18 July, 2006

6 (quite) easy pieces

Just finished Richard Feynman's 6 easy pieces, which was an excellent introduction to some of the basic concepts of physics. Feynman has a lovely clarity of style and some of the analogies he draws to explain the concepts are very pleasing: I particularly liked the example he gave for the conservation of energy of a mother counting her baby son's building blocks: whether he drops them in the bath, hides them in the toy box, or whatever, you can make a formula to count the precise number and it will always equal the same total. [33]

Also just finished The secret life of Saeed the pessoptimist by Emile Habiby. Witty, satirical and surreal, and heavily inspired by Candide, it's a short novel about the Palestinian experience between 1948 and 1970. Saeed is an Arab, a Zionist collaborator and a spy, but the creation of the state of Israel fractures his life - he becomes a pessoptimist, uncertain whether to bemoan his lot as a dispossessed Palestinian (his father and brother are dead, his vilage is occupied by Jewish settlers and the Arab population dispersed) or to be thankful he is still alive and unharmed. The book unfolds in a series of bizarre episodes and encounters, capturing the chaotic nature of life in occupied territories and as a refugee. I recommend. [34]

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