There are many books that tell the story of physics that cover topics from the unimaginably small quantum scale to the equally unimaginably cosmological scale of the universe. This book is my favourite.

Neil Turok is a physicist and the director of the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics  in Waterloo, Canada.  The book is based on a series of lectures that he gave as part of the 2012 Massey Lectures that were broadcast by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (http://www.cbc.ca/radio/ideas/masseys). Years ago, I heard those engaging lectures. Reading the book is equally engaging.

Besides the explanation of the science of the universe, the book is book is full of the author’s insight about life. Below is an example that seems to be appropriate for our times:

“It is all too easy for us to define ourselves by our language, nationality, religion, gender, politics, or culture. Certainly we should celebrate and draw strength from our diversity. But as our means of communication amplify, these differences can create confusion, misunderstanding, and tension. We need more sources of commonality, and our most basic understanding of the universe, the place we all share, serves as an example. It transcends all our differences and is by far the most reliable and cross-cultural description of the world we have.”

There is more he writes that I could include, but for brevity I’m going to stop here. For another example of why I believe it is worth listening to Neil Turok, here is a link to his TED talk (the one where he won the 2008 TED Prize): https://www.ted.com/talks/neil_turok_makes_his_ted_prize_wish

Title: The Universe Within
Sub-Title: From Quantum to Cosmos
Author: Neil Turok
Publisher: House of Anansi Press
Copyright: 2012
ISBN: 978-1-77089-015-2

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Here in Toronto, we are in the middle of summer. The weather has been good recently — not too hot and not too much rain. A sign of summer is people driving their cars with the windows open. I have observed that the people with the lousiest taste in music play their music the loudest. I’m not sure why. I suppose I could study them, but that would mean spending time with them and their music. I’d rather enjoy my summer and let some mysteries of the world remain mysterious.

Michael Brooks has written a book about science that can be enjoyed by those who like science and by those who don’t like science. Or, at least, people who may think they don’t like science. This isn’t textbook, but you will find yourself learning quite a bit. Brooks’ storytelling is superb. Each chapter effortlessly flows into the next one. There are twists and turns and characters as intriguing as any you might find in a novel.

“13 Things That Don’t Make Sense” is about the mysteries of the universe, everything from deep space to the microscopic. The scientists featured in the book have been humbled and inspired by these mysteries. Reading this book also made me feel that way. I highly reccommend this book to anyone.

 

Title: 13 Things That Don’t Make Sense
Sub-Title: The Most Baffling Scientific Mysteries of Our Time
Author: Michael Brooks
Publisher: Doubleday Canada
Copyright: 2008
ISBN: 978-0-385-66423-3
Publisher’s Website: www.penguinrandomhouse.ca
Author’s Website: michaelbrooks.org

Today, I’m setting out a simple rule: If you can’t laugh at yourself, you’re not allowed to laugh at others.  Call it GD Konstantine’s Laughter Rule if you like to put names to things.

I’m sure some smart people will find exceptions (such as when you have jaw surgery and you physically can’t laugh at yourself or others), but the part of being self-aware remains.  My experience is that a lack of self-awareness is at the root of many people’s social problems.

So, my wish to us all is that we do a lot more laughing!

 

Recently I discovered the site “Fifty Word Stories” http://fiftywordstories.com/.  I am enjoying reading what writers can cram into 50 or fewer words.  Check it out; I’m sure you will be astonished by the creativity there.   The site is run by Tim, who spent a year writing these kinds of micro-stories before turning it into an online magazine.

 

Inspired by what I saw on the site, I tried writing my own 50 word story.  Here is the story and below it is the explanation because I’m sure a lot of people will not get the references.

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Guess Who Built A Car

My mechanic isn’t your typical American woman.  She built her own car!  Before these eyes saw it, I was laughing.  It has a Cummings engine and a Bachman Turner overdrive.  She finished it in no time.  It’s a good vehicle for taking care of business or to let it ride.

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Here is the explanation for those of you who aren’t fans of The Guess Who (and Bachman Turner Overdrive and Burton Cummings):  The parts underlined are the names of songs.  In red letters are band names.  After performing as The Guess Who, the band broke up, Randy Bachman and friends forming Bachman Turner Overdrive and Burton Cummings performing solo.  Cummings also sounds and looks like Cummins (http://www.cummins.com/), the name of an American engine manufacturer.  Overdrives are a type of gear often found on cars.

Guess Who Built A Car

My mechanic isn’t your typical American woman.  She built her own car!  Before these eyes saw it, I was laughing.  It has a Cummings engine and a Bachman Turner overdrive.  She finished it in no time.  It’s a good vehicle for taking care of business or to let it ride.

On my list of authors that “I have to read one day” has been Urusula K. Le Guin. Having just finished Changing Planes, I wish I hadn’t waited so long. I found myself effortlessly carried away into the story.

Keeping with my book review style, I’m not going to go into any detail about the book’s content. I found her concept creative and her storytelling suberb. She has won herself another fan.

Of course, I’m not a great writer or critic, so if you need a more qualified endorsement, the back cover of the book has a quote from another author I admire. Marageret Atwood writes:

“All Le Guin’s stories are… metaphors for the human story; all her fantastic planets are this one. Le Guin is a quintessentially American writer, of the sort for whom the quest for the Peaceable Kingdom is ongoing.”

Title: Changing Planes
Author: Ursula K. Le Guin
Illustrator: Eric Beddows
Publisher: Harcourt Inc.
Copyright: 2003
ISBN: 0-15-100971-6
Website: http://www.HarcourtBooks.com

Author’s Website: http://www.ursulakleguin.com/

 

Continuing with the theme of politics, here are two quotes:

“Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel.”  — Samuel Johnson.

“This and no other is the root from which a tyrant springs; when he first appears above ground he is a protector.”  — Socrates in Plato’s The Republic.
(My source is the book, “The Full Catastrophe” by James Angelos)