A fun reading, but I think the last equation doesn’t deserve the place in historical sense.
Tagged with: Science
Tagged with: Security
Landsburg sets out to challenge reader’s views on many “common senses” through economical cost-benefit analysis. Many of topics touch hot-buttons of social, environment and economic issues, and the solution are often counterintuitive. Some of the ideas seem crazy, but the reader should keep in mind that the purpose of the book is not to offer real-world resolutions. If that’s the case, many ideas are indeed either naïve or absurd. The book should be considered as an exercise of brain or training of logics. Once you accept that, you will find the reasonings are mind-bending and thought-provoking.
Tagged with: Economics
Paul Ingrassia has been covering American Automobile industry for more than 20 years. He and his colleague won Pulitzer Prize for their coverage on GM’s management turmoil in 1993. The book starts from the beginning of the 20th century, the excitement of the new era, the pioneering entrepreneurs whose names have became legend and popular brands today. Then the book briefly covers the unbelievable growth of the industry from earlier years to 60′s, GM, Ford and Chrysler are the high-tech companies of their days. They shaped the America in many aspects and brought countless innovations in terms of technology, design and business. With the importing cars from German and Japan, the Big Three have observed more challenging competitions, but more importantly different business and management cultures.
With all the up and downs in the past 100 years, the book spends almost half of its length to focus on the recent 10 years, blow-by-blow mis-steps and scene-by-scene story of the disappearance of Chrysler, bankruptcy of GM and survival of Ford. Besides a serial of mis-judgement and lack of focus, the author blames the relationship between management and Union as the main reason that leads to the crash – the Union has the monopoly power to negotiate sometimes ridiculous benefits undermined the bottom line of the company and force the management to move the job abroad.
Overall, it is very thorough book about the history of American auto industry. But one thing I don’t like very much is, although in retrospect many events in history do seem to be ironical, author’s foretelling style when describing these events is overly heave handed.
Supernatural beliefs are often associated with religions or superstitious. Does it mean that an atheist or a scientifically-trained highly-rational person is immune from super natural thinking?
We try to avoid touching things that criminals have touched or living in the room that people have died, but eager to shake hands with celebrities. We invite FengShui master exam the house before buying in. We enjoy ghost stories and often get frightened by them. We believe certain naturally-produced weird-looking food has healing power although there is not scientific proof of it. We treasure family album and it is the first thing that most people would save if their house got on fire. Every culture has certain colors, numbers and activities that are considered fortunate or unfortunate. In fact, it is often easier to accept the supernatural beliefs than to reject them.
You may shrug them off by thinking that we only do these things to comply with social norms. However, precisely the reason that they become social norms, instead of just individual beliefs, is worth more studies. The studies are often conducted on children, from new-born baby to teenagers, because they have relatively short time to be influenced by the cultures they lived in. It turns out that the supernatural beliefs can often be rooted to our human nature of recognizing the world around us. We have a tendency to look for human’s image from the cloud, the smoke and the foliage of the forest. This is not surprising because the studies show that babies are very sensitive to human faces. We also tend to classify objects and try to group them into some familiar things. This is an important way to expand our knowledge into unknown world. The same behavior can also be seen in children in early ages. In fact, if something is too different and cannot be organized, we often ignore them or even disgust them.
Throughout the book, the author shows us supernatural beliefs are unavoidable no matter how rational or educated we become; at the end, the author tries to conclude that they are maybe a good thing. We learnt them through millions years of evolution and they are programmed in our brain. They are the surviving skills to bring us here and they will continue evolving with us.
This is a fun book to read with good balance of intriguing anecdotes and scientific evidence. I can see myself through the book as I share many supernatural thoughts that I wasn’t aware of, and I find satisfactory explanation that make me “Eureka!”. It is the beauty of science.
Tagged with: Psychology
Tagged with: Photo
The subtitle of the book reads, “Why Simple Things Become Complex (and How Complex Things Can Be Made Simple)”. It sounds appealing. Indeed, many things become overly complicated just because they are not handled properly. If the book could shed some light on how to avoid it, it would be very useful. To my disappointment, I end up not finishing the book after reading about one third. What the author does is just applying some trivial mathematics results to explain social science phenomenons. Others have done that. IMHO, it is a common mistake that non-science background writers often make.
Tagged with: Economics
The book caught my attention when I first saw it in Book. Inc store. Now I finally got time to read it. The topic of the book are stumbles, blunders and so-called filler words, such as ‘um’, ‘uh’, ‘you know’ and etc. the words that we deem as inefficient and try to remove from our speaking. In fact, Michael Erard demonstrates that these ‘wastes’ serve certain goal in our language and there are a lot to be studied.
The author starts the book by introducing the origin of spoonerism, a professor named Reverend Spooner, who is famous for his frequent verbal slips, in the beginning of 20th century. Freud is one of early researchers who studied this phenomenon, inevitably, explain it with his omnipotent sub-conscious theory. The LOL example the author gives is Bush’s goof, “an erection … an election in Iraq”, which can be translated to “an erection I lack” by Freud, but is simply a switch of Consonant, reveals the different views of the researchers. Erard goes on to categorize different blunders and shows that they are not random meaningless mistakes, instead, they have patterns and plausible indications.
The rest of book discuss how our society view these blunders, why do we want to erase them? what is “well-spoken”? Or even how to make money from them? I actually that only until recent history have removing blunders and fillers become important in speech. This is because ancient speakers didn’t really have a lot of audience. When what they said is recorded on paper, all defects were removed. With the invention of radio and recoding devices, not only what but also how speakers say it can reach a lot of more people and be reviewed countless times. Purity becomes necessary in the public speech.
Another interesting observation is, although, like ToastMaster tells us, we try to remove every defects in our speech, a perfect speech doesn’t mean it is more effective. A good example is Brack Obama’s speech. He has quite a lot seemingly unnecessary stops. However, Obama is no question a very effective speaker. These pauses become part of his image of thoughtfulness and intelligence. Often time, a fluent speech distance the speaker from the audience. That explains that given that Bush made so many slips in his speeches, he was elected twice because he was considered as someone whom can have a beer with.
Tagged with: Language