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Thread: What are you reading?

  1. #4381
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    "The Island Of Doctor Moreau" via the Gutenberg Project. This is one I hadn't read before. I know it's considered a "classic" of early science fiction, and I did enjoy it as an adventure/thriller. But I find it strange that even in Wells' day anyone thought anything of that sort might be possible, if not plausible.

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  2. #4382
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    Quote Originally Posted by schlaugh View Post
    ... The Pleasant Profession of Robert A. Heinlein, a study of RAH and his works. From Amazon:
    In this major critical study, Hugo Award-winner Farah Mendlesohn carries out a close reading of Heinlein’s work, including unpublished stories, essays, and speeches. It sets out not to interpret a single book, but to think through the arguments Heinlein made over a lifetime about the nature of science fiction, about American politics, and about himself.
    The darned thing is 457 pages. I didn't think anyone could write that much about the guy.
    I've just finished this. Thanks for drawing it to my attention.
    You're right, it could have been shorter. I suspect a more conventional publisher would have tightened it up, and also sorted out some of Mendlesohn's ambiguous sentences.
    But an interesting read, nevertheless. She and some of her sources seem to have come to the same conclusion as I did, after reading Patterson's biography and rereading Starship Trooper, Stranger In A Strange Land and The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress (the three novels Heinlein said you had to understand in order to understand Heinlein). I thought at the time that many of the key concepts in Heinlein's worldview were actually arrived at emotionally--patriotism, personal honour, the importance of family, various political views--but that his self-image was of a hard-nosed realist who always followed the facts. So he ended up trying to make logical arguments for things that couldn't really be defended logically (because the arguments started from premises that had been arrived at emotionally), and then either getting angry when people didn't accept his arguments, or dismissing them as "custardheads".

    Basically, he kept bringing engineering-style arguments to a moral-philosophy fight.

    Grant Hutchison

  3. #4383
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    Quote Originally Posted by CJSF View Post
    "The Island Of Doctor Moreau" via the Gutenberg Project. This is one I hadn't read before. I know it's considered a "classic" of early science fiction, and I did enjoy it as an adventure/thriller. But I find it strange that even in Wells' day anyone thought anything of that sort might be possible, if not plausible.
    Wells himself categorized all his literary works to be Fantasy, more important as drivers of the imagination than as "realistic" possibilities. He was not a "hard SF" proponent by any means.

    As for what was publicly accepted as scientifically accurate... well, they did believe weirder things at the time.
    "I'm planning to live forever. So far, that's working perfectly." Steven Wright

  4. #4384
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    I have just finished "Awakening - A History of the Western Mind AD 500 - 1700" by Charles Freeman. It was not a 'fun' read as it comprises some 741 closely printed pages of information and argument. I usually found that I had to dip in it for a few pages at a time as it committed that most horrendous sin of making me think. There is no way that I can really paraphrase this book but it did introduce me to a number of philosophers and theologians that I had never heard of before and expanded, greatly, my knowledge of others. There was the occasional bit of dry wit thrown in now again. For example in describing one of the numerous not entirely 'clean handed' Popes who 'diverted' 1/3 of Papal income - ".... was a great benefactor of the arts and his family."

    https://www.irishtimes.com/culture/h...book-1.4366425

  5. #4385
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    Quote Originally Posted by ozduck View Post
    I have just finished "Awakening - A History of the Western Mind AD 500 - 1700" by Charles Freeman. It was not a 'fun' read as it comprises some 741 closely printed pages of information and argument. I usually found that I had to dip in it for a few pages at a time as it committed that most horrendous sin of making me think. There is no way that I can really paraphrase this book but it did introduce me to a number of philosophers and theologians that I had never heard of before and expanded, greatly, my knowledge of others. There was the occasional bit of dry wit thrown in now again. For example in describing one of the numerous not entirely 'clean handed' Popes who 'diverted' 1/3 of Papal income - ".... was a great benefactor of the arts and his family."
    I've always been interested in history and philosophy, in my own amateurish self-taught way. I have read a few of the "Classical" writings of Western thought, and it's been eye-opening in both positive and negative ways; we still face some of the same moral and ethical arguments that the ancient Athenians dealt with.

    I'm also interested in learning about some of the non-Western philosophies and traditions. The Classics were taught in school but I had little or no access to other paths growing up. Now that I have the internet and free time, I'm starting to learn how the rest of the world sees the world.
    "I'm planning to live forever. So far, that's working perfectly." Steven Wright

  6. #4386
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    Quote Originally Posted by Noclevername View Post
    I've always been interested in history and philosophy, in my own amateurish self-taught way. I have read a few of the "Classical" writings of Western thought, and it's been eye-opening in both positive and negative ways; we still face some of the same moral and ethical arguments that the ancient Athenians dealt with.

    I'm also interested in learning about some of the non-Western philosophies and traditions. The Classics were taught in school but I had little or no access to other paths growing up. Now that I have the internet and free time, I'm starting to learn how the rest of the world sees the world.
    I have to admit that while I 'knew' that the Classics were rediscovered in Europe via the 'Arab world I didn't realise how important the writings of Plato and Aristotle were in regard to Christian thought in the period covered by this book.

  7. #4387
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    Quote Originally Posted by ozduck View Post
    I have just finished "Awakening - A History of the Western Mind AD 500 - 1700" by Charles Freeman. It was not a 'fun' read as it comprises some 741 closely printed pages of information and argument. I usually found that I had to dip in it for a few pages at a time as it committed that most horrendous sin of making me think. There is no way that I can really paraphrase this book but it did introduce me to a number of philosophers and theologians that I had never heard of before and expanded, greatly, my knowledge of others. There was the occasional bit of dry wit thrown in now again. For example in describing one of the numerous not entirely 'clean handed' Popes who 'diverted' 1/3 of Papal income - ".... was a great benefactor of the arts and his family."

    https://www.irishtimes.com/culture/h...book-1.4366425
    I have a similar book called the Passion of the Western Mind, by Richard Tarnas. A history of philosophy. But it does not deal with Chinese philosophy. It also is not easy to read at a sitting! The BBC series “In Our Time” is, I believe, available as podcasts and includes discussion of several philosphers and philosophies in a digestible form. At least I find it so, it adds to the read because a small team of contributors discuss the ideas. Epicurus is a favourite of mine. Partly because his name is so misused today.
    sicut vis videre esto
    When we realize that patterns don't exist in the universe, they are a template that we hold to the universe to make sense of it, it all makes a lot more sense.
    Originally Posted by Ken G

  8. #4388
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    Quote Originally Posted by profloater View Post
    A history of philosophy. But it does not deal with Chinese philosophy. It also is not easy to read at a sitting!
    It would of course be difficult to do more that a brief overview of the various dominant philosophical traditions in one book or even one series. I know the many Chinese, Indian, Japanese, and Islamic groups are the most well developed because those cultures have vast volumes of historical writings on the subject, but many indigenous philosophies worth studying are finding their way into the written word too.

    (I always try to keep in mind that the prevailing Western views did not become prevailing in the world purely out of their own merits, but because the colonial powers had better guns.)
    "I'm planning to live forever. So far, that's working perfectly." Steven Wright

  9. #4389
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    I found The Aeronauts from the TIME-LIFE series “The Epic of Flight” at a library booksale on Saturday. Because it’s about early balloonists, it doesn’t feel as dated as some of their other 70s-80s books— aside from one reference to “what is now West Germany”.
    The greatest journey of all time, for all to see
    Every mission makes our dreams reality
    And our destiny begins with you and me
    Through all space and time, the achievement of mankind
    As we sail the sea of discovery, on heroes’ wings we fly!

  10. #4390
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    How Apollo Flew To The Moon, by W. David Woods. Absolutely excellent discussion of the technical and engineering aspects of getting Apollo to the Moon and back again, interleaved with illustrative mission transcripts, exerpts from post-mission debriefs, and quotes from autobiographies. Highly recommended for Apollo buffs. I picked up two errors--a confusion between the coordinate systems of the spacecraft and the space vehicle, and a repetition of the surprisingly common myth that the transfer trajectories were coplanar with the Moon's orbit.

    Grant Hutchison

  11. #4391
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    Quote Originally Posted by grant hutchison View Post
    How Apollo Flew To The Moon, by W. David Woods. Absolutely excellent discussion of the technical and engineering aspects of getting Apollo to the Moon and back again, interleaved with illustrative mission transcripts, exerpts from post-mission debriefs, and quotes from autobiographies. Highly recommended for Apollo buffs. I picked up two errors--a confusion between the coordinate systems of the spacecraft and the space vehicle, and a repetition of the surprisingly common myth that the transfer trajectories were coplanar with the Moon's orbit.

    Grant Hutchison
    I saw a recent youtube video of a lecture about the flight computer, its history and function. It was an eye opener when so many quips are made about mobile phones being more powerful. It was a real time controller and had programs for every phase, and of course it worked. The famous manual take over is also a myth. Armstrong changed a parameter. The computer was updating predicted landing spot versus programmed spot and he manually changed the chosen spot, the computer tracked and correctly controlled the descent accordingly. All with a rather beautiful ferrite torroid, hand wired main memory. And a pack of Nor gates. It also established reliability protocols still used for real time computing today. Impressive, I think, in retrospect.
    sicut vis videre esto
    When we realize that patterns don't exist in the universe, they are a template that we hold to the universe to make sense of it, it all makes a lot more sense.
    Originally Posted by Ken G

  12. #4392
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    Quote Originally Posted by profloater View Post
    The famous manual take over is also a myth. Armstrong changed a parameter. The computer was updating predicted landing spot versus programmed spot and he manually changed the chosen spot, the computer tracked and correctly controlled the descent accordingly.
    That's not actually entirely correct. There was a program, P65, intended to switch in after Low Gate was passed, which would automatically land the LM at a designated spot, but it was never used. What Armstrong switched to at about 600 feet, before Low Gate, was P66. And what P66 did was to look after the Rate of Descent, ensuring that the LM would reach the surface with negligible vertical velocity, while passing attitude control to manual operation. Armstrong then pitched the LM to vertical, which let it loft over the boulder field below, and then pitched it back slightly to start bleeding off downrange speed. And then he jockeyed it to the ground with a slight forward velocity so that he could always see where he was going.

    If necessary, the Commander could also tweak the P66's control of Rate of Descent, by flicking a switch that momentarily added or subtracted vertical bursts of acceleration.

    All subsequent Apollo Commanders landed in P66 mode, though Lovell I think has said that he was prepared to give P65 a go, if Apollo 13 had gone as planned.

    Grant Hutchison
    Last edited by grant hutchison; 2021-May-06 at 06:22 PM.

  13. #4393
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    Quote Originally Posted by grant hutchison View Post
    That's not actually entirely correct. There was a program, P65, intended to switch in after Low Gate was passed, which would automatically land the LM at a designated spot, but it was never used. What Armstrong switched to at about 600 feet, before Low Gate, was P66. And what P66 did was to look after the Rate of Descent, ensuring that the LM would reach the surface with negligible vertical velocity, while passing attitude control to manual operation. Armstrong then pitched the LM to vertical, which let it loft over the boulder field below, and then pitched it back slightly to start bleeding off downrange speed. And then he jockeyed it to the ground with a slight forward velocity so that he could always see where he was going.

    If necessary, the Commander could also tweak the P66's control of Rate of Descent, by flicking a switch that momentarily added or substracted vertical bursts of acceleration.

    All subsequent Apollo Commanders landed in P66 mode, though Lovell I think has said that he was prepared to give P65 a go, if Apollo 13 had gone as planned.

    Grant Hutchison
    Thanks for that correction, I did not mention the hardware bug that overloaded the computer during the last phases, ( according to the lecture) the upper radar for reconnecting to the orbiter, kept interrupting with “no signal” messages and requiring reboot when also asked for coordinate update from above. When I think of the state of real time control at that time, and the size of contemporary computers, it was a major leap in technology.
    sicut vis videre esto
    When we realize that patterns don't exist in the universe, they are a template that we hold to the universe to make sense of it, it all makes a lot more sense.
    Originally Posted by Ken G

  14. #4394
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    I speed read through a couple of YA novels by H. M. Hoover:

    Another Heaven, Another Earth
    The Rains of Eridan
    The Lost Star
    The Winds of Mars

    Another Heaven, Another Earth is by far the best of the four. It's about a planet that seems good for colonization if it weren't for the other colony already in place.

    One of the interesting things about these books is, they could be in a shared universe but are not a series. Each one has a bit of space opera feel, but the author plays space travel straight. There are zero references to FLT, most sorts of weapons, no anti-gravity, etc. She must have done some research on space travel because ships "commit" to leaving orbit. They could stop but there is a cost, usually in terms of planning time. Travel times are weeks and months. It is mentioned several times that leaving Earth is effectively a one way trip as everyone you know will be dead when you return.

    I am sure the author takes all kinds of liberties with biology and the other sciences, but almost of all of these follow the "this is one break from reality" for the sake of having a story or so odd that it's hard to spot. The books are loaded with alien life, but most of time it's non-sentient. When it is sentient, it is always starfish aliens. Some animals will eat people, but only until enough of them die. Humans rare eat found life, it is almost always fatal or at least worse than starving. Even found water has problems, especially when there is life present.

    She seems to have predicted the ubiquity of cameras in the future but they all have film. It almost comes across as people today calling recordings "videos" no matter the format. Maybe it isn't really "film"? It was all written in the 70's and 80's, so I am sure she really meant film. A younger reader might question it.

    Hoover also has an interesting way of portraying characters who are acting irrationally. She throws the act out there and then has the character reasonably justify it through deed or word. It all ends up making sense.

    Edit - I missed one of my favorite bits. Some of the shuttles or air cars fly by ionic lift. What is interesting about them is they aren't real fast and stuff can punch right through the "hull". It's kind of an interesting plot device. They are super light, not fast and don't represent any sort of threat. However, when they breakdown they give all of the harrowing moments of a plane crash without the speed. They can't even fall fast. It's really kind of odd where the character's fear of falling and loss of control is greater than what is actually happening.

    The reader is left to figure it out the details. They are offered piecemeal. A child put a finger through the side of one, an animal sticks a beak through it to bite the child's finger. It isn't strong enough to do more than leave a red mark. The batteries and capacitors are mentioned a bunch of times. As is the hum and the electricity.
    Last edited by Solfe; 2021-May-15 at 04:54 AM.
    Solfe

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    Quote Originally Posted by Solfe View Post
    sentient. film. It almost comes across as people today calling recordings "videos" no matter the format. Maybe it isn't really "film"? It was all written in the 70's and 80's, so I am sure she really meant film. A younger reader might question it.
    I’d agree. I distinctly remember having a conversation with a colleague in the mid/late 1990s where he claimed that APS was film’s last gasp before digital photography killed it. Digital was just entertaining the general public consciousness at that time.
    I may have many faults, but being wrong ain't one of them. - Jimmy Hoffa

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    Quote Originally Posted by Solfe View Post
    I
    She seems to have predicted the ubiquity of cameras in the future but they all have film. It almost comes across as people today calling recordings "videos" no matter the format. Maybe it isn't really "film"? It was all written in the 70's and 80's, so I am sure she really meant film. A younger reader might question it.
    The nature of science fiction futurism is that it's constantly getting outdated.

    "Always in motion, is the future." - Yoda
    "It's hard to make predictions, especially about the future!" - Yogi Berra
    "What the hell is a gigawatt?!" - Marty McFly
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  17. #4397
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    I'm reading another of Hoover's books called Orvis. Orvis is an old, old robot. He is so antiquated, he was court ordered to scrap himself. One of the amusing bits is the robot has been to Mars, Io, Ganymede or Callisto and Venus. The book was written in 1987, so the author had clearly known where the exciting places in the solar system were.

    Orvis is so old, he's been rebuilt and repurposed so many time that his memory isn't intact. He's totally unreliable and says so. There is the implication that he has memory of his parts, not one whole consistent memory. Much of his memories of Earth are of white rooms, which he strangely can't find now that he is in need of repair.

    Getting down to the surface of Venus is a pretty wild ride. Getting something back off the surface of Venus has got to be insane. I find it a charming and whimsical detail because I never troubled myself to think of how hard leaving Venus would be.
    Solfe

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    Quote Originally Posted by Solfe View Post
    Getting down to the surface of Venus is a pretty wild ride. Getting something back off the surface of Venus has got to be insane. I find it a charming and whimsical detail because I never troubled myself to think of how hard leaving Venus would be.
    It's only roughly 90 times harder than leaving Earth (greater atmosphere minus lower gravity plus basically no spin to speak of)
    "I'm planning to live forever. So far, that's working perfectly." Steven Wright

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    Quote Originally Posted by Noclevername View Post
    It's only roughly 90 times harder than leaving Earth (greater atmosphere minus lower gravity plus basically no spin to speak of)
    That's a pretty cool detail for a "survivor character". Orvis is slightly ominous, he is a military robot repurposed for exploration. The military didn't like the idea of a sentient machine, so he was repurposed. He wasn't unique and there is hinting that the military wasn't so great at destroying the robot menace they created. It's only a 125-150 pages, so I doubt it will cover that aspect.

    I've noticed there is this subtext that the earth suffered an ecological disaster that was only corrected by sending people off world, which created a utopian society for all humans. However, the utopian story is just cover for controlling people so they don't create any more ecological disasters. The whole thing is driven by commercial interests not a government or ruling class. The main forces seems to be a "paper AI", a series of goals and conventions that everyone follows to their detriment. It may explain there are no sequels or connecting characters in these books. There are only a handful of "bad guys", who are still promoting that overreaching goal of exploration for utopianism just like the heroes. It's really odd.
    Solfe

  20. #4400
    Oops , just finished Kathy Reichs Monday Mourning on a Tuesday morning, good read I think all the TV version took was the Brennan's name and the relationship between her and the detective. It actually takes place in Quebec and talks about areas outside that province like mine, just wished she wrote Ryan in going to st Mary's instead of st Francais Xavier.
    Last edited by The Backroad Astronomer; 2021-Jun-01 at 03:50 PM. Reason: spelling.
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  21. #4401
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    Perhaps the smaller town setting of St. F-X vs St. Mary's matters? (I'm not familiar with the story.)

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    After many years away, I'm re-reading an old favorite, The Mote In God's Eye. Much of it still holds up, and makes me jealous as a writer. I'd give my left everything to make something half as good.
    "I'm planning to live forever. So far, that's working perfectly." Steven Wright

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    What are you reading?

    I’m currently reading “One Giant Leap: The Impossible Mission That Flew Us to the Moon” by Charles Fishman.

    Each chapter seems to be a deep dive into one aspect of Apollo. The first chapter goes into the politics that led to the program, while the second goes into the history and development of the navigation system. The book appears to be very well researched, and this admitted Apollo nerd has learned a few new things.

    The down side is that it was apparently published while all the editors were on vacation. Parts are repetitive. Sentences seem to have been inserted as an afterthought, disrupting the flow, which already has problems, etc.

    I’m only part way into the book, but recommend it to those interested in the story behind Apollo.
    Last edited by Extravoice; 2021-Jun-10 at 12:18 PM.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Noclevername View Post
    After many years away, I'm re-reading an old favorite, The Mote In God's Eye. Much of it still holds up, and makes me jealous as a writer. I'd give my left everything to make something half as good.
    I know I read the first one and maybe the second. I did not like it for stylistic reasons, but that a personal thing. It is a rock solid read. Definitely worth the time.
    Solfe

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    Quote Originally Posted by Solfe View Post
    I know I read the first one and maybe the second. I did not like it for stylistic reasons, but that a personal thing. It is a rock solid read. Definitely worth the time.
    The sequel was IMO not as great... any story that centers a long, slow solar-system-wide "stern chase" as a major plot development is barking up the wrong alley.
    "I'm planning to live forever. So far, that's working perfectly." Steven Wright

  26. #4406
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    Quote Originally Posted by Noclevername View Post
    The sequel was IMO not as great... any story that centers a long, slow solar-system-wide "stern chase" as a major plot development is barking up the wrong alley.
    I am not sure how I feel about that one because I love nothing more than a good stern chase in sci-fi. At least knowledgeable sci-fi. I personally love the stories that came about due to the testing for docking maneuvers. Pretty much everyone went for the "more throttle" answer to catch up with a target only to find that "more throttle" causes the target to get farther away. It's so simple and counterintuitive at the same time. The whole idea that speed isn't your friend in a chase is great.
    Solfe

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    I found the third book, written by Pournelle's daughter, quite entertaining, in a read-and-forget kind of way. It did some things well, some things badly, and some things interestingly. Unfortunately, it was either self-published or somehow avoided the attentions of a copy editor, so there were a lot of annoying typos and punctuation errors.

    Grant Hutchison

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