Books I’d Like to Read

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

Comments

  1. #1 Todd Laurence
    June 1, 2010

    Review: ‘Deciphering the cosmic number’
    http://plus.maths.org/issue51/reviews/book1/index.html

    entelekk-numomathematics
    New York

  2. I would like to add something, May I? :) Classic:
    “Women, Fire and Dangerous Things” by George Lakoff

  3. #3 John Dupuis
    June 2, 2010

    Thanks, Todd. Now I want to read that book even more!

  4. Hi,
    I like the “What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains” too.
    Now I want to read Arthur I. Miller.
    Thanks.

  5. #5 mantolama
    July 5, 2011

    Duplicate comment detected; it looks as though you’ve already said that!

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