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HAF Book Club: May poll and discussion

Started by Sandra Craft, April 18, 2021, 03:47:41 AM

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Sandra Craft

Black Hole Survival Guide, by Janna Levin. From the acclaimed author of Black Hole Blues and Other Songs from Outer Space--an authoritative and accessible guide to the most alluring and challenging phenomena of contemporary science. (160 pages)
Laughing Without an Accent: Adventures of an Iranian American at Home and Abroad, by Firoozeh Dumas. A collection of humorous vignettes by the author of Funny in Farsi, primarily centered on the misadventures of her Iranian immigrant family.  (256 pages)

Grunt: the curious science of humans at war, by Mary Roach.  A book not about fighting or tactics, but the science behind keeping ones own soldiers alive.  (288 pages)

Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, by Annie Dillard.  Dillard's personal narrative highlights one year's exploration on foot in the Virginia region through which Tinker Creek runs. The result is an exhilarating tale of nature and its seasons.  (288 pages)

The Sky's the Limit, by Anna Magnusson.  In 2004, Vicky Jack completed the Seven Summits - the highest mountains in each of the seven continents. Whilst pursuing her climbing dream, she also carried on a high-flying career. This book tells her story.  (212 pages)

What I Talk About When I Talk About Running: a memoir, by Haruki Murakami.  Based on Murakami's journal about training for the NYC marathon, it's about writing, running and how they intersect.   (188 pages)


"Life is short, and it is up to you to make it sweet."  Sarah Louise Delany

Sandra Craft

We have another tie and, since it's been a while since I broke one, I'll be tie-breaker this time.  May's book is Black Hole Survival Guide.


"Life is short, and it is up to you to make it sweet."  Sarah Louise Delany


I will check that one out Sandy.  Lately there have been reports that an actual black hole is closer to us than previously observed. 

Thank you for the touch of class that you contribute to this forum. 

Sandra Craft

My FB review:

Written somewhat tongue in cheek by an actual physicist and astronomer, this small book spends about 140 pages telling you all about black holes, how to approach them, and what (likely) happens if you fall inside before admitting that, in fact, there is no surviving a black hole.  Good to know before I wasted a trip.

I don't think I remember more than 5% of what I read right now, and that'll probably be gone in a few days, but still I very much enjoyed reading this book.  Rather than feeling baffled and lost, as I have lately with science books, I swear I could feel my brain cells expanding as I read this even tho I wasn't grasping more than a fraction of it.  That was a very agreeable experience. 

Also, I noticed that Levin has written a novel called "A Madman Dreams of Turing Machines", which I think I must read.

Your quote:
"In this retelling, we are challenged to maintain two mutually exclusive propositions.  The information falls into the black hole never to escape and the information escapes.  Which is it?  And here is the radical suggestion: both.  That is the conjecture.  Both happen.  It's as if you, or at least your information, has a double.  you and your qubits* have fallen into the hole, while your double in qubits also escapes the hole.  You and Alice** don't even agree on your extermination, on basic facts, and your composite reality corrodes even more.  But, the designers of the idea say placatingly that no one will ever know, no one will ever be able to observe two contradictory events.  You and Alice will never be reunited to tell your sorrowful tales.  Alice would recover your qubits outside the black hole like ashes from a cremation and be none the wiser if she leapt in after you to meet her death alone in the interior, your double long since dispensed with by the singularity.

If proven, we have struck pretty close to a proof of the nonexistence of God: there can be no superobserver, no omniscient being. "

* values of an opaque data type rather than objects  [yeah.  I just thought of them as the information that describes our physical existence, but not sure if that's right]

** an imaginary companion who's on a space station nearby watching you go into the black hole

Heady stuff.


"Life is short, and it is up to you to make it sweet."  Sarah Louise Delany


The book is written as a travel guide, and like all travel guides, from the point of view of the author as they describe their own adventure and give details of what to expect and advice for navigating through. Even though they make it perfectly clear that there is no surviving a trip into a black hole.

For me, there was a lot of myth busting going on, and I'm a bit wiser for reading the book. The author uses real physics and scientific knowledge to speculate what it might be like to fall into a black hole. I had only known a few actual scientific facts about black holes and a head filled with science fiction, which made this book very refreshing and interesting for me.

I highly recommend this book for anyone interested in traveling into a black hole.
Always question all authorities because the authority you don't question is the most dangerous... except me, never question me.