Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Theory of Anything

Well, I feel a little bit smarter than I was a few days ago. But since, like Homer Simpson, every time I learn something new it forces something old out of my brain, I wonder what I’ll lose for having gained this knowledge. I hope it’s the poorly-memorized periodic table of the elements I picked up in high school chemistry.

What I’m babbling about is this: Stephen Hawking’s A Brief History of Time, which I finished reading today. As “popular” books on science go, this is a good one as Hawking walks the reader through the basics of general relativity, quantum mechanics and other current physics theories. It’s enough to offer a good foundation to people like me who have an interest in science but were scared away from the subjects by my abject failings in the world of algebra and the aforementioned chemistry. But now I’m older and wiser and can see that gaining science knowledge is actually going to be helpful, especially if I want to climb in the ranks of technical writers – though I’ll have to get directions to the ladder first.

I can’t help but feel like I need something meatier, though. Perhaps I spoiled myself by reading first Ricahrd Rhodes’ The making of the Atomic Bomb, which tackles a lot more of the technical aspects with aplomb and success than Hawking achieves in this book – but then again, it is true that this book offers a good foundation. Now I just need help finding something meatier that won’t part my hair as it flies over my head.

Side note: I couldn’t help but to chuckle when the narrator of this BBK production said Hawking’s seeking a “Theory of Everything.” That reminded me of poor Ponder Stibbons in Terry Pratchett’s books, also seeking a Theory of Everything but, that in moments of despair, he would have settled for a “Theory of Anything.” I know that feeling well, Stibbo.

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