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If we're not in pain, we're not alive

You invest so much in it, don't you? It's what elevates you above the beasts of the field, it's what makes you special. Homo sapiens, you call yourself. Wise Man. Do you even know what it is, this consciousness you cite in your own exaltation? Do you even know what it's for?
Dr. Peter Watts is no stranger to MetaFilter. But look past his sardonic nuptials, heartbreaking eulogies, and agonizing run-ins with fascists (and fasciitis) and you'll find one of the most brilliant, compelling, and disquieting science fiction authors at work today. A marine biologist skilled at deep background research, his acclaimed 2006 novel Blindsight [full text] -- a cerebral "first contact" tale led by a diverse crew of bleeding-edge post-humans -- is diamond-hard and deeply horrifying, wringing profound existential dread from such abstruse concepts as the Chinese Room, the Philosophical Zombie, Chernoff faces, and the myriad quirks and blind spots that haunt the human mind. But Blindsight's last, shattering insight is not the end of the story -- along with crew/ship/"Firefall" notes, a blackly funny in-universe lecture on resurrecting sociopathic vampirism (PDF - prev.), and a rigorously-cited (and spoiler-laden) reference section, tomorrow will see the release of Dumbspeech State of Grace Echopraxia [website], the long-delayed "sidequel" depicting parallel events on Earth. Want more? Look inside for a guide to the rest of Watts' award-winning (and provocative) body of work. [more inside]
posted by Rhaomi on Aug 25, 2014 - 78 comments

Living Books About Life

"... a series of curated, open access books about life — with life understood both philosophically and biologically — which provide a bridge between the humanities and the sciences." Although they offer "frozen PDFs," these books—on topics like biosemiotics, animal experience, and air—are curated collections of links to open access science articles, reviews, interviews, podcasts, sometimes with embedded sounds and videos. They have ISBN numbers and editors vetted by the Open Humanities Press, which is generally a gold mine of interesting books and journals. They feel perfectly at home on the open internet, evoking hope and nostalgia for a flourishing academic world wide web, without paywalls and login screens. [more inside]
posted by mbrock on Jul 29, 2014 - 7 comments

Sci-Fi Spoilers!

Spoilers for every book ever...
posted by Renoroc on Apr 3, 2014 - 33 comments

Hygienic and Scientific Cooking

"....many a tragic episode in family life is superinduced by the baleful influence of a tortured stomach. Mighty is the hand that holds the ballot-box, but mightier is the hand that wields to advantage the pepper-box, the salt-spoon, and the sugar-shaker." read the entirely of Maud C. Cooke's, Breakfast, Dinner and Supper; or, What To Eat and How To Prepare It (1897) online and enter a world of home remedies, large scale recipes, sound advice, leftover wizardry, squirrel stews, scientific digestion, and horrible things done to vegetables.
posted by The Whelk on Jan 17, 2014 - 12 comments

I was surprised by how many of the weird things ......came form the book

Tricia's Obligatory Art Blog presents " Reading "Jurassic Park" in 2013 is Weird As Hell "
posted by The Whelk on Aug 26, 2013 - 73 comments

Five Feet of Books

"During his days as Harvard’s influential president, Dr. Charles W. Eliot made a frequent assertion: If you were to spend just 15 minutes a day reading the right books, a quantity that could fit on a five-foot shelf, you could give yourself a proper liberal education. Publisher P. F. Collier and Son loved the idea and asked Eliot to compile and edit the right collection of works. The result: a 51-volume series of classic works from world literature published in 1909 called Dr. Eliot’s Five Foot Shelf, which would later be called The Harvard Classics." (Via) [more inside]
posted by zarq on Jul 11, 2013 - 89 comments

There is always a last time for everything

Is Science Fiction promoting pseuodoscience? Is it not really better than fantasy? Is it exhausted and dying, per Paul Kincaid (part 1, part 2), a sort of genre-writing version of completing a list of The Nine Billion Names of God? Does physics-bothering unrepentant space case Alistair Reynolds have a compass pointing the way forwards?
posted by Artw on Dec 19, 2012 - 84 comments

Increasing the emotional energy of inanimate objects

Brain Pickings presents the Best Design Books of 2012. Because you weren't really going to get anything done today anyway, right? [more inside]
posted by davidjmcgee on Dec 2, 2012 - 14 comments

Don't even Blink...

Your brain on pseudoscience: the rise of popular neurobollocks
posted by Artw on Sep 14, 2012 - 64 comments

You Can Do Science Too

Citizen science refers to science conducted by average persons, e.g., people who are not full- or part-time professional scientists but nevertheless have a keen interest in scientific inquiry. Citizen Science Center is a resource for books, papers, discussions, and project listings related to citizen science that aims to convince you to get your hands dirty and do science now.
posted by netbros on Aug 14, 2012 - 11 comments

An insatiable kingpin of international meme laundering

TED Fellow Evgeny Morozov (previously, previously) calls bullshit on the "increasingly" "simplistic" "anxiety-peddling futurology" surrounding the TED conference in generally and especially the new TED book Hybrid Reality by Ayesha & Parag Khanna. [more inside]
posted by bbuda on Aug 4, 2012 - 54 comments

The Viable Zombie

“[...] it took more than a dozen calls to work out the details of her zombie contagion. “After about the 17th time,” says McGuire, “I called and said, ‘If I did this, this, this, this, this, this and this, could I raise the dead?’ And got, ‘Don’t … don’t do that.’ And at that point, I knew I had a viable virus.”
posted by batmonkey on Jun 27, 2012 - 70 comments

The Hacker Shelf

The Hacker Shelf is nice crowd-sourced guide to (legally) free books on various computational and mathematical subjects. The topics page gives you an idea of the breadth of material available.
posted by philipy on Mar 15, 2012 - 24 comments

Some titles may be temporarily unavailable at local retailers.

Nicely scanned copies of classic Golden Guides. Highlights include Light and Color, Stars, Evolution, and the always popular guide to Hallucinogenic Plants.
posted by HumanComplex on Jan 14, 2012 - 15 comments

How Computers Work

How Computers Work. Recently recovered & scanned in by the good folks at BoingBoing, this was an early textbook explaining the fundamental concepts & inner workings of modern computing systems. I believe a slightly different edition of this book was my own introduction to computers when I was in 6th grade or so, which explains a lot about my approach to using them.
posted by scalefree on Dec 22, 2011 - 44 comments

A Frog for your Boils

Biomedical Ephemera, or, a Frog for your Boils is "A blog for all biological and medical ephemera, from the age of Abraham through the era of medical quackery and cure-all nostrums. Sometimes featuring illustrations of diseases and conditions of the times, sometimes fascinating ephemeral medical equipment, and sometimes clippings and information about the theories themselves." The archive page is also a useful starting point. via Things Magazine.
posted by Rumple on Aug 29, 2011 - 8 comments

The Cartoon Guide to Life, the Universe, and Everything

Larry Gonick is a veteran American cartoonist best known for his delightful comic-book guides to science and history, many of which have previews online. Chief among them is his long-running Cartoon History of the Universe (later The Cartoon History of the Modern World), a sprawling multi-volume opus documenting everything from the Big Bang to the Bush administration. Published over the course of three decades, it takes a truly global view -- its time-traveling Professor thoroughly explores not only familiar topics like Rome and World War II but the oft-neglected stories of Asia and Africa, blending caricature and myth with careful scholarship (cited by fun illustrated bibliographies) and tackling even the most obscure events with intelligence and wit. This savvy satire carried over to Gonick's Zinn-by-way-of-Pogo chronicle The Cartoon History of the United States, along with a bevy of Cartoon Guides to other topics, including Genetics, Computer Science, Chemistry, Physics, Statistics, The Environment, and (yes!) Sex. Gonick has also maintained a few sideprojects, such as a webcomic look at Chinese invention, assorted math comics (previously), the Muse magazine mainstay Kokopelli & Co. (featuring the shenanigans of his "New Muses"), and more. See also these lengthy interview snippets, linked previously. Want more? Amazon links to the complete oeuvre inside! [more inside]
posted by Rhaomi on Jun 6, 2011 - 29 comments

Arthur's Classic Novels, his Love of Mankind and the Internet

Arthur's Classic Novels has 4000 free ebooks, no registration, nicely organized by author and topics: great old Science Fiction magazines l plentiful online education with 650 books for doctors l a vast collection of famous novels l short stories l by women l Buddhist Scriptures, including The Buddhist Bible, a fave of Jack Kerouac l magazines online l stories by Robert Sheckley l The Autobiography of Charles Darwin l huge collection of fairy tales l philosophy l P. G. Wodehouse l vintage technology l Oscar Wilde l Mark Twain l Rudyard Kipling l George MacDonald l the Koran l a collection of eText resource links. About Arthur Wendover. [more inside]
posted by nickyskye on Sep 16, 2010 - 33 comments

Ptak's Science Book Blog

The blog associated with Ptak's online science bookstore is an absolutely fascinating, frequently-updated tour through historical, social, and scientific miscellany extracted from unusual books in the collection of the author, John Ptak. [more inside]
posted by Rumple on Jun 23, 2009 - 5 comments

Dagger of the Mind

The SF Signal Mind Meld feature poses science fiction related questions to a number of SF luminaries and the scientist, science writer or blogger. Subjects have included the best women writers in SF, taboo topics in SF, underated authors and the most controversial SF novels of the past and present. The also cover lighter topics, such the role of media tie-ins, how Battlestar Galactica could have ended better (bonus Geoff Ryman) and the realistic (or otherwise) use of science on TV SF shows.
posted by Artw on May 6, 2009 - 17 comments

"...we see on the ground a number of spots of light, scattered irregularly, some large, some small..."

The Nature of Light and Color in the Open Air "Moreover, this book is written for all those who love Nature; for the young people going out into the wide world and gathering together round the camp-fire; for the painter who admires but does not understand the light and colour of the landscape; for those living in the country; for all who delight in travelling; and also for town-dwellers, for whom, even in the noise and clamour of our dark streets, the manifestations of Nature remain." - Marcel Minnaert [more inside]
posted by jquinby on Dec 23, 2008 - 17 comments

Antique Celestial Maps

The U.S. Naval Observatory Library features high-res scans of images from antique books dealing with astronomy and navigation. Wallpapers, ahoy!
posted by Gator on Jul 13, 2006 - 18 comments

3,000 free online (science-y) books

From the U.S. National Academies Press: 3,000 Science, Technology, Medical, and Social Science Books Available Free, Online. The interface is clunky - you can only see one page at a time, can't download PDFs (except paid) and image view is via TIFF - but! the content is all there, and free. Some is quite technical, but much is readily accessible. Some idea of the breadth: A Doctor's Memoirs of Treating AIDS in Haiti, The "Drama of the Commons", The 1872 Research Voyage of HMS Challenger, Biography of Stephen Hawking, Biotechnology Research in the Age of Terrorism, Risk Reduction Strategies for Human Exploration of Space, Forensic Lead Bullet Analysis, 50 Short Essays on How Mathematicians Think, Recent Research on Non-Lethal Weapons, and Introduction to Tough Topics in Contemporary Science. Also, see their rather spiffy site on the cosmos.
posted by Rumple on Jun 12, 2006 - 13 comments

Ten Thousand Dreams Interpreted

"To dream of eating pancakes, denotes that you will have excellent success in all enterprises undertaken at this time." "To dream of lard, signifies a rise in fortune will soon gratify you." "Dairy is a good dream both to the married and unmarried." "To dream of seeing your thigh smooth and white, denotes unusual good luck and pleasure." "To dream of noodles, denotes an abnormal appetite and desires. There is little good in this dream." "To dream of seeing a marmot, denotes that sly enemies are approaching you in the shape of fair women." -- What's in a Dream? A Scientific and Practical Interpretation of Dreams by Gustavus Hindman Miller, published in 1901.
posted by Gator on Mar 11, 2006 - 24 comments

The concept of the Transhuman: human, the self, consciousness and their effects on the law

The first Transhuman Conference On the Law of Transhuman Persons: Whether or not you believe humans are set to evolve into gods, or AI is destined to achieve self-awareness the idea of the Transhuman is a thought provoking concept. Philosophers have debated the nature of the self, of the human for millennia. Is it time to start drafting new laws to govern all possible sentient beings on this planet? or is it all just a science of fiction? a comfortable humanist illusion?
posted by 0bvious on Dec 13, 2005 - 37 comments

Italo Calvino, 1923-1985

"If time has to end, it can be described, instant by instant," Mr. Palomar thinks, "and each instant, when described, expands so that its end can no longer be seen." He decides that he will set himself to describing every instant of his life, and until he has described them all he will no longer think of being dead. At that moment he dies.
In memoriam of Italo Calvino, who died exactly 20 years ago.
"Calvino's novels" by his friend Gore Vidal. Calvino's obituary by Vidal, il maestro William Weaver's essay on Calvino's cities, Jeanette Winterson on Calvino's dream of being invisible, and Stefano Franchi's philosophical study on Palomar's doctrine of the void. More inside.
posted by matteo on Sep 18, 2005 - 18 comments

Origins of meteorology

Weathering the Weather: The Origins of Atmospheric Science A "glorious selection" of strikingly beautiful pages from classic publications about meteorology. [via plep].
posted by mediareport on Mar 23, 2005 - 8 comments

Islamic Medical Manuscripts

Marvels of Things Created and Miraculous Aspects of Things Existing An "immensely popular" medieval Islamic natural history text (with simurghs, yew trees, constellations and much more). Found at the Islamic Medical Manuscripts collection, which has more great visuals in the Medical Monographs section.
posted by mediareport on Jun 19, 2003 - 12 comments

Recreational mathematics and fractal graphics continue to stimulate the mind and foster student interest in mathematics. Some favorite authors & books in this area include: Martin Gardner's books (like The Colossal Book of Mathematics and The Night is Large), Cliff Pickover's books (like The Mathematics of Oz and The Zen of Magic Squares), Calvin Clawson's Mathematical Mysteries, Ian Stewart's books and puzzles, and Ivars Peterson's writings (like Islands of Truth). What are your favorite books and web sites in this area for stretching the mind and eye?
posted by Morphic on Nov 1, 2002 - 25 comments

Parallel universes

Parallel universes Alternate universes may exist besides our own in some ghostly manner. Various science-fiction series explore parallel universes, but what do serious physicists think? Hugh Everett III's doctoral thesis outlines a controversial theory in which the universe at every instant branches into countless parallel worlds. Physicist Andrei Linde's theory of self-reproducing universes implies that new universes are being created all the time through a budding process. Stephen Hawking's quantum cosmology also suggests the possibility of other universes connected by wormholes. Some scientists feel that the famous photon double slit experiments proves the existence of parallel universes in which a photon from one universe interacts with a photon from another. Black hole theory suggests that black holes may be portals to parallel universes.
    Science-fiction stories about parallel universes always delight the mind. Two of my favorite SF novels on parallel universes are Heinlein's Job and Number of the Beast. Several others intrigue me, such as The Neoreality Series, Diaspora, and Parallelities. Science books on the subject include a famous book by David Deutsch.
    Do you have any favorite books on parallel universes or parallel realities, fiction or nonfiction? What do you think? No doubt, scientists and science-fiction authors will continue to explore the concept in the decades to come.
posted by Morphic on Oct 21, 2002 - 64 comments

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