A Universe from Nothing: Why There Is Something Rather than Nothing, by Lawrence Krauss

In Lawrence Krauss’ A Universe from Nothing: Why There is Something Rather than Nothing I was presented with a wonderful explanation of a deep understanding of our place in the cosmos as we know it today.

Krauss delivered compelling evidence (theoretical calculations as well as direct observations) arguments for a multitude of the wonders of the universe. Ranging from the Big Bang of the universe itself (firmly grounded in reality with evidence from measuring the redshift of stars being moved away from us do to the expansion of the universe, as well as essentially what is a map or infant photo of the universe at a meagre 300,000yrs old) to the shape of the universe – the breadth of knowledge currently held by todays scientists, cosmologists, physicists, astronomers, and many other professions is truly astounding.

Two of my favorite people to learn about – Richard Feynman and Christopher Hitchens, I assume, one for physics brilliance and the other for eloquence and attitude – are mentioned throughout the book, which made it all the better, as I felt that I could relate to many of the idiosyncrasies of each. The quantum world still seems to largely elude my understanding, but various diagrams (initially doodled by Feynman), wonderful analogies, my furthered university education (familiarizing myself with electromagnetics and a light introduction to the world that is quanta), and a noticeable patience in writing helped me make heads or tails (or both, or neither) of the idea that virtual particles whip in and out of existence in infinitely small amounts of time – given that a paired anti-particle is created (or perhaps used to destroy a third) – as long as a conservation of energy is maintained.

My only criticism of Krauss’ (otherwise impeccable) work is an exceptionally minor (I was tempted to use the word quantum here, but I didn’t…. But then I did) one – in that he uses the word facetious frequently in the early stages of the book, and the phrase (however appropriate it may be) “when the dust settles” throughout. It’s a very finicky and self-serving complaint, so I don’t think it will bother anyone else. Along with that, I’m hardly one to be delivering criticism in that regard, as I’m a poor writer at best, and had to look up the definition of facetious to fully understand what it meant.

I won’t spoil any more of the surprises, but if I’ve learnt one thing, it’s that if you aren’t completely ruling out the idea of reading this fascinating book, then it’s only a matter of time that you’ll be nose deep in the wonder that is our cosmos. If you get any sense of awe from the vastness of the universe, I highly recommend taking the scientific, empirical, beautiful journey that is A Universe from Nothing: Why There is Something Rather than Nothing.

http://www.amazon.ca/Universe-Nothing-There-Something-Rather/dp/1451624468/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1372633960&sr=8-1&keywords=a+universe+from+nothing

Born to Run, by Christopher McDougall

My good friend Brent Brento Abel recommended this book to me, and I have never been more pleasantly surprised by a friends advice than this. I’m not even sure if he had read it or only heard about it, but however it happened, I’m glad it found its way into my world. It all started with Brent telling me, on one of our runs along the Bow River in Calgary while I was in town, that I run wrong. This wasn’t any major surprise to me, having always known in my heart that I was retarded, but something inside me wanted to fix it and run correctly – and I think this book helps explain it.

Born to Run, by SOMEONE, is not only a wonderful story – through its tale of various ultra-marathons and adventures through Mexican mountain ranges – but also a brief (yet appreciably deep) history of running (in biological, anthropological, and sport senses), and a light analysis of the science or physics of running through various anecdotes and interviews with physiotherapists and professional trainers.  I have adopted some of the practices and mentalities from Born to Run that really struck a chord with me, which subsequently caused my girlfriend to refer to me as a functioning hippie – something that can only be construed as a compliment in any sense of the term.

In conclusion, Born to Run changed the way I physically run, and the way I approach running mentally – and I encourage any aspiring runners to give it a read (I read it in just over a day, but it WAS a pretty slow day at work). If you don’t read or run (or you don’t do either) then you should probably start. We were all born to run, and I for one, plan to try to start living “Easy, Light, Smooth, and Fast” — Just like the Tarahumara.

http://www.amazon.com/Born-Run-Hidden-Superathletes-Greatest/dp/0307279189/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1372542597&sr=8-1&keywords=born+to+run

Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism, by Naomi Klein. My review / thoughts.

Having begun this book with a vast ignorance of history – especially economic history – allowed me to indulge myself in a constant barrage of new information, which is my favorite part of reading any  book. That being said, the content of this book was absoloutely fascinating and captivated me from start to finish. I’m beginning to understand that I use the phrase a mind-blowing amount, but this introduction to the powerful rise and expansion of ‘disaster capitalism’ blew my mind. At some points, the rhetoric was shockingly (no pun intended) convincing of the pervasiveness of governmental corruption throughout the many nations used as examples – from Bolivia to Russia to the USA. Other points, however, caused me to think aloud that Klein had taken a page from the oft mentioned Kubark manual (perhaps with foresight and good reasoning) and been overly repetitive in her attempt to hammer some issues home.

The content of the book seems to be significantly backed up with identifiable sources (though I’ll likely not read any of them), which lends even more to the gravity of the implications within. Never having heard of Milton Friedman before, I figured he seemed like a capable scapegoat – where it would be easy to lay blame at the foot of his tombstone – but it began to become more and more clear that the neoliberal doctrine asserted by himself, fellow faculty, and army of students such as the Chicago Boys were a visible force in each of the free-market-explosion episodes where somehow the repressions (and often slaughter) of thousands of people went  not only un-related, but often even unmentioned.

Being a relatively younger reader (a 26 year  old, white, Canadian male with no economics or history education) than what I assume her typical audience would be (and older person who may have faced any form of repression), I was relieved when Klein made her way into more present day disasters that I have some knowledge of such as Hurricane Katrina, the 2004 tsunami in the Sri Lankan and surrounding areas, and the War in Iraq. Using these recent tragedies as examples brought things into the real world for me rather than the long gone, fairy tale world that is the past.

I was enthralled, and enraged throughout my reading of this book until the very end, where I was beginning to fill with a slight sense of hope and optimism. I feel like this book may have opened my eyes at home in regards to the weight that political figures can push around behind closed doors (things come to mind like omnibus bills passed by the current Canadian majority conservative government), gluttonous wasteful spending (seen in the ever increasing cost of unnecessary fighter jets), and corporate corruption in desperate nations abroad (SNC Lavallin involved in multiple cases of bribery and governmental interference). I believe that the information gleaned from reading this detailed account of unchecked capitalism of free-market obsession will stick with me, and hopefully prepare me for the day where my personal shock treatment (hopefully, never) arrives. With the current flood situation in Alberta, I’m keeping an ear to the ground to see if anything happens.

 

http://www.amazon.com/The-Shock-Doctrine-Disaster-Capitalism/dp/0312427999/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1372541469&sr=8-1&keywords=shock+doctrine