The CR4 Book Club

The CR4 Book Club is a forum to discuss fiction and non-fiction books that have science, engineering or technology thematic elements. The club will read and discuss several books a year. All CR4 users are invited to participate. Look out for book announcements and the ensuing discussions that follow, but beware of potential spoilers!

Next Book- Three Moments of an Explosion

Posted November 04, 2016 8:27 AM by Bayes

For any CR4 members that are interested, the CR4 Book Club will next be reading and discussing Three Moments of an Explosion by China Mieville.

Here is the synopsis from Amazon:

NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY The Washington Post • NPR • The Guardian • Kirkus Reviews
The fiction of multiple award–winning author China Miéville is powered by intelligence and imagination. Like George Saunders, Karen Russell, and David Mitchell, he pulls from a variety of genres with equal facility, employing the fantastic not to escape from reality but instead to interrogate it in provocative, unexpected ways.

London awakes one morning to find itself besieged by a sky full of floating icebergs. Destroyed oil rigs, mysteriously reborn, clamber from the sea and onto the land, driven by an obscure purpose. An anatomy student cuts open a cadaver to discover impossibly intricate designs carved into a corpse’s bones—designs clearly present from birth, bearing mute testimony to . . . what?

Of such concepts and unforgettable images are made the twenty-eight stories in this collection—many published here for the first time. By turns speculative, satirical, and heart-wrenching, fresh in form and language, and featuring a cast of damaged yet hopeful seekers who come face-to-face with the deep weirdness of the world—and at times the deeper weirdness of themselves—Three Moments of an Explosion is a fitting showcase for one of literature’s most original voices.

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Book Club Discussion: Dark Matter by Blake Crouch

Posted October 31, 2016 12:00 AM by Bayes

CR4 Book Club Discussion:

Dark Matter

by Blake Crouch (2016)

A group of us at IEEE GlobaSpec read Dark Matter by Blake Crouch. We discussed the book and came up with some interesting topics and points about the book. We are now wondering what your thoughts are.

Some things we wondered:

· Is the premise plausible?

· Can you trust the narrator?

· Were there too many versions of Jason?

· Are people more predictable than we think we are?

· Does each decision turn us into someone different than the person we were before the decision?

If you haven’t read the book these questions and the conversation that follows will have a lot of spoilers.

22 comments; last comment on 11/06/2016
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Book Review: The Checklist Manifesto

Posted December 23, 2011 9:30 AM by wilmot

The Checklist Manifesto

by Atul Gawande

The author is a prominent surgeon in Boston, who is also a staff writer for the New Yorker. The simple checklist is by now familiar to everyone from watching NASA countdowns, but before 1935 the concept was unknown. Only after a fatal crash of an experimental bomber due to simple pilot error did test pilots start to make up checklists to catch the stupid stuff. Engineers since then have made routine use of checklists, but not surgeons, until Dr. Gawande conducted a trial in 2008 with 8 hospitals around the world. He found that simple surgery checklists reduced mishaps by 36% and deaths by 47%. This is a great vindication of the engineering approach and a rebuttal of the prima donna professional who thinks he's on top of everything.

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Book Review - The Bishop’s Boys: A Life of Wilbur and Orville Wright

Posted December 01, 2010 8:30 AM by Ron

Tom Crouch's book about the Wright Brothers is one that I'd seen reviewed, probably ever since it came out in 1989. The Bishop's Boys: A Life of Wilbur and Orville Wright is also a book I knew I ought to read "one of these days". Well, this year at Oshkosh, I spotted a copy at an aviation bookseller's place and grabbed it. I'm glad that I did!

I've read at least half a dozen books on the Wright Brothers, plus many shorter articles, and yet this book covered territory new to me - and more clearly than anything I've seen before. The bibliography cites over 150 documents, and some of the footnotes refer to private conversations or correspondence with descendants of the people involved. This must have been a huge undertaking: the finished product runs 37 chapters and 606 pages. One review says that it took ten years of work to write. Every chapter has anywhere from a dozen to more than 40 footnotes (all gathered at the back, permitting the reader to read straight through if that is their preference).

According to the book's back cover, author "Tom Crouch is chairman of the department of aeronautics at the National Air & Space Museum of the Smithsonian Institution." Dr. Crouch's current title there is Senior Curator. That, together with several degrees in history, pretty well supports his qualifications to write such a book, and in part explains how he received access to so many sources that were previously untouched.

A short biography lists some of the awards that Dr. Crouch's books have won. The Bishop's Boys: A Life of Wilbur and Orville Wright got the 1989 Christopher Award, a literary prize recognizing "significant artistic achievement in support of the highest values of the human spirit", and gives more of his very impressive background.

Summary: I recommend this book without reservation!

Editor's Note: CR4 would like to thank Ron Darner, newsletter editor for Chapter 320 of the Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA), for contributing this book review.

7 comments; last comment on 08/14/2011
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Book Review: World Made By Hand

Posted May 20, 2010 11:06 AM by Steve Melito

"Children like my Daniel and Genna had sat in those very box buildings under buzzing fluorescent lights listening to their science teachers prattle about the wonders of space travel and gene splicing and how we were all going to live to be a hundred and twenty five years old in 'smart' computer-controlled houses where all we had to do was speak to bump up the heat or turn on the giant home theater screens in a life of perpetual leisure and comfort. It made me sick to think about it. Not because there's something necessarily wrong with leisure or comfort, but because that's where our aspirations ended. And in the face of what had happened to us, it seemed obscenely stupid". pp. 33-34

In World Made by Hand, James Howard Kunstler uses shades of gray to paint a portrait of small-town America after Armageddon. Set in Union Grove, New York, an upstate hamlet in rural Washington County, World Made by Hand is far brighter than the future imagined in either Cormac McCarthy's The Road or James Cameron's The Terminator. Some residents, such as the leaders of Union Grove's four subcultures, enjoy varying degrees of economic success, improved social status, or spiritual growth. For others, such as those Union Grove residents who cling to a twentieth-century past of plenty, Kunstler's world is a dark and desperate place.

Much as a good horror movie shrouds a killer or monster during the film's earliest scenes, James Howard Kunstler keeps most of the back-story to World Made by Hand off-stage. The United States exists, albeit only nominally, after losing Washington D.C. and Los Angeles to nuclear attacks. Rioting in other cities, a war in the Middle East, and an oil embargo that dwarves those of the 1970s cripples what remains of the nation's economy. TV stations go off the air, the electrical grid works sporadically, and roads and bridges fall into disrepair. There are no newspapers and there is no mail. For the residents of a small-town in upstate New York, isolation from the outside world is both a blessing and a break with the past.

Ironically, survival in Kunstler's world depends upon the ability to embrace a more distant past as both the new present and the only foreseeable future. Robert Earle, a former software company executive, builds barns when he's not serving Union Grove as its new mayor. Stephen Bullock, the son of a successful cider supplier to a now-defunct supermarket chain, builds an estate – complete with agricultural and technological novelties – reminiscent of Thomas Jefferson's Monticello. Wayne Karp, a drug dealer who now scavenges the local landfill for building materials, forms his own fiefdom among residents of a ragged trailer park. Brother Job, the mysterious leader of a religious sect called the New Faith Brotherhood, buys the old Union Grove high school to build a New Jerusalem.

It is this high school, the subject of Robert Earle's soliloquy at the beginning of this book review, which brings the end of our modern age into such sharp relief. It's not just that there's no space travel, gene splicing, fluorescent lighting, or even dreams of "perpetual leisure and comfort" in World Made by Hand. It's not just the high school's classrooms are now workshops and its athletic fields arable lands. As Brother Jobe explains to Robert Earle as the end of the book, "Back in the machine times, there was so much noise front and back, so to speak, it kept us from knowing what lies below the surface of things. Now it stands out more".

3 comments; last comment on 05/21/2010
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