Archive for book reviews

Nature snapshots [10 November]

Posted in Books, Kids, Travel, University life with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 11, 2022 by xi'an

As I was reading Nature in a [noisy] train from Coventry to London, I came across

Greg Bear (1951-2022)

Posted in Books, Kids with tags , , , , , , , , , , on November 24, 2022 by xi'an

Just heard that the science-fiction writer Greg Bear had passed away. I read [a French translation of] Blood Music in 1985 or 1986, and while I did not like the second half so much, I remember being impressed by the originality of the story when compared with classics like Asimov’s Foundation trilogy. (Little did I know that Bear would later contribute to the Foundation corpus by Foundation and Chaos, which I have not read to this day.) Later, much later, I read Hull Zero Three, again an original (if space-operatic) book, and Darwin’s Radio, which remains one of my favourite books in science fiction, if only because it is deeply grounded into science. Followed by Darwin’s Children this very summer. (I may have read Moving Mars as the story synopsis sounds familiar, but I am unsure…) A great writer, to whom I am grateful for all the gripping time spent on his page-turning books!

Hugo Awards 2022

Posted in Books, Kids, pictures with tags , , , , , , on September 16, 2022 by xi'an

Here are the results of the Hugo Awards this year, at least those connected with my reads:

Best Novel

Best Novella

Lodestar Award for Best Young Adult Book (not a Hugo)

  • WINNER: The Last Graduate by Naomi Novik (Del Rey Books) [just finished this second volume, too YA by miles!]

Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form

  • WINNER: Dune, screenplay by Jon Spaihts, Denis Villeneuve, and Eric Roth; directed by Denis Villeneuve; based on the novel Dune by Frank Herbert (Warner Bros / Legendary Entertainment) [to watch]
  • Space Sweepers, written and directed by Jo Sung-hee (Bidangil Pictures) [funny but very light]


hit by Brexit!

Posted in Statistics with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on August 17, 2022 by xi'an

After realising while at ISBA²² that Probabilistic Numerics,  the book of Philipp Heinig, Michael Osborne, and Hans Kersting, had appeared, I requested a copy for review in CHANCE from Cambridge University Press, which they kindly sent me. However, I received it with a 21€ bill for the novel VAT tax the EU has just (re)established for goods imported from outside the EU. From now on, I will have review books delivered to my Warwick address or sent from within the EU! (I have attempted to complain about paying VAT on free goods, but customs were not at all sympathetic!!!)

Amy in Randomland [book review]

Posted in Statistics with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 15, 2022 by xi'an

Amy’s Luck is a short book by David Hand that I recently received for review in CHANCE. David, whom I have known for quite a while now, is professor at Imperial College London. This is not his first book, by far! But this may be the most unusual one, if not the shortest. Written as a pastiche of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, it tells of the adventures of a young girl named Amy in the pursuit of luck or at least of its meaning. It has about the same number of chapters as Carroll’s book and could easily be read on a leisurely boat trip from Oxford to Godstow. While non-sensical and playing on the imprecision of the English language, its probabilist is both correct and rational. References to the original Alice abound and I presumably missed a fair portion of them, having read Alice (in French) decades ago. The book also contains illustrations from the author, gathered into a charm bracelet printed on the cover and a most helpful appendix where David points out the real world stories behind those of Amy, which is also full of gems, like Kolmogorov being a train conductor in his youth. (Missing an addition about Galton’s quincunx, esp. when his cousin Darwin is more than mentioned.) Or Asimov creating the milihelen to measure how much beauty was required to launch a ship. Overall, it is quite charming and definitely enjoyable, if presumably not accessible by the same audience as Alice‘s. And unlikely to take over Alice‘s! But from “She could understand the idea that coins had heads”, to a Nightingale rose renamed after Miss Starling, to the permutation of Brown, Stein, and Bachelier into Braun, Stone, and a bachelor, David must have had fun writing it. As others will while reading it and trying to separate probabilistic sense from non-sense.

[Disclaimer about potential self-plagiarism: this post or an edited version will eventually appear in my Book Review section in CHANCE.]

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