital network. In 1953 their work was met with incredulity and completely overlooked. By 1968 their work was gospel. Today, it's the way of the world.

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Books I'd like to read

It's been quite a long time since I did one of these posts, but as the summer reading season approaches I thought I'd highlight a few interesting items that are coming out soon.

  • Free: The Future of a Radical Price (Amazon.ca)

    In his revolutionary bestseller, The Long Tail, Chris Anderson demonstrated how the online marketplace creates niche markets, allowing products and consumers to connect in a way that has never been possible before. Now, in Free, he makes the compelling case that in many instances businesses can profit more from giving things away than they can by charging for them. Far more than a promotional gimmick, Free is a business strategy that may well be essential to a company's survival.

  • Say Everything: How Blogging Began, What It's Becoming, and Why It Matters (Amzn.ca)

    In Say Everything, Scott Rosenberg chronicles blogging's unplanned rise and improbable triumph, tracing its impact on politics, business, the media, and our personal lives. He offers close-ups of innovators such as Blogger founder Evan Williams, investigative journalist Josh Marshall, exhibitionist diarist Justin Hall, software visionary Dave Winer, "mommyblogger" Heather Armstrong, and many others.

    These blogging pioneers were the first to face new dilemmas that have become common in the era of Google and Facebook, and their stories offer vital insights and warnings as we navigate the future. How much of our lives should we reveal on the Web? Is anonymity a boon or a curse? Which voices can we trust? What does authenticity look like on a stage where millions are fighting for attention, yet most only write for a handful? And what happens to our culture now that everyone can say everything?

  • Unscientific America: How Scientific Illiteracy Threatens our Future (Amazon.ca)

    In Unscientific America, journalist and best-selling author Chris Mooney and scientist Sheril Kirshenbaum explain how corporate interests, a weak education system, science-phobic politicians, and hyperspecialized scientists have created this dangerous state of affairs. They also propose a broad array of initiatives that could reverse the current trend and lead to the greater integration of science into our national discourse--before it is too late.

  • We-Think: Mass innovation, not mass production (Amazon.ca)

    Charles Leadbeater explores the ways in which mass collaboration is dramatically reshaping our approach to work, play, and communication.

    Society is no longer based on mass consumption but on mass participation. New forms of collaboration--such as Wikipedia, Facebook, MySpace, and YouTube--are paving the way for an age in which people want to be players, rather than mere spectators, in the production process. We-Think explains how the rise of mass collaboration will affect us and the world in which we live.

    We think therefore we are. The future is us.

  • Don't Be Such a Scientist: Talking Substance in an Age of Style (Amazon.ca)

    After nearly a decade on the defensive, the world of science is about to be restored to its rightful place. But is the American public really ready for science? And is the world of science ready for the American public?

    Scientists wear ragged clothes, forget to comb their hair, and speak in a language that even they don't understand. Or so people think. Most scientists don't care how they are perceived, but in our media-dominated age, style points count.

    Enter Randy Olson. Fifteen years ago, Olson bid farewell to the science world and shipped off to Hollywood ready to change the world. With films like Flock of Dodos: The Evolution-Intelligent Design Circus (Tribeca '06, Showtime) and Sizzle: A Global Warming Comedy (Outfest '08), he has tried to bridge the cultural divide that has too often left science on the outside looking in.

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