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Book Review Journal and Software Designs

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The Gene: An Intimate History – Book Review

Author: Siddhartha Mukherjee
Publisher: SCRIBNER, Simon & Schuster, Inc.
Copyright: 2016, ISBN: 1476733500
Cover: Jaya Micelli
Reviewed by: Lynard Barnes, April 3, 2017

 

 

 

Summary: Incredible reading adventure into the emergence of genetics as a science. The history, the methods, the people.

Author Siddhartha Mukherjee starts THE GENE with a description of his 2012 trip to Calcutta to visit his cousin Moni. He describes the circumstances surrounding the eventual diagnosis of his uncle, Rajesh, with bipolar disorder. Throughout the book, Mukherjee continues the saga of his extended family and his uncle. By the end of the book we understand why he started where he started and why he ended the book the way he did. Between the beginning and, there is a lucid, informative and clear discussion of the history of genetics. When you really ponder that history, when you work through all the twists and turns of how biology and physics converged surrounding the subject of genes, the book is more a history of humankind’s attitude toward itself.

For a discussion thread regarding genetics in your everyday life, an excellent starting place is an equally riveting though short saga of the website 23andMe. 23andMe once provided an individual’s complete genome along with probability or chance estimates of gene expression. This was a mistake.

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Death on Mars – Book Review

Author: John E. Brandenburg, Ph.D.
Publisher: Adventures Unlimited Press
Copyright: 2015, ISBN: 1939149381
Review by: Lynard Barnes, 24 December 2016

Summary: And you thought the face on Mars was a case of pareidolia. According to Dr. Brandenburg the face on Mars is indication of life on Mars that arose during the same time as life on Earth. He makes a very strong though fanciful circumstantial case.

 

 
The last book I read about the rock formation on Mars which some saw as a humanoid face was Stanley V. McDaniel and Monica Rix’s CASE FOR THE FACE: SCIENTISTS EXAMINE THE EVIDENCE FOR THE ALIEN ARTIFACTS ON MARS. Written in 1998, the book was based on the 1976 VIKING 1 orbiter imaging of the Mars Cydonia region. DEATH ON MARS takes the story forward with photo examinations from more high-resolution cameras like the MARS GLOBAL OBSERVER. These later images convinced most that the face was an optical illusion, simply a play of light upon rocks. Most were convinced, but not all.

Brandenburg rips into the Jet Propulsion Laboratory–JPL, the robotic exploration people–and the National Space Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) contractor, Malin Space Science Systems (MSSS). After the original VIKING 1 photos, the subsequent high-resolution images of the Cydonia region were taken at oblique angles, grossly distorting the overhead images derived from the originals taken by VIKING 1. The results were pictures of featureless rocks setting in a desolate landscape. Dr. Brandenburg however cites the work of Mark Carlotto’s enhancement of the images to confirm the original conclusion based on the VIKING images. Thus, he successfully resurrects the case for a face on Mars. Proving the case for the face on Mars is only on aspect of this book however.

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Future Crimes – Book Review

FutureCrimeAuthor: Marc Goodman
Publisher: Doubleday, Random House LLC, NY, NY
Copyright: 2015, ISBN: 0385539012
Cover: Pet Garceau, PixelEmbargo (copyright)
Reviewed by: Lynard Barnes, January 15, 2016

Summary: Security on the internet is doomed, all internet transactions are doomed, we are all doomed. In the immortal words of CEO Parker Posey in the 2001 movie, Josie and the Pussycats, when all is doomed, “let’s have ice cream”.

Imagine you are living in single story house. Your front door is facing New York’s Times Square. On New Year’s eve you leave the house, leaving the front door open, to shop, visit family and friends, to work. You leave your front door open because you do not have a front door. The folks who built the house did not build the house with doors. This, essentially, is author Marc Goodman’s take on the internet. Expectations of privacy and security are a delightful delusion promulgated by profound ignorance.

Goodman’s approach in FUTURE CRIMES to address the sea of blissful, wide-eye acceptance of our growing technological dependence is to go over the current bad players and the opportunities for bad players in the future.
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Longitude – Book Review

LongitudeAuthor: Dava Sobel

Publish: Bloomsbury USA, New York (Walker & Company in 1995)

Copyright: 1995, ISBN 080271529X

Cover: Claire Naylon Vaccaro

reviewed by: Lynard Barnes, March 22, 2015

Summary: The connection between global longitudes, clocks and the scientific method as politics.

 

By 1737, John Harrison of Yorkshire County, England had perfected what we today call the clock.

If you woke up this morning and looked at your clock, you most likely did not realize that if you had awaken any time before the year 1737 you would not have had a clock to look at.  This is not to say there was no way to “tell the time”. As Lee Child’s fictional skilled drifter Jack Reacher, can attest, human senses are inundated with time cues from the environment twenty-four hours, seven days a week. Who needs a clock?  Two hundred and eighty years ago there was no fretting over a lack of eight hours of sleep, no imperative to be at the office before nine. Amazingly, there was also no way to conveniently plot a sailing course from a sea port in North Carolina to a port in England.

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Biocentrism: Life and Consciousness Keys to Understanding Nature and Universe – Book Review

Biocentris.img0Author: Robert Lanza, MD with Bob Berman

Publisher: BenBella Books, Inc,6440 N. Central Expressway, Suite 503, Dallas, TX

Copyright: 2009, ISN 1935251743

Cover: David Drummond, Slamander Hill Design

Reviewed by: Lynard Barnes, November 23, 2014

Summary: BIOCENTRISM is an essential starting reference for examining quantum mechanics and human consciousness. It will probably be ten years before neuroscience catches up to where author Lanza starts in this book. By then, the questions raised by the content of BIOCENTRISM may be closer to having empirical answers.

 

Dr. Lanza sets forth seven principles of what he calls biocentrism. The essence of biocentrism is that what we perceive as reality (perception being consciousness) takes places beyond the biochemical and electrical conduits of our brains. Lanza cites but does not dwell extensively on the overwhelming evidence supporting this conclusion.

The way to read BIOCENTRISM is to look at it as a question. The questions are summarized in Lanza’s Seven Principles of Biocentrism. The gist of Lanza’s exposition is not new. Old ideas in new words: the synthesis of neuroscience and quantum theory. Intermingling current popular science with mysticism has been around for a long time. The quest for the seat of consciousness has, up to now, been the domain of mysticism. In the late and early 19th to 20th centuries, ectoplasm, energy fields and vibrations are just a few of the concepts lifted and adopted from science by spiritualist to explain the non-science of various belief systems.

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The Invisible History of the Human Race – Book Review

InvisibleHistoryoftheHumanRaceAuthor: Christine Kenneally

Publisher: VIKING, Penguin Group, 375 Hudson Street, NY, NY 10014

Copyright: 2014, ISBN: 0670025558

Cover: Jason Ramirez, Ben Wiseman, Nicole Clea

Reviewed by: Lynard Barnes, November 20, 2014

 

 

Summary: Genetics from the perspective of community groupings and heritage derived from community history. Couple of interesting factoids but nothing new except the reporting of an apparent verbal wrestling match between historians and genealogist about the relevancy of genetics in history.

 

 

If there is an argument between genealogists and historians about the significance of genealogy in history it is an argument, most likely, started by genealogists. If there is such an argument, and I am not saying there is, it must, by its inherent constitutional disposition, be the most inane arguments imaginable. Case in point, the gist of the “genealogy is important in history” argument provided in THE INVISIBLE HISTORY OF THE HUMAN RACE. This book is really delightful and engaging reading but it has a tendency to wonder.

Genealogy and the tracks of History

Immediately after reading Kenneally’s book, I started reading REBEL YELL by S. C. Gwynne. Funny how one thing leads into another—or funny not. Though REBEL YELL reads as if it was written by a Jackson relative, Gwynne recounts the seemingly incredible story of Thomas “Stonewall” J. Jackson who went from being an unpopular physics professor to a general in the U. S. Confederate Army. In passing, Gwynne also provides a glance into the pre-Civil War life of Ulysses S. Grant, William Tecumseh Sherman, and a few others. It is difficult to consider the X and Y chromosomes of these men when you consider where they started and where they ended up. They all ended up dead of course. But the journey from their start of life to their death could not have been predicted by examining a configuration of genes. Surly even a genealogist would not argue with that: Nor would a historian.

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The Wisdom of Near-Death Experiences – Book Review

WisdomofNearDeathExperiencesTh.img0Author: Dr. Penny Sartori
Publisher: Osprey Publishing, Watkins Publishing Limited, info@ospreypublishing.com
Copyright: 2014, ISBN: 1780285658
Reviewed by: Lynard Barnes, November 15, 2014

 
Summary: The internal battle within the medical community to gain acceptance for the validity of near-death experiences.

 

 
Before you ask, there are about seven thousand people who die each day in the United States. (Around ninety-five of those are suicides). Though few of us like to talk about it, death is as natural as birth. For one we mourn, for the other we celebrate. The mystery of death versus unfolding adventure of life: suppose they are the same?
About three-fourths of THE WISDOM OF NEAR-DEATH EXPERIENCES is about near-death experiences. The other fourth is an argument attempting to get the medical industry to accept the validity of what is purely a subjective experience.

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Habit, The Power of: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business – Book Review

HabitsPowerTheAuthor: Charles Duhigg

Publisher: Random House, NY

Cover: Anton Loukhnovets

Copyright: 2012, ISBN: [9781400069266]

Reviewed by: Lynard Barnes, September 13, 2013

 

Summary: Neuroscience light: The formation of habits from the view of psychology and neuroscience. Very useful discussion if you are into advertising.

 

The reason you are reading this is because of an unconscious series of events.  The events lead you inevitably to this blog and this review.  Or, a simpler way of putting it is that you are here because subliminal influences drove you here—though that’s another book. Hence, we begin our Angry Birds pursuit of brain-mind research.

You may take exception to the above assessment of predetermined action.  Charles Duhigg’s HABIT is a bit more circumspect than Leonard Mlodinow’s SUBLIMINAL (reviewed here in August) about human behavior. While Mlodinow pursues behavior as a result of subliminal influences from the environment, Duhigg looks at behavior as an interruption in the processes by which behaviors develop. In the emerging neuroscience view of brain-mind, Mlodinow’s unconscious influences and Duhigg’s arrested development viewpoint fits the mechanistic view of human behavior. Duhigg’s book goes farther in this direction than Mlodinow’s SUBLIMINAL. The base layer of their take on neuroscience research is the same. We are what we are because of the brain’s bio-electro chemistry.

While HABIT is not primarily about the brain and brain chemistry, it does rely upon the same science Mlodinow used for arriving at the view that subliminal stimulus is the dominate causative factor in human activity. With that as the foundation, Duhigg focuses on the mechanistic cue-routine-reward cycle of behaviors and thought. He provides examples of individual habit “loops” as well as expanding the examination and applying it to organizations.

According to Duhigg, the key to changing any behavior is to recognize the stimulus leading to the behavior.  The basis for behaviors is desires and cravings. Cravings originate from the biochemistry of the brain. He provides examples.  One day while under stress, you eat a doughnut. The fat and sugar of the doughnut alleviates the stress. Henceforth, you associate stress alleviation with eating a doughnut. A cue-routine-reward system is established. A habit is born; a craving is reinforced. To change the habit, you break the routine into parts. Perhaps by taking a time-out from the stressful situation and going through the motions of getting the doughnut, you can substitute the doughnut for something else—eating an apple and talking to a friend. In any event, you recognize the situation (cue) that leads to a routine and the reward that reinforces it. Then you change it. The craving for the doughnut will diminish over time since it is not being reinforced by eating a doughnut.

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Subliminal: How Your Unconscious Mind Rules Your Behavior – Book Review

SubliminalHowYourUnconsciousMindRulesYAuthor: Leonard Mlodinow

Publisher: Vintage Books, A Division of Random House, NY

Copyright: 2012, ISBN: [9780307472250]

Reviewed by: Lynard Barnes, August 16, 2013

 

Summary: Human interaction and the brain. How new imaging techniques are expanding our understanding of the brain. A traditional view of the mind as an outgrowth of brain activity.

 

The reason you are reading this is because of an unconscious series of events.  The events lead you inevitably to this blog and this review.  Or, a simpler way of putting it is that you are here because of habit—though that’s another book (HABIT review here). Hence, we begin our Angry Birds pursuit of brain-mind research.

You may take exception to the above assessment of predetermined action.  However, the basis of Leonard Mlodinow’s SUBLIMINAL is that all your physical AND mental activity is the result of sub-aware streams of direction—what he calls the unconscious.  This is the premise of SUBLIMINAL.  Mlodinow provides plenty of examples to back it up. But there are two problems with the premise. The first problem the author attacks early on. The second problem he does not address.

On page 12, Mlodinow readily admits that it is difficult to distinguish automatic behavior from consciously directed behavior. The “new unconscious” which supposedly directs all behavior is being defined by a close examination of the internal workings of brain neurons.  From this examination it now appears that what we think as consciously directed behavior is really an expression of reflex-streams originating from brain chemistry of which we are unaware. We can define “unaware” as being a condition in which we do not focus or pay attention to data present within our environment.  Hence, some data form our environment is subliminal.

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Understanding Neural Networks: The Experimenter’s Guide – Book Comment

UNDERSTANDING NEURAL NETWORKSBy John Iovine

Publisher: Images SI, Inc

Copyright: 2012

Summary: eBook publication. Tutorial on the technical side to implementing artificial intelligence hardware and software systems.

For those of us who crawled around the fringes of artificial intelligence programming in the 1980s, UNDERSTANDING NEURAL NETWORKS is a refresher on the validity of the dream.  The dream, in this instance, of a 2001 HAL calmly issuing supportive instructions during a crisis; or a computerized centurion with near omnipresent powers, such as Ed in Dean Koontz’s Odd Thomas novel, ODD INTERLUDE, charged with safeguarding an abandoned human project.

This book does not advance the dream beyond the 1990s.  However, it is probably the clearest, most concise explanation of the underlying science of computer “intelligence” you will find anywhere.  With plenty of illustrations and diagrams, my only recommendation is that the reader get a hardcopy version rather than the ebook. If you are only interested in the “refresher”, the first five chapters in either ebook or hardcopy will suffice.  The material is presented in an amazingly logical and simple manner.  Anyone can grasp the basics.

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