Monday, April 14, 2014

Hoover, Herbert. The Crusade Years. Edited by George H. Nash. Stanford, CA: Hoover Institution Press, 2013. ISBN 978-0-8179-1674-9. In the modern era, most former U.S. presidents have largely retired from the public arena, lending their names to charitable endeavours and acting as elder statesmen rather than active partisans. One striking counter-example to this rule was Herbert Hoover who, from the time of his defeat by Franklin Roosevelt in the 1932 presidential election until shortly before his death in 1964, remained in the arena, giving hundreds of speeches, many broadcast nationwide on radio, writing multiple volumes of memoirs and analyses of...

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Sunday, April 6, 2014

Suarez, Daniel. Kill Decision. New York: Signet, 2012. ISBN 978-0-451-41770-1. A drone strike on a crowd of pilgrims at one of the holiest shrines of Shia Islam in Iraq inflames the world against the U.S., which denies its involvement. (“But who else is flying drones in Iraq?”, is the universal response.) Meanwhile, the U.S. is rocked by a series of mysterious bombings, killing businessmen on a golf course, computer vision specialists meeting in Silicon Valley, military contractors in a building near the Pentagon—all seemingly unrelated. A campaign is building to develop and deploy autonomous armed drones to “protect the homeland”....

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Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Thor, Brad. Full Black. New York: Pocket Books, 2011. ISBN 978-1-4165-8662-3. This is the eleventh in the author's Scot Harvath series, which began with The Lions of Lucerne (October 2010). Unlike the previous novel, The Athena Project (December 2013), in which Harvath played only an incidental part, here Harvath once again occupies centre stage. The author has also dialed back on some of the science-fictiony stuff which made Athena less than satisfying to me: this book is back in the groove of the geopolitical thriller we've come to expect from Thor. A high-risk covert operation to infiltrate a terrorist cell operating in...

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Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Tegmark, Max. Our Mathematical Universe. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2014. ISBN 978-0-307-59980-3. In 1960, physicist Eugene Wigner wrote an essay titled “The Unreasonable Effectiveness of Mathematics in the Natural Sciences” in which he observed that “the enormous usefulness of mathematics in the natural sciences is something bordering on the mysterious and that there is no rational explanation for it”. Indeed, each time physics has expanded the horizon of its knowledge from the human scale, whether outward to the planets, stars, and galaxies; or inward to molecules, atoms, nucleons, and quarks it has been found that mathematical theories which precisely...

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Friday, March 7, 2014

Hertling, William. Avogadro Corp. Portland, OR: Liquididea Press, 2011. ISBN 978-0-9847557-0-7. Avogadro Corporation is an American corporation specializing in Internet search. It generates revenue from paid advertising on search, email (AvoMail), online mapping, office productivity, etc. In addition, the company develops a mobile phone operating system called AvoOS. The company name is based upon Avogadro's Number, or 6 followed by 23 zeros. Now what could that be modelled on? David Ryan is a senior developer on a project which Portland-based Internet giant Avogadro hopes will be the next “killer app” for its Communication Products division. ELOPe, the Email Language Optimization...

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Sunday, March 2, 2014

All 25 of the public domain Tom Swift novels have been posted in the Tom Swift and His Pocket Library collection. I am now returning to the earlier novels, which I began to post in 2005, upgrading them to use the more modern typography of those I've done in the last few years. The second novel in the series, Tom Swift and His Motor-Boat, has now been updated. Several typographical errors in the original edition have been corrected, and Unicode text entities are used for special characters such as single and double quotes and dashes. I have posted an EPUB...

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Saturday, March 1, 2014

Dequasie, Andrew. The Green Flame. Washington: American Chemical Society, 1991. ISBN 978-0-8412-1857-4. The 1950s were a time of things which seem, to our present day safety-obsessed viewpoint, the purest insanity: exploding multi-megaton thermonuclear bombs in the atmosphere, keeping bombers with nuclear weapons constantly in the air waiting for the order to go to war, planning for nuclear powered aircraft, and building up stockpiles of chemical weapons. Amidst all of this madness, motivated by fears that the almost completely opaque Soviet Union might be doing even more crazy things, one of the most remarkable episodes was the boron fuels project, chronicled...

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Monday, February 24, 2014

Bracken, Matthew. Castigo Cay. Orange Park, FL: Steelcutter Publishing, 2011. ISBN 978-0-9728310-4-8. Dan Kilmer wasn't cut out to be a college man. Disappointing his father, after high school he enlisted in the Marine Corps, becoming a sniper who, in multiple tours in the sandbox, had sent numerous murderous miscreants to their reward. Upon leaving the service, he found that the skills he had acquired had little value in the civilian world. After a disastrous semester trying to adjust to college life, he went to work for his rich uncle, who had retired and was refurbishing a sixty foot steel hulled...

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Thursday, February 20, 2014

Kurzweil, Ray. How to Create a Mind. New York: Penguin Books, 2012. ISBN 978-0-14-312404-7. We have heard so much about the exponential growth of computing power available at constant cost that we sometimes overlook the fact that this is just one of a number of exponentially compounding technologies which are changing our world at an ever-accelerating pace. Many of these technologies are interrelated: for example, the availability of very fast computers and large storage has contributed to increasingly making biology and medicine information sciences in the era of genomics and proteomics—the cost of sequencing a human genome, since the completion...

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Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Cawdron, Peter. Feedback. Los Gatos, CA: Smashwords, 2014. ISBN 978-1-4954-9195-5. The author has established himself as the contemporary grandmaster of first contact science fiction. His earlier Anomaly (December 2011), Xenophobia (August 2013), and Little Green Men (September 2013) all envisioned very different scenarios for a first encounter between humans and intelligent extraterrestrial life, and the present novel is as different from those which preceded it as they are from each other, and equally rewarding to the reader. South Korean Coast Guard helicopter pilot John Lee is flying a covert mission to insert a U.S. Navy SEAL team off the coast of North Korea...

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Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Click image to enlarge. On the evening of February 11th, 2014 a beautiful 22° halo surrounded the Moon. These halos are caused by light refracted by randomly-oriented hexagonal ice crystals in the atmosphere. Because light of different wavelengths is refracted at different angles, the inner part of the halo appears red and the outer part blue. This was not apparent to the eye, but the camera picked up the colour in this saturation-enhanced image. Thin clouds fill the halo. Above the extremely overexposed Moon is Jupiter. The constellation Orion is visible with Betelgeuse at the inner edge of the...

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Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Simberg, Rand. Safe Is Not an Option. Jackson, WY: Interglobal Media, 2013. ISBN 978-0-9891355-1-1. On August 24th, 2011 the third stage of the Soyuz-U rocket carrying the Progress M-12M cargo craft to the International Space Station (ISS) failed during its burn, causing the craft and booster to fall to Earth in Russia. While the crew of six on board the ISS had no urgent need of the supplies on board the Progress, the booster which had failed launching it was essentially identical to that which launched crews to the station in Soyuz spacecraft. Until the cause of the failure was...

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Monday, January 27, 2014

Turk, James and John Rubino. The Money Bubble. Unknown: DollarCollapse Press, 2013. ISBN 978-1-62217-034-0. It is famously difficult to perceive when you're living through a financial bubble. Whenever a bubble is expanding, regardless of its nature, people with a short time horizon, particularly those riding the bubble without experience of previous boom/bust cycles, not only assume it will continue to expand forever, they will find no shortage of financial gurus to assure them that what, to an outsider appears a completely unsustainable aberration is, in fact, “the new normal”. It used to be that bubbles would occur only around once...

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Friday, January 24, 2014

Here is a party trick / bar bet / nerdly entertainment for folks who have an iPhone 5s (I don't know if it works for other models; it does not work with an iPhone 4). Ask “Do you know about the app that turns your iPhone into a magnet?” When people express doubt, fire up some application (the compass makes for great patter), do some mumbo-jumbo on the screen, then put a paper clip on the table, place the bottom right corner of the back of the phone (as viewed from the front) over the paper clip, and the...

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Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Crocker, George N. Roosevelt's Road To Russia. Whitefish, MT: Kessinger Publishing, [1959] 2010. ISBN 978-1-163824-08-5. Before Barack Obama, there was Franklin D. Roosevelt. Unless you lived through the era, imbibed its history from parents or grandparents, or have read dissenting works which have survived rounds of deaccessions by libraries, it is hard to grasp just how visceral the animus was against Roosevelt by traditional, constitutional, and free-market conservatives. Roosevelt seized control of the economy, extended the tentacles of the state into all kinds of relations between individuals, subdued the judiciary and bent it to his will, manipulated a largely supine...

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