Science

Atha Kāljnānanprakaranam: The Knowledge of Death Related to Time (Edited by Pandit Shoe Shankar Mishra and C N Burchett)

Atha Kāljnānaprakaranam: The Knowledge of Death Related to Time (Edited by Pandit Shoe Shankar Mishra and C N Burchett)

Review by Shwetha H S

Whatever were the intentions of the editors when they began working on publishing the shlokas compilation and its translation, they have failed in it. Atha Kāljnānanprakaranam is based in the collection of ancient shlokas made by Shri Banwarilal. Maybe the shlokas actually teach us something good, but we never know because they are in Sanskrit and not everybody understands that ancient and mother of all languages. Hey! They have provided translation too in Hindi and English. But the translations are so miserable that they will make you cringe out of frustration because you aren’t learning anything from this book and it doesn’t even justify at least its title. The editors must have given the background of the book, neat translations and explanations about why such shlokas were made in the first place. This book is a complete laughing stock, that too in a pathetic way. Please don’t bother reading this unless you have some money as well as time to waste.

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The Chorus Effect by Russell Boyd

The Chorus Effect by Russell Boyd

Review by Shwetha H S

The Chorus Effect by Russell Boyd is a book, the one and only book so far, that has made me say “okay” with a meh feeling, “Oh, did that just happen?” and made me sit at the edge of my seat and a day ago made me plead “please don’t be over, let this not end” with this book in my hand as I turned the last few pages of this infinite times wonderful book. Throughout the book, Russell Boyd made me wonder how did he even come up with such lines for particular situations, well, most of the situations. My inner voice revolted with the idea of this book coming to an end. I almost prayed for a happy ending for the first time when Russell Boyd said three of the characters will be dead by the end of the story. Yes, he actually did that. The churning of the heart is inevitable. Russell Boyd, I love you man.

The Chorus Effect comes with heavy comparisons, especially with The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams. With the concept of parallel universe, this story, now nearest to my heart, also has a few characters in sets, that is one found in an artificial universe created by three awesome physicists from some other universe, and another set in our world. To top this all, you have an entity of artificial intelligence that runs this artificial universe in which these three physicists reside and that they have built from the scratch. This entity, named Chorus, which later turns into Katie, a beautiful woman from simulations run by the physicists on Chintz from our world. How Chintz, along with his cat named Platelet, enters this universe known only to the three scientists is for you to find out by reading this amazing story. What more do you have here? Chorus/Katie falls in love with Chintz. Yes, you read that right. Chorus is the epitome of artificial intelligence. Having a female voice, Chorus is omnipresent in the universe created by Dr. Mitch Morley, Sam and Nelda. It takes some time to understand that they all don’t belong to the same universe, but the similarities establish the concept of parallel universe.

Apart from that, I would like to tell you this. This book is not for stupid people, as in not for people who don’t understand jokes and sarcasm. I say this because in this book there is magic/science baby named Tonk that only says Fuswah, which eats a piece of glass at some point of time in the story. Referring to that, Russell Boyd gives a note at the bottom of the page saying “Do not, under any circumstances, feed broken glass to a baby without thoroughly sterilizing both the glass and the baby.” Whether you feed glass to the baby with or without sterilizing, the baby will die anyway. Stupid people will not understand this.

Throughout the novel, Chintz calls out the name Barbara whenever he goes into an uncertain area. There is no character in the story by that name. Instead you will find Caroline and Quincy. During simulations, Chorus creates characters by name Katie and Penelope when a character by name Barbara could be created. This keeps you wondering about what is happening.

This book tells you in its own way that when humans are forgetting how to love each other, it is the machines that are learning how to love. This joyous story might make you even cry because of Nelda, Sam, Dr. Mitch Morley, Chintz and Chorus/Katie. Platelet and Tonk will always be around in their cute way. You will miss each of them badly after reading the last lines of the story.

Secrets of Zynpagua: Return of the Princess by Ilika Ranjan

Review by Shwetha H S

This book is a refreshing break from other books that deal with complicated and materialistic adult life. Ilika Ranjan has shown that Indian authors too can take on writing fiction for children by simply swirling their own magic wands called pen. The colourful and well-illustrated cover and a character introduction card with a lined up pictures of all the main characters on it and the best part is it can be used as a bookmark too.

Secrets of Zynpagua: Return of the Princess is the first book in the Zynpagua series. As the name says, this book marks the return of the princess to Zynpagua along with her brother and uncle to save her family and people from the clutches of an evil scientist. This book tries to combine magic and science. And the best part is, the author has not tried to make the story unfold in some foreign country, but has based it in India and in a mystical land of Zynpagua.

Since this book is meant for children and young adults, author has written in a way that even children can understand. For example, she has written as “stretch pants” instead of thermal wear. But she also uses words like topography that very small children cannot understand unless explained what it means. In the acknowledgement, the author has mentioned that so and so person has illustrated and painted the sketches of the characters given in the book, but all the sketches in the book are in grayscale, and this disappoints a reader. The author also brings in the concept of soul mates in this book which is inappropriate in the book meant for children too. Had it been only for young adults, then this would have been accepted, but the idea of soul mates is hard to accept and puts in adult emotions and thoughts into young minds.

Flow of the story is really good as every event in it is well connected and is not purposeless. There is a reason behind whatever happens in the story and helps in taking the story further. No senselessly dragging just to make it a long story. This book is a commendable effort by the author, Ilika Ranjan, for catering to the young readers of India. Don’t forget to buy this book for your children. If you buy it, then be prepared to explain few concepts to your children if they are too young to understand them.

What If? by Randall Munroe

Review by Shwetha H S

Caution: This book is only for people who find solace in the chaotic world of science and equations and not in the ignorant world surrounding it.

What If? by Randall Munroe is a collection of certain “queries” submitted to a segment What If on his website xkcd, which by itself is hugely popular. The author is a talented individual who has a knack of combining humor with science. Pick up this book only if you appreciate science or comics or combination of both. Still not getting what I am trying to say? Then, I don’t have any other option left than citing some of the absurd question from the book:

* If every person on Earth aimed a laser pointer at the Moon at the same time, would it change color?

* Is it possible to build a jetpack using downward-firing machine guns?

* If everyone put little turbine generators on the downspouts of their houses and businesses, how much power would we generate? Would we ever generate enough power to offset the cost of the generators?

* What would happen if lightening stuck a bullet midair?

* If everyone on the planet stayed away from each other for a couple of weeks, wouldn’t the common cold be wiped out?

* What temperature would a chainsaw (or other cutting equipment) need to be at to instantly cauterize any injuries inflicted by it?

* I read about some researchers who were trying to produce sperm from bone marrow stem cells. If a woman were to have sperm cells made from her own stem cells and impregnate herself, what would be her relationship with her daughter?

* Could a (small) rocket (with payload) be lifted to a high point in the atmosphere where it would only need a small rocket to get to escape velocity?
* How many unique English tweets are possible? How long would it take for the population of the world to read them all out loud?
* Assuming a zero-gravity environment with an atmosphere identical to Earth’s, how long would it take the friction of air to stop an arrow fired from a bow? Would it eventually come to a standstill and hover in midair?
* What if everyone in Great Britain went to one of the coasts and started paddling? Could they move the island at all?
If you still haven’t got the point, then may be you should pick up this book!
Rest assured, all the above mentioned questions and many more like that have been logically answered. Even better, Randall’s answers are more than enough! As given on its cover, this book is truly Totally Brilliant and Nerd Royalty! Have fun raking your grey matter!