Dec. 16th, 2009

jyrgenn: Blurred head shot from 2007 (Default)
Jones was the head of scientific intelligence at the british intelligence service during the second world war, and this book is an account of his efforts in that time: anticipating the german efforts in scientific warfare based on intelligence findings, and developing countermeasures. The primary technical areas were bomber guiding systems, radar, and the V1 and V2 weapons.

Much of this is very interesting. His detailed accounts of the internal politics of british intelligence are a bit tiring at times, but maybe this only reflects how he himself has felt about these issues.
jyrgenn: Blurred head shot from 2007 (Default)
Science fiction from the early 1940s. I found this book first in a dumpster in Vienna on my summer trip 1981, and it was probably the first novel that I read in English on my own.

I was quite impressed by the book and wanted to use it as the examination topic for the oral Abitur in case I needed it, but it turned out that the written exam was in line with my previous grades, so I needed no oral. So the teacher gave me back the book, which he had borrowed to prepare himself for the oral. A co-student who was around saw the book, was curious, borrowed it on the spot, and never gave it back. Now, 28 years later, I read the book again.

Sirius is a dog, the crowning result of a scientist's effort to improve the brain capacity of animals. Sirius, with human-like intelligence, is brought up together with the scientist's youngest daughter, which creates a strong bond between these two unequal non-siblings. Sirius grows up to be a very insightful person, is examined in detail by scientists in Oxford, and later makes a career in sheep farming.

Stapledon makes this book very interesting by exploring an immense number of consequences -- philosophical, practical, sexual, social, ethical -- of a dog being so intelligent. And it is entertaining, too.
jyrgenn: Blurred head shot from 2007 (Default)
"We children of the war children -- the generation in the shadow of the second world war" is the translation of the title. Ustorf shows how people whose parents were children in the war or post-war period can still be strongly affected by war traumas passed on by their parents.

I read this because because I was curious if this is an issue for me, too. After all my parents were born 1937 and 1938, and my mother and her family even refugees from East Prussia. But after reading this book I can say that I am apparently unaffected by these transgenerational traumas.

There is this aspect of having no real Heimat, a region where I grew up and am familiar with everything, because my parents moved around a lot when I was a child. But while this is typical for war and refugee traumas to some degree, both my parents' families tended to move around even before the war, so this is unlikely to be a particular consequence of the war in my case.
jyrgenn: Blurred head shot from 2007 (Default)
Goldacre is a medical doctor working for the NHS, and he has a column called "Bad Science" in the Guardian and a blog of the same name. This book is, as I understand it, distilled from both with a bit of new material.

Mainly he has a bone to pick with those who influence the public with the pretension of scientific background, be it their own qualifications or the results of "research". He tells us how honest and accurate medical research is done and why it is done this way, then picks others' work to pieces where it is lacking in accuracy or honesty.

I found this quite instructive and interesting, and because he can write, also entertaining. But there are some points where Goldacre loses his humor, and that is where careless or even deceptive dealing with facts costs actual lives.

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