Time Travel by James Gleick

I was hoping this book would discuss more of the science concerning the possibility (and unpossibility) of time travel, but he covered more of the older science fiction that discussed time travel.

It all starts with a discussion of the H. G. Wells book, The Time Machine, that was published in 1895. That seems to be the impetus for much/most /all? of the time travelling science fiction that follows in his footsteps. I’ve not had the pleasure of reading the Time Machine, but now that I know it exists, I will give that a read.

He then goes on to talk about and explain how other science fiction authors address the concept of time travel in new, different, and unique ways.

The two chapters that cover more of the science and philosophy of time travel are Chapter 11 on Paradoxes, and Chapter 12 on What is Time. The main paradox that is discussed concerning time travel back in time, is the problem that one could kill their grandfather. Personally, I don’t think that one could circle back in time to affect the present. Time operates like a function on a graph. For every point in time along the x axis, there can only be one y answer. Like a mathematical function, time is not allowed to backtrack.

But, it may be possible to jump to the future. All one needs to do is travel at the speed of light, or nearly the speed of light, and one can essentially travel into the future while aging very little. The main problem is that it takes a huge amount of energy to get a mass of any weight close to the speed of light. This was mentioned, but it was not talked about all that much.

If you want to get an overview of the science fiction of time travel, this is your book. If you want a scientific overview, this will have pieces and parts, but that is not the focus of it.

For a more in depth look at the concept of time, the Order of Time by Carlo Rovelli, may be better. I read that book a couple years back, but I found it to be a little obtuse. I seem to agree with many of the people who gave that book 3 stars.

Is God a Mathematician? – The book doesn’t answer that question

I recently read the book, Is God a Mathematician by Mario Livio. I picked it up at the JeffCo Libraries Whale of a Book Sale. I figured the book would not answer the question posed by the title, but I thought it would talk a little bit more about logical proofs for or against an all powerful being. In a way, I am glad that it did not do that. It was mostly on the question, is mathematics invented, or is it discovered?

My favorite chapter was probably chapter 5 on statistics and probability. I learned a little bit more about how games of chance helped influence mathematical thought. They discussed games of chance on pages 138-140, but it was involving dice. I thought that card games influenced mathematical thinkers more when it came to chance and probability of winning various hands of cards. That didn’t seem to come up in the book.

I guess I am on the side of the fence for mathematics being discovered. I think that prime numbers and the number pi exist with or without human involvement. It is just up to us to find them in the world of mathematics. But, math is more than just numbers, it also involves concepts such as functions, and algebraic concepts of unkowns in formulas. There is a lot of math in physical concepts such as waves of light or the Navier-Stokes equations in fluid dynamics. That math would still exist even if we did not find them. Other intelligent life forms would probably also know about pi, prime numbers, the speed of light in a vacuum, E = mc2, and the Navier-Stokes equations.

However, we can invent different ways to communicate the concepts of mathematics, just as calculus can be communicated using different terminology. So, the way to communicate mathematics can be invented.

Anyway, it was a good book. It was not earthshaking, and it did not answer the main question in the title, but it was an interesting read.

The Big Ones book

I recently read The Big Ones: How Natural Disasters Have Shaped Us (and What We Can Do About Them). It was very good. The author covered 11 past disasters, and one future disaster that is most likely going to happen.

The 12 events are discussed chronologically. They are: Pompeii and Mt Vesuvius back in the year 79, the Lisbon Earthquake of 1755, the Laki volcanic eruption in Iceland in 1783-84, California central valley flooding in 1861-62, the Tokyo and Yokohama earthquake of 1923, Mississippi flooding in 1927, Multiple earthquakes in China in the 1970s, the Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami in 2004, Hurricane Katrina in 2005, L’Aquila Italy earthquake of 2009, The 2011 Japanese earthquake and tsunami that affected the Fukushima nuclear plant, and lastly, she talks about the earthquake that will eventually hit the Los Angeles area along the San Andreas fault some year in the future.

The Earth really does want to kill us. It has many ways that it tries to kill the animals living on the surface.

She does a great job of discussing how humans react to natural disasters (both rationally and irrationally), and ways that scientists can talk to the public to plan for such events. She recommends staying away from statistics and probabilities, since people don’t understand statistics very well. (For example, with 100 year floods, some people think that they occur once every 100 years, but that is not really the case. Each year, there is a 1% chance of a 100 year flood occurring, so 100 year floods can occur close to each other chronologically.) She has also worked with politicians and policy makers on how to frame the discussion so that governments can be better prepared to deal with natural disasters and catastrophes.

I already knew about most of the disasters, but I think I learned the most about the Laki volcano in Iceland, and on the great flood in central California.

If you are interested in science communication, in human behavior, or on natural disasters in general, this book is highly recommended.

Read the book — What are the Chances by Barbara Blatchley

It took me a while to finish the book, but I am glad that I happened upon it (by random chance?) at the local public library. I think I might buy this book for my dad, who has given himself an unofficial middle name of “Lucky”.

Overall, I found the topic fascinating. The author covered the topic from a neurological perspective, since she wanted to figure out what humans (and other animals) think are lucky events or unlucky events. She delved into determining what areas of the brain think about luck, and how that affects our behavior. In general, if humans paid more attention to their environment, they could make better predictions about what will happen in the future. By making better predictions, those people may feel luckier than those who do not pay as much attention to their environment. Thus, some might see luckiness as a learned skill.

A section on page 188 does a good job or providing a summary. I have bulletized some of the text in a paragraph.

  • There is nothing wrong with believing in luck.
  • Believing in and counting on luck can give you a feeling of control that you would otherwise be without.
  • Feeling in control can lead to “better performance, more success, and more favorable outcomes.”
  • It may lead to a stronger belief in luck the next time you are in a jam.
  • “Nothing succeeds like success.”
  • We have a strong tendency to repeat what has worked in the past.

While it is a little bit academic, the average person can just ignore the occasional scholarly references, but some people will enjoy digging deeper into the subject.

Small review of the book Ms. Adventure by Jess Phoenix

The full title of the book is Ms. Adventure: My Wild Explorations in Science, Lava, and Life.

She really did have some wild explorations. She does a great job of writing stories and weaving in pertinent details. I just wish she didn’t go to the state of Sinaloa in Mexico when she did. She tracked down a lost rock hammer by following a drug cartel vehicle to retrieve the item when it was probably extremely dangerous to do so.

She had some great adventures in Death Valley, at the volcanoes of Hawaii, a submerged volcano in the ocean near Hawaii, in Mexico, Peru, and Ecuador. This review at Amazon does a better job than I am doing right now.

I do wish she would have written more about her run for a House of Representative seat. Maybe she didn’t write about that because that didn’t have much action, and it didn’t work out for her.

I know several people who would enjoy this book, and I can’t recommend it enough if you enjoy travel and adventure books.

Short review of the book, The Discovery of the Universe, by Carolyn Collins Peterson

I was able to see a presentation by Dr. Peterson when she spoke at a meeting of the Denver Astronomical Club, November 2020. Since her book is not in any Colorado libraries, I ordered it for myself.

I found the book to be a great source of information concerning observatories all over the world. She provides a lot of information about the instruments and history of how and why they were constructed, what sorts of things the instruments were designed to observe, how much data they are gathering or plan to gather, and more.

I liked the chapter 7 on Observatories of the Future. It was a little more readable than the other chapters. As a Denver person, I am glad that she mentioned two DU observatories. They were historic Chamberlin Observatory on page 107 and the Meyer-Womble Observatory on page 213. She misspelled Chamberlin as Chamberlain.

She did have several other typos, such as confusing Purdue University using the word Perdue instead. I also feel that the book really could have used an index. For example, if I wanted to see what sections of the book covered observatories in Chile, I would have to search the whole book. If it had an index, I would be able to see what pages covered the large number of observatories in Chile.

Overall, I really liked the book. Now I may have to find some of the other books that she has written.

Two mini book reviews on comets, asteroids, and astrophysics

I’ve been reading a lot more books than usual this year, for some reason. I don’t read a lot, so it has been nice to get back into reading more books.

Catching Stardust: Comets, Asteroids and the Birth of the Solar System was really good. I really liked chapter 8 on the Rosetta mission to Comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko. I find it fascinating how the little Philae lander bounced around the comet before coming to rest in a low section. It was still able to do good and unique science on the way there.

Astrophysics for People in a Hurry was written by Neil deGrasse Tyson back in 2017. I had been meaning to read it for a while, and it was a good quick read. My favorite chapter was the last one on the Cosmic Perspective. I liked this line:

The cosmic perspective opens our eyes to the universe, not as a benevolent cradle designed to nurture life but as a cold, lonely, hazardous place, forcing us to reassess the value of all humans to one another. (Page 206.)

History of the Science Library Domain

From 2001 till at least December 22, 2009, I had the sciencelibrary.org domain set up in my personal space at the University of Denver as a URL redirect to:


Because of the way that DU redid personal website links (around 2006 or 2007), the internal links no longer work, so these are the internal pages at:

I also saved the content to the Archive at various times.

Then in 2009, I learned that I could have Tumblr host it as a blog, and I could have the URL sciencelibrary.org redirect there instead of redirecting to my personal webspace at the U of Denver. But, Tumblr had a less than stellar reputation in the blogging world.

So, in November 2020, I moved ownership of the domain from Network Solutions to Reclaim Hosting. This is where you see the website now. I hope I can keep it here for more than another 10+ years.