It’s annoying, but Goodreads hasn’t been updating my blog with the books I listed as finished. I realize that it might be better to give an update as a blog post anyway, to force myself into regular postings.
In the past 2 months I finished Huraki Murakami’s 1Q84, John le Carre’s Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, Stephen Jay Gould’s Rocks of Ages, Joseph Campbell’s The Power of Myth, Jaron Lanier’s You Are Not a Gadget, Julian Barnes’s A History of the World in 10 1/2 Chapters and The Sense of an Ending, Suzanne Collin’s The Hunger Games, Catching Fire, and Mockingjay, Robert Anton Wilson’s The Illuminatus! Trilogy, Jussi Adler-Olsen’s The Keeper of Lost Causes, Stephen Baker’s The Numerati, and Philip Kerr’s A Philosophical Investigation.
Nassim Nicholas Taleb has an opinion piece on CNN on the banker class. He has written The Black Swan, Fooled by Randomness, and, most recently, The Bed of Procrustes (via Boing Boing.)
Harry Connolly put up a guest post* over at Charlie Stross’s blog. Connolly writes,
Well, my book is new. My latest novel came out yesterday and I’ve been surprised by the way sales are running on Amazon.com. It’s a huge difference from last year when the early ebook and pbook sales were pretty much neck and neck.
This year it’s not even close. Early orders for the Kindle edition of Circle of Enemies have been much, much higher than the physical book. The ebook cracked Amazon.com’s Contemporary Fantasy bestseller list while sales rank for the mass market paperback barely moved out of five figures. A number of readers also told me that they ordered digital versions of the book after being unable to find it in a brick-and-mortar store on release day.
He thinks that e-books may not cannibalize all book sales. In his case, he sees a greater loss in mass market paperback sales than in hardcover or paperbacks.
* Warning: rickroll after the link.
I mention the reviews below because my interest is piqued. I would like to read both books.
Zadie Smith reviewed You’re Not a Gadget from Jaron Lanier, but integrates it into a piece on Mark Zuckerberg and The Social Network. As an aside, what she does in this review, to synthesize and create some new thoughts on a subject, is the very thing I wish to do in this blog. Of course, that is the mode of review in The New York Review of Books. But more often than not, the review is more an opinion piece by the reviewer than an engagement of the book.
Neil Gaiman reviewed Stephen King’s new collection of novellas: Full Dark, No Stars.
A list of the top 7 scientific articles, in genetics for the last month, as ranked by the Faculty of 1000.
There’s also an interesting article in this week’s Nature about efforts to find and archive old data. Part of is for historical interest, but in a field like climatology, it is can be vital to keep the primary data for local weather over a “small” 100 year time frame.
Christian Specht wrote a short, cute analysis on citation mutations. He has a follow-up. Basically, these result from typos by authors or typesetters. This isn’t the problem. The problem is that some typos are inherited. Specht speculates that the inheritance (i.e. copied and propagated through citations in other papers) is a problem because it implies that authors simply copy old references from other papers. I guess the ideal would be that authors would use their own database references or to build up their citation from the actual paper.
I ‘m not sure if this problem is as distressing as Specht writes, although to be fair he isn’t exactly worried.) He simply made a point that there is likely much copying of old references – even if we can’t detect the occurrence because most people usually copy the correct reference.
Specht worries that the incorrect references may be an indication that scientists do not always read the papers they cite. I would add, simply, that maybe some scientists are lazy; if a paper already contains a properly formatted bibliography for the journal to which a new paper is being submitted, I can see why some authors might simply save time and make a copy.
Or the level of scrutiny for a paper usually doesn’t reach into the bibliography, which, ideally, would involve the authors actually searching for each paper and actually checking if the page numbers match those from the article.
A press release from Queen Mary University of London:
Professor Lars Chittka from Queen Mary’s School of Biological and Chemical Sciences said: “In nature, bees have to link hundreds of flowers in a way that minimises travel distance, and then reliably find their way home – not a trivial feat if you have a brain the size of a pinhead! Indeed such travelling salesmen problems keep supercomputers busy for days. Studying how bee brains solve such challenging tasks might allow us to identify the minimal neural circuitry required for complex problem solving.”
The team used computer controlled artificial flowers to test whether bees would follow a route defined by the order in which they discovered the flowers or if they would find the shortest route. After exploring the location of the flowers, bees quickly learned to fly the shortest route.