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Reset - Ronald Deibert ***

The subtitle underscores a topic of 'reclaiming the internet for civil society'. There is no doubt that the internet has given us huge benefits - never more obvious than during the COVID pandemic - but Ronald Deibert argues that it also presents huge dangers, both from the state being able to gather data on citizens and from corporations indulging in 'surveillance capitalism' - making money out of keeping track of us and our data. Both of these are certainly significant issues that need to be explored. The majority of the book gives a depressingly dark picture of an internet where we are constantly observed, while the last pages come up with a form of response - the reset of the title. Unlike the stark specifics of the description of the problem, the suggested solution is far more tenuous, coming down primarily to being more 'republican' (with a small r, not the policies of the US political party of the same name). I'll be honest, I found Reset hard going,
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Human - Amanda Rees and Charlotte Sleigh ***

There's something of a tradition of books that treat Homo sapiens as they would another animal - in Human , Amanda Rees and Charlotte Sleigh are contributing to an 'animal series'. If done correctly, this is an effective conceit. The pocket sized book is glossy and well illustrated (though I found it quite hard to open without breaking the spine). It begins with a purely 'human as animal' introduction where we learn, for example that humans are categorised as of 'Least concern' on the International Union for the Conservation of Nature's Red List. From here we move onto a series of chapters on aspects of the human species, taking in the broad concepts of beast (what makes us different, if anything, from the other animals), hominin (the origin of our species), she (the place of women in society), god (not exactly surprisingly, religion), and alien (the position of the 'other', plus literal aliens) with a conclusion labelled 'Inhumanism', wh

Math Without Numbers - Milo Beckman *****

In some ways, this is the best book about pure mathematics for the general reader that I've ever seen.  At first sight, Milo Beckman's assertion that 'the only numbers in this book are the page numbers' seems like one of those testing limits some authors place on themselves, such as Roberto Trotter's interesting attempt to explain cosmology using only the 1,000 most common words in the English language, The Edge of the Sky . But in practice, Beckman's conceit is truly liberating. Dropping numbers enables him to present maths (I can't help but wince a bit at the 'math' in the title) in a far more comprehensible way. Counting and geometry may have been the historical origin of mathematics, but it has moved on. The book is divided into three primary sections - topology, analysis and algebra, plus a rather earnest dialogue on foundations of mathematics exploring the implications of Gödel's incompleteness theorems, and a closing section on modelling (

The Light Ages - Seb Falk ****

In this chunky title, Seb Falk sets out to prove very effectively that, certainly from the scientific viewpoint, the suggestion that medieval Europe spent a period of time in the 'dark ages' is misrepresentation. Historians, of course, dumped the 'dark ages' title some time ago, but it still lingers on in our imaginations. The backbone of Falk's book is the life and work of a fourteenth century English monk by the name of John Westwyk, who spent most of his adult life at St Alban's Abbey. Westwyk enters the story with a 1951 discovery of a manuscript on an astrolabe-like device, found in Cambridge: a manuscript that was first attributed to Geoffrey Chaucer. (If this seems bizarre, bear in mind that as well as Canterbury Tales and his other titles, Chaucer was the author of a beginners guide to using that versatile medieval astronomical tool, the astrolabe.) It turns out that Westwyk was the author of the manuscript, as well as a number of other astronomical con

Galllowglass (SF) - S. J. Morden ****

All fiction has to take liberties with the realities of space travel, but some handle it better than others, and S. J. Morden has gone further than anyone else I can remember in pinning down the detail to make this space-based thriller feel particularly gritty and realistic. The storyline has two key themes: the runaway and asteroid mining. The central character Jaap (Jack) Van der Veerden is an ultra-privileged young man who is determined to escape the clutches of his controlling parents, who through pretty much limitless expenditure intend to live forever, meaning he can apparently never escape their clutches and financial control. He gets away with the SF equivalent of running away to join the circus - running away to space. Luckily, although he has no practical experience, he does have the theoretical knowledge to be an astrogator and gets a position on a dodgy expedition to retrieve a mineral-rich asteroid. I find it impossible to believe that Morden wasn't inspired by the Rob

Linda Schweizer - Four Way Interview

Linda Schweizer earned an MA in mathematics and a PhD in astronomy at UC Berkeley, with the visual arts and dance as her other passions. She observed southern-hemisphere galaxy pairs with several telescopes in cold dark domes in Chile, then modelled, analyzed, and published her work in 1987. Those papers on the statistical and dynamical modelling of dark matter in binary galaxy halos were, she says, just a small stone in the mosaic of our growing understanding of dark matter. A Carnegie Fellowship in Washington, DC, was her first science job. By then, she had her second daughter in the oven— with two more daughters to follow, and she turned her focus to properly preparing them for life. After 15 years, she returned to the world of astrophysics. After a brief stint in External Affairs, she taught science writing to undergraduate students at Caltech and loved it. She was a Visiting Scholar at Caltech while researching Cosmic Odyssey , an insider’s history of one of the greatest eras in a

The Wonder Book of Geometry - David Acheson ****

If ever you wanted a paradox, this book provides it in a remarkable way. Geometry, with its grinding pyramid of step-by-step proofs was my least favourite aspect of maths at school - I much preferred the puzzle-solving aspects of algebra, for example. David Acheson has failed to convince me that I was should really have loved it... however, this is by far the most approachable book on geometry I've ever read, and I wish it had been around in my day. It's a textbook the way a textbook should be. There is context, from ancient Egyptian rope stretchers to those who have given the parallel postulate a good working over (including an oddity from Lewis Carroll). One of the worst things about the way I was taught geometry is that there was no consideration of applications, just those wretched theorems. Here, plenty of the geometry is introduced through a potential application. There's also some good historical background, including a regular view on Euclid from different points in