Archive for the ‘Reviewed on Amazon’ Category

Mathematical Physics

Friday, September 14th, 2012

This book came to my attention because it starts with category theory in the first chapters and then moves to traditional contemporary mathematical physics topics such as topology and operators. It also covers groups, vector spaces, their duals, tensors, associative and Lie algebras, representation theory, spectral theorem, distributions, homotopy and homology. The author also provides physical examples along the way such as Fock vector spaces, dynamical systems, Minkowski space and algebra of observables. The flow of this mathematical text is very smooth (proofs can be omitted from reading) and explanations are very intuitive. The latter seems to be the main goal of this text. It is also structured into 56 chapters so it can be possible to casually read this book in 2 months during commuting like I did. One strange thing I noticed though is the avoidance of the manifold terminology: the author only uses the word “manifold” only once and without an explanation what it is about so you may even not notice that.

Mathematical Physics (Chicago Lectures in Physics)

- Dmitry Vostokov @ LiterateScientist.com -

An Introduction to General Systems Thinking

Tuesday, August 28th, 2012

This book I bought more than 5 years ago after I recognized that systems approach was needed for memory dump analysis. However, I read it only recently while preparing to talk on systemic software diagnostics. While reading I realized that I already applied some systems theory ideas, for example, about isomorphism of disciplines as systems (which I named as metaphorical bijection): from literary narratology to software narratology and from that to network trace analysis. So if you are interested in systems either computer software ones or human organizational then I would greatly recommend this book as an introduction. The recommended literature in exercises is also useful.

An Introduction to General Systems Thinking (Silver Anniversary Edition)

- Dmitry Vostokov @ LiterateScientist.com -

Max Mode D’Emploi

Friday, August 24th, 2012

Bought this book in Russian translation and quickly read from cover to cover. Very lively introduction without any utopian suggestions to change the world like in another introduction I read previously: Marx and the Alternative to Capitalism. A few funny cartoons like an employee who fires himself to save his company. Recommended to read before more cryptic The Philosophy of Marx by Étienne Balibar.

Marx (mode d’emploi)

- Dmitry Vostokov @ LiterateScientist.com -

Killing Time

Thursday, August 23rd, 2012

A lively autobiography of Paul Feyerabend that shows human side on every page and prompts a reader to think about life and love after turning the last page in contrast to much more formal autobiography of Saunders Mac Lane I read previously.

Killing Time: The Autobiography of Paul Feyerabend

- Dmitry Vostokov @ LiterateScientist.com -

A History of Christianity

Monday, April 30th, 2012

It is hard to write a review of this book because I have been reading it sporadically for more than 2 years and just finished today. When I bought it I didn’t know much about Christianity and it various branches (as being educated in secular Soviet Union) so it was difficult reading due to many historical and theological facts. Now I plan to watch DVD series from the same author and already started reading multi-volume sets such as History of the Christian Church (Schaff, Protestant perspective), Studies in Church History (Parsons, Catholic perspective) and waiting for arrival of 9 volumes of Cambridge History of Christianity bought with a great discount from Folio Society.

Just a small note that the last chapters were brief but very enlightening, for example, last pages about the disappearing of Hell and the appearing of burning (cremation).

Christianity: The First Three Thousand Years

PS. Actually learning about Christian faith helped me to deeply understand my own Memory Religion (Memorianity) with its conception of original memory defect: Memory Religion: A Core Testament of Memorianity (with an old original cover below)

- Dmitry Vostokov @ LiterateScientist.com -

Semiotics: The Basics

Thursday, March 29th, 2012

In 2008 when writing the first version of this review I admitted that Semiotics was a big gap in my education which mostly lied in natural and computer sciences. I knew less about social sciences and tried to fill various gaps. The reason why I came upon this discipline is that I’m interested in signs and their interpretations, especially their relation to various structures. I started reading this book in September, 2008.

Semiotics: The Basics

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As a by-product of reading I was able to provide the kind of a theoretical explanation for the phenomenon of bugtations:

Bugtations: a semiotic approach

Now after more than 3 years of intermittent reading I finally finished this book. In the mean time I was able to apply Semiotics to memory dump and software trace analysis (Memiotics) and now I also use it in connection with Software Narratology (an application of literary narratology to software narratives such as traces and event logs). What is also good about this book in addition to clearly explained concepts is a very good closing chapter summarising the whole book and the field, extensive reading guide, summary of leading schools, and a very good glossary. There is also an online book with extra materials:

http://users.aber.ac.uk/dgc/Documents/S4B/

- Dmitry Vostokov @ LiterateScientist.com -

Marx and the Alternative to Capitalism

Thursday, January 19th, 2012

This book I bought in a local Costa bookshop and found it was written by an Irish sociologist Kieran Allen. Shortly before my interest in Marxism was inspired by seeing a link to Irish communist party website and socialist bookshop in a booklet for Dublin Culture nights festival. It was a bit funny to see communists as part of Irish culture festival especially for me from former Soviet Union. Anyway, later I saw on streets that Marxist festivals are popular in Ireland nowadays. So let’s go back to the book. I found it very good and even lucid in explaining various Marxist ideas and vocabulary. A good start for more advance reading such as “Capital” (I have all 3 hardcover volumes from an Indian publisher and plan to have leather bound edition from Russia if I have enough surplus and MEW German edition) or specialized books such as “A Dictionary of Marxist Thought”. What I also tend to agree with the author is that Stalinism is a mirror of Capitalism (there is also a book “Magnetic Mountain: Stalinism as a Civilization” that I’m reading). I leave an application of a dialectical method of double negation to a reader here. Now the weak points of the book: 1) it doesn’t cover post-Stalinist era; 2) subsequent analysis of alternatives sounds a bit naive for me who really lived in socialism and can compare it to capitalism both in post-socialist country and now living in real capitalist country. The book also has a good reading suggestion list and I even thinking now on reading Voloshinov book “Marxism and the Philosophy of Language” (in Russian, although there is an English edition). Anyway, I would recommend Kieran’s book with reservations (about alternatives) as a first introduction to Marxist thought.

Marx and the Alternative to Capitalism

- Dmitry Vostokov @ LiterateScientist.com -

America, Empire of Liberty

Friday, December 23rd, 2011

Before I finished book I knew very little about USA history limited by my school education in former Soviet Union times. Now I feel more confident and plan to read 4 volumes of Oxford History of the United States and 16 volumes of History of America and not being overwhelmed by details. I’m also reading 3 volumes of The Cambridge History of the Cold War and the book provided missing context for the first volume. As a researcher of a history of Russian revolutions (a book is scheduled by OpenTask publisher for the centennial in 2017) I firmly believe that in order to understand a history of your own country it is beneficial to read about other countries. Then discerned historical patterns and insights can be applied to a different narrative.

America, Empire of Liberty: A New History of the United States

The book also has an overview of historical literature at the back which might be useful if you are interested in further pursuing special topics. Additionally the book provides the great overview of background historical material needed to understand modern cyber conflicts.

In conclusion, I must say I’d never thought before that US history was so interesting and I now feel great sympathy for this country.

- Dmitry Vostokov @ LiterateScientist.com -

On Kindness

Thursday, October 20th, 2011

This is a little book that I bought in local bookshop adjacent to Costa and quickly read from cover to cover while commuting. I was interested in this title because my relative studies kindness (and benevolence) as a topic in Russian literature so I thought by reading that book I could better discuss it. Approx. one third of the book narrates the evolution of the meaning of kindness from Classical Greece and Rome to earlier Christianity, Augustine, then to Hobbes (Leviathan), Enlightenment, and finally, Rousseau (Émile).  The second third is a lengthy treatise on the interpretation of kindness from psychoanalytical perspective (Freud, Winnicott). The final third is about the role of kindness in the modern Western society. Interesting read (although a bit repetitive sometimes) that prompted me to buy Leviathan: With Selected Variants from the Latin Edition of 1668 and to reconsider the role kindness in a modern corporation workplace.

On Kindness

This is a cover of the book that I bought (published by Penguin):

- Dmitry Vostokov @ LiterateScientist.com -

Classical Mechanics: Point Particles and Relativity

Friday, June 17th, 2011

It was my dream since the school days to learn physics in its entirety. Whereas The Feynman Lectures on Physics: Commemorative Issue, Three Volume Set that I own (I read it at school before university in Russian translation) is a bit light and don’t include the developments of the past 40 - 50 years and Course of Theoretical Physics by Landau was a bit heavy for me at those times (although I read Mechanics volume in Russian and a few beginning chapters from other volumes) I finally found what I need: Theoretical Physics course from Walter Greiner. I have now the first 3 volumes (there are many more volumes including Quantum Electrodynamics, Gauge Theory of Weak Interactions, Quantum Chromodynamics) and just started reading the first one: Classical Mechanics: Point Particles and Relativity (Classical Theoretical Physics). It explains all necessary mathematics, has all derivations, lots of examples and illustrations, and even talks about dark matter (in the first classical mechanics volume). More important I also ordered the original German edition (Theoretische Physik. Klassische Mechanik I. Dynamik und Dynamik der Punktteilchen - Relativität) and reading both in parallel. This improves my German as well.

- Dmitry Vostokov @ LiterateScientist.com -

Choosing a School: Second Level Education in Ireland

Monday, April 25th, 2011

It’s time to select a secondary level school for my kids in advance. I wasn’t aware that such books exist and I was delighted when I saw the book in a local library. Unfortunately, my expectations weren’t met: 2/3rds of the book is just the list of schools and the text is too academic and politically correct for any good use except to reinforce common sense although I didn’t expect to hear saucy stories. Just two insights I found useful: some parents don’t enroll their children in the nearest school because they perceive themselves as not very responsible if they do that and don’t blindly trust school ranks in academic examination results as they might be influenced by school size. So my conclusion is that this book might be of some help to reevaluate your commitments if you rely too much on certain knowledge acquisition mechanisms such as “grapevine”, never thought about participating in PTA (Parent Teacher Association) or want to hear what Principles carefully say from their side. Some bibliography might be useful if you want to continue this research further on. However, the authors warn that no so much of it exists for Ireland.

Choosing a School: Second Level Education in Ireland

- Dmitry Vostokov @ LiterateScientist.com -

Darwin: The Life of a Tormented Evolutionist

Thursday, July 15th, 2010

While reading evolution books ranging from popular like Darwin’s Dangerous Idea to specialized like Evolution: The First Four Billion Years and Encyclopedia of Evolution I felt the need to read Darwin’s biography. My first encounter with Darwin was even before a primary school when I was looking at illustrations to his voyages in a library. Later, during my school years in Soviet Union, I saw a movie about him. I vividly remember a Wilberforce and FitzRoy scene. So you might imaging that I was very keen to read 680 page book (not counting notes and bibliography). Unfortunately I found it a bit boring and written in a difficult language compared to other biographies I read in English. May be the language was chosen deliberately to emulate Victorian epoch?

Almost in the middle of reading this book I stumbled across another book: The Darwin Conspiracy: Origins of a Scientific Crime and reading the latter (it’s like a thriller and you can download the free PDF from www.darwin-conspiracy.co.uk) gave me an impulse to continue reading Darwin’s biography with a critical eye. Looking at the same facts your can always interpret them differently and the conspiracy book reminded me to read behind the lines more carefully and remember about politics in science and class issues in society. I’m very interested in memetic engineering Darwin used to delicately arrange and propagate his ideas. The biography mentions Wallace in passing a few times but there is no discussion about the priority and the crucial Linnean Society meeting is not in the focus and doesn’t grab any attention.

One fact I didn’t know before reading this biography is that Darwin was always sick. Now “tormented evolutionist” phrase acquires the new meaning to me. I also got the feeling that Darwin’s hesitation to publish his ideas (if he had any to publish) was caused by sickness as well. Actually the sickness was the main focus of the book. However I really wonder how could such a sick man (as described) could write that huge amount of correspondence, do research and write many books.

One quote I found at the end of the book says that Darwin would not approve anti-religious stance of Dawkins and Co.: 

“Moreover though I am a strong advocate for free thought on all subjects, yet it appears to me (whether rightly or wrongly) that direct arguments against christianity & theism produce hardly any effect on the public; & freedom of thought is best promoted by the gradual illumination of men’s minds, which follows from the advance of science. It has, therefore, been always my object to avoid writing on religion, & I have confined myself to science. I may, however, have been unduly biassed by the pain which it would give some members of my family, if I aided in any way direct attacks on religion.”

http://www.darwinproject.ac.uk/entry-12757

The quote got my attention probably because I recently read another book: The Selfish Genius.

Darwin: The Life of a Tormented Evolutionist

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- Dmitry Vostokov @ LiterateScientist.com -

Godel’s Theorem

Tuesday, December 22nd, 2009

This is a book I bought a few years ago and started reading immediately but put aside and only this summer read it fully from cover to cover. In order to appreciate its content you need some degree of mathematical and computer science maturity. For example, if you have never heard of his theorems and only read Incompleteness: The Proof and Paradox of Kurt Godel or similar popular book then you would have difficulty going through the book and it would appear boring. It is not an entertaining or bedside reading. This is why I put it aside on the first reading although I knew about this theorem since I read “Mathematics: The Loss of Certainty” more than 25 years ago being a schoolboy (in Russian translation). Just before writing this review I ordered “There’s Something About Godel: The Complete Guide to the Incompleteness Theorem” and the latter looks like less heavy reading judged from excerpts from its publisher website. Putting all these reminiscences aside I really enjoyed second reading of “Godel’s Theorem”. It really clarified some points from ¬B->¬A or PA & ¬Con(PA) perspectives and made me curious about fixpoints. I even borrowed the latter term and introduced them for crash dump analysis and debugging: “a dereference fixpoint”. I also liked chapters 4 and 6 about using Godel’s theorems outside mathematics and clarifying misconceptions in Rucker’s and Penrose’s books. However, after a few months I cannot recall anything definite what I read from that book although I felt good that I understood everything while reading so perhaps the book requires the 3rd reading for me :-) I’m going to give it another try after “There’s Something About Godel” and update this review.

Godel’s Theorem: An Incomplete Guide to Its Use and Abuse

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- Dmitry Vostokov @ LiterateScientist.com -

The Selfish Genius

Friday, December 18th, 2009

I read this book in just one day from cover to cover. I’m not a professional biologist and learnt about evolution 25 - 30 years ago from Marxist perspective. My understanding of evolution has greatly improved this year after reading Darwin’s Dangerous Idea, This Is Biology, Breaking the Spell, Evolution: The First Four Billion Years and The 10,000 Year Explosion books. I’ve also started reading (and listening to its unabridged version on CDs simultaneously) the latest Dawkins’ book “The Greatest Show on Earth” (to be reviewed as soon as I finish) after the thought “Who’s that guy?” finally tipped. I noticed the partnership of D. Dennett and R. Dawkins when reading books and also rants from religious camps when reading reviews. So I was very keen to read the promised history of Dawkins thought in “The Selfish Genius” book and I really enjoyed it. Judged from the background knowledge I acquired while reading various books about evolution “The Selfish Genius” seems fair and balanced. Sometimes it reminded me the similar problem in Physics: String Theory vs. Others (Not Even Wrong and the Trouble With Physics). When I put “The Selfish Genius” and resumed reading “The Greatest Show on Earth” I immediately noticed a footnote on page 216 (ISBN 978-1-4165-9478-9): “epigenetics, a modish buzz-word now enjoying its fifteen minutes” and if you are curious about the source of this anger read “The Selfish Genius” book. I also like the point of the book that for different people with different backgrounds “Evolution” means different things. For me it is about evolution of software but mainly about evolution of software defects: Darwinian Debugging and I even bugtated Dawkins’ meme: Bugtation No.108.

The Selfish Genius: How Richard Dawkins Rewrote Darwin’s Legacy

- Dmitry Vostokov @ LiterateScientist.com -

Preliminary Review of Advanced .NET Debugging

Tuesday, December 8th, 2009

Advanced .NET Debugging (Addison-Wesley Microsoft Technology Series)

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I’ve just started reading this book (see my notes on Software Generalist blog) and this review is written from the perspective of an unmanaged and native software engineer (the last phrase sounds funny). Being a member of a software support of a large software company I analyze crash dumps that have mscorwks.dll on their stack traces. So if you see them too this book helps you to understand what this DLL is all about and how to dig inside the hidden world of .NET it manages. I’m on page 26 and will update this review as soon as I finish the book in a few months. Please also see my review of the previous Mario’s (co-authored with Daniel Pravat) book: Advanced Windows Debugging. It is of great importance to know .NET world for Windows maintenance engineers and I originally planned a similar book Unmanaged Code: Escaping the Matrix of .NET but didn’t have time to finish it yet :-)

- Dmitry Vostokov @ DumpAnalysis.org -

The CRC Encyclopedia of Mathematics

Thursday, November 12th, 2009

The CRC Encyclopedia of Mathematics, Third Edition - 3 Volume Set

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I spotted this book on Amazon US and was thrilled to have the new edition in 3 volumes for easy handling when reading. I also have the previous edition that is even featured on my own book cover (the picture of my previous library book arrangement, the book is highlighted in white rectangle in the lower right corner):

This is a unique volume that sits between The Princeton Companion to Mathematics (that I’m also reading now) and Encyclopedic Dictionary of Mathematics: The Mathematical Society of Japan (that I also own). In fact after reading 3 volumes from cover to cover I can start with 2 volumes of EDM. There is also Springer Encyclopaedia of Mathematics in 11 volumes with various additional supplement volumes that I plan to own as well and it looks to me on the same level as EDM.

After searching for the best price I ordered a copy from Amazon DE and after my purchase in just a few days the price was up by 50%! I can only explain this that more people tried to purchase after I used twitter to announce this encyclopedia (there were 5 copies available on Amazon DE and in just 2 days only 1 left) or there was a mistake in price.

3 volumes arrived and I immediately started reading them, a few pages from each volume every day using mod 3 reading technique, for example, Wed - Vol I, Thu - Vol II, Fri - Vol III, Mon - Vol I, an so on. I prefer paper books for bulk reading instead of electronic version (in this case corresponding website) although if I’m interested in a specific article or a keyword I go to Wolfram MathWorld website to get the latest update and citations. These paperback volumes are just for day-to-day scheduled reading to get ideas and general mathematical education. This is why I don’t need an Index. For example, just after reading the first pages I got the idea of cubic (qubic) memory representation.

I usually put reviews on Amazon after I finish a book from cover to cover but in this case the review would be waiting for at least a year so I write it now based on my first impressions. After some time I plan to update it.

- Dmitry Vostokov @ LiterateScientist.com -

Stalin: The Court of the Red Tsar

Thursday, September 10th, 2009

While finishing Comrades book I started to read this “sequel” to Young Stalin (it was published before the latter book). I’m interested in psychology of a court and think this book is a good supplement to The 48 Laws of Power book that I started reading too. I have also Beria biography on the reading list. Actually I became interested in Stalin epoch after reading a book in Russian 2 years ago with a title that can be translated to English like “Killers of Stalin and Beria”. The main idea of that book were that Beria (and Stalin) wanted to do Perestroika similar to what Gorbachev did and Khrushchev murdered him (and possibly murdered Stalin too) for that. Anyway The Court of the Red Tsar was very smooth and fascinating read, revealing hidden transcripts of Stalin power. At the end the author also mentions the possibility that Beria was a possible precursor to Perestroika but contrary to that Russian book I read before he mentions the hypothesis that Beria himself poisoned Stalin’s wine. The finishing touch of Valechka weeping on Stalin corpse like Russian baba really made me sorrow. I really liked Postscriptum where the fortunes of Stalin’s and other magnates’ relatives, children and grandchildren fortunes after Stalin death up to now was mentioned.

Stalin: The Court of the Red Tsar

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- Dmitry Vostokov @ LiterateScientist.com -

Einstein’s Mistakes

Wednesday, August 12th, 2009

I finished reading Dirac’s biography The Strangest Man 3 months ago and started to read this book. Its title intrigued me when I was browsing recent physics releases on Amazon and I bought it. It looks to me like the mix of brief biographical notes with explanation of physical theories. Here learning from mistakes undoubtedly helps to understand special and general relativity better. I also liked the short and clear explanation of EPR paradox in just one page, “revisionist” and unusual biographical notes on other scientists and their faults, like Galileo and Newton, and notes about Einstein’s private life. This makes him really human (he was like an ideal scientist from Plato Universe for me before). When I was reading Not Even Wrong and the Trouble With Physics books I thought of the possible “yellow press physics” (which is not bad, and doesn’t mean bad quality for me, I like to read yellow press sometimes and listen to pop music) and one day, at lunch, when reading about Newton madness and other peculiar character traits I thought about “yellow press physics” again. Was the choice of this book hardcover and jacket colors (yellow) made deliberate? Anyway, while approaching the end of the book and reading about how Einstein wasted 20-30 years on his idée fixe unified theories I immediately recalled String Theory, and indeed, the author voiced the same thoughts a few moments later when I turned a page over. I also liked the discussion on how General Relativity might have been discovered if it wasn’t formulated by Einstein. The author tells us that it would have been done via a QFT route. Einstein has fallen in my eyes, and now, after reading this book, he is not quite the hero of science like I imagined before. Nevertheless, his stature from McDonald’s is still on my shelves.

Einstein’s Mistakes: The Human Failings of Genius
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I don’t want to repeat Einstein’s mistakes… 

- Dmitry Vostokov @ LiterateScientist.com -

Ideas and Modern Mind

Friday, August 7th, 2009

This is an encyclopedic work I bought in a local book shop and finally finished reading today. It took me a year to read from cover to cover and pages were falling out of the glue but I continued to read. Highly recommended for education and another view on human history. The review of Freud was enlightening to me because I didn’t know about the recent scholarship criticizing his work. In fact, I so liked this book that just bought it again in a hardcover version from Folio Society and start rereading it again soon.

Ideas: A History of Thought and Invention, from Fire to Freud

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The second encyclopedic book seems was written before the previous one but looks like the logical sequel to it. I’m starting reading it next week.

The Modern Mind: An Intellectual History of the 20th Century

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- Dmitry Vostokov @ LiterateScientist.com -

Naming Infinity

Friday, July 3rd, 2009

I read this book from cover to cover while flying on a plane from Dublin to St. Petersburg and back. That was so wonderful reading experience - I couldn’t put the book down during those flights. I recall that I visited the Department of Mathematics a few times when I studied Chemistry in Moscow State University although at that time I knew next to nothing about Russian mathematicians. The book touched me so deeply that I bought the main work of Florensky: The Pillar and Ground of the Truth, the history of Russian philosophy and several books explaining Orthodox Church. This is the best mathematics history book I have ever read, my feelings perhaps comparable to those that I experienced when I finished reading Mathematics: The Loss of Certainty by Morris Kline but that was more than 20 years ago.

Naming Infinity: A True Story of Religious Mysticism and Mathematical Creativity

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- Dmitry Vostokov @ LiterateScientist.com -