Marco's Blog

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The Nine: Inside the Secret World of the Supreme Court (J. Toobin)

2008-12-01 4 min read Books marco
I waited for the paperback edition of this book to come out, and I did well. This is a book best read with a bit of distance to the events described. A history of the Supreme Court of the United States of America in recent times. Once an institution of minor rank, over the 20th century the Supreme Court transformed itself into a powerhouse of societal transformation, pushing the nation forward towards equality and the rule of law. Continue reading

Uncertainty (D. Lindley)

2008-12-01 6 min read Books marco
There is no topic in elementary physics as odd as quantum mechanics. Once you learn the formalism, it is easy to apply (although the mathematics required can be daunting). The experimenters say, on the other hand, that the results you get from quantum mechanical computations are accurate within the limits of measurement. Problem is, there is no reason for that. We are all a little surprised by how accurately QM models the world. Continue reading

The Armchair Economist (S. Landsburg)

2008-09-24 6 min read Books marco
I felt like an addition to my review of Landsburg’s book was in order after completing the read. I am as enthusiastic as I ever was, but I think I have a more nuanced look now. First of all, I read the book as an attempt to popularize both economics and its fundamental tenets. In that attempt, Landsburg succeeds spectacularly: the way of thinking of economists, which is probably the most important thing right now about their achievements, is brought forth with great clarity and persuasive power. Continue reading

The Armchair Economist (S. Landsburg)

2008-09-11 6 min read Books marco
I love economists. They are a special breed of scientists. They tower high above all the other ones in their all-knowing wisdom and dispense it to the rest of the world in little parcels, mostly at dinner parties and economic summits. Ok, maybe I don’t love economists in general, only some of them. People that tell me something that is unexpected, especially when they combine an obvious piece of information with another one and come up with something totally unexpected. Continue reading

Superhumans on the Rise - Orson Scott Card and Ayn Rand

2008-07-30 5 min read Books marco
Really, this should be a review of my latest read, Orson Scott Card’s Ender’s Shadow. After thinking about it for a while, though, I realized any review would be meaningless if it didn’t look at things from a broader perspective. I changed the scope, changed the title, and you know the background. Over the years, I’ve met plenty people that were fervent enthusiasts, passionate about Orson Scott Card’s novels or Ayn Rand’s own ones. Continue reading

Four Novels of the Sixties (P.K. Dick)

2008-04-21 5 min read Books marco
The Library of America ( decided it was time to honor Philip K. Dick and published four of his most famous novels in one volume. Good choice, since Dick’s novels are in general quite short and publishing only one would have left the reader dissatisfied, given the tomes that are usually produced in the series. The 60es were a crazy time by anyone’s reckoning, at least in the United States (in Europe, the 70es would assume the same significance). Continue reading

Dreaming in Code (S. Rosenberg)

2008-04-07 4 min read Books marco
Confession: I had the hardest time understanding relativity. Not such a big deal for the average Joe, but quite a handicap for a physicist like me. I could certainly apply the equations, that was straightforward enough. The inner logic of it all, though, escaped me. Take the twin paradox, for instance: one of two twins leaves for an extended trip to another star, and the other one is left behind. When the traveling brother sees the other one on screen, the latter’s speech is slowed down, a relativistic effect. Continue reading

The Lost Painting (J. Harr)

2008-03-31 4 min read Books marco
I had the good venture of spending my high school years in Rome, just at the time when you get acquainted with the fine arts. My memories are still vivid with entering the churches of San Luigi dei Francesi and Santa Maria del Popolo and seeing the Caravaggios in there. They are an unforgettable sight. They hang high up, far out of reach, and you have to drop a coin to turn on the lights that allow you to see them. Continue reading

The Game Players of Titan (P. K. Dick)

2008-03-26 3 min read Books marco
Get ready for a flood of P.K. Dick novel reviews, since I am getting caught up on old reading. I even went out of my way to order all the ones I didn’t buy yet on, and they are going to arrive any time soon. The Game Players of Titan is the typical P.K. Dick novel: an uncertain society after a catastrophic development, extraterrestrial life (in this case not imagined), a mystery to solve, and an unusual setting with a great many surprises. Continue reading

Anthem (A. Rand)

2008-03-24 4 min read Books marco
There you go: buy a 400 page book, and then discover that it’s a 100 page book plus 300 pages of “original material” with commentary and other stuff. Disappointing, not because it’s really only 100 pages, but because I had packed it for the beach – and I can definitely read 100 pages in under an hour, leaving me without much to do but counting grains of sand and waves crashing onto shore. Continue reading
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