Book Meme

Gordo didn’t quite tag me (he said his regulars should post comments), but I want to share it with my readers who don’t read Appletree.

1. A book that changed your life:

I don’t know if there is any, but if there isn’t, the one that comes closest is The Rise and the Fall of the Third Reich by William Shirer. For the first time in my life, I learned exactly why Hitler rose to power, how he could get away with turning a more or less democratic country into a totalitarian dictatorship in two years, and how he managed his cult of personality.

I read it in early 2002, when the Patriot Act and the general idea that the American intelligence agencies could listen in on virtually everything in the world. At the time, I started saluting, “Heil Bush.” Fortunately, Bush is a lot more inept than Hitler, and while Hitler was an idealist, Bush is a crook, making him a far inferior manager of a fascist system.

2. Books I’ve read more than once:

Among those I’m not ashamed to say I’ve read, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Max(x) Barry’s Syrup, and, I think, Cat’s Cradle. Serious books I never reread.

3. A book I’d take to a desert island:

Any good introduction to mathematical physics. Presumably, without such distractions as blogging and real life, I’ll be able to finally understand what it means for the group of symmetries of the standard model to be SU(3)*SU(2)*U(1).

4. Books that made me laugh:

A lot of books made me laugh. Besides comedies like the entire Hitchhiker’s Guide series, I remember laughing after reading select portions of The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, The Tin Drum, Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion, Guns, Germs and Steel, Foucault’s Pendulum, Cat’s Cradle, and The Feminine Mystique. There are dozens of books I’m forgetting here just because I don’t remember which specific portions made me laugh.

5. Books that made me cry:

I don’t think books have ever made me cry – film/television is apparently a more effective medium to invoke that reaction in me – but 1984, Brave New World, and Foucault’s Pendulum came close.

6. A book I wish I had written:

Hands down, The Handmaid’s Tale. Unlike my book’s more traditionally fascist view of theocracy, Margaret Atwood’s is more explicitly patriarchal. Women are not allowed to read. Doctors who performed abortions before the Revolution are murdered.

The only problem in the book is that it promotes the myth that sexual conservatism is a defense against rape. Atwood talks about how pre-Revolution, women always had to fear rape, whereas after it they don’t. In reality, turning women into men’s property has never protected them from rape – just ask Mukhtar Mai.

7. A book that should have never been written:

The pulp science fiction book I wrote a few years ago, for which I developed my constructed language. It’s so badly written it’s a complete embarrassment.

Seriously, I’m not enough of a tyrant to wish that books that promote pernicious ideas had never been written. Even the most rotten of all ideas deserves to be heard. Even David Irving should be allowed to publish his screeds instead of hauled to prison for saying something too offensive to the establishment.

8. Books I’m currently reading:

Sadly, none. But in most cases, I read books from beginning to end with few interruptions; if I were in the middle of a book now, I wouldn’t be blogging.

9. Books I’m planning to read:

Religion and Rationality by Habermas, The Name of the Rose, The Logic of Scientific Discovery by Popper, and Kingdom Coming by Michelle Goldberg.

6 Responses to Book Meme

  1. SLC says:

    Re Group Theory

    Don’t forget the space-time groups which are the mathematical basis of the conservation laws of physics (I discussed these in a comment on Carrolls’ blog about 2 months ago). For instance, invarience under coordinate rotations (the group SU(2) space time as contrasted with the group SU(2) isotopic spin) is equivalent to conservation of angular momentum.

  2. Alon Levy says:

    Sorry, but isn’t the symmetry group of large-scale spacetime SO(3; 1), the (special) symmetry group of Minkowski space?

  3. carpediembc says:

    The Logic of Scientific Discovery was probaby in my top 20 most hated books. …mostly because I didn’t learn anything from it like I expected to, and it reminded me of grade 11 science class.

    You really need to read some Christopher Moore books, you’ll be laughing so hard that you’ll want to read the book again, right after finishing. (Which I in fact did, with 3 of his books. …finished one, then immediately read it again.)

    You also need to add “Sex Drugs and Cocoa Puffs” to the list that you’re planning on reading. …and some dr. seuss…

  4. Kian says:

    fucking hell that ^^^^ was me. Stupid campus club.

  5. SLC says:

    Re space time groups.

    1. The group SU2 defines the spacial part of the space-time invarience group and is independent of whether Galilean or Lorentz invarience is invoked. The generators of rotations in three dimensional space are the angular momentum operators; ergo, rotation invarience is equivalent to angular momentum conservation. SU2 is homomorphic to the group O3 in that the former admits of 1/2 integer intrinsic quantized angular momentum (e.g protons have intrinsic spin 1/2, the N* resonance has intrinsic spin 3/2, etc.)

    The time part of the space-time invarience group depends on whether Lorentz or Galilean invarience is invoked. In either case the bottom line is that the laws of physics are invarient under transformations from one inertial frame to another. The difference is that Galilean invarience admits of a frame of absolute rest, Lorentz invarience does not.

    2. The Lorentz group which includes all Lorentz transformations (e.g. rotations in space-time) is the group SL2(C), again because it admits of 1/2 integer intrinsic angular momentum (spin).

    3. The Poincare group combines the Lorentz group and the 4 dimentional translation group as the semi-direct product of the two. Again, invarience under static space translations is equivalent to conservation of linear momentum (the generatior of space translations) while invarience under static time translations is equivalent to conservation of energy (the generator of time translations).

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