Samstag, 22. Mai 2010

Recent readings

A few remarks concerning some books I read since my last post:

  • Patterns of Democracy: Government Forms and Performance in Thirty-Six Countries presents a board study of democratic governments and classifies them into 'majoritarian' (e.g. UK) and 'consensus' (e.g. Switzerland) systems. He finds 10 items in 2 dimensions (or: the 10 items can be factored in 2 factors which good correlations) which are useful for classification. 36 countries are analysed with respect to this 10 items and the classical prejudices (majoritarian governments can act quicker and thus are better and more decisive, etc) are examined. His conclusion is that most of these turn out to be false; for some, rather the opposite seems to be true.
  • Qed: The Strange Theory of Light and Matter (Princeton Science Library) is a very good popular science book - in my opinion even better for those who have studied the matter beforehand. It does not contain any formulae - something I would complain about a lot if I didn't already know many of them. Otherwise, if you haven't had contact with quantum mechanics at all, it might be too less to be useful.
  • The Elegant Universe: Superstrings, Hidden Dimensions, and the Quest for the Ultimate Theory is one of the very few books on string theory I got my hands on yet. For a math/science orientated person, it gives a very rough but imprecise picture on the possible solutions string theory /might/ offer/s. On the other hand, it skips quite some of the problems string theory actually has (like the validity of the use of pertubation theory) and mostly due to the nature of string theory itself, doesn't offer any formulae. The recapitulation of relativity and quantum mechanics in the beginning of the book is ok, but not the best I read.
  • The other one seems to be available in German only: a collection of papers on the topics of globalization and nongovernment organizations: Die Privatisierung der Weltpolitik. It sheds light on the increasing influence of non-governmental organizations in world politics - not necessarily lobbyists from economy and industry, but also public interest organizations like environmental or animal rights activists. Very enjoyable is the neutral attitude, more analyzing than taking any side.
I ordered a bunch of new books on epigenetics and neurosciences.

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