19 February 2008

Everything about Cosmos, Evolution and Genes - 3 good books

I cant figure out exactly why, probably aging or marriage, off late I am unable to hold on to reading fiction. I used to enjoy reading simple fiction from the likes of Sidney Sheldon, Jeffery Archer, Robin Cook etc. The complicated ones (Booker/Pulitzer's winners or classics from Dickens or Austin) have always tested my patience [and I always failed]. I have been trying to read 'Crisis - Robin Cook', from past 3 months. Couldn't move beyond the 2nd chapter. The only notable exceptions were Harry Potter series and 'Eragon & Eldest' , which are more of fantasy than fiction. I thoroughly enjoyed both of them.

'Science-for-Dummies' is what interests me now-a-days. My last 3 reads fall into this category.

The first one 'The Fabric of Cosmos', by Brian Greene is a brilliant book on physics. In this books, he tries to explain space, time and the theories behind their origin. I never understood relativity much - even during my graduation in physics -, but this books explains it in such a simple language, you will be forgiven if after reading, you believe you understood it. String theory was new to me. The examples he takes to explain various String theories are fascinating. My imagination failed me a lot of times in trying to visualize what is said. But, such are quantum and string theories.
'If you think you understand quantum theory, you do not understand quantum theory- Richard Feyman'.

The second one 'The Ancestor's Tale', by Richard Dawkins is a very interesting book on the origin of our species. This was the first time I read anything on biology [after my 10th std]. And, the book was captivating from the word go. He starts with our species and goes back in time tracing common ancestors with Chimps, Gorillas, Baboons and other species till the origin of life. Each chapter traces back a few million years to tell about an ancestor of us and in doing so, he throws in some interesting tales on various topics. In one topic, he explains logarithmic tables. Believe me, I didn't understand what logarithms were in all my school and college days. If only I knew this part during those times, I would have done so well in some of my maths. Sometimes it feels that my education was very inefficient in terms of money, effort and time. Probably, I would have done better had I tried to know things rather than learn them.
Dont miss his other book 'The God Delusion'.

The third one 'Genome', by Matt Ridley is a wonderful book. Wonderful, in its true sense, that each chapter fills you wonder. This is about the 23 chromosomes in a human body. Since the chromosome is too huge for a book and too complicated for a lay man, he gives a brief of 1 or 2 genes on each of the 23 chromosomes, and in doing so he explains so much about our life, health, diseases, intelligence, sex and what not. I am currently reading penultimate chapter, and am worried that the book is getting over too soon. Wish we had more chromosomes, so that he had more to write.

The common feature of all these 3 books, is the enthusiasm that these generate. After the first one, I thought I should have been an physicist, after the second, a Evolutionist and after the third, a Geneticist. I know,I cant be any of the above, but I thank each of the above authors for so graciously sharing such wonderful knowledge.

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