Book List 2011 – Part II

Let me continue with my book list.

3. In Search of the Multiverse, by John Gribbin

In Search of the Multiverse - John Gribbin

In Search of Schrödinger’s Cat: Quantum Physics and Reality was the first book that I read by Gribbin. It is a great book meant for the general audience like,  A Brief History of Time by Stephen Hawking. I read a few of his other books over the last few years and while browsing through a local book store here in Stuttgart, found this one and bought it. I must say, I was a bit disappointed. He does spend a lot of time explaining the ideas behind the multiverse in detail, with most of the reasoning coming from String Theory. But there is no proper mention about the fact that String Theory has its fair share of detractors. This is worrisome. I also totally agree with Peter Woit‘s opinion that mixing the many worlds interpretation from Quantum Mechanics and the Multiverse theory is a bit far fetched. There are several other points that I found absurd, but I will let the reader make his or her own conclusion. Having said that, I did like the book in parts. It should be characterized as mostly speculative with some facts mixed in. All in all, it is a great addition to the conversation about the nature of the universe or multiverse.

I am a regular visitor of Woit’s blog. He puts in a lot of effort to talk about the absurdity of some aspects of string theory and is a must read for any theoretical physicist, whether you are a string theory proponent or not.

The next couple of books can be clubbed together, not just because they are from the same author, but, also since both of them deal with uncertainty, chance and randomness.

3. Fooled by Randomness: The Hidden Role of Chance in Life and in the Markets, by Nassim Nicholas Taleb

Fooled by Randomness - Nassim Nicholas Taleb

4. The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable, by Nassim Nicholas Taleb

The Black Swan - Nassim Nicholas Taleb

These two books are absolute classics. And they are must read for anyone who is into uncertainty modeling, be it in science, energy or in the financial sector. I started out with Fooled by Randomness and I was absolutely blown away by Taleb’s viewpoints on financial modeling and risk management. He is a no nonsense author and has caught flak for his straight talk. But no one can question his knowledge of the subject. His scathing reviews on the state of market trading and research make perfect sense, given how we had been through a severe meltdown just a couple of years back. The man had spoken about such issues already in 2001 when he wrote Fooled by Randomness.

Nassim Nicholas Taleb

In The Black Swan, he talks about unpredictable events and our tendencies to retrospect about such events. He presents many examples of such events in human history and talks about our fallacy in reasoning their occurrences.

These two books would appeal to readers across the spectrum. It is very easy to follow both the books. In fact, I finished both over a weekend. Couldn’t put them down. I did some risk analysis work for an energy firm some years back and up until 2009 did some freelance consulting for another trading firm as well. So you would know why I was so hooked on to these books. Anyway, if you are thinking of buying these books, go straight ahead. It will be a great ride. You will enjoy them a lot.

/Edit

Just wanted to add that Taleb is on edge. If you have never been to edge.org yet, you gotta check it out.  While there, give his essay, “THE FOURTH QUADRANT A MAP OF THE LIMITS OF STATISTICS” a read. As Spock would say, “Fascinating”!  You can also see a few videos.

Taleb has also been a guest on Charlie Rose many times. You can check out his interviews there as well.

Taleb – Charlie Rose 

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