Wednesday, July 19, 2017

The Golden Ratio

Have you ever heard of the Golden Number? The Divine Proportion? Nature's greatest secret, the deepest mystery on earth, and the world's most astonishing number? No? Well, it might be the second most hyped number after Pi, and it's the subject of such things as this website, this video, and this book. If you believe these sources, then the Golden Number (or Phi) is a mysterious value with strange properties that appears in random places and dictates the rules of all of human civilization and perhaps all of the entire universe as well.

Then, there's The Golden Ratio, a book about Phi which tries to dispel some of the mystique around it. Not all of the mystique, but some of it. It addresses both the mathematical properties of Phi (like its connection with Fibonacci numbers) and the more wiggly properties of Phi (like its use in art as a standard for beauty). I think it does a good job of remaining mostly impartial, denying claims which are probably not true (like that the egyptians built the pyramids using Phi) and verifying claims that are true (such as Phi's prevalence in art after Luca's book The Divine Proportion).

So, if you're looking at all the hype and thinking to yourself wait but no that's not how the universe works, then you might want to give The Golden Ratio a read. And, if you're totally a Phi fanatic, you might want to read it too, just to see what the fuss is about. And, if you've never even heard of this number before, then you can go read something else. I hear Leviathan Wakes is pretty cool.

P.S. One problem is that it doesn't quite explain all of the mathematics in an intuitive way. If only someone were to do that, possibly in some sort of visual episodic format. Alas, that will likely never happen.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Caliban's War

Caliban's War is the second book in the Expanse series. It's still the future, and everything is mostly fine as long as you don't think about Venus so don't think about Venus. The three superpowers (Earth, Mars, and the Belt) are eyeing each other nervously. As long as nobody rocks the boat, and Venus stays quiet, it looks like things will go back to normal soon.

Bobbie Draper is working on Ganymede, a moon where scientists do farming. She's in the Martian military, and her job is to stare at the Earth military while farming happens. Because, seriously, who would attack a farm moon? Then a lanky humanoid with huge hands and a huge head rips through both teams and violently explodes. Bobbie is the only survivor. Now, she's got one thing on her mind: revenge. And also I think she has PTSD.

But, she wasn't the only person on Ganymede. There was also Praxidike Meng, or "Prax," one of the aforementioned farm scientists. Now his science farm has been destroyed, along with most of his life's work. At least he still has his daughter, Amy or somethingMei, who was kidnapped shortly before the monster appeared so okay maybe he doesn't have his daughter. Still, he has a slim hope of finding her, so that's what he'll do.

Back on Earth, Chrisjen Avasarala is hard at work as a politician trying to keep the solar system falling apart. Then this whole Ganymede business happens, and things start really getting bad. Also, Venus seems to be acting up a bit. Try not to think about it. Anyways, she's got to put all the pieces together and figure out who done the monster, and also make some friends.

And James Holden is still there, with his crew, trying to deal with things as best he can. He messes up slightly less in this one. I think he's learning.

So, to be honest, I liked the original book better than this one. First of all, Leviathan Wakes straight-up had more action, and I like my boom boom bang. Second, I feel like only having two main characters, rather than the four in Caliban's War, kept things simpler and more predictable, which I felt was a good thing. There's no character order in Caliban's War, so it sometimes just flips between two characters without addressing the other two, which lessens a bit the feeling of everything is going wrong everywhere.

Still, Caliban's War is a good book, and the new characters are all nice. If you liked Leviathan Wakes, you'll probably like it. Yep, that's my big final rating: "If you liked the first one, you might want to continue the series." Don't I feel smart.

Friday, July 07, 2017

Math for Mystics

Math for Mystics is not really a book about math. It's written by Renna Shesso, a shamanic practitioner and priestess of wicca. It's about how to use vaguely mathy things when performing magical rituals and such.

As I have literally no experience in such things, I'm not sure how "good" the book is at what it does. The chapter on individual numbers was pretty cool, as was the chapter on magic squares and the one on days of the week. Unfortunately, I am almost certain to never use any of this in real life, so... I don't know what else to say.

If you're a wiccan or a druid and you want some... tips? I guess? Then buy Math for Mystics. You have my solemn word that it involves no serious mathematics. Otherwise, you can read, like, anything else.