books read 2017

(R = read before)

The skill of writing is to create a context in which other people can think. — Edwin Schlossberg

Aug 2017

Jervis Bay holiday reading:
GKC – 3 books of essays (R)
Stefan Felsner – Geometric Graphs and Arrangements (2004)
Goos Kant and Xin He – Two Algorithms for Finding Rectangular Duals of Planar Graphs

Santayana – Reason in Religion
Stevenson – Selected Essays (R)
M. G. Calkin – Lagrangian and Hamiltonian Mechanics
– which led me to an amazing paper from which that book borrows an awful lot:
M. V. Berry – Regular and Irregular Motion (1974)

July 2017

lot of stuff on LaTeX, pgf/TikZ
Mrs Thrale – Anecdotes of Samuel Johnson (R)
José Ortega y Gasset – The Dehumanization of Art and other Essays on Art, Culture and Literature (R)

I read an interesting discussion on StackExchange about whether Ben Carson (an innovative surgeon) is a scientist. Which reminded me of the question “Was Emerson a philosopher?”… Reading of a dictionary definition of ‘scientist’ or ‘philosopher’ misses the point. These things aren’t fixed. People have a box “philosopher” and try to see whether E fits in the box. But actually, what the box is, isn’t independent of who Emerson was.
What some people said about science: Maths isn’t a science. Maths is a science. (Mathematicians are firmly on both sides of that one.)
Scientists are people who add to scientific knowledge. (That sounds circular) Scientists are people who use the scientific method. (That sounds naïve)
[It’s probably very worth summarizing what people did say.]


lot of stuff on programming, TDD, refactoring, extreme programming, etc
George Grätzer – More Math Into LaTeX
Don Norman – The Design of Everday Things
Jacques Carelman – Catalogue d’objets introuvables – Tomes 1 et 2
Mumford, Series, Wright – Indra’s pearls: the vision of Felix Klein
Hacking – The Social Construction of What?
Martin Fowler – Refactoring
Kent Beck – Test-Driven Development by Example
Robert Martin – Clean Code

Ludwik Fleck – Genesis and Development of a Scientific Fact (1935, first English transl. 1979)
What an amazing book. Seems as though it’s thanks to Thomas Kuhn there was ever an English translation. Thanks. (Apparently he read it before SSR came out but his German was bad so he didn’t fully understand it. Lots of similar themes though.)

To these epistemologists trained in the natural sciences, for instance, the so-called Vienna Circle including Schlick, Carnap and others, human thinking—construed as an ideal, or thinking as it should be—is something fixed and absolute. An empirical fact, on the other hand, is relative. Conversely, the philosophers previously mentioned with a background in the humanities construe facts as something fixed and human thought as relative. It is characteristic that both parties relegate that which is fixed to the region with which they are unfamiliar.
++++Would it not be possible to manage entirely without something fixed? Both thinking and facts are changeable, if only because changes in thinking manifest themselves in changed facts. Conversely, fundamentally new facts can be discovered only through new thinking. – Ch.2

The problem of how a “true” finding can arise from false assumptions, from vague first experiments, and from many errors and detours, can be clarified by a comparison. How does it come about that all rivers finally reach the sea, in spite of perhaps initially flowing in a wrong direction, taking roundabout ways, and generally meandering? there is no such thing as the sea as such. The area at the lowest level, the area where the waters actually collect, is merely called the sea! Provided enough water flows in the rivers and a field of gravity exists, all rivers must finally end up at the sea. The field of gravity corresponds to the dominant and directing disposition, and water to the work of the entire thought collective. The momentary direction of each drop is not at all decisive. The result derives from the general direction of gravity.” – Ch.3.1

His [Wassermann’s] basic assumptions were untenable, and his heuristic experiments irreproducible, yet both were of enormous heuristic value. This is the case with all really valuable experiments. They are all of them uncertain, incomplete, and unique. And when experiments become certain, precise and reproducible at any time, they no longer are necessary for research purposes proper but function only for demonstration or ad hoc determinations. …
++++It is not appropriate to speak of either correctness or incorrectness in these first experiments, because something very correct developed from them, although the experiments themselves could not be called corrrect.
++++If a research experiment were well defined, it would be altogether unnecessary to perform it. …the more unknowns there are and the newer a field of research is, the less well defined are the experiments. [Later, experiments] will become increasingly better defined. But they will no longer be independent, because they are carried along by a system of earlier experiments and decisions… And if after years we were to look back upon a field we have worked in, we could no longer see or understand the difficulties present in that creative work. The actual course of work becomes rationalized and schematized. We project the results into our intentions; but how could it be any different? We can no longer express the previously incomplete thoughts with these now finished concepts. – Ch.3.2


topics: Alife, CA, boids, computational fluid dynamics, programming in bash, graph drawing, circle packing, tilings
Bentley – Programming Pearls Vol 1 & 2
Jon Bentley Video lecture on Quicksort analysis at Google

lots of stuff on Gottlieb’s early 1970s study of tabla players, papers on/attacking his study, him defending it etc. I’d never read anything about it before, or even heard anything, except me telling a lot of people about it years ago. I copied Gottlieb’s books and tapes from Fisher library in the early 90s, studied them a lot! That’s where I heard/learnt about tihai, tal, lay, chakradar, alap, bol, etc etc etc etc I guess hehe.


topics: LISP (Paul Graham, Seibel, Steele, McCarthy etc), algorithms, data structures, evolutionary algorithms, graphics, circle packing, graph theory, geometric function theory

Basic Common Lisp – Peter Seibel
Paul Graham Lisp Books
John D’Angelo – Mathematical thinking – problem-solving and proofs
Sedgewick & Wayne – Algorithms

Read E.M. Cioran a while.. Rather depressing! Thinks he’s a follower of Nietzsche. Makes me appreciate Nietzsche – who is never depressing, hopeless, proud of his misery (unlike Kierkegaard & Schopenhauer). Maybe it’s Nietzsche without the Emerson. Have been thinking lately about exactly what Emerson meant for Nietzsche. Cheerfulness, I guess – same thing I owe him, maybe. To be given hope, wonder, beauty, inspiration so many times, so often, on call, that it seems the natural state of things, a birthright. But gee… I don’t need that meaningless-talk. That’s not my world. Cioran talks as if that is wisdom, to be miserable in a meaningless world. That’s his main theme. To loathe everything, as if to value anything is deception. To be dispirited and to despirit others, to spread the misery and meaninglessness. Etc. I dont enjoy misery; I have other pleasures – unlike Cioran and Kierkegaard, by the sound of it. The voice of misery. He quoted Keats saying “I’m a coward; I’m not brave enough to be happy” as if that was wisdom, and people who don’t understand it are deluded. I’ve come across that occasionally in public – people who are proud of being unhappy, who think it’s wisdom to accept one’s unhappiness; that it’s good enough, inevitable – I don’t think they believe happiness exists, or that it’s only for stupid people. It’s like those people who talk of “bleeding heart liberals” i.e. people who feel anything more generous than selfishness in relation to the world; they’ve never felt it and think they’ve avoided a delusion that the other has fallen into, that they’re wiser. No, they’re just emotionally damaged, crippled, and count it a virtue.


topics: S Malinowski’s music visualization videos/website, geometry: hyperbolic, computational, discrete; fractals, fractal geometry, CA, dynamical systems, complexity, Alife, ethology, predator-prey systems, African savannah
lots of papers on image processing
Gilbert Strang – video lecture course (on YouTube) & book on Linear Algebra
D. Anderson, Theory of the Earth
The Art of Deception – Kevin Mitnick & Bill Simon