Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Book Recommendation:

In comments over at Bobbi's, reader Matthew noted, in reference to Vinge's Fire Upon The Deep:
Never visualized distance as time in a cosmic sense before.
You know, a lot of concepts surrounding relativity had been gently bouncing off my skull for years. I mean, I knew them because I had been told them, but didn't really grok them in their fullness until the other day when I read Why Does E=mc²?: (And Why Should We Care?), and found myself setting the book down once every twenty pages or so to say "Derp. Why hadn't I seen that? It's so obvious now."

I cannot recommend this book highly enough if, like me, you loves you some physics but spent more time in math class writing short stories and doodling spaceships than taking notes.

17 comments:

Jim said...

It is my sad duty to note that you have twice this morning, in consecutive posts, used the term "grok."

Tam said...

Because it was the right word to use, of course. :)

Anonymous said...

The word grok always makes me think of long pig.
Maybe I'll get bbq for lunch.....

Stuart the Viking said...

Dangit Tam, now there's another book that I'm terrified of that I'm going to have to read. If I keep reading your blog, one of these days I might actually be intelligent.

And Grok is a perfectly cromulent word!

s

Orygunmike said...

Most importantly, Tam....did the book settle the 9mm vs 45 ACP debate once and for all?

Tam said...

Stuart the Viking,

"And Grok is a perfectly cromulent word!"

In this case, it was the right one, too: I wanted a one syllable word that meant "to internalize a concept" and there it is.

Jim said...

Grokers, cromulent or not, are certainly entitled to their opinions, but the best authorities frown on any word not appearing in the works of Jane Austin or John M. Browning.

Robot detector extract: "deddinds," as in, "unwarranted neologisms bring literature to deddinds." :)

Tam said...

Jim,

For a language that solidified its spellynge rules barely a century or two ago, some folks sure do get bent out of shap... er, discomfited when one jot or tittle is added to the dictionary.

Stuart the Viking said...

Jim,

It is my considered opinion that had John M. Browning grown up in a time after the advent of "Geek Culture", he would have likely understood, and probably even used, the word Grok.

s

Anonymous said...

OK, I'm confused. Anyone who has driven across Texas, Nevada or portions of Arizona, and maybe even the Trans-Canada, has an understanding of "distance as time."

A little contemplation should lead to extrapolating the concept over longer, eg., light year, distances.

What am I missing here?

Rob K said...

I've used time to relate distance all my life. If someone asks how far away something is, you tell them how long it takes to get there more often than not. "How far is it to your house? About an hour from here."

Lot's of Hoosiers do it.

Tam said...

The quoted sentence was meant as a lead-in to the following paragraph, not an example of what I learned from the book.

If you already understand the concept of spacetime, then disregard all above.

The value of c can easily be derived from driving between Abilene and Odessa. ;)

DirtCrashr said...

C stands empty on the bus from LA to NO, but in the midnight hours the shambling people do strange E stuff...

Matthew said...

Anon and Rob,

Not time as a measure of distance, growing up in Alaska that's second nature, time (age) as a measure of position in space in an expanding universe. Til I'd read Vinge I hadn't really grasped and internalized (grok is a great work) the concept.

Thus the "in a cosmic sense".

Zendo Deb said...

I don't know why so many people are afraid of math. Differential equations - the stuff engineers worry about - are horrible, but otherwise.... Engineers have to do all this horrible memorization of equations. Which is boring, hard, and boring. Thank all the gods that people actually studying math don't have to do that. You just have to memorize terms, learn the theorems, learn how to derive the theorems...

Of course I have a degree in math, so maybe I'm not the most objective party.

Zendo Deb said...

It isn't just that distance relates to time. Time doesn't work the way you think it does.

In certain of Einstein's equations, time and distance are nearly interchangeable. Time is function of THIS universe; it isn't some eternal property of existence. (It behaves differently around black holes. It behaves strangely under the force of acceleration. Etc.)

Which isn't as strange as the variable nature of the Fine Structure constant of the universe based on direction from the earth.

PeaceableGuy said...

The news blurb states that the jumpy fellow was charged with "reckless endangerment".

Isn't that akin to a law against suicide? "Gee, son, you coulda killed yourself - now we're really going to make you unhappy by locking you in this here cage."