Skip to main content

Weather Wonders – Gordon Higgins ***

The weather can make for a good book of pictures, and it was interesting to compare this book with Extraordinary Weather from the same publisher. I would say that a fair number of the pictures work better here – they are brighter and more contrasty, though I have to offset the fact that many are significantly smaller in a book that is little bigger than a large postcard, so isn’t really able to offer really stunning sized photographs.
Like the other title we have a few pages of introduction and then what is essentially a set of photographs with captions. Here, though, there is a wider spread of pictures. The book is split into two sections with photos ‘from above’ and ‘from below.’ Extreme weather inevitably features, but here there is a much wider spread of reasonably ordinary weather, from fog over London to a pretty comprehensive collection of photographs of the different cloud types.
It’s all mildly interesting, but I can’t get hugely excited about either the topic or the photos. Some are certainly dramatic or colourful, but when you’ve seen 3 overhead views of storms or 5 cloudscapes, you have probably seen as many as you want to see. Like Extraordinary Weather, this is more a dip-in book than one I would expect many people to read from cover to cover. It surely has a fairly limited audience – but if you like this kind of thing, it’s not a bad example of its kind.

Paperback 
Review by Martin O'Brien

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Ancestral Night (SF) - Elizabeth Bear *****

Only a couple of weeks ago, reviewing a 1960s SF book, I bemoaned the fact that science fiction novels of ideas are less common now. Although it is correctly labelled a space opera, Ancestral Night delivers ideas with aplomb.

Let's deal with the space opera aspect first. Elizabeth Bear provides some excellent adventure scenes in space, and we've the usual mix of huge spaceships and interesting aliens. Main character Haimey Dz is an engineer on a ship that salvages wrecks - but, as we gradually discover - she also has a forgotten past. A major feature of the storyline (one that seems to link to the medieval idea of the lost wisdom of the past) is ancient technology from a long-dead race with capabilities, notably manipulating spacetime mentally (Bear has yet to point out that the travel technologies used here could manipulate time as well as space), which fit well with Arthur C. Clarke's magic definition.

I particularly liked the (surely intentional) nods to the much-misse…

The Creativity Code - Marcus du Sautoy *****

At first glance this might just be another 'What AI is good at and not so good at' title. And in a way, it is. But, wow, what a brilliant book! Marcus du Sautoy takes us on a tour of what artificial intelligence has achieved (and possibly can in the future achieve) in a range of fields from his own of mathematics, through game playing, music, art and more.

After a little discussion of what creativity is, we start off with the now very familiar story of DeepMind's AlphaGo and its astonishing ability to take on the hugely challenging game of Go. Even though I've read about this many times before, du Sautoy, as a Go player and mathematician, gives a real feel for why this was such a triumph - and so shocking. Not surprisingly he is also wonderful on what mathematicians actually do, how computers have helped them to date and how they have the potential to do far more in the future. After all, mathematics is by far the closest science to game playing, as it has strict rule…

The Demon in the Machine - Paul Davies *****

Physicists have a habit of dabbling in biology and, perhaps surprisingly, biologists tend to be quite tolerant of it. (I find it hard to believe the reverse would be true if biologists tried to do physics.) Perhaps one reason for that tolerance is Schrödinger’s lecture series and book What is Life?, which had a huge impact on molecular biology and with a reference to which, not surprisingly, Paul Davies begins his fascinating book. 

At the heart of the The Demon in the Machine (we'll come back to that demon in a moment) is the relationship between life and information. In essence, Davies points out that if we try to reduce life to its simple physical components it is like trying to work with a computer that has no software. The equivalent of software here is information, not just in the best publicised aspect of the information stored in the DNA, but on a far broader scale, operating in networks across the organism.
This information and its processing gives life its emergent compl…