01 August 2005

The books in the bag

I have a long commute to and from work. On a good day, when the trains are running on time, it's about 1 h and 10 min each way; otherwise, longer. I make the best of my time by reading or taking naps.

I carry a big bag for my lunch, notebook, various odds and ends, and, of course, for the books, magazines or the journal articles that I may be reading on a given day.

Here is this week's reading material in the bag.

Peter Atkins is Professor of Chemistry at Oxford University. One of his earlier books, Creation Revisited, remains as one of my most favorite books. Galileo’s Finger, published in 2003, has chapters dealing with evolution, DNA, energy, entropy, atoms, quantum mechanics and cosmology; in other words, just about everything in the universe. Although I am more or less familiar with most of the subject matter, I am enjoying the book, mostly because of the snippets of wisdom Dr. Atkins extracts from his analyses of natural phenomena and reveals to us here and there in the book.

For example:

The really immortal component of life is not the physical gene, it is the abstract information it contains. Information is immortal, and information is ruthlessly selfish. Genetic information is probably the ultimate unit of selection, with DNA its realization and a body its discardable, subservient vessel.

I am not sure if I agree that genes (or their information content) are the units of selection, but this is still a thought-provoking idea.

In fact, the two great foundations of science are casuality, the influence of one event on a subsequent event, and energy. Casuality is essentially the coherence and consistency of the chain of commands that keeps the universe moving and which we disentangle to achieve understanding; energy is the ever watchful guardian of propriety, ensuring that causality causes only legitimate actions.
Why, of course, why didn’t I think of that before?

Creationism, including its transparently camouflaged variant “intelligent design”, is not science: it is an untestable assertion pursuing and impelled by an anti-science, religiously motivated agenda.

That really sums it up.

Also in the bag is the issue No. 34 of the Zoology in the Middle East that arrived last week. As its title implies, this journal is devoted entirely to zoological studies carried in Middle Eastern countries, which, by the publishers’ definition, also include Armenia. Some of the articles in this issue are on the bats of Turkey, gekkos of Egypt, new records of fishes from the Gulf of Aqaba and earthworms of Jordan.

One interesting note is about the brown bears (Ursus arctos) in Golestan National Park in Iran that eat sunflower seeds growing in farms adjacent to the park. The authors (Khaleghizadeh & Khormali) are recommending that the farmers be compensated for the damage caused by the bears “before farmers consider to kill the bears”.

ZME is published by Kasparek Verlag and the subscription price for two annual issues is 48 Euros. They accept credit card payments, so there is no need to waste time and additional money with bank transfers or postal money orders.

Last but not least, I am reading the July issue of the monthly Turkish magazine Toplumsal Tarih. This magazine, published by the Tarih Vakfi, is mostly about the history and archaeology of Turkey with occasional articles on other regions of the world. Many articles concern lesser known historical events or persons or some forgotten historical aspect of Turkish culture. I have had difficulty coming up with an appropriate English title. Perhaps, I would call it “Societal History”. It is a pretty good publication; arguably the best of its kind published in Turkey. Nevertheless, the writing needs to be refined quite a bit. They need better writers or editors to clean up the grammar and simplify the style.

In the July issue there are articles on the remains of the Byzantine hippodrome in Istanbul, a 1586 shipwreck off Amasra on the Black Sea coast of Turkey, the coal mines in Zonguldak and the Yezidis in Turkey.

I subscribed to Toplumsal Tarih last January through Tulumba (“the largest Turkish Megastore in the USA”). The issues have been coming regulary all the way from Turkey via Tulumba in New York. The subsciption costs $36 for 6 issues.

Happy reading!


deniz bevan said...

I'm sorry, I don't remember if this book was recommended in a previous blog or in an email, but I just finished reading The Dechroization of Sam Magruder by G.G. Simpson. I thought it was infinitely better than The Time Machine, especially as it was concerned with a certain philosophy behind the effects of time travel, and I wish it had been longer/more detailed. The edition I read also had a forward by Arthur C. Clarke (rather pointless) and an Afterword by Stephen Jay Gould (rather interesting - this also could have been longer).
As relates to this post, this week in my reading-on-the-train bag I've got Captain Corelli's Mandolin (Louis de Bernieres), a book of Turkish short stories by Tomris Uyar, Paradise Lost (Milton) and yesterday I finished re-reading Each Man's Son by Hugh MacLennan (Canadiana!).


I reviewed The Dechroization of Sam Magruder in an earlier post: http://snailstales.blogspot.com/2005/05/back-to-cretaceous-with-sam-magruder.html

I am glad you liked it.

La Bona said...
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