miercuri, 31 decembrie 2014

Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone

Finally, I have read the first book in the Harry Potter series. I have fallen in love with the way in which it is written. It is simply captivating. You would think that after seeing the movie series one wouldn’t be so captivated about reading the actual book, but this is one example of those cases in which the book is so entertaining that you simply cannot stop reading it. A wonderful adventure of Harry Potter and his friends Ronald Weasley and Hermione Granger is unveiled before your eyes. I have to admit that all the faces of the characters for me where those of the actors in the movies. I just couldn’t imagine any other face to the name.  

This is one piece of literary craftsmanship that you have to read for yourself. I am now bewitched by it and will continue to read through the series. It is just beautiful! more delightful than I have imagined it to be. The way in which Rowling presents the characters and their reactions to the events is just simply natural and it seems to come with an ease that makes you wonder at points whether she has seen the persons in action. I particularly liked the way in which she described Prof. McGonogall’s stern look and her reactions.

There are many other examples in which the book is astonishing but that is left for other readers to discover.

Even though this is not exactly a book review and it is my opinion on it, I still though it is worth mentioning. There are other great reviews of the book and one must not invent the wheel in order to enjoy the movement (a bit of artificial paraphrasing ;)).

vineri, 26 decembrie 2014

Pale Blue Dot: A Vision of the Human Future in Space

The book is a beautiful philosophical introduction to planetary astronomy. I like the way in which Sagan presents the arguments for the necessity of exploring the space. We  live in a limited environment. Our confined planet is a pale blue dot in space. This is all that we have and all that we are accustomed to. It gives you a perspective on our struggles as a species in the vast incommensurable Universe.

Humans have come a long way since believing that the Universe was all that we saw and it was created to suit our purposes. Science provided us an objective way of seeing ourselves for who we are: an intelligent life form that is evolving. Our evolution was formerly confined to the exploration of our planet, but as we grow in numbers we are jeopardizing our future. We must find new ways to colonize the space if we are to evolve.

Before reading the book I was aware of the limited resources that we have on the planet. I was also aware of the struggles that scientists had to overcome in order to broadcast their findings and the negative role that religious institutions had on stopping the progress of science and technology. After reading it, I feel like we [the human species] are foolishly thinking that we could circumnavigate the problems that we have created: global warming, the thinning of ozone layer, the overpopulation and the modification of life-threatening viruses. These problems are already taking a toll on how we live. We are more prone to climatic changes and the scarce food resources already determine a struggle for survival. These are important points to consider and problems that Sagan has foreseen more than 20 years ago.

For me, it is  refreshingly encouraging when I see the human species for what it is. It is a species with vast potential for evolution, creation and destruction. The perspective given by the planetary exploration probes Cassini, Voyager I and II, and the Apollo missions, are crude, objective status of what we are. We are a fragile species. We have evolved more in the last 100.000 years than before, and our evolution has pushed other species into extinction.

The search to find new inhabitable places brings hope and sense of purpose into our evolution. Scientists are finding new planets, satellites, asteroids with a chemical composition that would put our ingenuity to the test if we want to make them inhabitable. The terraforming, as Sagan calls it, would create suitable living condition and creation of human outposts on the Moon, large asteroids, and Mars. It would be a new kind of migration and would need the concerted support and involvement of all the nations. We must find solutions and find them fast if we want to secure our place in the universe.

I am optimistic about the future when I see the progress made with colonizing Mars and also the research into safely landing and taking off from asteroids. Maybe there is hope for the human species. Maybe I will see it in my lifetime. Carl Sagan’s book is a beautiful exposition of the reasons which motivate the search for intelligent life and also for places were humans could continue living after Earth has exhausted it resources and the environment in no longer suited for life. 

miercuri, 3 decembrie 2014

Scotland's Stories of Home

This November as I went to Edinburgh for the Graduation Ceremony of my MSc studies I was offered this book with short stories from Scotland. Offered by the Scottish Book Trust as part of the Book Week Scotland it provides a great opportunity to come in contact with beautiful stories about places in Scotland. I am proud and happy to be able to call Edinburgh my home for the last year, and even though I am not Scottish I feel like the magic of the place will forever live in me and also guide my path to going back there.

Scotland reveals itself as a welcoming place, full of international people that bring flavour to the place and also place their dreams in the service of their adoptive country. It distinguishes itself through its rich history, an amazing place to live and learn and also for offering you a sense of community. Reading the short stories you are transported in place you wish to go, to feel joys and share the sorrows of the Scottish people. This small book achieved a great mission as Scotland’s emissary.