A Brief History of Everyone Who Ever Lived (2016) by Adam Rutherford
I got this book from my family when I went back to South Africa. I can’t recall whether it was a Christmas or birthday present. In any case, I spent the last two-and-a-bit days in the Czech Republic for a PhD retreat and was able to use some of the time there to finish reading this book. Overall, I liked it but with some reservations. Continue reading →
The Conquest of Bread (1892, translation 1926) by Peter Kropotkin
Despite some inconsistencies, what I do know is that Peter Kropotkin is the English version of the name of a Russian prince who gave that up to become an anarchist and a communist. His philosophy was detailed in several books, including The Conquest of Bread which was originally published in French in 1892. I believe the English translation which I read (also available on Project Gutenberg) was published in 1926.
The books two main themes are communism – the communal ownership of the means of production, the elimination of class and money and the distribution of goods to fulfil the needs of all members of society – and anarchism – the elimination of all forms of government in favour of equality and free association between people. This bares similarities to the predominant Marxist form of communism but is not exactly the same and nearly every reference to Marxism in the book is in a negative sense. Continue reading →
Participants at the Lange Nacht der Forschung learning all about plants.
Despite the rather portentous date of Friday the 13th, it was also the second time I was involved with the Lange Nacht der Forschung or Long Night of Research. My first was in May 2016. This is an event to bring science to the public that happens every two years. Continue reading →
Thousands have lived without love, not one without water.
-W. H. Auden
When I visited my family in Cape Town a few weeks ago there was one topic which came up every day; water. Even before had I landed there was announcement on the plane that Cape Town was in the middle of a severe drought and that everyone should use water sparingly. This was followed up with posters in the airport and the first tangible signs of how life had changed. I finished up in the airport bathroom but there was no longer the luxury of soap and water. That had been replaced with waterless hand sanitisers, as in my family’s homes.
One reason I can be glad of the two weeks I spent with my family in South Africa is because it gave me some time to catch up on some reading. It was also hot, so I didn’t actually write anything but we’ll forget that. Let’s start the 2018 book list!
I remember my interest in reading the Jeeves and Wooster stories came from a small extract in one of the English comprehension pieces we did at school. There wasn’t much there but there was something about it that made me curious and I was disappointed when I couldn’t find any copies of the books at the time. Continue reading →
One of the nice things about reading older scientists’ blogs and Twitter feeds is that you get reminded of things you should know and have your own views corrected from their years of experience. One of the things that I’ve seen Larry Moran, professor emeritus at the University of Toronto, write about repeatedly is the Central Dogma of Molecular Biology.
The Central Dogma is a concept that was described by Francis Crick, one of the two scientists who described the structure of DNA, and can be summarised by saying that sequence information can be transferred between nucleic acids or from nucleic acids to protein but never from protein to either protein or to nucleic acid. Or, in graphical form with arrows showing transfer of sequence information:
This one’s a little different from the others as it is a collection of short stories. I guess in that way it’s similar to Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde which was also a short story in a collection but in that case I only read the eponymous story. Another difference is that this one is not quite as mainstream and is instead published by FurPlanet, one of several furry publishing houses.
All the stories revolve around sex in one or another fashion although the role it plays varies from pure erotica to merely being mentioned in the context of a fur needing her ex’s sperm because her current partner is incompatible for producing children. That is due to the furry nature of the stories which includes anthropomorphic characters of a variety of species, all of which are given individual traits.
With sex as a central facet of life and one with many personal and societal implications it is used here to provide the drama that the characters need to react to. And their reactions are always interesting and unique. The strongest part of the stories is the excellent characterisation of all the participants even in a very short space of time and even for minor characters. While my own interest in each story did vary, in all of them I found the characters to be well formed and I was always eager to see what would happen next.