Thursday, September 18, 2014


 A review of Stephen Hawking’s A Brief History of Time (1998, edition)

(Rating 5 of 5)

When I was reading the Memoirs of Ulysses S. Grant or the works of Julius Caesar, I found when they explained military tactics or organization to me I understood it the same way I understood chess.  With chess I get how the pieces move but I don’t understand strategy in any meaningful way.  With Hawking I found that I generally understood concepts as he was explaining them, however when it comes to understanding it to the point I could confidently explain it to someone else I was still a little off.  This is more my own limitations however, not Hawking’s.

Google Hawking's name and this is the type of images you get

It was similar to when I was reading the Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson; I found I really enjoyed the discussion on how discoveries were made and how the scientists with their quirky personalities interact with each other.  I often find the later more interesting than the discoveries themselves.  The difference of course with Bryson’s work is that Hawking is an actually player in his field so it creates a more personal involvement.  

I greatly enjoyed the parts of the book when he would discuss how his personal life challenges and odd ball personality would impact his work.  One example is when his disability makes an ordinary task such as going to bed long and boring, as Hawking has to let others assist him for such things, so he puts his mind to something else and makes tremendous discoveries.  One of my favorite things I learned about him was that he places bets with other scientists against his own theories being true.  This way if he was wrong about the science he would at least have won something.  
I highly recommend this book it is a good eye-opener into how universe works.

{Video is from}

Monday, September 15, 2014


A review of  Simon Sebag Montefiore's Speeches That Changed the World (2010)

(Rating 2 of 5)

My initial reaction to this book was it was not properly titled.  I think a better title would have been ‘Pieces of my Favorite Speeches.’ The speeches are taken from various people throughout history from Jesus to President Barack Obama.  Each speech is preceded by a mini-biography.  The historical and world changing aspects of each speech are up to some debate.  The speeches are not always presented whole, but edited for space and in some cases outright mutilated.   There were some I found fascinating such as Pierre Trudeau’s speech during Quebec separatist crisis. (For the record, I think there is no movement more ridiculous the Quebec sovereignty movement.)  I thought the choice of speeches for General Patton was sad.  If you are going to choose one speech from General Patton, why would you choose one without his most famous line*?
            In addition, there is a video that goes with this, however it is more of a history of world from 1933-2009 than a collection of speeches.  It is a poor reinforcement for the book.          

*"No bastard ever won a war dying for his country.  He won it by making the other poor dumb bastard die for his country."