The Big Think

February 9, 2016

Are the Great Books Still Alive?

Filed under: Current Reading — jasony @ 11:14 pm

Are the Great Books Still Alive?:

“I learned how to think by reading the great books, boldly. It has led to financial success for me. And I’m not alone.

In a videotaped interview in 2012, billionaire inventor Elon Musk, founder of PayPal, Tesla Motors and SpaceX, said a passion for original ideas was a secret to his success. Musk argued that it is essential to base one’s thoughts not on what he called ‘analogy’ — trying to invent something new by borrowing somebody else’s ideas — but rather on ‘first principles.’ ‘Boil things down to the most fundamental truths and say, ‘OK, what are we sure is true?’’ he explained. Doing so, he said, provides far greater opportunity for true innovation, even if it ‘takes a lot more mental energy.’”

December 24, 2015


Filed under: Current Reading,Quoth — jasony @ 11:10 am

Nathan Myhrvold, myth buster | Intelligent Life magazine: “‘I was totally aware of being poor…But I only wanted one thing when I was young, wealth-wise. I wanted to be able to buy any book I wanted. We lived two doors from the library in Santa Monica and I read every book, long before I went to school. Many years transpire and I’m at Microsoft and I’m buying books whenever I want [he has estimated his Amazon book habit at nearly $200,000 a year]. I realise that this is like wishing for eternal life and forgetting to ask for eternal youth, because I had tons of money but absolutely no time to read all the books.’ The books now fill two warehouses.”

October 3, 2015

The Modern Milquetoast

Filed under: Current Reading — jasony @ 7:07 am

A rebuttal to the ridiculous and laughable NYT article about the “Modern Man” that made so many people giggle.

The Modern Man does not hunger for the approval of the New York Times.

August 25, 2015


Filed under: Current Reading — jasony @ 8:07 am

Thoughts on Pratchett – [Part 1]:

“Without a shadow of a doubt, the first fiction ever recounted was fantasy. Guys sitting around the campfire— Was it you who wrote the review? I thought I recognized it— Guys sitting around the campfire telling each other stories about the gods who made lightning, and stuff like that. They did not tell one another literary stories. They did not complain about difficulties of male menopause while being a junior lecturer on some midwestern college campus. Fantasy is without a shadow of a doubt the ur-literature, the spring from which all other literature has flown. Up to a few hundred years ago no one would have disagreed with this, because most stories were, in some sense, fantasy. Back in the middle ages, people wouldn’t have thought twice about bringing in Death as a character who would have a role to play in the story. Echoes of this can be seen in Pilgrim’s Progress, for example, which hark back to a much earlier type of storytelling. The epic of Gilgamesh is one of the earliest works of literature, and by the standard we would apply now— a big muscular guys with swords and certain godlike connections— That’s fantasy. The national literature of Finland, the Kalevala. Beowulf in England. I cannot pronounce Bahaghvad-Gita but the Indian one, you know what I mean. The national literature, the one that underpins everything else, is by the standards that we apply now, a work of fantasy.

Now I don’t know what you’d consider the national literature of America, but if the words Moby Dick are inching their way towards this conversation, whatever else it was, it was also a work of fantasy. Fantasy is kind of a plasma in which other things can be carried. I don’t think this is a ghetto. This is, fantasy is, almost a sea in which other genres swim. Now it may be that there has developed in the last couple of hundred years a subset of fantasy which merely uses a different icongraphy, and that is, if you like, the serious literature, the Booker Prize contender. Fantasy can be serious literature. Fantasy has often been serious literature. You have to fairly dense to think that Gulliver’s Travels is only a story about a guy having a real fun time among big people and little people and horses and stuff like that. What the book was about was something else. Fantasy can carry quite a serious burden, and so can humor. So what you’re saying is, strip away the trolls and the dwarves and things and put everyone into modern dress, get them to agonize a bit, mention Virginia Woolf a few times, and there! Hey! I’ve got a serious novel. But you don’t actually have to do that.”


May 15, 2015

Wise Man’s Fear of Heights

Filed under: Current Reading,Mad Science,Maker — jasony @ 8:07 am

Patrick Rothfuss:

“So… yeah. My book has been into space. I’m *so* going to give John Scalzi a hard time about this the next time I see him…

Hold on. It only now occurs to me. Commercial planes don’t fly that high. And I doubt very much that anyone takes novels on rockets due to weight limitations….

That means The Wise Man’s Fear has probably set some sort of weird record. I’d bet a modest amount of money that it might be the first novel in the stratosphere. If not, maybe first hardcover novel. Or.. maybe… First Hardcover Fantasy Novel to Reach Stratosphere Via Balloon?

Does anyone know how to get in touch with Guinness?

You know what? It doesn’t even matter to me. The fact that someone did this with my book is cooler to me than I can express in words. (And when you read that, please consider who is writing it.)”

Read the whole thing

July 8, 2014

No Place for Unobtanium

Filed under: Current Reading,Science — jasony @ 8:58 am

Screen shot 2014-07-08 at 9.30.45 AM.png

Five Reasons Why Kids Need Hard Science Fiction:

“I understand that creative license is necessary in science fiction.  After all, I’m part of the generation that was officially okay with tachyon beams, lightsabers and Flynn getting sucked into the grid.  We can be okay with the science being fudged occasionally, but only after the story demonstrates some respect for our intelligence.  I don’t get that sense from modern popular sci-fi any more…

…So yes, we need hard science fiction and more to the point – kids need hard science fiction. It may not be readily obvious but these young minds are absorbing what we give them and if what we’re giving them is pure high-tech mumbo jumbo, then what they will imagine for themselves in the future will be the same. In the parlance of old geeks: Garbage In – Garbage Out. We must be giving these kids the fuel they need to imagine and create the future we’re leaving to them. That’s one reason that kids need hard science fiction. Here are five more:”

April 24, 2014

We Live in the Future

Filed under: Current Reading,Space,Technology — jasony @ 1:00 pm

SpaceX Achieves First Booster Flyback During Space Station Mission | MIT Technology Review: “Space Exploration Technologies, or SpaceX, took a step toward making spaceflight less expensive by reusing its rocket boosters during a mission on Friday to the International Space Station. The Falcon 9 rocket used for the mission, dubbed Commercial Resupply-3, or CRS-3, was the first to fly with landing legs, and was the first to successfully perform a controlled ocean splashdown.”

I confess that I don’t understand how this is possible from a fuel/weight standpoint. I’d always thought that you would run the tanks on the boosters nearly dry in order to maximize the amount of payload to orbit. Keeping enough fuel in the booster to get enough delta-v to make a slow touchdown seems like a big hit to payload capacity. Maybe the air friction slows the falling booster down enough to make the amount of fuel not as necessary? Still, the booster would have to drain off probably 6000mph from stage separation to atmo reentry.

Guess they have it figured out, though. And salvaging/reusing a 200 million dollar booster would probably make it worth it. Build it a little bigger and cap the payload capacity so that you could have the excess fuel needed?

Anyway, really cool tech here. I just finished the book Pillar to the Sky about how we are 90% of the way technologically to making a space elevator/beanstalk work. The author worked out the economics of it and determined that a 200 billion dollar investment would not only net a price-to-orbit of around $10/kg (as opposed to the $100,00 of today), but would also give us access to way more energy than we currently need (in the form of constantly-exposed solar panels in geosync and a convenient way to get them down). Good book.

March 12, 2014

Fourteen Down

Filed under: Current Reading — jasony @ 10:43 am

Just finished my 14th book since January 1st. Shooting for 50 this year. I’ve gotten to 48 before but never passed the half-century mark. Hopefully this year will be the first time.

February 12, 2014

Book Blog

Filed under: Current Reading — jasony @ 5:40 pm

This is The Name of The Wind. Buy it.:

“The Name of The Wind is my book suggestion of the year. I read it about six months ago and I’m still thinking about it. It is the best book I have read in years, fantasy or otherwise.

The Name of The Wind needs to be the next book you read. And the next book after that, I can guarantee, will be the second in the Kingkiller Chronicles ‘The Wise Man’s Fear.’

I am a Harry Potter fan, you probably are a Harry Potter fan as well. But, in the years since you read Harry Potter, you’ve grown up a bit. This is the book that Harry Potter fans have been looking for. It’s not a book for Harry Potter fans…it’s just a book that I think people who loved Harry Potter and are now in their 20s or 30s would REALLY REALLY ENJOY.

I bought this book because I was in the book store and I tweeted ‘BOOK SUGGESTIONS PLEASE’ and about 12 people suggested it. I am so thankful to those 12 people.

The world is so deep, the stakes are so high, the characters so real, the mysteries so magical, the magic so mysterious, the plot so twisty…every day you haven’t read it is a day in your life that could be better.

I do not take this review lightly…buy this book. Buy it now.”

100% agree. It’s a phenomenal book.

January 5, 2014

Book Report

Filed under: Current Reading — jasony @ 6:51 am

For the record, I read 44 books during 2013. 33 of them from my personal library and 11 from the public library or borrowed from friends. All time high number of pages at 14886 for an average pages per book of 337. I’ve had years when I read more books (in 2008 I managed 48 books). Still have never passed 50 books but I’ve gotten close. Maybe next year.

Already on #2 for the year, so that’s a good start! Last year I was helped along by reading (most of) the Vorkosigan Saga (at Katherine Coble’s much appreciated suggestion). Working on the final 2 books out of the 15 or so. I need another big beefy series to read this year. I’ve got the first few books of the Master and Commander series but I need another one after that if I’m going to hit fifty books. Suggestions?

December 30, 2013

In Search of a Non-Exaggerated Compliment | Brain, Child Magazine

Filed under: Current Reading — jasony @ 9:34 am

In Search of a Non-Exaggerated Compliment: “I want to graciously give, accept, and even believe compliments, but our hyperbolic language has rendered the entire industry of verbal admiration meaningless. In fact, I see and hear adjectives used so far past their definitions that the excess can have the effect of making me think the exact opposite of what the speaker or writer likely intended. This happens often in status updates and tweets where bloggers recommend each other’s posts. When I see ‘stunning,’ ‘breathtaking,’ or ‘extraordinary,’ I can’t help but raise an eyebrow in doubt. I’m more likely to click on a link with a toned-down description like ‘thought provoking,’ ‘solid read,’ or ‘well said.’ This culture of exaggeration has made me a cynic. I’ve become suspicious of words.”

December 29, 2013

Monkey See, Monkey Be

Filed under: Current Reading,Science — jasony @ 8:27 pm

Brain function ‘boosted for days after reading a novel’:

“Being pulled into the world of a gripping novel can trigger actual, measurable changes in the brain that linger for at least five days after reading, scientists have said.

The new research, carried out at Emory University in the US, found that reading a good book may cause heightened connectivity in the brain and neurological changes that persist in a similar way to muscle memory.

The changes were registered in the left temporal cortex, an area of the brain associated with receptivity for language, as well as the the primary sensory motor region of the brain.

Neurons of this region have been associated with tricking the mind into thinking it is doing something it is not, a phenomenon known as grounded cognition – for example, just thinking about running, can activate the neurons associated with the physical act of running.

‘The neural changes that we found associated with physical sensation and movement systems suggest that reading a novel can transport you into the body of the protagonist,’ said neuroscientist Professor Gregory Berns, lead author of the study.

‘We already knew that good stories can put you in someone else’s shoes in a figurative sense. Now we’re seeing that something may also be happening biologically.’”

(Via .)

December 18, 2013

“Remember Who the Real Enemy Is”

Filed under: Current Reading,Politics — jasony @ 11:18 am

“Remember Who the Real Enemy Is” – The American Interest: “There’s a popular feeling in the air that America has become decadent. Contrasting Harry Potter to the Hunger Games shows what a difference a decade can make.”

An interesting look into Harry Potter vs. Hunger Games and how our view of government has radically shifted over the last decade and a half. Worth the read,

December 16, 2013


Filed under: Current Reading,Quoth — jasony @ 3:44 pm

“It wasn’t just hand-made, it was custom-made, especially for the Princess. Probably a gift from my grandfather. Imagine the fellow, not just a worker but an artist, selecting the leather, piecing and stitching and carving. I picture him hand-rubbing in the oil, thinkin of his work used by his Countess, envied and admired by her friends, being pert of this- this whole work of art that was her life.” His finger traced the leaves around the initial.
Her guess of its value kept ratcheting up in time to his words. “For heaven’s sake get it appraised first!”
“Why? To loan to a museum? To sell to some collector to hoard like money? Let him hoard money, that’s all that sort wants anyway. The only collector who’d be worthy of it would be someone who was personally obsessed with the Princess-and-Countess, one of those men who fall hopelessly in love across time. No. I owe to the its maker to put it to its proper use, the use he intended.”

Miles Vorkosigan, A Civil Campaign

August 12, 2013

Big, Bigger, Biggest

Filed under: Current Reading,Humor and Fun — jasony @ 3:05 pm

A Size Comparison Of Sci-Fi’s Greatest Machines And Monsters

August 9, 2013

Elysium: What Went Wrong?

Filed under: Current Reading — jasony @ 11:47 pm

Elysium: What Went Wrong?:

“All stories need conflict, and big movies really need big conflict. No one wants to leave a SF movie thinking, ‘Wow that really was an accurate meditation on science fiction in a realistic setting.’ But the vast majority of science fiction films—even the very best of them—still see the SF, the tech, the speculative concept, as the antagonist of the film. We had a regular movie here until this spacepod showed up, and now, it’s all going down!

For all the great special effects and enormous, booming noises our films are bringing us now, the majority of science fiction films have forgotten the one thing science fiction is supposed to do: make us think about the future. Thinking, we have forgotten, is not the same as worrying.”

Nice article on what makes for good science fiction, and why Hollywood seems to have gotten off the track.

*UPDATE*: friend Sean writes: “We saw it Friday, and I actually really liked it.” Sometimes things shouldn’t be over thought (see also: Pacific Rim). Thanks, Sean!

August 3, 2013

The Rest of the Story

Filed under: Current Reading — jasony @ 11:45 pm

28 Things That Happened After The Harry Potter Books Ended: “”

July 26, 2013


Filed under: Current Reading,Humor and Fun — jasony @ 8:05 pm

62 of the World’s Most Beautiful Libraries | Mental Floss

Don’t miss #37

June 12, 2013

Over 113 Years, This Home Library Has Grown to 35,000 Books – Neatorama

Filed under: Current Reading,Education — jasony @ 10:19 pm

Over 113 Years, This Home Library Has Grown to 35,000 Books – Neatorama: “Three generations of Johnsons never set out to collect ‘rare books.’ Instead, they collected books that fell within their diverse areas of interest — from Plato, to law, to economics, to India, to archeology, to Sanskrit. Not everything in the collection is a 300-year-old scholarly tome. The museum has mystery novels, Jackie Collins’ steamy tales of lust, small books designed to fit into the pockets of GIs during World War II and tawdry novellas Richards calls ‘bodice rippers.’ Many of the older books are in Latin or Greek — or both, on facing pages — and date from the 16th and 17th centuries. The best digital searches, Richards said, show that some of the books are only cataloged at one or two libraries in the world”

June 9, 2013

Leviathan Wakes

Filed under: Current Reading — jasony @ 9:23 pm

Just finished book three of the Expanse series by James S.A. Corey. If you’re a SF fan and loved Contact, Cosmos, and Firefly, give this series a try. I read the third book (538 pages) in a little more than 2 days. What a ride!

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