Archive for the 'Books' Category

[Book] Thrice upon a time

Thrice upon a time by James P Hogan is a short novel centered around a time machine. Fortunately this time machine differs from your typical H.G. Wells affair and can only transmit and receive information. While this can still lead to several paradox’s it does make it harder to kill ones grandfather. The actual theories explored by the characters as they uncover the capabilities of this machine make for an interesting read.

One of my favourite theories concerns parallel universes:

Suppose you send last nights lottery results to yourself in the previous day. Back in the previous day an alternative reality is created where you get the results and win the lottery. Well that’s great… except that doesn’t really help the you who just sent the winning numbers.

I can’t exactly recall who (or what) recommended this book to me but thanks!

[Book] The Emperor’s New Mind

The Emperor’s New Mind by Roger Penrose is concerned with answering the question of whether artificial intelligence is infact possible. Are our minds capable of being modeled by an algorithm or is there something far more complicated going on?

In a quest to answer this question Mr Penrose covers a variety of subjects ranging from turing machines to general relativity and quantum physics. While most (if not all) of the material is looked at in terms of computability, I found this did not distract from giving a good overview of each field.

Definitely a worthwhile read and a very good introduction to modern physics. However, it is not light reading and can get quite complicated in places.

For science fiction based on quantum physics: Greg Egan’s Quarantine.

[Book] The mythical man-month

I recently finished reading the mythical man-month by Frederick P. Brooks, Jr. This was the anniversary edition with four new chapters (oooo).

Quite an interesting read.

I was however, unaware of just how old this book was (originally published in 1975). Three decades later some of the problems addressed in this book are still valid, while others have become so much of a non issue it is ridiculous. For instance in a discussion concerning memory usage; the IBM APL interactive software system uses at least 160 kilobytes of memory. 160k! Further in the same paragraph we find that on a Model 165 (IBM mainframe) one kilobyte of memory rents for about $12 per month. Now days I can go out and _buy_ 262,144 kilobytes for twice that.

Fortunately not all of the ideas presented are displaced by large advances in technology. In fact I find it hard to imagine a future where Brook’s law of ‘adding manpower to a late software project makes it later’ does not apply…