Lots of people make resolutions for the New Year, and one of mine is to read more books.
No, I am not trying to be a snob or even sound snobbish. It’s just that with the non-stop onslaught of “stuff”—news and pseudo-news, TV, streaming video clips, breathless celebrity coverage, emails, etc—it's easy to have your mental “noise” level go up, up, up while the actual retained signal (or signals and information even worth retaining) goes down.
So my hope is that reading books will increase the signal while attenuating some of the noise, and let me “escape” the endless rat-a-tat-tat for a while. [In his excellent essay The Simple Art of Murder , Raymond Chandler wrote “…all reading for pleasure is escape, whether it be Greek, mathematics, astronomy…to say otherwise is to be an intellectual snob…]
So, which books? Fiction, non-fiction, escapist, whatever, doesn’t matter, I say. But reviews of three books recently in The Wall Street Journal look promising, and are in the areas about which I like to read (all are written by engineers/scientists, not journalists, BTW):
•Physics on the Fringe , by Margaret Wertheim, looks at the balance of science and skepticism—and the need for both, see here . Sure, we have the “nutcase theories” about anything and everything, but sometimes those theories turn out to be correct and eventually accepted (dinosaurs, plate tectonics, Copernicus, quasicrystals, the separate Lunar orbiter/lander configuration—the list goes on and on).
•Models Behaving Badly , by Emanuel Derman, examines hard-science models such as the ones we use, and also financial models, which are accorded so much stature but shouldn't be, says the author, see here . Given how important models are in science, and how they can be used and misused (intentionally or not), this looks like a good one.
• Alone in the Universe: Why Our Planet Is Unique , by John Gribbin, here , explores the issue of the many so-called “habitable planets” we think we have seen, why there doesn’t seem to be life on them, and why it is unlikely that there is—as far as we can tell, of course. (Of course, who would have thought there were living creatures—not just microorganisms—thriving here on Earth in the deepest, darkest recesses of the ocean, apparently using hot sulfur venting from the ocean floor as their energy source?)
Unlike many other well-intentioned resolutions, I think I have a reasonable chance of keeping this one; after all, I did pretty well with my summer re-reading list, here .
What are your technically oriented resolutions, if any, for 2012 : learn Android programming? Finally understand filters? Write better, cleaner code? Thoroughly document your designs and code? Are there others??