Field of Science

Solid strands of knowledge

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The Strand Bookstore in New York City on 12th street, close to NYU, is a book lover's paradise. Multiple copies of used and new books grace the shelves together (like they do in Powell's bookstore in Portland). Almost all of them are discounted. I love their collection described as "18 miles of books"; in my eyes the description evokes a never ending magic carpet full of novelties.

The store is inhabited by hungry creatures with scruffy beards, colorful attire, thick glasses, exotic skirts and a generally zombie-sh look in their eyes. It is hard not to get infected. Last Sunday I could finally visit the place and acquired a handsome set of volumes. I had to force myself out but plan to visit again as soon as possible. My acquisitions include the following:

* A Question of Balance: Weighing the Options on Global Warming Policies- William Nordhaus (reviewed by Freeman Dyson)
* Six Impossible Things Before Breakfast: The Evolutionary Origins of Belief- Lewis Wolpert
* The Cambridge Quintet: A Work of Scientific Speculation- John L. Casti
* Six Questions of Socrates: A Modern-Day Journey of Discovery Through World Philosophy- Christopher Phillips
* The Way of the World: A Story of Truth and Hope in an Age of Extremism- Ron Susskind
* The Age of Wonder: How the Romantic Generation Discovered the Terror and Beauty of Science- Richard Holmes
* Deciphering the Cosmic Number: The Strange Friendship of Wolfgang Pauli and Carl Jung- Arthur I. Miller

The penultimate volume looks fascinating and has gathered a highly appreciative review in The Times. The last book especially was a revelation. I don't know how they managed to price a newly published book at less than half the price.

Ron Susskind's book is a riveting read that draws together the stories of disparate individuals; when I first checked out the hardback from the library I could not put it down for the entire night. As the synopsis says,
The Way of the World simultaneously follows an ensemble of characters in America and abroad who are turning fear and frustration into a desperate—and often daring—brand of human salvation. They include a striving, twenty-four-year-old Pakistani √©migr√©, a fearless UN refugee commissioner, an Afghan teenager, a lawyer fighting for a Muslim man incarcerated in Guantanamo, a state department official desperately working to keep nuclear weapons out of terrorist hands, a Holocaust survivor’s son, and Benazir Bhutto, who discovers, days before her death, how she’s been abandoned by the United States at her moment of greatest need. They are all testing American values at a time of peril, and discovering solutions—human solutions—to so much that has gone wrong. For anyone hoping to exercise truly informed consent and begin the process of restoring the values and hope—along with the moral clarity and earned optimism—at the heart of the American tradition, The Way of the World is a must-read
I am planning to combine Wolpert's book with Robert Wright's recent "The Evolution of God" which talks about a similar theme. Christopher Phillips had entertained and informed many years back with "Socrates Cafe" and this work seems to further explore his travels and encounters. Nordhaus who is at Yale is one of the preeminent environmental economists in the world and considered a leading authority on economic solutions to climate change. The problem has now passed on from the hands of the scientists to those of the economists.

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