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Quicksilver

I am a fast read­er. Not that I read spe­cial­ly fast, but I read hours and hours, and that way books pile around my bed, un­der the bath­room's sink, in­to clos­et­s, and on ta­bles, and I have read them.

I hve read the Dune se­ries in a week. The whole works of Hein­lein in 20 days. The Lord Of the Rings (and The Hob­bit) in a long week­end.

I have been read­ing Quick­sil­ver for a week now. I am not even 30% done.

Quick­sil­ver is al­most 1000 pages long. And they are not the eas­i­est pages, ei­ther. I feel like I'm drown­ing in it, I am be­ing slapped by it, my mind is be­ing raped by a book.

I like it.

My uni­ver­si­ty ex­pe­ri­ence was study­ing math­s, so I am more like­ly to en­joy this book than most, though.

When you are sur­round­ed by sci­ence, if you have even a lit­tle of his­toric sense, you have to won­der: how can it be that I, a rea­son­ably in­tel­li­gent 20th cen­tu­ry guy, have been get­ting an ed­u­ca­tion for 20 years, and still am quite ig­no­ran­t, even though I am con­cen­trat­ing on a sin­gle field?

Well, af­ter that, if you ev­er try to do any orig­i­nal sci­en­tif­ic work, you have to imag­ine that those who cre­at­ed mod­ern sci­ence were much bet­ter than you. Their lifes were short­er, uglier, and they did­n't have the book­s, yet they fig­ured out a huge amount of stuff.

Usu­al­ly, there's a mit­i­gat­ing fac­tor in that the sci­ence they made is sim­pler than the sci­ence to be made now. That does­n't work for one guy. Maybe two.

That one guy is, of course, New­ton. And the oth­er is Leib­nitz.

If some­one in­vent­ed Leib­nitz for a nov­el, it would be sil­ly. In­vent­ing New­ton would be pre­pos­ter­ous. So, how come al­most noone both­ered mak­ing them in­to fic­tion­al char­ac­ters be­fore?

In tak­ing that step, Stephen­son shows ge­nius.

I would write all this book brings to mind, but this blog is too small to con­tain it.

Inorog / 2006-04-03 07:11:

Right on! This is such a recursive reflection for me. I end up my deep thinking/reflection sessions heavily humbled, ashamed and even more quasi-motivated: I am both amazed and humbled by the excellence of the work of our ancestors. In any field of creativity. But by the beginning of the next deep thinking session, I realize I managed to get on with my rather subpar and dull uncreative life.



My inner opinion is that our ancestors were so much better _exactly_ because their lives were short, ugly and painful. Creativity _actually was_ a refuge. In our time, with all the "commodities" we've come to expect, not walking for more than 100 meters, not wanting to "waste time" on facing difficulties, but rather choosing the easy path (because in our times, we are given one, unlike our ancestors), makes us less creative. Unable to excell. Unwilling to sacrifice.



(BTW, thanks for serving me a nice recension to Quicksilver, which I planned 3-4 months ago to get and read, but I still didn't, because of not being willing to shed the $$$ requested for them - Quicksilver and Confusion - around here).

Roberto Alsina / 2006-04-03 07:12:

Well, on the other hand, "scientists" took 1700 years to stop feeling too humbled by Aristotle, so maybe it's just a matter of spunk ;-)



I was reading the other day a newspaper article written by someone who migrated to Kansas City. Lots of things he appreciated, but one thing shocked him every day:



You can't go anywhere, or do anything without a car. The closest store is 3 miles away. The ony way to get there is by highway. You can't walk there.



So, you just have to have a car.



But unless your family consists of siamese twins, you are not going together everywhere, so you need a car for each person.



How can a whole country (probably more than one, too) live such a horrible life of isolation nd waste, I have no idea.



But hey, I suppose they like having big screen TVs (note: this post is only 50% ironic ;-)


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