Category > Science and nature

Obliquity

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Obliquity: Why Our Goals are Best Achieved Indirectly by John Kay, book reviewWhen I was presented with a copy of John Kay’s book Obliquity, my heart sank just a little at seeing the words “goals” and “achieved” used in the same sentence on the front cover. Books that use these sorts of words are usually dull, prescriptive and….well, the sort of books that Kay goes to considerable length to tell you are not in slightest bit helpful. Why? Because they are too direct to work in an uncertain world such as ours.

Obliquity – as a more effective alternative to directness in Kay’s terminology – is basically an extended essay that grew out of a short article in the Financial Times’ weekend magazine in January 2004.


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Irrational Logistics

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The Upside of Irrationality: The Unexpected Benefits of Defying Logic at Work and at Home By Dan Ariely, book reviewDan Ariely’s The Upside of Irrationality is a summary of the behavioural patterns that he has been studying over the years. The book is a follow up to his Predictably Irrational, which was a runaway success when it came out, and The Upside of Irrationality shows every sign of following in its footsteps. What it is is a study of the irrational way in which people behave in a manner that goes against their best interests. The book tries to change the “rational consumer” principal into advice on how to lead a better life and it is fairly successful in this endeavour. However, some of what Ariely points out as habitually irrational behavior cannot be changed despite out best efforts to do so, which is why ‘fairly successful;’ best describes Ariely’s work.


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The Squeeze: Oil, Money and Greed in the 21st Century

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The Squeeze: Oil, Money and Greed in the 21st Century by Tom Bower, book reviewThe Squeeze: Oil, Money and Greed in the 21st Century by Tom Bower is detailed account of the activities of the oil industry, with particular focus on the oil majors, during the later part of the 20th century, and into the 21st century. With unprecedented access to sources within Big Oil and around the industry, Bower has constructed a detailed and action packed account of a necessary but disliked industry.

The Squeeze has a heavy focus on the oil majors, such as BP, Exxon, Shell, Chevron and Mobil, but also looks at the smaller companies, service companies trader which surround the oil majors, generally known as Big Oil.


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Nikon D40/D40x Digital Field Guide

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Nikon D40/D40x Digital Field Guide (Digital Field Guide) by David D. Busch, book reviewThe instruction manuals that are provided with cameras do not usually go into a great deal of detail. Spending a few extra pounds on a comprehensive guide book for a particular model of camera seems like a good investment. For the owner of a Nikon D40 or D40X digital single-lens reflex camera, David Busch’s Digital Field Guide is an excellent choice.

After a ‘Quick Tour’ explaining how to shoot your first picture, review your pictures, correct the exposure and transfer images to a computer, the guide is split into two main sections. Part I is entitled ‘Using the Nikon D40/D40X’ and covers three chapters: Exploring the Nikon D40/D40X, Nikon D40/D40X Essentials, and Setting Up Nikon D40/D40X.


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Banking on the Move

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The March Of Mobile Money  by  Sam Pitroda , Mehul Desai , book reviewSitting at his table in Chicago one day, Sam Pitroda watched his wife Anu go through her diary looking for vital credit card details. That was when it occurred to him that a digital form of the diary might be easier to deal with and he began to create one. But then the thought extended to how life would be if one could travel with an empty digital wallet to which banks could beam images of credit cards and these could then be flashed to retailers’ computer screens during transactions.

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A Field Guide to Demons, Vampires, Fallen Angels and Other Subversive Spirits

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A Field Guide to Demons, Vampires, Fallen Angels: And Other Subversive Spirits By Carol K. Mack, By Dinah Mack, book reviewImagine, if you will, that one day you are out walking in the Highlands of Scotland, generally minding your own business and bothering no one. As you stroll along a river bank, you suddenly find yourself approached by a handsome black horse, who tries to persuade you to climb on its back and go for ride. The thought of riding such a magnificent beast is tempting, but you think that a horse that can construct a persuasive argument is a suspicious thing, and you decline. The horse, however, is not one to take no for an answer and you start to get worried. What do you do?

Well, hope you have read “A Field Guide to Demons, Vampires, Fallen Angels and Other Subversive Spirits” (henceforth the Guide) is a good answer. Anyone who has read the book will recognise

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Cheap at the Price

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Small Wonder the Authorised Story of the Making of the Nano By Philip Chacko, By Christabelle Noronha, By Sujata Agrawal, book reviewBengal’s relationship with the Nano has been an uneasy one ever since the days of the Singur agitation. The State’s sudden game of political dominoes forced Ratan Tata to order a plant that was almost set up to be removed piece by piece to Gujarat and set back production of the world’s first people’s car by several months. The Nano inspired hate mail, adulation and disbelief and it was obvious from the first that its case history deserved a book. Philip Chacko, Christabelle Noronha and Sujata Agrawal’s account is the Tata authorized version, a neat page turner that presents the facts and provides snippets of interesting trivia.

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Life, The Universe and Everything

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A Really Short History of Nearly Everything By (author) Bill Bryson“Welcome. And congratulations. I am delighted you could make it. Getting here wasn’t easy, I know….Not only have you been lucky enough to be attached since time immemorial to a favoured evolutionary line, but you have also been extremely – make that miraculously – fortunate in your personal ancestry. Consider that for 3.8 billion years…every one of your forebears on both sides has been attractive enough to find a mate, healthy enough to reproduce and sufficiently blessed by fate and circumstance to do so. Not one of your pertinent ancestors was squashed, devoured, drowned, starved, stuck fast, untimely wounded or otherwise deflected from life’s quest of delivering a tiny charge of genetic material to the right partner at the right moment to perpetuate the only possible sequence of hereditary combination that could result…in you”. [Introduction, “A Short History of Nearly Everything”]


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The Snow Tourist

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The Snow Tourist By Charlie EnglishIn his book “The Snow Tourist”, journalist Charlie English presents a series of separate but related travelogues looking at snow from a number of interesting perspectives. Subtitled “A Search for the World’s Purest, Deepest Snowfall” the book covers a variety of aspects such as how an American enthusiast discovered that no two snowflakes are alike, how Inuits in North America use snow in their everyday lives, and how one Austrian man developed skiing as we know it today.

As well as being a compelling piece of writing in its own right, this book is a touching (but not sentimental) work as English explains how his fascination with snow first began, describing the death of his father, a keen competitive skier, and his subsequent family skiing holidays with his mother and brother.  To assuage his guilt at leaving his own wife and children at home while he researches the severe snowstorms that have affected the eastern seaboard of the United States, English flies this family out to join him in New York, only for that city to grind to a standstill just as they are due to fly home. Charlie’s wife does not share his passion for snow!

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