Category Archives: Books

Reviews of books

Summer of 2012 Book Quotes

This post was moved from the now no-longer-existent Brandonsoft developers blog and was originally written on August 11, 2012.

Over the summer, I have been busy reading various books. Of course, with all books, there are very memorable quotes within these books. Often times, I would post these quotes to Facebook and watch as hilarity ensues as my friends argue about the topic. Here are some of the quotes that I found particularly interesting:

What you alter in remembering has yet a reality, known or not.

-The Road by Cormac McCarthy


There is no God and we are his prophets.

-The Road by Cormac McCarthy


Only in the best of possible worlds is all for the best.

-Candide by Voltaire


These quotes are not only memorable because they address topics that are highly controversial, but they also do so very elegantly, giving them a profound sense of enlightenment. Plus, all three quotes contain very powerful messages.

Review: The Shallows – What The Internet Is Doing To Our Brains by Nicholas Carr

This post was migrated from the no-longer-existent Brandonsoft developer blog and was originally written on May 22, 2012.

It is not often that I post reviews of things that I enjoyed, or didn’t enjoy. It is also seldom that I post reviews about books, novels, or fictional tales, all of which may be collapsed into the former category. Reading has been an enjoyable pastime to me as of late, and I have learned many things from it. One of which being how to write in an eloquent yet simple fashion. The crafting of words has always appealed to me in a way that Legos appear to a young child, and with that being said, I shall begin my review.

The Shallows: What The Internet Is Doing To Our Brains is a novel packed with information about how the human brain works, and what our modern information-based society changes about our every day lives. Nicholas Carr writes about this in a very personalized style, making the book both easy and fun to read. I have to admit, I was a little worried when I picked up this book due to the fact that I have no knowledge of advanced neuroscience whatsoever, and I thought that my lack of knowledge would make Carr’s arguments incomprehensible. However, that clearly was not the case. Nicholas Carr explains everything from basic ideas to advanced theories using brilliant everyday examples, allowing the reader to truly get a sense of what he is talking about. I felt like I was following Carr’s logic every step of the way.

There are also carefully placed personal digressions, where Carr takes the reader away from the argument or history lesson at hand and explains his own personal thoughts on the topic. I have to praise Carr for this, because admittedly, the personal examples he uses in the digressions would have done his central argument no good if they were placed within the text itself, but they add the perfect amount of spice when given their own personal sections. Not only do they allow the reader a break from the argument, but they allow the reader to know Carr, to feel his feelings, to take a quick walk in his shoes. This, I felt, strongly attached me to the author and helped push his argument along.

As far as the content of the book goes, I was a little dismayed by how off topic some chapters seemed to be. For instance, there is a section in the book in which the reader is led down a windy path concerned with the arguments and counter-arguments about the effects of search engines on the brain, when suddenly, the reader reaches a quick and sudden end to the path. This end: a history lesson on how Larry Page revolutionized the Internet world by creating Google. In my opinion, this was extremely out of place. There are several other examples of this style of seemingly unintended paths throughout the book.

Despite this, Carr’s central argument is convincing, and I felt myself agreeing with him and his thoughts on topics with almost everything he said. This may be due to the fact that we are both on the computer a lot, but it may also be contributed to the fact that Carr simply knows how to write and make a point. Whatever the reason, it simply works. The counter-arguments and Carr’s concessions almost seem invisible throughout the work, however, and this weakens his argument. Although there was a discussion of how Aristotle did not believe in using pen and paper, Carr did not seem to address the arguments of those believing that constant computer use does not change our way of thought. This may be because those arguments are either weak or nonexistent, but they should have been addressed nonetheless.

Overall, Nicholas Carr’s work was both enjoyable to read and intriguing. Although it makes me think twice about getting onto the computer each day, I do not regret reading it. If you are an everyday computer user like myself, I suggest picking up this book.


Nicholas Carr’s The Shallows:

Nicholas Carr’s The Shallows on Amazon:

The Interesting Side-Effects of Evolution: A Brief Discussion

As a huge Randall Munroe fan, I pre-ordered his book What If? Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions. I have been reading it almost every night before bed, really trying to understand the science, math, and reasoning behind every one of Munroe’s responses. Although sometimes it is hard to decipher whether or not Munroe is being serious, all of his responses to submitted questions are both informative and entertaining.

One of the more interesting question-response pairs that I have read was entitled New York – Style Time Machine in which Munroe explores what New York would look like at various periods in time, including the distant past, past, future, and distant future. Although his explanations were very interesting, one line in particular stood out to me:

The modern pronghorn (American antelope) presents a puzzle. It’s a fast runner — in face, it’s much faster than it needs to be. It can run at 55 mph, and sustain that speed over long distances. Yet its fastest predators, wolves and coyotes, barely break 35 mph in a sprint. Why did the pronghorn evolve such speed?

When I first read this, I simply shrugged it off. “But of course! Everything evolves for a purpose.” It’s something we all learn in biology class. However, after reading it again, I realized that this quote demonstrates the true power of the analysis of evolutionary adaptations. For any trait that an organism possesses, there is a link to a need for that trait. This allows us to deduce what the organism’s world was, is, and will be like.

For instance, take a look at that hair on the arms of humans. It is present for a few reasons, but analyze it’s response to fear. As we are scared, the hair on our arms rises. Why is this? The commonly accepted answer is that it makes us appear bigger – making us more threatening to organisms who may want to prey on us or organisms that we may want to prey on. Currently, however, we are not common targets for predators. We have very little use of this evolutionary adaptation. So why does it exist? Its mere existence shows that in our past we were hunted. It shows that we have changed since then.

This kind of analysis does not only apply to us, but to every organism in existence. If there is a trait, there is a reason for its existence. Seemingly useless traits can provide powerful information into the organism’s past or present and how it has changed since then. Everything is constantly growing to handle the organism’s surroundings, and sometimes these changes give the organism such a large evolutionary advantage that it will outlast its original purpose and carry-on to be an “over-powered” advantage, just like the case with the Pronghorn mentioned by Munroe.

The world is constantly changing and it truly is a fascinating place.