Friday, September 30, 2005

Some of the notable reading material in my life

Note: dates are not publication dates, but dates read.

John Grisham novels, mid/late 90s.

Grisham’s courtroom dramas were riveting. They got me curious about the legal world to the extent of reading law books out of interest.

Changing to Methodist College in Sentul, 1999 to 2000.

In hindsight, the best thing about this institute was that it was so damn far from home. The train ride to school takes 45 minutes, and the ride back another 45 minutes. I adopted the habit of grabbing magazines from home to read on the dull train rides. Over the course of 2 years, I went through countless publications of Time, Discovery, Scientific America, Far Eastern Economic Review, Asiaweek, National Geographic, Planetary Review and Reader’s Digest. Yes, we used to subscribe to all of them.

An article in Scientific America, late 2000.

In one short article, I learned about exponential functions, polar coordinates, the natural log and Euler’s number, e. From SPM (O-Level) mathematics, it was a quantum leap. I managed the leap, and plotted my first logarithmic spiral and investigated the curious polar coordinate system (I figured its just the Cartesian half-plane with no negative X, then wrapped round and round a point) while studying for my SPM.

“A Brief History of Time” – Stephen Hawking, 2001.

This was THE book that set me on to non-classical physics. First time I ever saw a Minkowski diagram, light cone, curled up spatial dimentions and strings. Not to mention the connection between black holes and the Chandrasekhar limit on a star’s mass.

“Sophie’s World” – Jostien Gaarder, 2002.

A very good introduction to the history of Western philosophy. Also helped me realise that the validity ideas and thought are not set in stone.

Lecture notes for “Spacetime and Matter” – Keith Baker, 2004.

All the way from The University of Nottingham's School of Physics and Astronomy, this was my definitive introduction to special relativity and quantum physics.

“Prime Obsession: Bernhard Riemann and the greatest unsolved problem in mathematics” – John Derbyshire, 2004.

This was the book that got me interested in number theory. Hideously nasty material for a noob, but so well written that you can survive even if you miss some of the difficult stuff.

“Deception Point” – Dan Brown, 2004.

Storyline is ok, writing style is fine, pace is nice and fast. The key point was analysis of data. If the truth of one statement depends on another earlier statement, one should check the validity of the preceding statement too.