Stealing Fire: How Silicon Valley, the Navy SEALs, and Maverick Scientists Are Revolutionizing the Way We Live and Work
Stealing Fire refers to Prometheus’s theft of fire that allowed mankind to advance. Fire for our time is defined as “ecstasis,” a profoundly unusual state far beyond our normal selves. Authors Steven Kotler and Jamie Wheal take us on a breathless discovery of how this state is being achieved by extreme physical conditioning, drugs, meditation, music, and chaos, separately or all at once. They write a very entertaining narrative detailing how each of these approaches, and others, moves the human mind to solve seemingly unsolvable problems, tracing histories from the ancient Greeks to modern Navy Seals, from mushrooms to designer drugs, and from meditation to biofeedback devices. It is a headlong rush into the world of the hedonistic, wealthy movers and shakers of our world. Only at the end do they even acknowledge that such a rush is not for everyone, counseling to go cold turkey at least for a month of the year to get your head back on straight and to schedule your extreme drugs, sex, sports, and/or meditation so you don’t overdo it. This book is a manual on how to achieve the extreme, only mentioning possible death and destruction in passing to keep lawsuits at bay. A balanced approach weighing the costs and benefits of the path would have been much more honest.
Dey Street Books
Steven Kotler • Jamie Wheal
Unified Field Theory
In Phil Bouchard’s new book, Unified Field Theory Finite, he describes a concept that appears to overthrow a theory of one of the most brilliant and original thinkers of the twentieth century. He argues that the general theory of relativity (as distinct from the special theory of relativity, which does not involve gravity) contains pitfalls and makes it less than perfect to explain the space-time continuum including gravity. He brings into play intense integral expressions that tend to bind certain aspects of relativity. He proceeds to introduce his own mathematical expressions without regard to their derivation. These tend to crowd out the verbal points he tries to make.
Bouchard describes the famous concept of relativity of simultaneity, which involves two separate events that may appear to occur simultaneously to one observer, but not to another. I would have liked to have seen a discussion of mass-energy equivalence given by the famous equation: E=mc2.
While Bouchard does include the Lorentz Transformations in his introductory argument, I would have savored other, even more profound mathematical approaches to help solidify Bouchard’s position. His view in his comparative expressions that account for time differentials lacks something. Also, Albert Einstein waited for nearly half a century for the opportunity to prove the general theory. I wonder what sort of empirical demonstration Bouchard had in mind that would reveal the truth behind the Unified Field Theory?
Although I would be challenged to testify to the authenticity of many of these complex, integral calculus expressions, it appears to be mathematical overkill. Also noted, eight books in a bibliography of this magnitude tends to be a little skimpy. In addition, it would seem that the work would take a certain amount of verbiage to sustain arguments. A more sophisticated, verbal argument, even though failed, would have raised my appreciation of the effort.
I think that Bouchard is very serious in his pursuit of truth with respect to Einsteinian thinking. He believes that there are various loopholes in relativity that he can patch by redirecting certain elements of his argument to favor the new one he wishes to introduce. He appears to take a serious look at dark energy, which, in itself, is a fascinating topic of discussion, but it bears no reference to relativity because it was not even a concept in 1905.
Many of the “proofs” of fallibility of relativity rest on vague variables that, in themselves, don’t mean too much. An example is found in 3.7, Test of the Invariance of c. I would have preferred to see an outside reference to support this contention. As it turns out, only five citations were noted.
Even though Bouchard does not hold any advanced degrees or certificates from prestigious universities, the author posed an interesting consideration. I found the book entertaining, but lacking in its mathematical predilection. Despite this, I was actually very impressed with his discussion of the Schwsarzschild radius, also known as the black hole radius. He provides several, relatively simple equations to help define it. His system of diagrams and mathematical testimony give some of his arguments credence. Perhaps some outside criticism from a scholarly source might help this author see the light at light speed.
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.
Embracing the Wild in Your Dog
For a thoughtful, insightful, and well-written argument for affirming the inherent wolf inside the domestic dog, Embracing The Wild In Your Dog by Bryan Bailey delivers. Genetically, behaviorally, and socially, dogs are indeed wolves at their very cores, not the “make-believe humans in fur coats” we often visualize them and treat them to be. With this knowledge to guide him, the author imparts well-informed advice concerning how to adapt our orientation around and treatment of our beloved pets, in order to safeguard the future of the species and to better our relationships with them. With wolves in literature typically depicted as villainous, it is easy to understand the trending away from seeing domestic dogs as wolves. Humans go so far as to dress dogs in clothing, feed them gourmet food, and give them human-sounding names in order to further the divide between the wild wolf and the domesticated dog. Despite evolutionary changes, due in large part to human intervention, however, dogs are genetically identical to wolves. The irony is that, in our attempts to domesticate them, bend them to our will, and safeguard the dog population, we have done the species a disservice, as wolf numbers in the wild are dwindling: it is predominantly in the wild population where the genetic strength exists. With the wolf in mind and wishing to mirror nature as much as possible, the author shares a good deal of useful and practical advice that is intended to facilitate the proper handling and treatment of dogs.
One piece of advice, though, does seem a bit extreme, where less drastic measures could achieve some harmony between the extremes and still further the reclamation of the dog’s inner wolf. As an alternative to “no kill,” the author recommends, “kill with the utmost discrimination.” Yet, given sufficient resources, maladaptive dogs can be spared without an adverse effect on the species as a whole. These dogs can be adopted appropriately, neutered, and even treated pharmacologically if necessary.
In Embracing The Wild In Your Dog, we learn to accept the dog for what it is and not what we wish it to be. We learn that wild is actually predictable. We learn the importance of lessening our domesticated dogs’ dependence upon us. With domesticated dogs being so commonplace, this book is a worthwhile read for dog-owners and non-dog-owners alike.
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.
Sex, Love and DNA: What Molecular Biology Teaches Us About Being Human
Sex, Love and DNA is NOT is a textbook on molecular biology. Certainly beyond a molecular biology book for dummies (and there actually is one with that title), Schattner’s scientific manuscript, the first he’s written for nonscientists, is directed toward those who not only want to learn the most recent advances in genetic research, but more importantly to develop a healthy understanding about its complexities.
Scientist, educator, and seasoned writer Peter Schattner takes a difficult topic and translates it into everyday language. Logically, the place to begin is to understand the essential components of molecular biology – proteins and DNA. Yet Schattner’s approach to “going over the basics” is contrary to what one may expect. For instance, Schattner opens with a question: can a protein save you from AIDS? To best answer that question, Schattner uses stories and anecdotes and then breaks it down to mini lessons, so to speak (and in this case, proteins — “the most important building blocks of life”), which is followed by molecular studies. If fact, what makes his book so attention grabbing is Schattner’s fastidiousness to that question-story-research design and by always raising questions that have universal appeal.
Although Schattner divides his book into six parts, the sections each build upon one another “to tell a unified story” about the aspects of being human. Schattner’s initial question about AIDS is, in a fictional sense, a clever narrative hook since it is not only a hot-topic issue, but it also leads itself into the area of genealogy, which offers the best answer to the question. The research that has been done on paternal and maternal analysis and DNA testing, for examples, is nothing less than fascinating. Amid the enlightenment, Schattner makes sure to raise awareness about another aspect of DNA testing regarding its moral and ethical ramifications, especially in the area of unborn children.
Schattner addresses a plethora of questions that range from memory, intelligence and various emotions to a whole list of diseases and the concept of longevity, as well as the environmental implications that may affect many of those topics. Particularly striking to the latest molecular research are topics on sexual orientation and gender. Schattner takes readers to a whole new level of scientific knowledge that goes beyond XY and XX chromosomes, the distinguishable male and female factors that many may remember from biology class. Studies consistently prove that gene variants within the chromosomes definitely produce feminine traits within men and masculine traits within women. While determinants of gender identity are still mystifying scientists, Schattner concludes that “although we may not yet understand the biological details of sexual orientation or gender dysphoria, biology has already taught us important lessons, and the most important is that people who are homosexual or bisexual or transsexual are in no way deviant or sick. Their challenges rarely stem from their intrinsic differences, but rather from the hostile attitudes and behavior they have been forced to face.”
Sex, Love and DNA is not only immensely absorbing and eye opening from one chapter to the next, but a tool that offers readers an opportunity to come face to face with facts that, if taken seriously, will lead to wholesome viewpoints toward the human race.