Book Review: How Music Works by John Powell


Author: John Powell
TitleHow music works : the science and psychology of beautiful sounds, from Beethoven to the Beatles and beyond
Publication Info: New York, NY : Little, Brown, 2010.
Summary/Review:

With a lot of humor and avoidance of technical detail, Powell breaks down everything about music including physics, acoustics, decibels, rhythm and melody, and musical scores. Despite the simplicity of the book, I still find myself challenged in remembering all that I learned, but I suspect that this is a good introduction to music for most readers.

Rating: ***1/2

Book Review: A Tear at the Edge of Creation by Marcelo Gleiser


Author: Marcelo Gleiser
TitleA Tear at the Edge of Creation
Publication Info: New York, NY : Free Press, 2010.
ISBN: 1439108323
Summary/Review:

Gleiser’s work is an attempt to offer an alternate route to the scientific notions of Grand Unifying Theories and symmetry in nature with the idea that the truth may be found in an asymmetric universe.  Gleiser sums up the history of cosmology (bringing me up to date since it’s been 20 years since my college course in cosmology) in easy-to-understand language.  It’s a good accessible primer in physics (with some chemistry and biology as well) with an interesting central thesis on the manner in which humans will continue to learn about the universe.
Favorite Passages:

“The loss of elegance is the gain of generality.  Our cosmos does not need perfection to exist.”

“If we can never know all there is to know, we will always have an element of uncertainty about the natural world.  There is no final unification to be attained, only better models to describe the physical reality we can measure.  Even as we improve our tools and increase our knowledge, we also expand the base of our ignorance: the farther we can see the more there is to see.  As a consequence, it is impossible to contemplate a point in history when we will know all there is to know.”

Recommended books: The Tao of Physics by Fritjof Capra, Six Easy Pieces by Richard Feynman, and 13 Things That Don’t Make Sense by Michael Brooks
Rating: ***