Dan Sandman

Archive for the ‘Science’ Category

#13 Sapiens

In Books, History, Non-Fiction, Science on 24/03/2017 at 12:00 pm

#13 SapiensWilliam Golding said that courteous historians will generally concede that written history is a branch of fiction. If one believes this to be the case, than one is freed to enjoy history books as pastimes, or judge them by the quality of the writing. Most history books fail to tap into the best seller market because they are stuffy and academic texts written by stuffy and academic historians. Sapiens, on the other hand, is bubbly, antagonistic and–to use that most twenty-first century of words–cool. As fiction, it attempts the impossible and arrogant task of pigeonholing the whole history of humankind into five hundred pages. This is all achieved with clean prose, alongside pictures and diagrams, organized into twenty chapters. As a set of essays, it forms an intertwined series of convincing arguments, questioning the pillars of civilization: money, science, religion, culture and history itself. Yuval Noah Harari is perhaps the Montaigne of our day, condensing a great deal of reading into popular arguments aimed at the layman. His final chapters on the scientific revolution, like the book of Revelations, argue that humanity is heading towards its own destruction. This idea is pure science fiction, and hardly anymore visionary than an episode of Star Trek, but entertaining nonetheless.

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06: Six Easy Pieces by Richard Feynman

In Books, Non-Fiction, Science on 05/02/2016 at 12:00 pm

Post OfficeThis morning I was greeted by a brand new arrangement of newspapers, household goods and confectionary. The post office has been completely refurbished.

Along the Regents Park Road, a customer walks in for his daily newspaper. Standing with pride, Sanjay directs said customer to where his paper is now located. I can see from his smile that Sanjay is enjoying himself, rightfully taking pleasure from these renewed surroundings.

Is Sanjay really made up of miniscule atoms? Is a force we call gravity actually acting upon this newspaper? Why is it less windy this morning than is was last week? Does my smartphone indeed converse with satellites orbiting the earth? How does my voice travel from my mouth to behind the shop counter?

For the curious of mind, physics provides explanations to the above phenomenon. It encourages us to think rationally, giving us workable tools for explaining the universe.

Yesterday evening, I was teaching a pupil how to play bass guitar to a song by The Rolling Stones. During the lesson, an unpleasant noise emanated from the pupil’s 10 watt guitar amplifier. Because I have been reading about electromagnetism this week, I was able to offer a basic scientific explanation for the interference. Through as series of experiments, we were able to discover several methods for decreasing buzz in noisy amps.

The three most effective methods for fixing the problem were as follows: firstly, try changing the guitar lead; secondly, fiddle with the jack; and lastly, using your body to complete an electromagnetic circuit, place your hand on the strings.

Only when all else fails, apply force.

04: The Grand Design by Stephen Hawking

In Books, Non-Fiction, Science on 22/01/2016 at 12:00 pm

The LibraryLast Friday, my mother and I found ourselves in the library again. Browsing behind the biography section, I had narrowed down my choice to two physics professors.

‘It’s either Stephen Hawking or Brian Cox.’ I whispered.

Science was one of my father’s interests. He would have liked this book.

It’s about the important work of scientists: people like Richard Feynman and Albert Einstein. It explains complex scientific theories, using simple straightforward language. Hawking is a writer of absolute clarity, and has a cheeky sense of humour. If you’ve ever wondered why stuff happens, then this is the book for you.