Rescued: What Second-Chance Dogs Teach Us About Living with Purpose, Loving with Abandon, and Finding Joy in the Little Things
In Rescued, Peter Zheutlin provides a thorough investigation into the lives of dogs whose futures were drastically improved thanks to organizations and individuals who believed that they were worth rescuing. The book is both poignant and informative, thanks to the interviews Zheutlin has conducted with individuals and families who adopted dogs rescued from horrendous conditions.
As pet owners know from experience, it is a responsibility as well as a joy, and the book makes this abundantly clear by explaining some of the added costs and labor required by the more physically challenged rescued dogs. However, the interviewees unanimously agree that for every sacrifice they made, the unconditional love received from their dogs made it worthwhile. For those who are considering adopting a rescue dog, it is noteworthy that the book provides statistics showing that rescued dogs are generally more resilient and healthy than dogs from breeders.
The book presents the pros and cons of owning a rescue dog but does not push readers in one direction or another. It is balanced, well-written, and encouraging.
Algorithms to Live By: The Computer Science of Human Decisions
Computers these days are pretty damned impressive. They can do mind-boggling calculations, process hundreds of thousands of requests at once, and outpace humans at seemingly every turn. And yet, they pale in comparison to the visual and deductive processing power of the human brain. But what if we take the comparison one step further, analyzing the brain as we would a computer? What insights could we draw on the subject of strong decision-making by treating our brains like top notch machines?
Plenty, as it turns out. Algorithms to Live By explores how concepts like programming and algorithms — so common in modern computers — apply to how we organize our thoughts and the items in our home, like clothes and books (sorting and caching), to how our memories work, and how we prioritize both inconsequential choices and life or death decisions. It’s a marvellously accessible way to look at the incredible complexity of the brain, taking ideas like buffering and optimization and applying them to everyday life. “We say ‘brain fart’ when we should rally say “cache miss.”Although it’s a dense read, it’s worthwhile, one that challenges you and expands your mind all at once.
In Defense of Chaos: The Chaology of Politics, Economics and Human Action
Prepare to have your mind stretched the way a sack containing cats on methamphetamines would be stretched; in a word, chaotically. Beginning with just a furry tickle, Mr. Samuels puts claws through our perceptions and expectations.
Without delving into the absolute minutiae of the mathematics of chaos theory, for which I am very grateful, he explores and firmly establishes the indeterminacies of reality. Anomalies have become rife in the observational and social sciences as our measurement capabilities and accumulated data have grown. Additionally, Pythagorean physics first wobbled with the establishment of Einstein’s relativity and our slide into uncertainty took a push from Heisenberg’s and Schrodinger’s gleeful revelations regarding uncertainty and indeterminacy.-Schrodinger’s cat being one of that drugged satchel of felines. Descent into the muddy waters of chaos has accelerated with mathematical explorations in quantum physics and discoveries of variability. It has even penetrated popular thinking, albeit sneakily and quietly. Everyone knows what the Butterfly Effect is, for example.
The tendency of complex systems: physical, chemical, biological, economic, social, toward dynamic interaction leading to more efficient organization and adaptability in seeming contradiction of the “law” of entropy, has lent itself to the science of chaology.
And having disestablished the certainties of absolute order and of control, Mr. Samuels turns firmly to human interactions, social, political, and economic. Herein lays the core of this work. Dynamics suffer under restraints, whether of interaction or of inputs, energetic or informational. Therefore centrally controlled economies fail, and partially-controlled economies fail only more slowly. Humans benefit from freedom; stable expectations follow the self-interest of free market actors, and interference for the sake of choosing who will succeed leads to the failure or inefficiency of all. The Libertarian bent of Samuels’ conclusions is clear and satisfying.
I cannot over-praise the scholastic depth and breadth of In Defense of Chaos. Every one of fourteen chapters is immediately followed by a source bibliography. Sources range eclectically from press commentary to in-depth analyses in every imaginable field of thought; Mr. Samuels’ erudition is awe inspiring and daunting.
Having said that, the man’s simplicity of expression, his evocation of well-known similes, and popular examples keep In Defense of Chaos fresh and readable throughout.
I am fronted now with a real limitation as to what I can evoke as a reviewer. Informational density and refreshing insights are so common here that I cannot touch on even a significant percentage of them. This wonderful striving will go on my “Distinguished and Significant” shelf.
First Sight: ESP and Parapsychology in Everyday Life
First Sight is not a cryptic title that connotes a spooky collection of all things psychic and paranormal. On the contrary, it reflects a title to a theory developed by Carpenter, which proposes that there is more normalcy to the psychic experience than one may expect. The reality is that the psychic experience, or psi, goes on all the time. Better defined as “the ability to affect physical events without touching them,” psi works through the unconscious processes and are actually our first sight – our first contact with the world, and where information is first gathered. Using the First Sight model that consists of two assertions about human nature and the structure of the mind, and the thirteen corollaries that explain those assertions, Carpenter presents to readers, as he states, “a revolutionary understanding of how each of us fits within the world and how we are put together within ourselves.”
Determined “to learn whether or not the stuff of parapsychology (psi) is real and if it is, how it works,” clinical psychologist and parapsychologist James C. Carpenter addresses a plethora of questions and draws from core findings of parapsychology and contemporary psychology research to get the necessary answers to back up his arguments. One key argument is that psi plays an active role in our memory, our perception, our motivation, and our creativity. To better understand how psi works, Carpenter explains that psi is divided into two parts, psychokinesis (the expression of psi information) and extrasensory perception (ESP, or the impression of psi information). Carpenter gives a practical application of that description through a simple example of a visual perception, run backward in sequence, of how psi works within every experience:
D. I see X (an attributed understanding of an experience), and I think about it.
C. Just prior to that, I experience a collection of sensations that I attempt to construe.
B. Just prior to that, sensations register subliminally.
A. Just prior to that, an extrasensory anticipation of the event (and/or a psychokinetic elicitation of the event) initiates the perceptual process.
While there is a major assumption held universally by parapsychologists, as well as critics, that “psi is a matter of unusual conscious experiences (such as precognition, clairvoyance, and telepathy),” Carpenter is careful to point out that the First Sight model specifically spells out that psi events are NOT about conscious and anomalous experiences, nor is psi a set of abilities or traits (like many psychics will claim). But rather its focus is on unconscious experiences. This is not to say that those conscious experiences are invalid. Rather people, as Carpenter states, ” who are prone to having many psychic experiences and who have some degree of control over their production would be expected to have a general intention to gain knowledge…and this intention should be relatively congruent at both a conscious and unconscious level and be consistent over time.”
Scientifically minded readers will quickly gravitate to First Sight. Carpenter’s thorough and technical analysis on a paradoxical topic sheds refreshing enlightenment not only in the field of parapsychology, but also a clearer understanding of the psychic experience in our daily lives.
Bigfoot in Evolutionary Perspective: The Hidden Life of a North American Hominin
Wilson’s Bigfoot in Evolutionary Perspective is an in-depth look at the available information regarding this unique cryptid. The author takes an anthropologist’s approach, studying many different aspects of the creature known as “Bigfoot”.
Making use of John Green’s database of reported sightings, Wilson presents us with a plethora of statistical evidence. There are chapters devoted to anatomical analysis, from height to a propensity for night reflecting eyes, and to abilities and sensory perceptions. Other chapters compare and contrast known sasquatch information to another hominid—Gigantopithecus, and to our nearest relatives among geni Homo and Australopithecus. Chapters on anatomy include specific discussions of hands, feet, and cranial capacity. Wilson also covers the Very Important Topic of hoaxers, which is necessary to address when writing about any cryptid. He also covers another Very Important Topic, that of eyewitness fallibility, something else important to acknowledge.
Fun stuff: it was very neat to see such a nice, organized analysis of this elusive cryptid. Wilson clearly supports the pro side, but he’s good at playing the Devil’s Advocate and arguing both sides. I like how the material was presented. This book is intellectual rather than sensational.
Not so fun stuff: there’s a scattering of grammar errors. It could use another proofing session. There aren’t too many though. I did find the language at times very convoluted and difficult to parse, though I read a great deal of scholarly material (anthropology, psychology, archaeology, philosophy). I think it could be tidied up a bit, while still keeping the scholarly bent. I do disagree somewhat with the section on eyewitness reliability. Having carried out many mock “crime” or “surprise” scenarios for teaching/learning purposes, I have to say eyewitness recall is quite unreliable. Our brains are very good at filling memory gaps with what we expect and sometimes what we desperately desire. A person who has an unexplainable encounter who believes in cryptids is more likely to fill gaps with that, than is the person who is a skeptic.
The General Theory of Information: Origin of Truth and Hope
This is an inspirational piece. The expressions are a little repetitious, but they stimulate reflections on concepts we take for granted. The book is broken down into short episodes, instead of more lengthy chapters, hoping to capture alluring concepts and cataloguing them accordingly. In each, a different aspect of separability and non- separability, as well as nonlocal and nonlocality are discussed with respect to various mindsets. These are to make sense out of the universe in terms of reality, taking into account the various theories that deal with either the smallness of the universe, quantum theory or the largeness, relativity theory.
The authors of the book recognize Claude E. Shannon as the founder of information theory. His original work involved mathematic models for storing and compressing information data. The theory’s primary application is in information transmission in data processing. The book’s approach to explaining the dynamic processes of information is rather mathematically consistent. This is because the different aspects of information transition are categorized and born into a syllogistic environment allowing logical deduction in addition to algorithmic methods. The theory of information as it appears in this book, however, proposes to unlock the secrets of reality.
Some of the more important considerations include speed of light, space, time, and gravity. At the speed of light, time and space equal zero. Presumably, this would imply that time and space would cease to exist in realms where particles move at the speed of light. This indicates that there is no space-time and no gravity on the subatomic level since the electrons are moving at light speed. According to the theory, the nature of information becomes blurred.
The subtle leaps in sub-atomic particles, where an electron leaps from one orbital zone to another is one of the areas addressed by General Information Theory. According to quantum theory, the electron vanishes from one orbital plane to another, either higher or lower. We know this much: if higher, it absorbs energy; if lower, it gives up energy. Either way, energy is exchanged. But how is the information about the electron’s location revealed? This has been a mystery. When an electron leaps from one orbital zone to another, according to quantum theory, the electron vanishes and then reappears as though by magic. Even though we know there is an energy change proportional to its location, how do we know the information about this action? At last, the General Theory of Information promises to unlock the secret.
The premise of the book explains why information exists in two forms: local and nonlocal. The theory in the book is an attempt to explain how information transforms from one state to another. This is based on Einstein’s special theory of relativity. At the speed of light, the book says, time and space don’t exist. Consequently, on the quantum level, this occurrence is common.
Although the future of information theory needs more refining, the book proposes significant advances that will stimulate profound insights of the workings of nature and in general how we think as human beings. The read will, at the very least, broaden our scope of an idea that at one time served only as a practical tool.