Plebiscitum: “Disco Sour” by Giuseppe Porcaro


Disco Sour - Giuseppe Porcaro

“My new app, Plebiscitum (®), will allow anyone to express their opinions anytime, anywhere, and will include geolocalisation systems”

In “Disco Sour” by Giuseppe Porcaro


This novel at first sight provokes in me worry of “assessing someone’s democratic ability” and if people don’t match to certain criteria, what, no right to vote? I agree Democracy should be a “very important school subject”; moreover, education in general should be about creating inquisitive minds in the young, only then can there be any hope of people becoming able to see through the shortcomings of politicians and the shortcomings of representative democracy. However education at present is exclusively directed (with some notable exceptions) at formatting young people to fit in to a wholly capitalistic society, in other words to become the little soldiers of capital for the benefit of the few. Alas, the ‘born to rule’ class still exists, this is the caste that needs breaking up, this poison which has insidiously infiltrated the minds of so many. To a point where the electorate will continue shooting themselves in the foot in a sort of perverse admiration saying ‘if they can, so can I!’ And even if they don’t think in this way, others get caught up in a viscous circle of simply surviving. An important aspect of this education should be that policies are more important than personalities, that the choice of a policy is the political will of the electorate; who is, or are, employed to execute this policy is a separate issue. Higher education in Democracy should be freely available. It should be compulsory for everyone who wants to be a councillor or MP, complete with official exams.

If you’re into stuff like this, you can read the full review.


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Over-the-top World-building: "The Hammer" by K. J. Parker


The Hammer - K.J. Parker

The main character, Gignomai met’Oc, is as memorable as was Bassianus Severus. Gignomai is the youngest member of a sentenced family of exiles on account of the political betrayal of an aristocratic family and he’s clearly different from his relatives – he does not enjoy the birth privileges due to his birth, and he willingly spends time with the colonists, and with the passage of years he foments a revolt against hypocrisy and the game of appearances. From here on it is only a few steps away from initiating a political revolution and industrial revolution, and the reader is fortunate to be a witness to the whole process, described in the smallest details. It is worth paying special attention to the image of the world presented; K.J. Parker avoids the mistake of many other fantasy writers, i.e., not boring the reader with the history of past ages, dozens of geographical names, and complex genealogy. Parker is much smarter than that. He goes in a completely different direction, smuggling further information in dialogues or skimping data in descriptions, thanks to which he constantly keeps the reader’s attention. We construct the subtle details in our minds.



If you’re into stuff like this, you can read the full review.

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Triteness and Boringness: "Cover Her Face” by P. D. James


Cover Her Face - P.D. James

“The cultured cop! I thought they were peculiar to detective novels.”

In “Cover Her Face” by P. D. James

Sometimes people just like to talk about the books they’re reading. Not boast. Just talk. I realise such plebeian behaviour may not be acceptable in the rarefied circles some people move in, but for the rest of us mere mortals it happens quite a lot. Given that reading is becoming less and less common, one would think you’d be happy people are reading at all, without feeling the need to bitch about the fact that they happened to have enjoyed something so much they might want to read it again. Unless you think reading should just be restricted to the real intelligentsia, among whom some people obviously count themselves. So, unless those people have evidence that re-reading causes cancer or blows up the WC, why not back off and let the rest of us do what we like. Or better, why not direct that scathing anger at something that really matters? “Oh, I’m re-reading ‘Cover Her Face’.” Yes, there are people who like to brag about re-reading the Shakespeare plays, but most of us are just trying to be accurate. If you say, “I’m reading such-and-such,” people assume you mean “reading for the first time.



If you’re into stuff like this, you can read the full review.

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Action/dx = d/dt(dLagrangian/dv)-dLagrangian/dx = 0: “The Theoretical Minimum – What You Need to Know to Start Doing Physics” by Leonard Susskind, George Hrabovsky


The Theoretical Minimum: What You Need to Know to Start Doing Physics - Leonard Susskind, George Hrabovsky

Math is just a skill, like any other and not everyone can do it. What gets my goat is the “anyone can do anything if only they try hard enough “attitude. No, they can’t. Some people are good at certain skills and not other, and others have different skills. I happen to be good at math. I get annoyed when people say “Ooh, you must be so clever!” when I tell them. No – I just have that particular skill – I can no doubt be as dumb as the next person at something else. As Courtney Barnett puts it: “The ambulance driver thinks I’m clever ‘cos I play guitar /I think she’s clever ‘cos she stops people dying.” Laughing at general illiteracy isn’t so funny, because that is a relatively simple skill that most of us can learn, and it hurts people not to have it; but Quantum Mechanics? Come on, no one groks it, and it really doesn’t matter for most of us.

If you’re into Learning Physics, read on.

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Shut the Fuck Up and Calculate (Or Not): "The Nature of Space and Time" by Stephen Hawking and Roger Penrose


The Nature of Space and Time - Stephen Hawking, Roger Penrose

“I have emphasized what I consider the two most remarkable features that I have learned in my research on space and time: (1) that gravity curls up space-time so that it has a beginning and an end; (2) that there is a deep connection between gravity and thermodynamics that arises because gravity itself determines the topology of the manifold on which it acts”.


In “The Nature of Space and Time by Stephen Hawking and Roger Penrose” by Stephen Hawking in the lecture “Quantum Cosmology”

“We should think of twistor space as the space in terms of which we should describe physics.”


In “The Nature of Space and Time” by Stephen Hawking and Roger Penrose by Roger Penrose in the lecture “The Twistor View of Spacetime”

“These lectures have shown very clearly the difference between Roger and me. He’s a Platonist and a positivist. He’s worried that Schrödinger’s cat is in a quantum state, where it is held alive and held dead. He feels that can’t correspond to reality. But that doesn’t bother me. I don’t demand that a theory correspond to reality because I don’t know what it is. Reality is not a quality you can test with litmus pap. All I’m concerned with is that the theory should predict the results of measurements. Quantum theory does this very successfully. It predicts that the result of an observation is either that the cat is alive or that it is dead. It is like you can’t be slightly pregnant: you either are or you aren’t.”


In “The Nature of Space and Time” by Stephen Hawking and Roger Penrose by Stephen Hawking in the lecture “The Debate”

Can I write a review on such a book? Hawking and Penrose… It’s staggering…I don’t even know what day the mailman comes…After having re-read this oldie after Hawking’s passing, I’d say it depends on where you are in the universe, whether you’re on/near some sizeable object (of mass), its rotation, distance from other masses, or whether you live in my neck of the woods…

If you’re into Physics, and Quantum Mechanics in particular, read on.

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Non-Distinctive Narrative Voice: "All Systems Red" by Martha Wells


All Systems Red - Martha Wells

“I remember every word ever said to me.” That was a lie. Who would want that? Most of it I delete from permanent memory.

In “All Systems Red” by Martha Wells


The question is always the same: How is it possible to have an absolutely distinctive voice from the first page onwards? How can I build a story around the other characters by using “the eyes” of the first-person narrator? Could my hypothetical first-person narrator say something like “I’m choked with admiration for you!”? Narrative-wise is it a perfectly feasible emotion? I think so. A bit creepy to say otherwise, I would think, unless you walk around with porn goggles on. 



If you’re into SF, read on.

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Lagrangean Systems: " Levels of Infinity – Selected Writings on Mathematics and Philosophy" by Hermann Weyl, Peter Pesic


Levels of Infinity: Selected Writings on Mathematics and Philosophy - Hermann Weyl, Peter Pesic

“It is a well-known anecdote that Hilbert supported her [Emmy Noether] application by declaring at the faculty meeting, ‘I do not see that the sex of the candidate is an argument against her admission as Privatdozent. After all, we are a university and not a bathing establishment.´”



In the memorial address “Emmy Noether (1935)” delivered in Goodheart Hall, Bryn Mawr College, 26 April 1935, and included in “Levels of Infinity – Selected Writings on Mathematics and Philosophy” by Hermann Weyl, Peter Pesic


Mathematics is, in a sense, profoundly anarchistic – you can’t use authority to change or control its progress, and nothing is ruled in our out without proof agreed by the collective of practitioners, and Weyl was one of our most distinguished practitioners of the art of doing beautiful mathematics and physics. Sometimes practitioners have a brave and frankly generous stab at letting the layman get a feel for some of the broader concepts, but ultimately this is an intellectual edifice that’s been built by thousands of people over the last five centuries or so and there’s no reason whatsoever that we should be able to understand it at all without putting in the hard yards – the problem is not with math, it’s with us and our arrogance in assuming that’s possible. Weyl, as this homage book testifies, was able to put math into language people could understand and it’s absolutely essential for a general audience. Language needs to be a vehicle of understanding and not an obstacle to it.



If you’re into Math and Physics, read on.

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