31 December 2014

Books 2014

I don't read as much as I used to, but here are the best:

The Particle at the End of the Universe - Sean Carroll
An account of the confirmation of the Higg's Boson by the Large Hadron Collider at CERN in 2012. Carroll makes a crucial and often ignored point about Science when he quotes:
 "My hope for what the LHC will find is 'none of the above'. I honestly think it's going to be a surprise, because I think nature is smarter than we are [...] and we're going to have a hell of a fun time trying to figure it all out".
As it turned out, the theorists were correct. But sometimes they are not, and unlike politicians, economists,  priests, quacks, frauds and the rest they aren't looking for confirmation of what they already believe. They want to be wrong.

Why Nations Fail - Acemoglu and Robinson
The basic thesis here is a simple one. Trying to avoid the conventional Left vs Right axis, the authors coin two terms with less emotional loading, 'extractive' and 'inclusive'. Successful polities they propose are those in which citizens believe that if they work hard they can make money and use it to better themselves. They are 'included'. Extractive regimes by contrast offer no incentives aside from basic survival to most workers.
One example taken is Nogales, a town on the USA/Mexican border. Another is the two Koreas.

The Book of Barely Imagined Beings - Caspar Henderson
Inspired by Borges' famous bestiary, equally extraordinary but nevertheless real creatures become a springboard to all kinds of subjects.

Bird Sense - Tim Birkhead
What is it like to be a bird? Each sense is considered including one humans don't have, being able to detect the Earth's magnetic field.

The Signal and the Noise - Nate Silver 
Having tried various predicting money making schemes - poker, baseball, the stock market - the author found fame by being getting every State right in the 2012 US election. He covers these and other subjects in which we often try to fool others but only succeed in fooling ourselves.

09 December 2014

Another boring committee meeting!

Monthly Moot in Winterfell: Her Bunnyness Miss Eilidh, Beware Hax the CEO of Haxworks a Cosplay costume store and a faun with a waffle.