Started Philip Zimbardo's last book: "The Lucifer Effect". Currently on page 81. Wow. As he said, it's the most complete description of his classic "Stanford Prison Experiment" so far. Reads like a detective story. The book is not only about SPE; but any further elaborations on its theme might turn meaningful. Still a great book so far. [ August 22, 2007: Message edited by: Mapraputa Is ]
Finished "The Lucifer Effect". I liked the book -- it describes in very detailed manner the Stanford Prison Experiment, and the author's participating as an expert in Abu Graib trial. The book isn't too heavy on theoretizing, even though it has many references to other research in the field. The last part, how to didn't seem too practical to me. Still overall, the book is very worth reading. 8 out of 10 horseshoes.
Assorted quote: "The vocal minority was most influential when it had four qualities: it persisted in affirming a consistent position, appeared confident, avoided seemed rigid and dogmatic, and was skilled in social influence. Eventually, the power of the many may be undercut by persuasion of the dedicated few.
How do these qualities of a dissident minority -- especially its presence -- help to sway the majority? Majority decisions tend to be made without engaging the systematic through and critical thinking skills of the individual in the group. Given the force of the group's normative power to shape the opinion of the followers who conform without thinking things through, they are often taken at face value. The persistent minority forces the others to process the relevant information more mindfully. Research shows that the decisions of a group as a whole are more thoughtful and creative when there is minority dissent than when it is absent."
I am starting Alain de Botton's The Architecture of Happiness -- in Joel Spolsky's words, "one of the most amazing books about architecture I've ever read". [ August 30, 2007: Message edited by: Mapraputa Is ]
I bought The Stolen Child in the Oakland airport last week, and read most of it on a cross-country flight, finishing it over the next couple of days. It's an easy and engaging read; a perfect airplane book, really. The language is spare but powerful and the images vivid and memorable.
The Stolen Child is about a group of changelings that live in the woods, occasionally kidnapping a human child so that one of their own can assume the child's identity. Such things have existed since time immemorial, we learn; but as the book progresses through the 20th century, the world changes out from under them. In a parallel plot, we follow the life of a changeling in the human world, living the life of the child he replaced -- a child who is now one of the changelings in the forest.
It's the kind of book I really would have loved as a younger man. It grapples with issues of identity and memory, belonging and isolation. It also appeals to the impostor complex, the inferiority complex, the outsider that lurks in all of our psyches during adolescence and beyond.
It bothers me a little that I feel I'm past all that. Am I a grown-up now? When did that happen, exactly?
Hey Ernest! Watch out: Zachary just took over your keyboard!
Leverager of our synergies
Joined: Aug 26, 2000
Finished The Architecture of Happiness. I love the book! It's written in what I call "high-precision prose", another instance of which are Eva Hoffman's books. These books remind you how to enjoy reading itself, as opposed to how to effectively extract information from sloppy written passages, products of exercises in self-ingulgence.
I mark this rare books as "must have", and I want to read everything written by their authors. With other books, I would be satisfied with a simple outline.
Finished "Where mathematics come from". Wow! And this is the third "wow" in this thread. I am very lucky to wander into so many good books this autumn. The first part of the year I suffered; the only books I really enjoyed were David Brooks's "Bobos in Paradise" and "On Paradise Drive".
Back to "Where Mathematics Come From". This is the book I was looking for since I obtained my degree in mathematics. In high school, and later in college, I was taught to perform all manipulations with mathematical symbols required from an average graduate; what I lacked was understanding of what I was doing. What's worse, since we moved to calculus study, I started to feel uncomfortable with the whole endeavor. This concern is acutely addressed by the authors,
The study of infinitesimals teaches us something extremely deep and important about mathematics -- namely, that ignoring certain differences ia absolutely important and vital to mathematics! This idea goes against the view of mathematics as supreme exact science, the science where precision is absolute and differences, no matter how small, should never be ignored. ... Generations of students have found these to be disturbing questions. Formal definitions, axioms, and proofs do not answer these questions. They just raise further questions, like "why these axioms and not the others?"