To Read List

Ok, so for the first time in my life I started compiling a to read list. One of the reasons I did it is that in the last couple of years I had lot of success working with to do lists. I hope that it will help me to deal with the overwhelming number of interesting books that I could and would like to read in a systematic fashion. My aim was to make a list with around 50 books and then narrow it down to those that I desperately want to read as soon as possible. Here is the first part in which I have included all books from the broader category of science. In the second part I will present the other categories: philosophy, chess, global elites and music. My aim is to ready only books which have made it to the narrow circle for the next weeks and to make and publish as many notes as possible. After this first round I will see how it has helped my reading process and what I could improve for the future. At the same time I should try to use the note-making process to produce my own writing. This is another experiment resulting from this.

Clifford Pickover – Sex, Drugs, Einstein & Elves

some people love it, others hate it. I read the first three chapters so far and I definitely loved it. This guy is a nice mirror for my crazy mind 😉 a lot of people complain that he writes about DMT experiences although he claims never to have tried it himself – maybe he just doesn’t want to admit it in public? After all, he has a reputation as scientist (PhD from Yale University) …

Donald Favareau – Essential Readings in Biosemiotics

no reviews so far

from Amazon description:

„The first of its kind, this book constitutes a valuable resource to both bioscientists and to semioticians interested in this emerging new discipline, and can function as a primary textbook for students in biosemiotics, as well. Moreover, because of its inherently interdisciplinary nature and its focus on the ‘big questions’ of cognition, meaning and evolutionary biology, this volume should be of interest to anyone working in the fields of cognitive science, theoretical biology, philosophy of mind, evolutionary psychology, communication studies or the history and philosophy of science.“

Biosemiotics is a new development in contemporary biology concerned with the emergence of meaning and symbols in biological systems. One of the key works was Terrence Deacon’s, The Symbolic Species: The Co-Evolution of Language and the Brain where he argues that what separates humans from animals is symbolic representation, in other words the ability to abstract from empirical/phenomenological reality. „The final section of The Symbolic Species posits that human brains and human language have coevolved over millions of years, leading Deacon to the remarkable conclusion that many modern human traits were actually caused by ideas.“ I might read this one as the next book in this field, but I would like to get an overview first and I hope that Favereau’s book is a good choice.

Another well-known biosemiotician is Jesper Hoffmeyer whose Signs of Meaning in the Universe is another candidate for a follow-up book to explore this recent interdisciplinary field touching on very important questions of our existence. In this book he applies ideas, insights and concepts of the linguist C.S. Pierce to the field of biology. According to some reviewers the worldview he encompasses is panpsychism although there appears to be no mention of it in the book itself.

Arthur Koestler – The Thirteenth Tribe

amazon comment:

„This book is dated but is still a masterpiece also because the subject matter is
(fortunately) presented in a popularised, non academic fashion. I highly recommend
it to anyone interested in getting closer to the truth regarding the origin of the
vast majority of ‘Jews’ in the world today. These issues are however politically
sensitive and this inevitably results in controversy.

The commonly available theory of the origin of the Ashkenazis, or East-European
Jews, is the Renanian Theory (see e.g. Wikipedia). Namely, the Ashkenazis would
descend from refugees of Crusade- and Black-Death-time persecutions of ‘authentic’
Jews from western Germany who sought a new life in faraway Poland. However, this
theory does not hold to antropomorphic considerations, considerations of numbers
of refugees and size of ensuing communities in the East and, most importantly,
to a lingustic analysis of the ashkenazi Yiddish language (which points rather
to a Southeast-Germany, Slavic and Turkik origin of that idiom). The standard
theory also does not explain most of the peculiar customs and surnames of the
Ashkenazis and their historical and economical development in continuous conflict
with the populace of the host countries.

Koestler, following an earlier proposal by Hugo von Kutschera (1910) – but also
in accordance with Jewish Encyclopedia pre-1917 articles – rekindles the Khazar
Theory of the ashkenazi origins in this book. Potential readers can follow the
existent reviews to learn about the details, so it suffices to state that
according to this theory the bulk of the Ashkenazis would be the descendants of
a turkik tribe (the medieval Khazars) who at the end of the first millenium held
an important (and little mentioned) empire in Southern Russia and converted en
masse to (rabbinic) Judaism for political and commercial convenience. The empire
was however ephimeral and further invasions, both from the early Russians and
from newcomer turko-mongol tribes from Central Asia, swept the jewish Khazars
away from history (some scholars say BECAUSE of their conversion to Judaism).
But did the new converts really disappear? Koestler proposes not, that these
people in fact eventually turned into the Ashkenazis of Poland-Lithuania, Hungary,
the Ukraine, Russia and even of Germany and Austria. Later, these ‘Jews’ moved
to France, England, the USA, Israel, the world over. So, are the great majority
of Jews really akin to the people of the Bible?

Opponents of the Khazar Theory claim the jewish Khazars disappeared from history
due to the onslaught of kievian Rus’ and of tribes from the East: Pechenegs,
Kumans (Kipchaks) and Mongols. Strange, because cartographers of Venice Polo
Family’s travels to Central Asia report a ‘Gazaria’ and a ‘Cumania’ in existence
around 1250 after the mongol invasions. The Pope’s envoy to the mongol court,
Giovanni da Piano Carpini, reported encountering a jewish tribe among the
constellation of peoples associated with the Mongols. Genoese traders knew the
Crimea peninsula with the name ‘Gaziria’ well into the 1350s. Indeed, the last
jewish Khazars left the Crimea (Krym in Russian) as Karaim during imperial
russian control of the region. As others have pointed out, the geographic
contours of the jewish Pale of Settelments under russian imperial rule overlap
significantly the contours of the reduced khazarian province after the Mongols
(Gazaria). So what is more natural than these jewish Gaziri turning into the
Ashkenazis? That is the shocking thesis of the vonKutschera-Koestler theory.
Indeed, why only the jewish Khazars ought to have disappeared? All of their
imperial confederate peoples still live on: the Magyars turned into the
Hungarians (taking with them the judaic Kabars); the Bulghars turned into the
(danubian) Bulgarians and the Volga Bulghars (now Bashkiri, Chuvashi, …); the
Kumans turned into Kipchaki in the East and then Cumani (Kun) in the West
(playing a role in the formation of modern Romania and Hungary). Take the Alans
(also allied to the Khazars): have they also disappeared? They turned into the
Alamanni (a mixture of Alans and germanic southwestern tribes), into the modern
Catalans (Goth-Alans) and survive the ancient ‘As’ people (as known to the
Persians) in loco as modern Ossetians. Likewise, the Khazars did not disappear.
Koestler explains: they were divided into Ak-Khazars (more sedentary casts)
and Kara-Khazars (more nomadic ones, warrior casts). The first converted and
eventually turned into the Ashkenazis, the second group remained nomadic.
Together with other nomadic groups from the Kipchaks and the Bulghars they
eventually formed those former mercenaries of the steppes called Kazakhi in
Russian: the Cossacks! These accepted slavic fugitives from medieval serfdom
in their midst and thus turned orthodox christian, becoming the scourge of the
Ashkenazis many times over and – peculiarly – staunch supporters of the Tzars.
The steppes of Eurasia are the strangest place on Earth and reserve us peculiar
surprises, so why not jewish Turks? As the reader will learn, some of the Kipchak
and some of the Seljuk Turks also converted to Judaism in former times, forming
a base for Jews in Romania and in modern Turkey.

More recent objections to the Khazar Theory come from modern genetic research,
as some reviewers have rebuked. They jump to rushed conclusions. As some
experts have remarked, sample populations in these studies were small and not
randomly selected, and thus the results may not be statistically significant.
We may never know what percentages of ‘semitic blood’ and of ‘turanic blood’
the Ashkenazis do carry, and the question is ill-founded since we shall never
be able to genetically test vastly mixed populations that moved their settlement
regions sometimes many times over. Indeed one should test not only Ashkenazis,
Sephardis and their host populations, but also true accepted descendants of the
Khazar, Kuman and Seljuk Turks. Until this is done, these genetic studies are
meaningless even when their statistical basis is improved. Not surprisingly the
conclusions of these studies are simplistic and in clear contradiction with each
other: first the ‘few founding middle-eastern fathers’ scenario, then a
‘communities formed by unions between Jewish men and local women’ scenario, more
recently the 4-women (!) scenario: ‘the Ashkenazi population as descended
matrilineally from just four women, likely from a Hebrew/Levantine mtDNA pool
originating in the Near East in the first and second centuries CE’. It’s hard to
believe such hasty conclusions drawn from studies on statistically restricted
(and ethnically selected) population samples. Has the genetic approach been tested
on accepted, uncontroversial situations?

The Khazar Theory is important and very well described in Koestler’s book. It’s
important not only in the context of Israel’s founding myths (which however
Koestler duly considers), but as a unique key to understanding Eastern Europe’s
(and the world’s) medieval and modern history.“

Obviously not everyone likes this book. The anti-semitic meme is rooted very deeply in our collective unconscious. I will try to stay open-minded and to look for other evidence and counter-evidence after reading this one first.

Clifford Pickover – The Möbius Strip

5 star amazon review:

„The Mobius strip, the object, is itself seemingly simple. To make one is easy: take a strip of paper, give one end a half twist, and join the two ends together. The result is a loop with remarkable properties. It has only one edge and only one side. There is also a three-dimensional analog of the Mobius strip, the Klein bottle. It has only one surface. Any liquid placed in a Klein bottle coffee mug is both inside and outside the mug at the same time, as is everything in the Universe.

The Mobius Strip, the book, explores the properties of the Mobius strip as well as other topological topics, knots, higher dimensional objects, and stories and films in which space-time is looped. Pickover details the life of August Mobius and his scientific accomplishments. Interestingly, Mobius’s work on the strip named for him was not published until after his death. Far from being just a mathematical curiosity, the Mobius strip is the basis for many inventions. Each chapter in the book starts with a diagram taken from a United States patent that uses the strip in some manner.

Pickover injects his own imaginative take on the meaning of the strip. For example, he supposes a town in which the bicycle path takes you around a Mobius route in such a way that you return to the start with your left and right sides reversed. It takes two trips around the path for you to get back to the way you were when you started, Interestingly, the spin-1/2 sub-nuclear particles share this characteristic. Perhaps electrons and protons are very small Mobius strips.

In this volume, the author builds upon his previous mathematical works, Wonders of Numbers, and A Passion for Mathematics. There are puzzles for each chapter. This book focuses on topological subjects, but also includes the human side of the story. It is infused throughout with Pickover’s unique view of reality. While, there are a few esoteric equations, these can be skipped without loss by those who are so inclined. This is perhaps Pickover’s best and most interesting work combining fascinating mathematics with the history of its creation. More biographical sketches can be found on his “Six Thousand” web site where he profiles creative artists, writers, scientists, and other thinkers.“

I am very interested in the possible implications of the Möbius strip for an ontology of time and hope that this book will help me to better formulate my ideas on this subject.

Oliver Sacks – Hallucinations

3 (out of 5) star amazon review:

“Hallucinations” is a fascinating and eminently readable neurological parade covering all varieties of hallucinations. Dr. Sacks calls it a “natural history or anthology of hallucinations,” a perfectly apt description.

It turns out that hallucinations are not that uncommon. In fact, I’d guess that most readers drawn to these pages will find themselves exclaiming at one point or another, “Yeah, that’s happened to me, too!” But don’t get me wrong; this book is not filled with the commonplace. On the contrary, anyone who loves reading Oliver Sacks knows that his books are filled with extraordinary and totally off-the-wall case histories. This book does not disappoint…at times it is jaw-dropping surreal.

The work is divided into an introduction and fifteen chapters. Each chapter covers a different broad category of hallucination and each category is based on a specific neurological disorder or cognitive deficit. Sacks believes that the only way to understand hallucinations is to read about the first-hand experiences of those that suffer from them. Thus, the book is made up almost entirely of first-hand accounts. Whenever possible, Dr. Sacks follows each individual case description with information about the impact these hallucinations have had on that person’s life. Perhaps one third of these first hand examples come from Sacks’ professional clinical case studies. Another approximate fifteen percent or more comes from Dr. Sacks’ own unique personal experience (i.e., his experiences having hallucinations due to his migraine disorder or from experimenting with a large variety of hallucinogenic drugs and other substances when he was a young man). The balance comes from general historical or medical primary source materials. The book is the result of not only extensive medical research, but also a great deal of in-depth cultural and historical research. Many of the cases concern famous writers, composers and other luminaries from the last few centuries. Almost every page has footnotes, and there is a large bibliography at the end.

I cannot honestly complete a review of this fine book without mentioning that it can become overwhelmingly bizarre and, at times, even tedious. Reading again and again about the details of each person’s outlandish, weird, and freaky hallucinations can become…well, boring. It reminded me of the many times in my life when I’ve been cornered by a friend or colleague who just had to tell me the details about some wacky dream that had occurred the night before. Such descriptions can be entertaining at first, but after a while, it just gets so weird, you find your brain rebelling and turning off…it is as if your mind takes control and says, “this is so bizarre I’m just not going to try to comprehend or visualize this stuff for you any more,”…and then it shuts off. Unfortunately, that is how I felt many times as I read this anthology. I was totally fascinated and then after much repetition of similar bizarre accounts, my mind kept shutting off and I found myself getting sleepy. As a result, I recommend reading this book in small bits and pieces over a week or two. Anthologies are not designed to be read in a single sitting.

Despite this caveat, I recommend this book. I’ve read most of Dr. Sacks’ books. For me, this was not as good as some of his other books; however, it meticulously covers the subject. If I was less than totally enthralled at any time, I believe it was because the unique nature of the subject matter and the fact that it was an anthology and not meant to be read quickly. So, read it slowly. Enjoy it a little at a time. It will change your attitude about this marvelous and fairly common phenomenon.“

4 star review:

„This book isn’t written in quite the same lively, richly allusive style that you find in many of Dr. Sack’s other books, such as “Awakenings.” The style here is more simple, straight-forward, and descriptive.

Dr. Sacks describes the kinds of hallucinations that can be attendant upon different conditions. Epilepsy, injury, high fever, blindness, and mind-altering drugs, each can produce hallucinations that are in some way typical of that condition and different from the hallucinations produced by other conditions. For example, certain kinds of epilepsy are often characterized by initial “sightings” of jagged, geometric patterns running diagonal across one’s field of vision. On the other hand, blindness yields whole dramas enacted in front of a person – random operas of antic leprechauns riding white horses. Hallucinations can also be auditory, olfactory, and tactile, as well as visual.

Hallucinations are generally different from basic imaginings or dreams in that they seem to be “out there,” rather than in a person’s own skull or in “the mind’s eye.” These interesting distinctions are what Dr. Sacks hopes might eventually provide a window into the neurology of the brain, and ultimately into the basis of consciousness itself. So far though, despite certain clues being generated by high-tech brain scans, hallucinations remain just tantalizing and vivid fragments of the puzzle. The best a neurologist can do for now is observe and describe.

Dr. Sacks is able to provide first-hand accounts of many types of hallucinations, because he has led a wide-ranging, active life that has included bouts of fever, injury, and experimental drug use. So this book also provides some telling autobiographical insights. You get to know a little more about Oliver Sacks than you might have learned so far.

Many of the hallucinations described bear remarkable resemblances to common themes in ghost stories. You encounter your doppelganger; people appear and then fade transparently through the walls; you have a hair-raising sense of an unseen presence standing behind you. On the other hand, many visions lead to a sense of a larger goodness and beauty in the world. Your dead mother appears again to reassure you; you sense an angelic, superior being guiding you. As you read along here, you’ll find many ways in which what we sense in altered states seeps through to profoundly influence our “real” world.”“

Ok, so after reading these (and other similar) reviews on Amazon I’m pretty sure I will not read the whole book 😉 but still I am very interested in the subject and for sure I wanna find out more about his experiments with so-called Hallucinogens. The good thing about books is that you can always leave out parts which are a bit boring and still enjoy a lot of new and interesting information inbetween 🙂

Robert Becker & Gary Selden – The Body Electric

5 star amazon review:

„If you have not read Robert O. Becker yet you must, if you have any interest in health processes or the healing process. He was a very thorough medical researcher with a keen interest in regeneration and lays the basis of his work on a rich history of medical evolution from 2,000 BC forward. While he touches only lightly on silver, he was the first to certify that electro generated silver ions not only kill most pathogens but are also the only metallic ions to cause dedifferentiation of cells and thus rapid local regeneration. His primary application was as bimetallic (battery) implants to speed bone and other tissue healing but he opened the world to the electrical nature of cellular life processes.
Another interest I have always had was TENS or zapper units but after reading his works find 99% of applications are very risky due to mans constant desire to “make it stronger” – he found as little as a few billionths of an ampere and less then 1 volt triggered healing or regeneration and more was not only counterproductive but usually dangerous.
He gets bitter in the end, having been forced to close his lab, essentially banned from research by his peers because he moved forward too far too fast plus eventually got involved in attacking the electropollution man has introduced into our environment in the last 60 years. Our universe and thus evolutionary development are based on a low level electromagnetic environment with the dominant 10 hertz frequency of both our brains and gravity waves but man has increased the electropollution by 1,000 times,with the advent of 50/60 Hz electric lines blanketing the earth and pervase pulsed microwaves to the point we are effecting the Van Allen belt and thus weather, if not the general decline of many of mans bio-functions!
His followup book Cross Currents is slightly repetative but adds a great deal more, especially to his electropollution comcerns.“

I started reading this book while trekking in the Himalaya last December and the only thing I regret is that I wasn’t taking any notes while reading meaning that I will probably have to re-read the first couple of dozen of pages in order to be able to use the information in future work. Other than that I can ABSOLUTELY recommend it to anyone interested in the scientific foundations of the electromagnetism of the human body.

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