Wednesday, August 31, 2022

Existential Physics: A Scientist's Guide to Life's Biggest Questions, Sabine Hossenfelder (author), Gina Daniels (narrator)

Penguin Random House Audio, ISBN 9780593592885, August 2022

Like The Disordered Cosmos, this is a book by a woman physicist, taking about her life and work in physics. And that's pretty much where the resemblance ends.

Chanda Prescod-Weinstein is a black American woman of Caribbean descent on her mother's side and Russian Jewish descent on her father's, who describes herself as a Reconstructionist Jew. She's encountered, and engaged strongly with, issues of racism and sexism in the world of physics. She says it has robbed her of a lot of the joy of doing physics.

Sabine Hossenfelder is a white German woman who hasn't encountered, or chooses not to mention, any issues of sexism in her professional life. She expresses seemingly pure joy in doing physics. That makes this a much easier book to listen to, though as I  mentioned in my review, Prescod-Weinstein engaging those hard issues makes it a valuable book in its own right.

Wednesday, August 24, 2022

Lives of Unforgetting: What We Lose in Translation When We Read the Bible, and A Way of Reading the Bible as a Call to Adventure, by Stant Litore

Daniel Fusch, 2019

This is a really interesting and enjoyable book about reading the Bible, what we've lost in translation, and how the message of both the Old and the New Testaments has been altered by both the difficulties of translation between different languages, and different cultures. While Jews still read the Jewish Bible in Hebrew, Christians read it in translation. And while no translation can ever be perfect, in many instances in the Bible, the early translations, made at a time much closer to at least the New Testament, and with more communication between Christians and Jews who were often still part of the same communities, have continued to influence our translations as the meanings attached to critical words and phrases have changed.

One example is the phrase, "woman of virtue." The original, Litore explains, is closer to "woman of valor." "Virtue" is from the Roman word "virtu," which was much closer, thought not exact, to the sense of the original Hebrew.

Tuesday, August 23, 2022

The Disordered Cosmos: A Journey into Dark Matter, Spacetime, and Dreams Deferred, by Chanda Prescod-Weinstein (author), Joniece Abbott-Pratt (narrator)

Hachette Audio, ISBN 9781549133961, March 2021

This is simultaneously a book about about physics and in particular dark matter, and an account of what it's like to be a black American woman of Caribbean extraction in the world of science, and in particular in physics.

Prescod-Weinstein loves physics, and started loving physics as a child, looking up at the night sky. Later in the book, she notes that her childhood in Los Angeles gave her no idea what she was missing until later in life, when she was a working theoretical cosmologist and astrophysicist. When, in the course of the book, she's talking about physics, she's often expressing joy and excitement.

When she's talking about being a black American woman of Caribbean extraction working in physics, not so much.

Saturday, August 20, 2022

A Prayer for the Crown-Shy (Monk & Robot #2), by Becky Chambers (author), Em Grosland (narrator)

Macmillan Audio, ISBN 9781250808646, July 2022

The tea monk Sibling Dex, and the robot Mosscap, are arriving back in the human-inhabited areas, so that Mosscap can pursue his mission of discovering the answer to a great question. What do humans want?

As they arrive in the first village, the people greet them with enthusiasm, Yet when Mosscap asks its question, the responses are all very practical--a door needs repair, a bicycle has a flat tire, some more complex machinery needs repair. Dex is worried that Mosscap is being taken advantage of, but Mosscap is happy to help, and feels it is learning something useful about humans. As they travel, Mosscap gets very similar answers everywhere--very practical, immediate needs on the one hand, and on the other, a desire for everyone to have their social and emotional needs met as well as the practical ones.

Wednesday, August 17, 2022

Star Born (Pax/Astra #2), by Andre Norton (author), Mark F. Smith (narrator)

LibriVox, October 2007 (original publication January 1957)

Dalgard Nordis is the descendent of the Free Scientists, who fled an Earth brutally ruled by Pax, and established a colony on the planet they called Astra. They made the journey mostly in cold sleep, and on awaking and landing, built their colony. However, they also met natives--the fur-covered mermen. The mermen, equally comfortable on land and in the water, were just starting to emerge from the water, where they had retreated when escaping the brutal rule of the species they call Those Others, who now seem to be gone.

Dalgard is traveling with his merman friend, Ssuri, on the exploration trip whose successful completion will see him welcomed as a full adult when he arrives back at the colony.

Tuesday, August 16, 2022

Victories Greater Than Death (Unstoppable #1), by Charlie Jane Anders

Tor Teen, ISBN 9781250317315, April 2021

Tina Mains knows she doesn't have to worry about being ordinary. She's known since she was quite young that she's the clone of an alien war hero, hidden, disguised, on Earth, and when the time comes, the beacon implanted in her body will activate, and her life will change. In the meantime, she just has to survive high school.

When it happens, though, suddenly she's being hunted by the enemies of the woman she was cloned from before the starship that will take her to her destiny even arrives. When it does, barely in the nick of time, she and her best friend, Rachel, are injured, and need the resources of the ship's sick bay before anything else.

But the ship is more battered, worn, and short of crew than it is a shiny, powerful battle cruiser, and it turns out that the Royal Fleet has been counting on the return of their late hero more than she had imagined possible. Tina, Rachel, and four more teenagers they recruit using video games, soon find they will need to learn fast, and start coming up with their own ideas, if they're going to face anything other than the defeat and destruction of the ship they're on.

Sunday, August 14, 2022

Bark to the Future (Chet & Bernie #13) Spencer Quinn (author), Jim Frangione (narrator)

Recorded Books, ISBN 9781705060179, August 2022

Chet and Bernie are back, with another mystery to solve--though it takes them a while to find a client for this case. They meet an older man, clearly hard-used by life, whom Bernie is shocked to realize is a high school classmate. Rocket was a teammate on the high school baseball team, and made a game-winning save that took them to the state championship.

Something, clearly, happened after that high point. Bernie and Chet take him out for a good meal, then drop him off at the highway off ramp he considers his territory.

Saturday, August 13, 2022

Beasts Before Us: The Untold Story of Mammal Origins and Evolution, by Elsa Panciroli (author), Ruth Urquhart (narrator)

Tantor Media Inc., ISBN 9781666142747, September 2021

For a long time, most of us have had the impression mammals first emerged in the late Cretaceous, not long before the asteroid that wiped out the non-avian dinosaurs, 66 million years ago. In reality, as Elsa Panciroli explains here, the line that became mammals, the Synapsida, began their split from reptiles in the late Carboniferous, over 300 million years ago.

Panciroli doesn't just tell us about the mammals, but about women as well as men who did important work in uncovering the fascinating, and longer than we often assume, history of mammals. She also talks about some of the less attractive history of paleontological research, the degree to which racism produced not just imperialistic dismissal of local knowledge and observations, but real crimes. This isn't, however, a politicized history; it's just reporting facts about the history of paleontology that are often ignored.

Friday, August 12, 2022

What to Say Next: Successful Communication in Work, Life, and Love—with Autism Spectrum Disorder, by Sarah Nannery (author), Larry Nannery (author), Kelsey Navarro (narrator)

Simon & Schuster Audio, ISBN 9781797116150, March 2021

Sarah Nannery, as a young professional with autism spectrum disorder, got her first job at a small non-profit, sure she knew what she needed to do to move ahead. Instead, she found she was missing messages and hidden meanings in her coworkers texts, emails, conversations, and actions.

After a particularly confusing and frustrating experience, she started consulting her neurotypical husband Larry. This became a series of consultations mostly via text. Sarah learns more about how neurotypicals think, and how to communicate. Along the way, Larry and Sarah learn more about communicating with each other, and raising, managing, and communicating with their autistic son.

Wednesday, August 10, 2022

We Could Be Heroes, by Mike Chen

MIRA, January 2021

Jamie Sorensen woke up, two years ago, in a small, barren apartment, with a pile of paperwork saying the lease was being paid by a company called 2D, suggesting his name might be Jamie Sorensen, and telling him he could read people's memories. He quickly acquired a needy little cat he named Normal, and took up a career robbing banks, and becomes known as the Mind Robber. His long-term career goal is to save up enough money to move himself and Normal to a Caribbean island, where he can spend most of every day reading memoirs.

Zoe Wong also woke up in small, barren apartment, with a similar pile of paperwork. Hers includes a cheap, stick-on name tag that says "Zoe Wong." A note tells her, "you're stronger than you think you are." She doesn't acquire any pets, and she takes up the perfectly legal activity of putting her newly discovered strength, speed, and ability to hover in the air to work in fast food delivery. When convenient, she beats up bad guys, and accidentally becomes known as the Throwing Star. She wants to figure out who she really is, and her hobby is watching horror movies on a free movie app.

Wednesday, August 3, 2022

Big Data: How the Information Revolution is Transforming our Lives, by Brian Clegg (author), Alex Moorcock (narrator)

Dreamscape Media, ISBN 9781666532036, August 2021

We live in a world of big data, with government, corporations, social media, and all kinds of organizations in possession of vast amounts of quite personal data about us--most of which we've handed over ourselves.

That's just one piece big data, though. The accumulation of enormous amounts of data, and the use of modern, advanced computers to process it, has affected every area of our lives and our world. Not much over two centuries ago, medicine was still largely a matter of trial and error, and medical theories we know to be completely wrong.

Tuesday, August 2, 2022

The Grief of Stones (The Cemeteries of Amalo #2), by Katherine Addison (author), Liam Gerrard (narrator)

Macmillan Audio, ISBN 9781250856616, June 2022

This is the direct sequel to Witness for the Dead, picking up Thara Celehar's life immediately after those events. Thara spends mornings in his office, waiting for petitioners for his services as a Witness for the dead, and has a steady enough traffic to make it not pointless. He responds to calls from the Vigilant Brotherhood, or other authorities as necessary. He has cats who aren't his (he's very firm about that), but whom he feeds regularly, and a few friends.

But though he's settling in, he's also extremely depressed. This isn't new, but it's not getting better. He's caught in a conflict with a local religious authority, Dach'othalar Vernezar, who is angered by the fact that Thara is the only cleric in Amalo who isn't under his authority. Thara's presence in the city was request by Prince Orchenis, and he was appointed directly by the Archprelate. It's an uncomfortable position to be in, and it gives him powerful enemies.

Monday, August 1, 2022

Tales from the Ant World, by Edward O. Wilson (author), Jonathan Hogan (narrator)

Recorded Books, ISBN 9781980091714, August 2020

Edward O. Wilson was a highly respected and accomplished myrmecologist, i.e., an expert on ants.

You may not think ants are fascinating, but in this book, narrated by Jonathan Hogan, Wilson geeks out about them with joy. In this short book, he gives us overviews of twenty-five different species of ants. Fire ants and leafcutter ants, the fastest-moving ants and the slowest-moving ants, ants who conduct slave raids to steal juveniles who will emerge into adulthood in the raiders' colony and grow up as part of that colony. Ants who farm and ants who keep "cattle."