> petek, marec 17, 2006
> komentarjev: 9

... forthcoming books of spring 2006

Knock knock knock, spring is knocking on my door.
Every season brings me new books. Altogether there are six of them now: two sexual, two biographies and two physics books. They are heavy on my mind. Practically every free moment is consumed by contemplating about them. I am looking at them from afar now, slowly approaching, gently touching their covers, skimming the contents and indices, and just teasing myself to the fullest, to whenever it will go. Then I will devour them.

* * *

1. Clio Cresswell. Mathematics and Sex. September 2004, 192 pages, ISBN: 1741141591.
I am positive that like my blogger friend Nadezhda many of you will shook your head in mockery, for what the hell has math got to do with sex!? At first I could perhaps even agree with you, for I've been surrounded by math geeks for all my life, and it seems to me that they are convinced that "sex" and "mathematics" live on two different planets, so yes, perhaps it would be more convinient to change the title into something like Mathematics and the (lack of) Sex. But I will tell you, a lot can change, when one starts to look at the phenomena of sex differently, for example in the words of the mathematician Hardy: "Mathematics is the study of patterns: their discovery, their interconnections and their implications."
Isn't the sexual behavior only the most intriguing pattern of them all?
I bet Hardy had a lot of sex.
An extremely attractive feature of this book is its author. I was never quite attracted to dead poets and inertial writers, but this is a rare case indeed: Clio Cresswell is a woman, and a very beautiful one too, she was even voted one of Australia's 25 most beautiful people in their equivalent of People magazine. Remember, Australia is the land of Nicole Kidman. She's on the cover of her own book. Nobody could fit there better, because all said is not even all yet. The best part is that she has - a PhD in math. I will eat my shoes. But first I will read this book, for it is exactly the sort of a book for me. I am passionate about the role of mathematics in every human activity. I am also happy to note that the role of mathematics in society is ever growing. I've been having this feeling ever since, and it's getting stronger.
Have you already heard of the new TV series Numb3rs (2005)? I am enjoying it as I've rarely enjoyed a TV series before. Just about everything is great: characters, writing, acting, and here's the best thing: it seem that all involved have a commitment to getting the math right! Perhaps you would care to see the Pilot (it's in DivX, its subtitles can be found here, I myself make them diplay properly in BSplayer, while of course the DivX Codec must be installed at all). Please comment afterwards, comment do.
Power to the math!

2.Jonathan Margolis. O: The Intimate History of the Orgasm. November 2004, 416 pages, ISBN: 0802117864.
Do you remember that scene from Amelie (2001) where the girl that plays Amélie (see image a bit down below) imagines all the people she knows and who are orgasming right at that moment? Do you think it's possible to extend a similar imagination to the whole world, and perhaps to count in all the masturbators too? I believe one would go mad, had he undertook such an intellectual workout. According to WHO there are more than a hundred million acts of sexual intercourses taking place every day.
How many of them would you say are taking place right now, at this very moment? This is a bit hard to say. Sexual intercourses are not equally distributed neither in time (day-night) nor space (geography). Most of the people are for example at their workplaces during a day, and they normally don't do it there, right.
I've played with the idea for some time (in spite of warnings, for I am fearless) and came up with this. Suppose:
- that there are n = 10^8 (a tenth of a billion) sexual intercourses a day,
- each lasts for ti = 3 minutes,
- and an orgasm last for to = 6 seconds,
- the Earth population and lust is divided equally among nt = 24 time zones, so there are approximately n / nt = 4*10^6 sexual intercourses in each time zone a day,
- the same time distribution describing the number of engaged sexual intercourses holds for every time zone, only that each distribution is offset for its day-night feature. The distribution is normal with periodic boundary conditions just as the time of a day wraps into itself every 24 hours,
- a couple is orgasming simultaneously in the to time window at the end of the intercourse,
- people engage into sex most probably at 19h in the evening (this is the mean value of the distribution, with variance of 3h),
- and finally, it's now 19h, and we are in Ljubljana.

First a more illustrative example: How many people engaged in sex between 16h and 18h today?
Calculating from the model above, one has to integrate the intercourse distributions from 16h to 18h. The sum (integral) for Ljubljana time zone yields: 900,000.

To that one has to add all the terms for all the time zones (animation on the right). This adds to: 8.5 million intercourses or 17 million people having been engaged in sex.
That is a number to be reckoned with. No ordinary man can have a million intercourses in his whole life, yet we counted more among people of the Earth in a single day between 16h and 18h. One man's body just can't produce that much fluid. (But bear with me boys for some time in the future, and I will tell you something about separating ejaculation - which is in fact a reflex, an involuntary muscle spasm - from orgasm, and you will be able to see there's practically no limit to them number of orgasms, even though there is an obvious limit to the number of ejaculations.)

And now comes the moment t = 19h, the moment to imagine how many people are orgasming at this very moment. Following the previous example, one has to sum the 24 time zone terms, integrated from the moment t - ti to t - ti + t0, that is from 3 minutes into the past to 6 seconds just afterwards. This is exactly the integration domain that people who are orgasming at this very moment started their intercourses in. The resulting figure is: 10,000 intercourse peaks, which means 20,000 orgasms.
I myself am unable to imagine that. (And you might think that my mind has gone boink ... well not just yet, it's only book 2/6!)

The model can be improved in various ways. It's a crude approximation indeed to suppose that a couple is orgasming simultaneously, and so on, for example a more realistic distribution of both lengths of sexual intercourses as of orgasms (also depending on the sex: F | M, etc.) can be built in.

This book is dealing the science of orgasm: how long orgasms last in various species, what makes them happen, what keeps them from happening. It goes beyond raw facts, and stirs thoughts on such subjects as what is the origin of oral sex. The writing seems breezy and sophisticated, but this doesn't hurt, for even the topic of orgasming can be thought of as a sophisticated one, when you think of it. Much looking forward to this book I am, in fact much much more than to the first one. (In spite of the fact that the author this time seems a much less agreeable male to me.)

3. Gerard Helferich. Humboldt's Cosmos: Alexander von Humboldt and the Latin American Journey that Changed the Way We See the World. April 2004, 358 pages, ISBN: 1592400523.
I've adored the von Humbolt character from the moment I read his first quote aloud: "I despise anything to do with bourgeois life; that slow rhythm of home life and fine manners sickens me." He was a personal friend of Goethe, and he could just as well be one of the two of my personal heroes (along with Richard Feynamn). After all, every friend of Goethe is my friend. Humbalt was the one to have inspired Darwin, Goethe's "winters" were melt by watching him: "My natural history studies have been roused from their winter sleep by his presence." Alexander Von Humbalt (1769 - 1859) was a scientific traveller, an explorer of the highest merit. I dare say he was the greatest.
The book retraces von Humboldt's 1799-1804 odyssey through South and Central America from piranhas to volcanoes.
The only sad thing here as I see it is that I pick my heroes among men long passed away.

4. Carlos Baker. Hemingway. November 1972, 460 pages, ISBN: 0691013055.
Ernest Hemingway is an interesting chap. He lived what it seems to me a completely filled life. What interests me most is the bussiness with his first real girlfriend: how she dumped him, and how that affected all his later days, his great words, drinking, womanizing, acting suicidal and even the very suicide he did at the age of 62. The girl Agnes and the unfortunate love somewhat determined his life for ever.
I've read some of his books, and enjoyed his rich, practical and light language, but I've never read anything substantial about him, and I'd been picking his biography for ages. I think I picked very well.

5. O. C. Zienkiewicz, R. L. Taylor. Finite Element Method:
- Volume 1, The Basis
- Volume 2, Solid Mechanics
- Volume 3, Fluid Dynamics

All 2000, all 5th edition, 712 + 480 + 352 pages, ISBN: 0750650494, 0750650559 and 0750650508.
This it the finite element method bible. There are few books in the world like this. It comes in three volumes. I'd known them for a long time, but my math had not been good enough to really comprehend them. Then suddenly my math got better and at about the same time my boss at work clearly articulated that I had to read them through and through. So here I am, all hot with these 1544 pages, and rightly I am hot, for these are the books from one of the greatest professors ever, covering the entire finite element field. I am getting more confident from exactly such books.
How would you care my briefly telling you what's the story with them finite element methods? It goes something like this: A physicist observes nature, and the science of physics tries to tackle the natural phenomena. Till phenomena are relatively simple, or idealized, one can fully model them with a similar mathematics that one is taught in secondary school: merely algebra, geometry and some calculus.
For example, if one observes someone throwing a rock, he can perhaps idealize the situation and calculates the motion of a mass point under the gravitational force. He can predict everything: when the rock is going to land on the ground, and how far it will go. He knows that the mass point follows a curve called parabola. This is a very simple motion. One can tell you all about it quickly and merely with the help of a paper and pen. His calculations are analytical and symbolical.
But as soon as the situation gets a bit more complicated, as for example when the wind starts blowing harder, and the air drag must be considered to calculate the right trajectory, the calculation suddenly can't be done by hand anymore, analytics is replaced by numerics to some extend, at least at the crucial point of calculating the effect of the drag force on the motion of the rock. This is how it is with physics and mathematics: one would like to model real phenomena, yet it becomes increasingly more difficult to do so.
You can imagine that in practice one can't help himself much with the classical tools of mathematics (yet the understanding of them is crucial), but must instead learn to utilize new numerical methods. Only with general numerical schemes, implemented effectively on a computer, one can model phenomena that we readily observe around us. Finite element methods are one of the best tools we have.

6. E. M. Lifshitz, L. D. Landau. Fluid Mechanics. 1987, 552 pages, ISBN: 0750627670.
I still can't believe that Landau-Lifshitz (series course on theoretical physics) is considered for the undergraduates. I know I wasn't able to handle them as an undergrad, and I didn't meet anyone who was. But still, just about every professor bragged about that we too should've studied from them. Like they did! Yeah right, they were undergrads once too. I didn't believe them then a bit, and I still don't, but as my mind matured a bit, I found myself being able to relatively easily follow these books now. They're perhaps the hardest, but also the richest, treatise on basic physics. The Fluid Mechanics volume is connected to my work, and I must finish it and the others anyhow, so now it really looks like: that all is well that ends well.

* * *

These are not the only books I am currently having an affair with, but they are my dearest. And don't you worry, I may spare you with reviewing the last two, but I will surely write something on the first four, oh double yes I will, just you wait!

Komentarji: 9

Blogger Nadezhda:

"I am positive that like my blogger friend Nadezhda many of you will shook your head in mockery, for what the hell has math got to do with sex!? "

You would be wrong in supposing I am mocking you. However, it hasn't escaped my notion just how attentive you are to pretty girls. And just how much sex interests you. Are you looking for a girlfriend? Because you seem to be (a little too obvious at that; at least to me). Relax, you don't need to rush. Everything comes at the right time and when it's meant to come. :)

18/3/06 12:14  
Blogger Bo:

Nadezhda, if your sincerity is so I won't suppose it otherwise anymore, I promise, and I am sorry for before.

But what's by is by, so as for your other part, thank you very much, for it feels assuring. It always feels good to share time and exchange words with optimistic minds.

Am I looking for a girlfriend; on the web? This sounds like buying on Amazon.com. I was once looking for girlfriends on the web, but I don't do that anymore. Not that there aren't fine girls on the web, not at all! I met many, and I am just commenting with one right now.
The problem I think is elsewhere. I would be ready to give you my view some other time.

18/3/06 12:56  
Blogger Bo:

At the end of the post I said there are more books in my life right now. It so happens frequently to me, that not only a single book is on my mind.
But I never read more than one book at the same time, like for example reading a chapter of one book in the morning and a chapter of another in the evening. I tried, but it so confuses me. However I know many who do it and who are not at all confused, but perfectly content. Our minds just work in different ways!

I've been pondering a lot about this phenomena of reading more books simultaneously versus sticking to one to its back cover.
I am thinking of writing a post on this subject here, since it is book related after all.
So I would be really glad if you can relate your opinion, and even better, your experiences about it to me.

18/3/06 13:04  
Blogger Nadezhda:

I've met my current boyfriend of four years on the IRC, even though I was very sceptic about meeting people online before that. I've had some less enjoyable experiences, too, but alongside the good comes the bad, too.

I sometimes read several books at a time, but usually one's a novel and the other(-s) are scientific publications, like books no history, psychology, neurology etc. That works well for me, however I would (presumably) have difficulties reading several novels at a time.

18/3/06 13:54  
Blogger ill-advised:

I usually read two books at the same time, except if I find something that is really so terribly interesting that I can't put it down. I don't find most books that interesting, however, so reading two at the same time helps alleviate the monotony somewhat. During holidays, when I have more time to read, I often read three at the same time.

In addition to that, there may sometimes be a few books that I started reading some time ago but then put them aside for a while, with the intention of eventually returning to them (and not starting from the beginning again) -- whether this technically counts towards the number of books being read simultaneously or not depends on one's definition, I guess :) Anyway, this works well enough with e.g. poetry anthologies, collections of short stories, etc.; with most other things I have to restart at the beginning when returning to the book after a hiatus of several months.

I don't think I've ever tried reading several novels at the same time. I guess that could be a little confusing. A novel plus something else (nonfiction, poetry, etc.) works OK, though.

18/3/06 14:43  
Blogger ill-advised:

Everything comes at the right time and when it's meant to come.

Se opravičujem, ker bo tale komentar v slovenščini, ampak zgornji stavek me je spomnil na en prav tako čudovit double entendre v slovenskem prevodu (mislim, da Sovretovem) dnevnika Marka Avrelija, s to razliko, da je Sovretov po vsej verjetnosti celo nenameren :) "Kar pride človeku od Narave, mu je v prid, in to prav tedaj v prid, ko mu pride." (10.20) :]

Pa še en relevanten prispevek iz Stritarjeve pesmi Hrepenenje po sreči: "če pride od zgoraj ti, malo počivaj/ ter mano nebeško hvaležno uživaj!" (Zbrano delo II 233.)

18/3/06 20:51  
Blogger Bo:

Nadezhda in ill-advised, sta se obesila na "prihajanje", vidim, vendar na tako premeten način, da mi je šele zdaj prišlo, da so besede tudi hudomušne.
Le počakajta le počakajta, da povem kaj več o knjigi številka 2.

Zdaj se spomnim ure matematike v srednji šoli, ko tremo en problem, vsak zase, ves razred v tišini, pa sošolka vzneseno in na glas: "Mislim, da mi je prišlo!"

Potem se spomnim Goethejea, tudi on se je obešal:

Srca s srcem ne združiš,
če ti ne pride od srca.

Vendar zame tu ni dileme, to ali ono, "prihajanje" je plemenito: Že zgolj to, da ti pride od srca, pa naj ti pride tako ali drugače, pomeni, da si se potrudil. To je nobel.

18/3/06 21:51  
Anonymous Perfektn fotr:

Glede prihajanja,
J. W. von Goethe
Doch werdet ihr nie Herz zu Herzen schaffen, wenn es euch nicht von Herzen geht.

V nemškem originalu Goetheju prav nič ne prihaja, to je samo v prevodu.

25/3/06 12:21  
Blogger Bo:

Imaš prav! :)
Dvoumnosti je zaradi prevoda.

25/3/06 13:36  

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