I’ve been reading a bit lately and take this opportunity to endorse so-called e-readers like the Kindle again. They seem to be fairly priced for what you get. In contrast to tablet computers like the ipad and what not, pure e-book readers have one distinct advantages. They are designed first and foremost as devices for reading e-books. That means, when you turn it on, you will start reading, instead of logging into Facebook, then maybe quickly checking emails etc. All the things that keep you occupied with everything multimedia but reading.
Well, I am reading all over the place but enjoy short stories and historical narratives mostly. For instance, ‘Modern Persia’ from Mooshie G. Daniel, who was a Christian missionary living in Persia publishing his experiences in 1897. Wow, just to imagine how some people lived in the old days. How powerful some people were, not because of their competence or education, but merely because of social status. Granted, social status means still a lot today, but such status that puts you above the law is held by far less people. Barry suggested a few books to me. One was Thomas S. Kuhn, ‘The Structure of Scientific Revolutions’. I read the first quarter and have stopped for now, as the mood is currently not so inclined. Nevertheless, if you are a young academic scientist out there and are asking yourself what many do. Namely, ‘This is it? This is science? I’m a scientist now? This is what we do?’ Again, if you are what is called an academic, and I’m not talking about all the people who went to university and finished a degree, I’m talking about academics, people who have finished their studies with the highest degree, have published their work and have worked at a university, I think, just as my brother Barry said, that this book answers many questions.
I’m keen on thrillers, too. Especially when the brain cannot absorb deep thinking. I read two ‘best-sellers’ – who knows what is meant by this term? – by Brad Thor. Firstly, good on him, there is an author who, in my opinion, writes exactly what Americans want to read. It’s all about the American Hero, the one that always succeeds in getting the mission done – the mission being America First, America Number 1 at all costs -, about conspiracy, government, patriotism, al-Qaeda, Islamic fundamentalism and 9/11. As I said, perfect for the American market. Which made me wonder if there is a marked for books on the same topics but with a different perspective. Who knows, maybe the market is even bigger for such fiction-novels in which ‘the best country in the world’ ends up losing. Who knows?
I mentioned short stories. Isaac Asimov, who looks like a white Laurence Fishburn on the picture on Wikipedia, is arguably one of the best when it comes to science-fiction, wrote many of them. There is an academic for you, a (bio)-chemist who, again arguably like many more in his era, had a great imagination. He combined this imagination with his scientific knowledge and understanding, and thus paved the road for astonishing stories, and I concur on what he claims, and new ideas and directions of thinking and research. I won’t make further efforts in trying to put to words the magnitude his work had, you better read about him yourself. I like to say one more thing though. In my opinion, if he were alive today and wandered through the science departments of universities across the world, he would have pointed out that many so-called innovative, blue sky research projects, stuff that is often enough sold as new and unique to the grant-payers and other financial stakeholders of such projects, were actually mentioned in his stories a long time ago.
And there was one short story that left me astounded. It’s about parity violation. A topic and term, mostly the latter in my case, which I heard many, many times and I can’t help myself wonder, whether a certain scientist working mainly and theoretically in this area had read this story. Anyway, it should be a standard text for all students who conduct research with this inclination.
It is called ‘Left to Right’. One of many short stories in the Gold – The Final Stories compilation. I couldn’t gather when Asimov wrote this short-story, but the compilation was published in 1995. I won’t give a synopsis of it either, I’m sure you can find this story online and read it yourself. However, allow me to quote my favorite part: … “Nonsense”, said Bob. “I’ll just pass through a second time and then I’ll be exactly as I was before”…
If you are researching and even more if you are not only doing this merely out of interest, but are also getting paid for it, I think, you can only benefit from sitting down for a while, thinking about your research project, looking at the forest and not the trees, and write a little fiction about it. This piece of fiction, being a result of both knowledge, presumptions and imagination, well, not necessarily the piece itself, but the entire process might quite likely institute patterns of thought, ideas and scientific approaches that will benefit both the researchers and their respective research fields.
Let me round this up with raising a question. What would happen, if, instead of telling children what they have to read. I’m thinking of the father who gives a big book to his son, saying read this son, I read it, too. Or of the teaching institutions like schools who make all their pupils in the class read the same book, again a book that was forced upon them by the teaching authority – often out of personal reasons.
What would happen if the teacher gave every student a Kindle, uploaded with many various types of books covering all kind of literature, and let the individuals choose what they were interested or motivated to read? Is there a possibility that we’d end up with many more young people who enjoy reading and thus widening their horizons? Or in other words, what would happen if authorities didn’t put off the motivation of young ones to read and learn? I recall my German teacher, back when I was going to school in Germany, who made us read Shakespeare, Schiller, Goethe, Dürrenmatt, Büchner and so on, and on being asked why we don’t have any say in what we want to read and what good it is to read literature of this sort, she replied adamantly that it will provide us with many advantages and character in later life. And that, just because we might not be interested in reading such literature, it gives no excuse not to read them. She was also adamant that the Internet is something quite useless for everyday life and that she was too old to learn about computers and the Internet…
I’m sure, I would enjoy and understand the works by the above-mentioned and co today more and better, and I am also sure that back then, they actually put me off reading.
Have a good one.