The God Particle pp. 56-78 and Stand on Zanzibar pp. 80-106

The God Particle

This passage shifted focus from Democritus to Galileo. The author (who I’m gonna just start calling Leo pretty soon) talks about Galileo’s use of inclined planes, the likelihood that he did actually perform the famous leaning tower experiment, but as a spectacle, not for his own knowledge. Apparently, Galileo’s father was a musician who greatly influenced musical theory by performing experiments with cords of differing length and tension! Leo suggests that this was a great influence on Galileo toward performing experiments.

This is where I’m gonna stop and rag on the author for a bit again.

Look, Leo must be a heck of a smartie, and he’s clearly not an awful writer, but I’ve got some gripes so far. First, he does not have any citations. He keeps talking about “what people believed” re: Democritus, Pythagoras, Aristotle, Plato, Thales — and I think it’s a bunch of bullcrap. I doubt very much that he knows what these people were thinking, and I’d really like him to back it up. That wouldn’t matter a crazy bunch if not for…

Second: Lederman appears to have a completely unsubstantiated hatred of Philosophy. Particularly of Plato and Aristotle. He seems fine using the Socratic dialogue, but rags constantly on those guys. I’m not sure if as a kid he got beaten up by a kid wearing a t-shirt labelled “THE ACADEMY” or something, but it’s ridiculous. Aristotle was the founder of empiricism, which is pretty much the ism that describes experimentation’s role in the scientific method. Throughout the whole book, Lederman has been talking about how important and vital and great experimentation is, but he’s got no love for poor old Aristotally Rockin’.

Some part of me believes that he’s only doing it in jest. It’s possible that he doesn’t really snort at Aristotle and blame Plato/Aristotle’s schools of thought as “one of the things that made the dark ages so dark”. His nature so far has been very jokey, and while informative, the book feels like an easy pop-science read so far. It’s like I’m watching a shallow discovery channel special rendered in text, with itsy bitsy tads of extra info stuffed in edgewise.

I don’t want to speak too ill of the book; I’m enjoying the read and as Leo’s got an easy, fairly readable lightness for the subject. I’ve learned a fair deal about corners of particle physics I knew nothing about, and I’ve learned a lot about its main thrusts so far. He just isn’t Isaac Asimov, and he isn’t Richard Feynman, and he isn’t Stephen Hawking, and he isn’t even Carl Sagan. (I’m sorry, Carl. I got tired of the anti-religion arguments during the audiobook version of Pale Blue Dot. We get it. The universe is bigger than a zealot’s devotion to a god or cause. And Contact has serious pacing issues.)

What I’m really trying to say is, I miss Isaac Asimov.

Stand on Zanzibar

Brunner lines them up and knocks them out of the park. This book is great. Hints of international intrigue and corporate espionage have sneaked into the novel, while the humanist lament continues with a particular focus on race. I’m excited to learn more, and worried I’m getting my hopes up too high. Still making me think, think, think.

Extra Stuff

I am reading faster than I was before, and I’m doing a positively stellar job of integrating reading into the day — such that each day feels full, but not quite overfull. Unfortunately, I haven’t really been speed-reading much yet. I find I can get into it with Lederman’s book when I have a lot of focus and quiet and I’m not walking while I read (much of my reading is done on the walk to work), and I have done it once or twice with Zanzibar. I’ll keep working.

Another game of floor hockey today –  we played hard and had an awesome 3-1 lead going into half, but luck turned against us and we lost 5-3 (though there may have been a goal we didn’t count, so 5-4).  Still working hard at improving, and I’m playing even better than I was when I last wrote about it. The game was on Bain, which is south of Danforth just east of Broadview. Got to see the excellent skyline and then walked from Broadview to Christie, where I read my 20 pages of Zanzibar and, in the growing chill of night, opted to transit home via subway.

Looking forward to having Mike over for a visit on the weekend, and to sleeping in!

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