My code is trying to kill me

Daniel Whiteson and Jorge Cham: We have no idea (2017)

08.02.2019In Book Impressions

Here's the pop-science book worth reading. If you're interested in why the speed of light is the speed limit of the universe or what is time, why gravity is weird or what are the basic elements of matter, Daniel and Jorge will explain it with just the right amounts of science, philosophy and cat pictures.

I bought this book when I had a feeling that I work only on miniature, banal problems and I just wanted to cope with some grander questions. And this book provided. As Carl Sagan's "Cosmos" was defining read for me some 30 years ago through which I learned about grandeur of the Universe, "We Have No Idea" explains all we know and all we don't know about the Universe using cats and comics.

Some topics it covers:

  • What is the Universe made of?
  • What is the most basic element of matter?
  • What are dark matter and dark energy?
  • What are time, mass, space?
  • How many dimensions are there?

When I tried to read Wikipedia articles on those questions, although I'm curious about the topics, I got bored quickly. But "We Have No Idea" worked remarkably. Not to simple, not overly detailed. I didn't learn any equations and I'm still not able to calculate what happens in hadron collider but I got general knowledge about the topics and the sense of how big and grand those questions are.

Daniel C. Dennett: Freedom Evolves (2003)

16.03.2017In Book Impressions

If the universe is deterministic, as physics laws say, how can we have free will? Can we admit that everything we do is just a result of previous state of universe? Is free will just an illusion?

In this book Daniel Dennett tackles this question but I'm not sure I'm satisfied with the answer. He says that one does not exclude the other. Yes, the universe is deterministic on the physics scale, but a complex creatures like us can exert free will and make decisions on biological scale.

And really, how could be any different? If universe has any random element, then we don't have free will, but rather act randomly. We need deterministic framework to exercise free will.

It is, after all, just one of the many weirdness of our existence.