25 Stories that Stays with me (17-25)

This is the last part of my 25 favorite stories series. You can find the first part and the second part here and here.

Without further ado, let’s get on with the rest of the list.

  • 17.Monster – Naoki Urasawa(Manga)

    This is the first Urasawa’s comics I read and I’m still very fond of it even though it is probably not the best one compared to his recent works. The drama and the plot is enough to make it a masterpiece on its own right despite the shortcoming on scripts. I don’t quite see stories with all-around characterization like this one so often. Someone has described it as a thriller with a throbbing heart and I totally agree.
  •  18. Gun, Germ, and Steel – Jared Diamond (Book)
    This one is on the top of my nonfiction pile. I’ve always liked history as it provides an insight to the development of cultures and societies. But Diamond goes beyond that and explains why cultures flourish at a different pace around the world and why one is more technologically advanced than the other. One can argue that his theory is an oversimplified hypothesis. But as a physicist who works with simplified models, I would say it is sufficient. More importantly, it is an awe-inspiring outlook at how the world comes to be.
  • 19.Ishmael – Daniel Quinn (Book)
    Another outlook at our anthropological viewpoint through a completely fictional setting. This book is as awe-inspiring as Gun, Germ, and Steel but takes a philosophical point of view rather than a scientific one. Nevertheless, it communicates some very compelling messages. I personally think fictionalized it is the most ingenious way of conveying some very fundamental ideas as people are more easily connected to stories than abstract concept. One of the author’s achievement would be to expose our vulnerability to accept ideas in our culture unknowingly. It is one nice slap in the face if you are into this kind of things.
  • 20.Food Inc. – Robert Kenner (Documentary)

    This is probably the most terrifying thing you’ll ever watch whether you live in North America or not. Some scenes in this documentary has the same effect on me as watching reels on genocide. In a sense, it is a genocide when you herd hundreds and hundreds of pigs into a “chamber” to efficiently kill them. This is great insight into the price of feeding a massive developed population and following an ideal of easy and perfect food. 
  • 21.No Impact Man – Colin Beavan (Documentary)

    Does living Green takes away the joy of life? This documentary answers that with a definite NO. This is a very inspirational journey of a man who tries to live with the smallest environmental footprint possible in the middle of New York City. While I won’t say his method would suit everybody’s lifestyle, it really urges you to take the initiative and live a bit smaller, being more aware of what you take and give. Most importantly is being more aware of what you can really do. Realizing that we are not actually the slave to the way of our society is probably the most powerful thing! And, oh, did I mention I really want that bike.
  • 22.The Vampire Chronicles -Anne Rice (Book)
    This is another story I have reviewed and the only supernatural series I ever read. I also need to add a disclaimer that I only read the first three books: Interview with the Vampire, The Vampire Lestat, and The Queen of the Damned. But I think these three books are good examples of what supernatural story really is: a reflection of our humanity. I think Anne Rice did superbly in using the vampires as her looking-glass into the human mind and the turmoil of emotion and questions we usually don’t address in everyday life. If you are like me who dislike the supernatural because of the hyped terror, this one is for you to fall in love with it again.
  • 23.V for Vendetta – directed by James McTeigue, Comic book by Alan Moore and David Lloyd(Film and Comic Book)
    Can a character without a face get you hooked to a story? This one sure can and his facelessness turns out to be the greatest device of all. This is a really heavy political thriller, a stunning work of art (both movie and comic book), and one of the most distinguished story-telling coming from the most distinguished minds. Alan Moore is up there as a Comic Book Overlord and the Wachowski brothers of the Matrix fame adapted it to an ingenious screenplay. I love the message of this movie. I seriously recommend that you check it out.
  • 24. Pinball, 1973 – Haruki Murakami (Book)
    I guess this list won’t be complete if I don’t at least mention a book by Murakami. Pinball is my representation of the quality I think has given him an international fame: the bubble. The lack of firm cultural connection, or societal connection for that matter, make it accessible to anybody anywhere on the globe. It also lends to the loneliness that seeps through from between the lines and touches the readers like nothing else can. The closest comparison to his work would be an abstract art. It may not always be made to be understood, but it is made to be felt.
  • 25. EPR paradox and Bell’s Inequality (Private Study)
    I didn’t think of putting this one here at first because it is not a book, film, documentary, or in any other media form. But since we are talking about a story, this story in particular is very close to my heart as a scientist. I would not attempt to explain what EPR paradox or Bell’s Inequality is here because the lack of space and grace in my writing would only confuses you. However, I’ll try to summarize shortly only the key points of the story, Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy style.
    After the invention of Quantum Mechanics or “The Theory that Says Nature is Fuzzy and Probabilistic” or “God Plays Dice”, major players of the field got into an argument on the physical interpretation of it. Einstein maintained to the end of his life that the fuzziness scientists are seeing arise from only our lack of knowledge or “No, God Do Not Play Dice. We Just Don’t Know What He’s Doing”. His follower John S. Bell devised a mathematical description that would help us distinguish between both cases. And – Kaboom! – decades later when technology finally caught up with it, experiments reveals that indeed God has been playing dice all this time.
    Even though knowing whether God does play dice or not will not affect our daily lives because what is, is, no matter how we see it, this is still a classic case of how science in general, and physics in particular, works. With our limited understanding of the inner working of Nature, we formulate a hypothesis aimed to fully describe reality. Then rigorously we play the devil’s advocate – or better still have someone to be the devil’s advocate – and tried to prove it wrong by letting Nature do her work. The result usually rules out one or the other camp, and we end up with a better description of what is going on around us. In this case, the root of the question is actually philosophical. Thus the result is more profound as it does not only rule out one scientific theory, but uproot a very fundamental concept in our ways of thinking. It humbles me when I think of how little human actually knows or understands Nature. Maybe we will never completely understand it, but some of us will still want to give it a try.

Phew, now the list comes to an end. How about my dear readers tell me what stories are with you. I would love to hear about your favorites so maybe I can expand my own horizon, too.

    • Ninnat Dangniam
    • April 22nd, 2012

    Only recently while I was updating my Goodreads account that I realized I had forgotten a lot of books that I have read or was inspired to read, simply because I don’t own them. Hopefully I can compile a list like this by the summer. But here’s a partial list, in which most of them I have to reread to give a proper and accurate invitation (and some may be not as spectacular as I remembered):

    The Lucifer and Biscuit Hammer (Mizukami Satoshi) – basically a coming-of-age manga in a supernatural setting

    Onani Master Kurosawa (Ise Katsura) – a coming-of-age doujinshi that started out as a parody. Beware that although it’s not explicit, but it’s not safe for work either. (Onani means masturbation).

    Mushishi (Yuki Urushibara) – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mushishi

    Darwin’s Dangerous Idea (Daniel Dennett) – The first book that really made me begin to understand evolution as a “physicist.” Most biology textbooks just leave the impression “That’s cool, but I still don’t understand evolution. Perhaps I need to know more details.” But no, Dennett the philosopher says. Here’s the basic principles, once you have them you’re good to go.

    The Tao is Silent (Raymond Smullyan) – a playful logician’s interpretation of the Tao

    The Two Cultures of Mathematics (Timothy Gowers) and Birds and Frogs (Freeman Dyson) – Birds and Frogs is a much easier read for physicists, but the two essays have the same theme; some of us solve problems to understand theories, and some of us understand theories to solve problems, and it’s fine to be one and not the other.

    Flow (Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi) – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flow_%28psychology%29

    The Princeton Companion to Mathematics/Matt Leifer’s blog/Less Wrong (especially articles by Eliezer, lukeprog, and Kaj Sotala but really anything that’s not a hardcore AI research is worth reading. Don’t bother with the Many-Worlds Interpretation in the QM sequence though.) – These book/blog/community website introduced me to whole new worlds of high-level math, quantum foundations, and rationality respectively.

    What is Life? (Erwin Schrödinger) – What’s more to ask for? It converted at least one biologist to physics.

    Information (James Gleick) – a recent book with nothing that new for me. Nevertheless, it summarizes my whole academic interest really well, so it’s pretty important to me.

    That’s all I have to recall for now.

      • Ninnat Dangniam
      • April 22nd, 2012

      *That’s all I have time to recall for now.

  1. Howdy! That’s quite a list there. I’m pretty sure I’ve heard of Flow, darn sure it was from an article in NewScientist, so at least I know the concept of it even though I haven’t read the book or attempt to create it, yet.

    The Two Cultures of Mathematics and Birds and Frogs sounds really interesting. I guess since I’m going to plunge headlong into theory after this, this is definitely on my to-read list. Also The Princeton Companion to Mathematics.

    Must have seen The Tao is Silent and Darwin’s Dangerous Idea before, but I cannot recall where and I definitely didn’t buy those. Now I wish I did.

    I can sense the hilarity coming from Onani Master Kurosawa. Definitely not work-safe, heh?

  1. March 14th, 2012

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: