Saturday, December 28, 2013

Medical Statistics from Scratch by David Bowers

Statistics plays a key role in medical research and investigations.

The field of Medical Statistics focuses statistical procedures well-suited to the analysis of healthcare related data.
David Bowers, the author of this book introduces the readers to medical statistics without resorting to complex mathematics. 
He  focuses more on the understanding of the key concepts behind the statistical procedures. The book provides useful advice on which procedure to  choose for data analysis and under what circumstances.
The author also explains how to interpret outputs from statistical programs like Minitab.
The topics covered in this book include - Data description, designing a statistical study, making statistical inferences about the population based on samples, confidence interval estimation, test of hypothesis, measuring associations and agreement between two variables, regression models, survival analysis, meta-analysis.
The theory discussed in the book is well-supported by lots of examples and exercises based on  the data  drawn from the latest medical research literature. 
On several occasions the discussions in the book in a particular chapter make references to the tables and graphs introduced in  earlier chapters. This is somewhat annoying since one has to search for them and keep juggling between pages. It would have been better if such tables and graphs  were repeated where they are discussed or been collated in form of an appendix. This is the only drawback of this well-written , interesting and reader-friendly book.

Highly recommend it as an introductory text on medical statistics. ! 


Saturday, December 21, 2013

Disciplined Agile Delivery by Scott Ambler and Mark Lines

 Success of agile methods in small organizations with co-located teams is well known.
 But scaling Agile to an enterprise level is a different ball game. 
It requires a more rigorous approach than many of the popular agile methodologies . 
The rigor is needed especially in the areas like architectural planning, modeling , risk management and governance. The challenge here is how to bring about this rigor without compromising on Agile values and principles. 
Disciplined Agile Delivery (DAD) , is a process framework that meets this challenge.
 It takes a pragmatic approach that strikes a right balance between a lightweight, highly people dependent agile method and an overweight, highly documentation oriented traditional development. 
 DAD framework is fully described in this book by Scott Ambler and Mark Lines, who are its creators.Highly recommended for anyone who needs a practical and pragmatic advice on first steps towards scaling Agile.
Read more about this book in my business blog

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

India Inside by Nirmalya Kumar and Phanish Puranam

Why doesn't Indian businesses come out with  products like Google, iPod, and Viagra  ? 
Is India a laggard in business innovation? 
No, say the authors of this book Prof. Nirmalya Kumar and Prof. Phanish Puranam of London Business School who are experts on business in India.
The point they make through this book is  - a considerable innovation does take place in India but it is invisible to end consumers around the world.

Such invisible innovations from India as discussed in this book are of  four types:
1. Globally segmented innovation led primarily by major multinational corporations that have set up "captive" innovation and R&D centers in India.
2. Outsourcing innovation to Indian firms where R&D  services are provided on contract to support new product development for consumers in the developed world.
3. Process innovation in Indian firms  as a result of low-paid yet highly skilled young Indians using their ambition to inject innovation into jobs that their Western counterparts would perceive as "dead ends"
4. Management innovation of the global delivery model to effectively bring global scale and cost efficiencies to previously locally clustered service processes.

In addition to the above invisible innovations, the authors also discuss visible innovations from India which manifest through "frugal engineering" of products and services. Frugal engineering is the uniquely Indian ability to develop using limited resources, consumer offerings that are low-cost, compact, efficient and robust.

The book also acknowledges and analyzes several constraints  to innovation in India. But based on their extensive research, the authors  believe  that despite these impediments, for the kind of innovations mentioned above, India's potential to become a significant force in the world can't be ignored. They provide several potential responses and recommendation for the MNCs and Western policy makers to deal with India's invisible-innovation and frugal engineering challenge and benefit  from it.

Well organized and well written book though slightly academic for a lay reader.
This book definitely offers an interesting perspectives on India's innovation capabilities.
A good read for professionals from any industry !

Buy Kindle Version from Amazon
(You don't need to own a Kindle device to enjoy Kindle books. Download  free Kindle apps to start reading Kindle books on your Smartphone/ Tablet/ PC)

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Friday, November 29, 2013

50 Best Business Ideas of the Last 50 years by Ian Wallis (Editor)

As the title mentions this book offers a selection of 50 business ideas which according to the editor are the best ones over the last 50 years.
Each of these business ideas are described in a seperate chapter in a structured manner  as per the following sections -
The Background,  Commercial Impact, What Happened Next

The ideas are categorized as per the decades as follows:

1960s (18 chapters) - The Pill, The Disposable Nappy, Contact Lenses, Sattelite Television, Biometrics, Electronic Data Interchange (EDI), The Ring Pull, Touch-tone Phones, Equal Opportunities Policy, Video Conferencing, The Fax Machine, The Plastic Bag, The Microwave Oven, The Smoke Alarm, Kevlar, Aerosol Deodorant, Computer-aided design (CAD),The Internet
1970s (14 chapters) - The Pocket Calculator, Budget Airlines, Email,The Automated Teller Machine (ATM),The Computer Game, Just-in-Time Inventory Management, Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI),VHS,The Barcode, Electronic Point-of-sale (EPOS) Technology, The Global Positioning System (GPS), Fibre Optics, The Electronic Spreadsheet,The Walkman
1980s (9 chapters) - The Personal Computer (PC),Infrared Remote Controls,The Post-it Note,
The Compact Disc (CD), The 20-70-10 Rule,The Digital Camera, Remote Keyless Entry (RKE) Systems, Dyson (Dual Cyclone Vacuum Cleaner), Tablet Computers
1990s (7 chapters) -  International Overnight Courier Services,The Smartphone, Search Engines, Pay-per-click Advertising, Pay-by-swipe Technology,The Hybrid Car,The MP3 Player
2000s (2 chapters) - Google's 20% Innovation Time,The E-reader

Many writers (too many to be named) have contributed to the chapters in the book. But apart from the fact that there are some interesting facts you can find here and there in bits and pieces, none of the chapters could keep me engaged. The narration and discussions lack depth and vitality. It is just overloading the reader with facts.
You can make note of the ideas from the above list and look them up in the internet. Or you can collate all the Wikipedia articles about these ideas in one place. They will certainly make  a better read and provide you more depth in the subject matter.

But if you want some quick facts about  the 50 ideas in a handy and compact form, then this book may serve some purpose.

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Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Here's Looking at Euclid by Alex Bellos

"Math can be inspiring and brilliantly creative. Mathematical thought is one of the great achievements of human race, and arguably the foundation of all human progress. The world of mathematics is a remarkable place", says the Alex Bellos, the author of this book.
And he takes the reader on a very fascinating journey through this wonderful world of maths.
He narrates exciting stories about - the Euclidean geometry; the mathematics behind origami the art of paper folding; a tribe in the wilds of the Amazon who can count only up to five; how ants can actually count how many steps they have taken; the mathematical insights of Buddha; Sudoku and other mathematical games; the random numbers ; the number pi and many more.

The book is packed with very interesting information and  anecdotes written in a very humorous and engaging style.
This is probably the best book I have read in this genre.
Don't miss it if you like maths ! 
And even if you don't like maths, at least browse through some sections of this book. It may change the way you look at maths.

 Read an Excerpt from the book. 


Also published under the title : Alex's Adventures in Numberland
Buy Alex's Adventures in Numberland from Flipkart

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Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Interpreting the CMMI - A Process Improvement Approach

 It is very heartening to see that the authors of this book primarily take a process improvement approach towards interpreting CMMI to derive real business benefits as against writing a cookbook on how to pass a CMMI appraisal.
One limitation of this book is while trying to "write this book for the widest audience possible—that is, for the experienced process improvement practitioner, the inexperienced practitioner, the CMMI expert, and the CMMI novice" the authors have not gone deep into most of the topics they have discussed. Hence the book does not rise much above an overview book. 
Nevertheless this is one book which everyone should read if before they tackle the CMMI elephant !
Read more details about this book in my business website.
Publication Details: Authors :Margaret K. Kulpa and Kent A. Johnson ; Publisher: CRC Press LLC. ; Hardcover: 426 pages.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

The Financial Times Guide to Business Networking

How to exploit the combined power of online and offline networking for business success is what this book is all about.
Most of the concepts and techniques discussed in the book are common sense which most of the experienced professionals will be aware of.
But it may serve as a good introduction to business networking for those who are beginning their career.
Read more details about this book in my business website 

Publication Details: Author : Heather Townsend ; Published:2011; Publisher: Pearson Education Ltd. ; Paperback: 224 pages.


Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Top Business Psychology Models

Business psychology: Studies and theories which help us understand or explain human behavior, emotions and cognitions at work. Business psychology has linkages with other areas like human physiology, spirituality and philosophy which have implications on performance at work. 
In this book the authors, Cantore and Passmore, have picked 50 business psychology models.
These models are introduced in short chapters (around 4-5 pages per chapter). 
To provide a concise overview of 50 models in 200 pages is a daunting task by any standards. But the authors have done a pretty good job here in introducing the reader to these models and giving pointers to further information. 
A very good reference book which should be on the bookshelves of business leaders, consultants and coaches.
More details about this book are available on my business website.  

Publication Details: Authors : Stefan Cantore and Jonathan Passmore; Published:2012; Publisher: Kogan Page ; Paperback: 224 pages.  

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Brother : A Story of Hope and Survival from Africa’s Rebel Heart

Two half-brothers (having same father, different mothers). 
The elder one becomes  a very famous and well-respected personality. The younger one turns into a drug-addicted street gangster and spends a year in prison ( for a crime he did not commit). 
Once out of the prison, inspired by his elder brother's achievements, the younger one reforms himself through self-determination, and works for betterment of lives of the slum children in Kenya.
Sounds like an old run of the mill Bollywood movie story ? 
Yes, but it is not.
This is a real story . 

This book is an autobiography of the younger brother George Obama, whose elder half-brother is none other than the President Barack Obama. 
A well-written narrative story that takes the readers on a fascinating journey through  the life of George Obama.
His childhood days in his grandmother's home; his bonding with his French step-father; his education in some of the best schools in Kenya; his life taking turn for worse after his mother's divorce from his step-father; his life as a street-gangster; his tenure in prison and finally the road to rehabilitation as a community activist. 

An inspiring read that shows that there is hope for everyone. 
As the author put's it "Hope is that thing inside us that insists, despite all the evidence to the contrary, that something better awaits us if we have the courage to reach for it and to work for it and to fight for it that there is hope for everyone".

Don't miss it !

[Author: George Obama  (with  Damien Lewis); Publisher: Endeavour Press Ltd; (Kindle Edition). Also published earlier as "Homeland: An Extraordinary Story of Hope and Survival" by Simon & Schuster in hardcover format (294 pages)]

Some Excerpts:
  • "Hope is not blind optimism … Hope is that thing inside us that insists, despite all the evidence to the contrary, that something better awaits us if we have the courage to reach for it and to work for it and to fight for it."
  • "‘Stuff happens in life that we don’t expect,’ she cut in. ‘Look at me: whoever would have thought I’d end up here? But I deal with it; it’s not so bad; a good life can be made almost anywhere." 
  • "As I held that photo in my hand I felt a mixture of emotions coursing through my veins. There was pain at the fact of losing him, and losing all that love that so clearly showed in the way he was holding me, and the light in his eyes. And there was confusion, too, for this man cradling me with such tenderness was an utter stranger to me. If he had lived would I have called him ‘father’, as I was unable to do with Christian, and he call me ‘son’? And how then might my life have been changed? "

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Sunday, September 22, 2013

Coffee with Mozart

[Author: Julian Rushton; Publisher: Duncan Baird Publishers; Hardcover: 148 pages ]
This pocket-sized biography of the world renowned Western Classical music composer Mozart is written in an interesting format.

It is in the form of imaginary chat between the author and Mozart over a cup of coffee shortly before the death of the musical genius in 1791.

The conversation covers a fairly wide gamut of  Mozart's life - his upbringing; his wonderful compositions; his achievements; his relationships with his father, social superiors and fellow artists; his religious and political beliefs; his precarious finances.

During this conversation Mozart comes out as quite a friendly and helpful person, despite his egotism and tendency  to be whimsical and moody.

The author has helpfully provided a short conventional biography of Mozart in the beginning of the book to set the context for the readers who may not know much about Mozart's life.

Not sure how much  a lay person will appreciate this book. But Western Classical music lovers may find this book an interesting read.



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Thursday, September 12, 2013

Rock, Paper, Scissors -Game Theory in Everyday Life

[Author: Len Fisher; Publisher: Hay House; Hardcover: 288 pages ]
Game theory is the study of strategic decision making. 
It has been extensively used to explain many behavioral patterns in 
economics, political science, psychology and biology.
Even in our day to day life game theory can guide us towards effective strategies to use in situations of competition and conflict.

But this book explores the other side of the game theory that concerns  cooperation rather than conflicts, collaboration rather than competition.

Len Fisher, the author discusses how game theory can help us develop 
fresh strategies for cooperation.

The book begins with a chapter that explains Nash equilibrium concepts. 
Nash equilibrium is a situation created during  interaction among two or more parties where at least one party fares worse but from which it can't escape without faring  still worse. This happens when every party acts out of self-interest leading to many serious social dilemmas and problems. 

The next chapter discusses the ways to divide resources fairly using strategies as I Cut and You Choose and shows that we can't rely on external authorities or on our own sense of fairness to produce lasting cooperation. Rather we need to explore how  our own self-interest can be used to make the cooperation self-enforcing.

The third chapter uses game theory to examine how social dilemmas actually arise. Seven social dilemmas are discussed viz;  The Prisoner's Dilemma, The Tragedy of Commons, The Free Rider, Chicken, The Volunteer's Dilemma, The Battle of the Sexes and the Stag Hunt. 

The next four chapters deal with  strategies  for cooperation that include a variant of Rock, Paper, Scissors game, new methods of cooperative bargaining, methods for eliciting trust, and the use of tit-for-tat strategies. The author discusses how such strategies emerge and how to use them to promote cooperation rather than confrontation in the society. 

Then follows a chapter that investigates the possibility of  avoiding  social dilemmas by changing the game itself, either by introducing new players or by applying quantum theory concepts. 

In the last chapter author presents his personal top ten list of tips for effective strategies in different situations which are as follows.
  1. Stay if you win, shift if you loose
  2. Bring an extra player in
  3. Set up some form of reciprocity
  4. Restrict your own future options so that you will lose out if you defect on cooperation.
  5. Offer trust
  6. Create a situation that neither party can independently escape from without loss
  7. Use side payments to create and maintain cooperative conditions
  8. Be aware of the seven deadly dilemmas, and try to reorganize the benefits and costs to different players so that the dilemma disappears
  9. Divide goods, responsibilities, jobs, and penalties so that the result is envy-free
  10. Divide large groups into smaller ones 
I really liked the writing style of the author which is easy to understand, humorous and autobiographical (since many game theory examples are drawn from his personal life).
Some  alternate titles for this book could be "Game Theory for Dummies" or "Game Theory Without Tears"
I highly recommend this book to anyone who wants to know the basics of game theory in a quick and interesting manner.


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Friday, September 6, 2013

Organisation Culture - Getting it Right

Author:         Naomi Stanford 
Published:   2010
Publisher:    Profile Books Ltd.
Paperback:  288 pages
This book on corporate culture is intended for managers and business people who are struggling to: 
a) Understand the culture of their organization
b) Get a grip on why it matters 
c) Get their culture right for their business strategy 
d) Avoid the common mistakes of "culture change" 
e) Keep their culture from getting stuck
This book provides a very common-sense, practical, realistic and pragmatic approach towards understanding and working with organization culture. An excellent and enlightening read. Highly recommend it as "the first book one should read about Organization Culture" ! 
Read more about this book in my business blog.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

People Analytics - How Social Sensing Technology Will Transform Business and What It Tells Us about the Future of Work

Author:       Ben Waber
Publisher:   FT Press ;
Hardcover: 240 pages.
People Analytics involves measuring, collecting and analyzing the data which characterizes the people's behavioral patterns.
While the traditional methods of collecting such data has been through direct observations or through surveys, the emerging trend is the use of social sensors like company ID badges, cell phones etc.
This has a huge potential to enable an organization to understand in a better manner, how their people work and collaborate. This will provide them with actionable insights for improving the effectiveness and productiveness of the work force.
Ben Waber, an expert on organizational dynamics and social sensing technologies shows in this book how this is possible.
 A very well written and interesting book to read !
Read more details about this book on my business blog..

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Geek Nation - How Indian Science is Taking Over the World

[Author: Angela Saini; Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton; Hardcover: 288 pages ]
Who is a Geek ? 
From the author's perspective geek is someone who is very passionate about a scientific, technological or any other intellectual pursuit. She uses this term in a very complimentary manner.
In the western world Indians are perceived as geeks or nerds.
Angela Saini an UK born award winning science journalist of  Indian origin travels widely across India (during 2008-10) to check on the veracity of this perception.

She meets and interviews several scientists, technologists, researchers in premier academic institutions, research institutes, IT companies.
The outcome of this scientific pilgrimage is this book which presents the 
picture of the status of the scientific education and research in India. 

A book of this sort could have easily turned out to be a dry and scholarly compilation of recorded interviews and its readership been confined to academicians and researchers. 
But Saini  very effectively manages to write it in a a fairly enjoyable travelogue style with right blend of information and humor. After all she is a reporter.
"Angela in the Geekland" would have been a more apt title for this book ! 

This book educated me on several facets of scientific and technology research and development  in India which I was unaware of for e.g. OSDD (Open Source Drug Discovery) initiative, Spoken Web project, Lavasa Corporation, e-Courts  etc.

I am not sure whether this book presents a complete scenario of scientific research in India but whatever is presented in this book certainly makes an interesting read.
Therefore I would recommend this book to anyone who is keen on knowing some of the interesting facets of scientific research scenario in India around 2008-2010.



Underlying themes of various chapters and the people and organizations featured in  them are given below.


Underlying Theme: Origins of Space Research in India
  • Professor U.R. Rao, Vikram Sarabhai Space Research Center, Trivandrum 
Chapter 1 Brain Games
Underlying Theme: Engineering & Science  Education
  • Professor Vijay Singh, International Science Olympiad Training Center
  • Nitin Jain, IIT-JEE 2009 Topper & Winner of several medals in Science Olympiads
  • Professor Santanu Chaudhury, Dean of Undergraduate Studies, IIT Delhi
  • Professor Ambuj Sagar, IIT Delhi
  • Prerit Jain  - Undergraduate student, IIT Delhi
  • Rajdeep Sahrawat, VP NASSCOM
  • Ravindra Shah, Chief Compliance Officer, Tata Consultancy Services
  • Ananth Krishnan, Technologist, Tata Consultancy Services
Chapter 2 Electronics City

Underlying Theme: IT Industry
  • Thomas Simon, VP-HR, Tata Consultancy Services
  • Narayana Murthy, Founder, Infosys Technologies
  • Dr. Manish Gupta, Director, IBM Labs, India
  • Yusuf Motiwala & Apul Nahata , Founders, TringMe
  • Nishant Ranka - Undergraduate student, IIT Delhi
Chapter 3 The Long-Life Banana

Underlying Theme: Genetically Modified Crops
  • Dr  Pravendra Nath, Molecular Biologist, National Botanical Research Institute
  • Vijay Jawandhia, a farmers' right activist, Vidharba
  • Vandana Shiva, a rural rights activist, New Delhi
  • Dr. Ajay Parida, Executive Director, MS Swaminathan Research Foundation
Chapter 4 Chariots of the Gods 

Underlying Theme: Vedic Sciences
  • Subbarao Narayana, Academy of Sanskrit Research, Melkote
  • Dr. Satyanarayana, Oriental Research Institute, Mysore
  • Sanal Edamaruku, President, Indian Rationalist Association, New Delhi
  • Meera Nanda, Historian and Researcher, Institute of Advanced Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi
  • Sunderaj Chandrashekar, Academy of Sanskrit Research, Melkote
  • Professor MRS Narasimha Murthy, Head, Molecular Biophysics, Indian Institute of Science, Bengaluru 
 Chapter 5 The Mindreading Machine

Underlying Theme: Forensic Sciences
  • Dr Sunny Joseph, Directorate of Forensic Science Laboratory, Mumbai
  • CR Mukundan, Inventor of Brain Electrical Oscillations Signature (BEOS) software
Chapter 6 Geek's Rule 

Underlying Theme: e-Governance
  • Scot Wrighton, City Manager, Lavasa Corporation
  • Vineeta Dixit, Principal Consultant -e-Governance Plan, Ministry of Communication and Information Technology, New Delhi
  • RK Sharma, Computer Analyst & Programmer, Department of IT, Rajasthan
  • Girish Kumar Sharma, Registrar, Delhi High Court
Chapter 7 The Impossible Drug

Underlying Theme: Bio-medical Research
  • Professor Virandar Chauhan, International Center for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology, New Delhi
  • Dr. Sujatha Narayanan, Deputy Director, Department of Immunology, Tuberculosis Research Center, Chennai
  • Dr. Sridhar Sivasubbu, Researcher, Institute of Genomics and Integrative Biology, New Delhi
  • Dr. Sulagna Banerjee, Madras Institute of Technology, Chennai
  • Zakir Thomas, Scientist, Council of Scientific and Industrial Research, New Delhi 
Chapter 8 Brainpower

Underlying Theme: Nuclear Energy
  • Dr Ratan Kumar Sinha, Director - Reactor Design and Development Group, Bhaba Atomic Research Centre, Mumbai
 Chapter 9 Rocket Science

Underlying Theme: Space Program 
  • Narayana Moorthy, Researcher, Vikram Sarabhai Space Research Center, Trivandrum
  • Madhavan Nair, Ex-Chairman, Indian Space Research Organization

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Tuesday, August 13, 2013

People CMM 2nd Edition

Authors:        Bill Curtis, William E. Hefley , Sally A. Miller 
Published:    2009
Publisher:    Addison-Wesley Professional
Hardcover: 694 pages.

People Capability Maturity Model (P-CMM) is a Human Capital Management framework developed by Carnegie Mellon University. 

This book describes the People Capability Maturity Model (P-CMM) in totality and is the single authoritative and valid reference for internal assessments and SCAMPI appraisals based on this model. 
It is a very significant contribution to the Human Capital Management literature. 

Read more details about this book in my business blog.

Monday, August 5, 2013

The Immortals

[Author: Amit Chaudhuri; Publisher: Picador; Paperback: 424 pages ]
This novel has three main characters - Nirmalya an adololescent boy, his mother Mallika Sengupta and their music teacher Shyamji.
Set in the backdrop of Mumbai of 1980s and Hindustani classical music as the underlying theme the book explores the relationship between these characters in a very laid-back leisurely manner as the story unfolds.
The Immortals has  several awards to its credit and was also shortlisted for the Commonwealth Writers Prize for Best Book 2009.
The story does not have a conventional plot . Reading experience was more like watching a documentary film. The ending was rather abrupt. In fact the author could have chosen to end the story at any point of time in the narration and it would not have made any difference.
However the poetic style interspersed with subtle humor employed by the author while he sketches the characters and describes the city of  Mumbai (then Bombay) of thirty years back in time kept me fully engrossed till the end.
Readers used to fast paced novels with twists and turns may not appreciate this book.
But definitely a good read as far as I am concerned.

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Saturday, July 27, 2013

Science - A Four Thousand Year History

[Author: Patricia Fara; Publisher: Oxford University Press; Paperback: 512 pages ]
First I will let the author Patricia Fara  to introduce her book.
(Play the embedded video below. In case of any problem view it on the YouTube site)

This book:
  • Does not portray scientists and inventors as ideal heroes but as  real people who needed to earn their living, who made mistakes, who trampled down their rivals, or even sometimes got bored and did something else.
  • Argues that for a scientific idea to prevail it being right is not always enough. People should accept the fact that the idea is right.
  • Challenges the notion of European superiority in science,  by showing how science has been built up from knowledge and skills developed in other parts of the world like China and Islamic world.
  • Instead of focusing on  abstract theories proposed and esoteric experiments conducted by scientists , it explains how science belongs to the real world of war, politics, and business.
  • Describes the works of many individuals who were not scientists in conventional sense, but who developed a variety of skills - navigating by the stars, smelting ores, preparing herbal medicines, building ships, designing cannon - the contributed to the global scientific enterprises of today.
  • Explains why the following questions are important and suggests ways of tackling them:
    • Does religion inhibit or encourage science?
    • Are alchemy and magic completely divorced from science?
    • Were there really so few women or have historians the picture by telling too many exciting adventure stories about intrepid men exploring the female nature of world?
    • Is it possible to have different types of science that are all valid?
    • If there were indeed different sciences in different places, then how are they related to each other and modern science?
  • Investigates the financial interests, imperial ambitions, and academic enterprises that made science global.
  • Shows that what counts as a scientific fact depends not only on the natural world but also on who is doing research and where and when.
  • Argues that scientific knowledge as it travels from one environment to another, is constantly adapted and absorbed in different ways and such transformation is still continuing.
  • Challenges assumptions that appear natural yet have been created artificially - it aims to provoke thought and argument, not just provide information.
  • Looks at past in order to find out how we've arrived at the present in order to improve the future.
The book has seven parts each consisting of seven short (8-10 pages) chapters. Discussions are well supported by illustrations, anecdotes. Author's sense of humor and sarcasm.also surfaces at several places.

One drawback in this book is , barring a few stray references here and their the contribution of  India towards the development of science is not given due credit. In fact decimal arithmetic and the concept of zero was  discovered in India before it spread elsewhere.

Though the readers looking for something more technical will be disappointed, overall this book is quite a light and entertaining read on the sociological history of science for a layman.

Key Points from the Book

Part I: Origins
Key Points : Science's origin is traced to ancient Babylonia & Greece. Ideas and discoveries pertained to projects like finding auspicious time for religious festivals, winning wars, vindicating biblical prophecies, divining the future, explaining the cosmos. Science's very foundation lie in techniques and concepts now often designated as magical or pseudo-scientific.
Chapter Titles : Sevens, Babylon, Heroes, Cosmos, Life, Matter, Technology

Part II: Interactions
Key Points: What counts as science depends on where and when you are looking. Information, skills and objects constantly travel from one place to another, gets passed on through generations and get adapted to local needs and taste. Scientific knowledge resulted from many centuries of communications and interactions between different peoples and places especially China, the Islamic world and the mediaeval  Europe.

Chapter Titles: Eurocentrism, China, Islam, Scholarship, Europe, Aristotle, Alchemy

Part III: Experiments

Key Points: Experimental approach towards the world that characterizes modern science developed only gradually and intermittently. Many innovations arose from reformulating traditional expertise rather than from inspired insights. Ancient ideas coexisted with ones now belonging to modern science. For e.g. coexistence of  -  both Aristotle's theory and Copernican theory of the Universe; magic, alchemy and mathematics.

Chapter Titles: Exploration, Magic, Astronomy, Bodies, Machines, Instruments, Gravity

Part IV: Institutions
 Key Points: Science is an integral component of the society, interwoven with industry, business, warfare, government, and medicine. Eighteenth century was the vital transition phase from private experiments of a select few who were wealthy to the public laboratories, state funding of institutions and industrialization. Institutions though lacking the charisma of heroics of individual discoverers and inventors were vital for advertising scientific achievements and for attracting financial backing for research projects.

Chapter Titles: Societies, Systems, Careers, Industries, Revolutions, Rationality, Disciplines

Part V: Laws
 Key Points: The nineteenth-century scientists' proposed  laws governing human as well as physical world  arrived through supposedly objective reasoning and precise recording of  facts as detached observers. But personal biases and subjective assessments of recorded results were not uncommon among these scientists. The viewpoint of German Romantic philosophers of this era who stressed a unified cosmos in which human beings are integrated within natural world resonates more with modern environmental attitudes.

Chapter Titles: Progress, Globalization, Objectivity, God, Evolution, Power, Time

Part VI: Invisibles 
Key Points: Despite development of increasingly precise instruments in the nineteenth and twentieth century it remained impossible for the atomic scientists to know everything about every natural phenomena  both theoretically and practically due to the uncertainty permeating in every aspect of the Universe. Many politically and commercially motivated research programs claiming to further science and improve humanity, launched triggered deep ethical reservations.

Chapter Titles: Life, Disease, Rays, Particles, Genes, Chemicals, Uncertainties

Part VII:
Key Points:  Modern scientists know much, much more than the ancient Babylonians about the structure of the Universe and mechanisms of the living organisms. But they are still unable to answer some of the basic questions about human existence asked by the people several thousand years ago.Massive investments in science, technology, and medicine yielded great achievements. Yet these achievements are like a double-edged sword. Political decisions needs to be made about how to take advantage of scientific discoveries.

Chapter Titles: Warfare, Heredity, Cosmology, Information, Rivalry, Environment, Futures


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Thursday, June 20, 2013

Chasing the Mountain of Light

[Author: Kevin Rushby; Publisher: Constable and Company Ltd.
Hardcover: 276 pages ]
The world famous diamond Koh-i-Noor (which means "Mountain of Light" in Persian language) has been adorning the British monarch's crown since 1850s. How it landed up there is a fascinating story.
In late 1990s the author Kevin Rushby  traveled through India following the trial of Koh-i-Noor diamond from Kollur mines in Andhra Pradesh to Amritsar in Punjab.
This book is an account of this journey during which he met people from all walks of life - miners, smugglers, merchants , politicians, royalty, bureaucrats, scholars , academicians - in the places where the renowned diamond has passed through hundreds of years ago. These encounters helped him to know more about the Koh-i-Noor and also provided him a good exposure to the Indian society where he found "both the depths of human greed and heights of spiritual aspiration".
An interesting travelogue. A good light-read to pass your time.

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