Science Lit

Your favorite books and links
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7Wannabe5
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Science Lit

Post by 7Wannabe5 » Tue Aug 06, 2019 12:29 pm

The purpose of this thread is recommendation of new or still relevant books that meet the standards of "science" and "literature."

My first recommendation is "Theory of Bastards" by Audrey Schulman. This novel takes place in a believable near future environment. The protagonist is a Manhattanite-by-way-of-Canada renowned female researcher studying bonobo sexuality at poorly funded foundation in climate change ravaged American Midwest. An ex-military red-state resident is also portrayed as very good guy, so something for everyone here in terms of crisis situation values validation. - 5 stars.

Smashter
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Re: Science Lit

Post by Smashter » Tue Aug 06, 2019 2:38 pm

The Three-Body Problem.

This is the first book in an ambitious series that spans from the 1950's to the heat death of the universe. The very rough synopsis is that humans make contact with other intelligent life, drama ensues. I really enjoyed it.

There is tons of hard science used throughout. If it passed the Jacob test I figure it must be on relatively solid scientific footing 8-)

Here's a short forum thread on the book.

jacob
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Re: Science Lit

Post by jacob » Tue Aug 06, 2019 4:25 pm

7Wannabe5 wrote:
Tue Aug 06, 2019 12:29 pm
... books that meet the standards of "science" and "literature."
Not sure what you mean by meeting the standards. Something that remains within what is currently scientifically known and doesn't take any liberties in terms of adding/tweaking theories or at least remains within a world model that is at least plausible, so e.g. realistic space combat rather than Star Wars blasters and warp drives?

daylen
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Re: Science Lit

Post by daylen » Tue Aug 06, 2019 4:46 pm

Can I propose my sci-fi idea here? I would be surprised if no one has ever thought of this.

What if black holes linked to a parallel universe where the gravity is reversed. There would be a "white hole" in the center "pushing" out in all directions to form the surface of a sphere. On a larger scale, the equivalent of dark energy (white energy) would be working in reverse (contracting the universe). I call it the "outside-in". What if this reality could support life that lived on the inside surface, and instead of an intelligent society dreaming of outer-space, they dreamed of inner-space.

Jacob, please shoot this down for me before I get carried away. :)

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Re: Science Lit

Post by jacob » Tue Aug 06, 2019 5:50 pm

That's like the dumbest thing I ever heard :D
You're welcome! :ugeek:

niemand
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Re: Science Lit

Post by niemand » Wed Aug 07, 2019 4:13 am

No warp drives? How to get from A to B?
Space is really big you know...

7Wannabe5
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Re: Science Lit

Post by 7Wannabe5 » Wed Aug 07, 2019 5:56 am

@Smashter:

Thanks. Added to my list.

@jacob:

I am more concerned with the "literature" standard, because more frequently violated. Also, I have pretty much zero interest in space combat of any kind. I am tossing a book in discard pile as soon as I am on page 2 of 5 page detailed description of future weapon technology and the hierarchy positions of variety of one dimensional characters.

The sort of classic cross-over authors I like would be Ray Bradbury, William Gibson, Paulo Bacigalupi, Anthony Burgess, Nevil Shute, Kurt Vonnegut, Jose Saramago, Margaret Atwood, or Ursula LeGuin. I suppose what I meant by "science" standard was erring on the side of "speculation" rather than "fantasy." For instance, I think Stephen King would be a decent Kmart Realist if he didn't always have to ruin his books by throwing in supernatural crap.

ETA: No. That's not a good description of what I am looking for here. I have always read a great deal of lit and science at the level of NYT Notable list or higher. For instance, in the science category would be authors like Stephen Jay Gould, James Gleick, Jared Diamond or Hope Jahren. What I liked about the book I recommended in my post above is that it included science at approximately that level in a novel that would independently merit NYT Notable placement.

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Re: Science Lit

Post by jacob » Wed Aug 07, 2019 7:20 am

@niemand - Generational ships, like e.g. KSR's Aurora.

@7wb5 - Add Kim Stanley Robinson, John Brunner, Robert Heinlein, Jerry Pournelle, Larry Niven, and Neal Stephenson. Some fall more into the category of world-building than character development. I obviously don't know what you mean by literature.

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Re: Science Lit

Post by niemand » Wed Aug 07, 2019 8:35 am

@jacob - Too slow. It would take far too many generations to make the kessel run. Unless the crew resorts to cryogenic freezing. In any case Star War’s over by the time they arrive :lol:

@7wb7 - 20,000 leagues under the sea?

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Re: Science Lit

Post by theanimal » Wed Aug 07, 2019 9:33 am

Overstory by Richard Powers. Multiple characters come together to fight for one of the remaining old growth forests in the PNW. Plenty of forest ecology Interspersed throughout the book.

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Re: Science Lit

Post by jennypenny » Wed Aug 07, 2019 9:59 am

John Scalzi and Michael Crichton

eta: Andy Weir

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Re: Science Lit

Post by 7Wannabe5 » Wed Aug 07, 2019 12:11 pm

@jacob:

I've read and enjoyed Heinlein. I attempted the moon series by Robinson years ago, but couldn't get into it. I ordered a copy of "New York 2140" since that seems more like what I am seeking. I also ordered a copy of "Stand on Zanzibar" which I am kind of amazed that I have never previously picked up. I've been meaning to read "Snow Crash" for some time, so I will add to list. Niven and Pournelle don't appeal to me at quick scan level.
I obviously don't know what you mean by literature.
Well, in most basic terms, if it is shelved in fiction, but not under any particular sub-genre (given a bookstore that is very diligent about picking out any and all sub-genres) then it is literature. "Theory of Bastards" was nominated for the 2019 Philip Dick Award, but I would shelf it in General Fiction. There are also works that are usually shelved in sub-genre that could be cross-shelved in literature.

I can't just study Data Science straight with no chaser, so I am inter-mixing it with related lighter non-fiction works such as "The Theory that Would not Die: How Baye's Rule Cracked the Enigma Code, Hunted Down Russian Submarines, and Emerged Triumphant from Two Centuries of Controversy" by Sharon McGrayne AND some new, new novels such as "Lake Success" by Gary Shteyngart. The protagonist of "Lake Success" is a not entirely lovable finance bro, and the author just assumes that his audience knows what is meant by "hedge-fund" or "quant." A Science Lit novel would similarly assume a readership with comprehension of concepts such as basic genetics, ecology and/or algorithms. "Theory of Bastards" is unique because the author includes both disclaimer of resemblance of her fictional characters to any real scientific researchers, but also a bibliography of the real works of scientific research she based the book upon. So, very interesting morph of competent scientific journalism and well-crafted modern novel.
Years ago she'd started dressing for herself, no one else. Currently, she wore the sort of primary-colored smock and sparkly tights that suggested a child under five. Her favorites were clothes with embroidered animals on the breast and along the hem...
One of the most basic tenets of evolution was that there must be strong mating criteria-that a bonobo would step past whoever was closest to copulate with another who was healthier or smarter or stronger.
Not like she has a real job, he thought with his own brand of cruelty. Not that it was entirely her fault. Marrying an accomplished woman and taking her off the job market was a way to telegraph success among Barry's peers.

"Fuck Morgan," Barry said."check this out!" He came out of his closet wearing a Citi vest he had gotten at some golf thing. -"Lake Success"
Good science and good literature offer better, because more accurate and insightful, models than bad science or schlock lit.



@niemand:

I read Jules Verne over 40 years ago and did very much like his works.

@theanimal:

Bingo! Wouldn't be shelved in genre, but assumes reasonably science-literate reader.

@jennypenny

I have read Crichton, including his work with climate change denial plot which was chosen/assigned by member of a rural affluent female-only book group. Clearly, I am happy to argue contrarian viewpoint in any social setting as long as the snacks served are top quality :lol: . I will take a look at Scalzi and Weir.

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Re: Science Lit

Post by jacob » Wed Aug 07, 2019 1:59 pm

2140 features quants trading flood insurance :) (KSR has clearly talked to someone in the business.)

Also suggest adding Stephenson's Cryptonomicon ... it has a lot of Enigma/Bletchley park in there as a parallel story. Might also want to add the Baroque cycle et al. (3 books) for a lot of Newton/Leibnitz stuff. It has an interesting background in that the manuscript was all handwritten. Anathem is about [long] time (and alternative timelines).

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Re: Science Lit

Post by jennypenny » Wed Aug 07, 2019 4:34 pm

Cryptonomicon is good. I liked Anathem and Seveneves better (and Reamde--not really sci fi though), I think because the female characters are better in those -- not a deal-breaker but it draws me into the story more. Cryptonomicon is definitely a 'guy' novel. KSR does an ok job with writing female characters but I think NS is better. It was a weak point with Crichton. Books like Prey were great yet annoying for that reason.

New York 2140 is good. I wonder if part of the reason I like it is because I'm so familiar with New York. It makes it easier to picture what he's describing. I have Aurora queued up for a trip in a couple of weeks. I'll let you know if it's any good.

I've read three AG Riddle books recently. Meh. He's a decent writer and the stories are well-researched, but he doesn't know how to end them. Winter World is the best of the three. Departure is too far-fetched and Pandemic isn't structured correctly. His female leads are good, though.

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