Sunday, February 12, 2017

Seveneves

I came across a short review of Seveneves on GatesNotes a few days ago, and picked it up quickly on my next Crossword trip. I had read Quicksilver by Neal Stephenson earlier, and had read about 2/5th of System of the world, but then this third part of the Baroque cycle had proved too baroque for me. Nothing of this sort happened with this one, and I found much that is delightful. First of all, this novel belongs in the best traditions of SF, containing a lot of actual science. There are pages upon pages on Orbital maneuvers for example. Same is true (to a lesser extent) about epigenetics, heterozygosity and robot swarms. The characters feel real (they use Python to program their robots and parse logfiles after all). And the book manages to be consistently readable, through all of its Eight hundred and sixty six pages (OK, parts of Part III are a little flat, but that is really little). I came back to SF after a while, and reading this book felt like a breath of fresh air. I certainly see myself returning to it.
P.S. While searching for the link above, I found a longer (and frankly better) review on GatesNotes. Do read it.

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Dangal

The sheer authenticity and power of performance, role length or actor age notwithstanding, kept me glued from start to end. The wrestlers feel alive and the wrestles real, evoking the same kind of reactions as watching a live game. I loved the songs, esp. the title track sung by Daler Mehandi and Dhakad (they are running in a loop in background as I write this). It is made more 'user-friendly' than necessary in a few places, but that is not important, it is certainly a great movie, all things considered.  And to the fitness challenged, it even might give some goals. 

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Black Hole Blues

My reading has gotten quite erratic recently, so it felt great to actually finish one book from cover to cover. Book in question, Janna Levin's Black hole blues and other songs from outer space. It's about the gravitational wave detection that happened at LIGO last year, along with the history leading upto it, and what exactly was found and why it matters. It's an easy read, more lyrical than technical, and more of a narrative than systematic exposition. I enjoyed reading it, and as my popular science reading has leaned mostly towards the theoretical, it was good to get a glimpse of the experimental.

Monday, September 5, 2016

अपूर्वाई

मी अपूर्वाई वाचलं नव्हतं ही गोष्ट पण बऱ्यापैकी अपूर्व म्हणता येईल. पण शाळेत कधी हे पुस्तक मिळालं नाही, आणि बरेच दिवस दुकानात पण दिसत नसे. तो योग या वीकएंडला आला. पु लं. चा हा पहिला परदेश प्रवास. लंडन, पॅरिस, थोडंसं जर्मनी असा. त्यात मग ऑक्सफर्ड-केम्ब्रिज आहे, पण त्यापेक्षाही स्टेटफोर्ड-एट-एव्हन आहे. शेक्सपिअरच्या समाधीवर गदगदून जाणं आहे. पार्लमेंट मध्ये चर्चिलला पाहणं आहे. मादाम तुसॉच्या प्रदर्शनात कंटाळणं आहे. कार्लाइलचं घर पाहताना केलेलं मूक चिंतन आहे.  नेपोलियनच्या 'चिमण्या शिलेदाराच्या' समाधीवर करुण होणं आहे. आणि मी हे फक्त पु लं बद्दल नाही बोलतोय. वाचता वाचता हे सगळं गदगदनं, मूक चिंतन, कंटाळणं, करुण होणं, मी देखील अनुभवलं. आणि हो, आपल्या विसंगतीवर, हळुवारपणे पण नेमकं बोट ठेवणं, आणि हसवता हसवता कुठेतरी विचार करायला लावणं  हे आहेच. अर्थात हा अनुभव पु लं च  प्रत्येक पुस्तक देतं, तो मात्र अपूर्व नाही.  

Friday, January 29, 2016

ABC of relativity


Bertrand Russell wrote the 'ABC of relativity' in 1925. Now, about 90 years later, I read it. These are two examples of events in spacetime, and events is what relativity deals with. It tells us that the distance and duration between two such events as measured by differently moving observers can be different, and there is no reason to prefer one observer's version over the other. Nevertheless, there exists an entity called 'interval' that each can measure and will agree upon. So not everything is relative.


Popular expositions of relativity abound, so what is there to recommend the present one? First, it's Russell. You can expect both clarity and depth. Russell goes beyond matter curving spacetime and clocks running slow for someone who is moving. He tells why Newton's law of gravitation is not compatible with relativity (if different observers measure distance differently, they will also measure the gravitational force between two objects differently). He explains how the very notion of a gravitational force emerged due to influence of Euclidean geometry (if an object is not moving in a Euclidean straight line e.g. earth around the sun, there must be some influence to explain this behavior), while relativity does away with gravitational force as something exerted from afar to explain motions of objects as responses to the local features of spacetime. And how, the very notion of matter as which persists through all of time and is not present at more than one place at a time is dependent on complete separation of space and time, and hence needs revision in the era of relativity. And how scientific convention and limitations of our senses can influence our theories (in the Michelson-Morely experiment, do you say the length changes or speed of light varies?). And so on.



It would be foolish for me claim to have imbibed everything the book has to say. But I can certainly say this. It was a refreshing read despite having met popular accounts of relativity before. It is a popular account, so you will certainly learn something. And then of course, it's Russell.

नाटकवाल्याचे प्रयोग

अतुल पेठे हे प्रायोगिक रंगभूमीवरच एक प्रसिद्ध नाव. पण 'नाटकवाल्याचे प्रयोग' हे पुस्तक वाचण्याआधी  हे नाव मला फारसं परिचित नव्हतं.  प्रायोगिक नाटक करता करता आलेल्या अनुभवांबद्दलचे लेख आणि मुलाखती यांचा हा छोटासा संग्रह. पण जर हे पुस्तक फक्त नाटकासंबंधी असतं तर मला कदाचित ते इतकं आवडलं नसतं. नाटक या माध्यमातून जीवन समजून घेण्याचा प्रयत्न हा खरं तर विषय. आणि हे नाटक मग वेगवेगळी रूपं घेतं. माहिती अधिकार आणि आरोग्य, नेमाडे आणि तेंडुलकर, फुले आणि सॉक्रेटीस अशा अनेक विषयांना स्पर्श करतं. भाषा सरळ आणि मांडणी तर्कशुद्ध, उगीच भावनिक कल्लोळ नाही. आलेल्या अडचणी, फसवणारे लोक याबद्दल लिहिलंय पण कडवटता नाही. भेटलेल्या दिग्गजांबद्दल आदराने लिहिलंय पण वारेमाप स्तुती नाही. मन विदीर्ण करणाऱ्या आजच्या आर्थिक, सामाजिक वास्तवाबद्दल लिहिलंय पण त्यामध्ये हे असं का आणि त्याबाबतीत मी काय करू शकतो हा विचार प्रधान. आणि त्या विचारांची खोली आणि समग्रता दोन्ही जाणवतात. अतिशय वाचनीय आणि शिकण्यासारखं बरंच काही.


Saturday, November 28, 2015

Last three books

The miracle of mindfulness: Thich Nhat Hanh

आहे मनोहर तरी: सुनीता देशपांडे

वंगचित्रे: पु ल देशपांडे