Ultimate Horizons by Helmut Satz
Author: Helmut Satz
Publisher: Springer
Year: 2013
ISBN: 9783642416576
Rating: ★★★★☆
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This review is written by Dr. D.K.Srivastava, a Distinguished Scientist and Director at the Variable Energy Cyclotron Centre, Kolkata. Born in 1952 in a remote village in Eastern UP, he joined Bhabha Atomic Research Centre Training School in 1970. He specializes in nuclear theory and is presently interested in studying quark gluon plasma. Apart from his scientific pursuits, he is interested in the study of world literature and has written and published several short stories in English.

Ultimate Horizons is one of the best books, rather narratives, I have read. It discusses at length the evolution of our understanding about our universe and its functioning. In every direction, it explores the ultimate horizon which we have reached and can reach. The discussion is almost lyrical and abounds with poetic phrases like “But the Big-Bang took place a long time ago and the neutron stars are too far away“, while talking of the two places where the conditions for the formation of quark gluon plasma could be present.

The story starts from the very early times when man started thinking about the earth, the planets, the stars, the galaxies. It builds gently and guides us through the scientific theories of the Greeks and later Copernicus, Kepler and Galileo, till we come to Newton. Next, the author builds the case for Special Theory of Relativity by trying to understand why the sky is dark at night. This then leads to the expanding universe, finite velocity of light, the Big Bang, constituents of matter, atoms, nuclei, nucleons, quarks and their interaction through gauge bosons. The discussion about black holes is so graphic that I had nightmares of ending up near the edge of the Schwarzschild radius and being torn apart for several days. Hawking radiation is again explained beautifully and so also the so-called Unruh radiation. The concepts of dark matter and dark energy are introduced. Symmetry breaking and then instantaneous symmetry breaking discussions follow and the successive phase transitions during the evolution of the universe follow, almost like the build up of the storyline in an epic or a ballad.

The book is replete with historical and literary references from all the cultures of the world and interesting episodes from the life of the persons involved are hinted at briefly; this ensures that the reader’s interest never wanes. There are passages and sections that are so nicely done that I read them again and again, ultimately reading and enjoying the whole book again before writing this. No expertise is needed and the book can be enjoyed by anyone interested in physics with a formal education of high school or undergraduate science. In an otherwise excellently brought out book, the illustrations are rather rudimentary (for example, the entertaining illustrations in “The Cosmic Onion” by Frank Close). There are a few typographical errors (e.g. the speed of light is given as 3X 10**5 m/s instead of 3X10**8 m/s). The publishers could consider a new edition with bigger fonts and more colourful illustrations, which I am sure will become very popular among students of science. The language is masterly, the style reminding us of a master storyteller sitting by a fire place with a glass of vintage wine or excellent cognac and telling us a story of epic dimensions. I would recommend it as compulsory reading for any one interested in knowing how physics has evolved and where it is going.

 

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Adultery by Paulo Coelho
Author: Paulo Coelho
Publisher: Random House India
Year: 2014
ISBN: 9788184006094
Rating: ★★★½☆
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Before taking up Adultery by Paulo Coelho, I was a tad bit skeptical. I’d absolutely fallen in love with The Alchemist and Eleven Minutes, whereas The Winner Stands Alone was a huge disappointment. Regardless of highly varying critical reviews, Paulo Coelho always manages to touch the life of his readers.

Adultery is very loosely named as the central theme of the book seems to be loneliness (especially caused by today’s world) and a woman going through a mid-life crisis. The book is about the life of a mildly successful journalist Linda, well into her 30s, who apparently has everything one can ask for: a dedicated husband, loving children, stable professional life and financial security. But an insignificant interview with an irrelevant writer completely tumbles her life upside down. Questioning her routine-accustomed life, Linda strives to find a way out of this insurmountable maze her life has entered into. To find a way out of this, she finds herself engaging in adulterous escapades with a former teenage flame, who is going through similar problems in his life. But the trouble starts when she begins to believe that this obsession towards a former beau is love.

The protagonist is characteristically weak. The plot at times seems to get lost between the inner thoughts of the leading lady. Also, the writing style at times is confusing, making it difficult to decide between what is being thought and what exactly is being communicated. All supporting characters are shallowly framed and difficult to decipher, but this intensifies the focus on the protagonist and does not let the plot line waver.

However, the author’s observation of society is remarkable. The insight into a lonely person’s thought process is genius and commendable. Also, the philosophical undertone of every situation is engaging and worth pondering upon. Heartfelt emotions are put forth but a sincere writing effort is evidently lacking.

Despite all the cons, Paulo Coelho gets his way in mesmerizing the reader with the magical realism he puts into all the situations. Also, the incorporation of nature into the solution of life problems gives people going through the same ordeal a ray of hope.

For more Paulo Coelho, check reviews of The Alchemist, The Devil and Miss Prym and Manuscript Found in Accra right here on Bookish!

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Review: We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler

September 10, 2014
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Author: Karen Joy Fowler
Publisher: Serpent’s Tail
Year: 2014
ISBN: 9781846689666
Rating: ★★★★☆
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This is the story of the Cooke family. A father, a mother, a son and two daughters. One day, one of the daughters disappears, and is never heard from. But the parents, who are involved in her disappearance, act as though nothing were wrong. The missing daughter is, quite simply, never mentioned in their family again.

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In The Valley of Hot and Cold: A Town Like Ours

September 8, 2014
A Town Like Ours by Kavery Nambisan
Author: Kavery Nambisan
Publisher: Aleph Book Company
Year: 2014
ISBN: 9789383064007
Rating: ★★★☆☆
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It’s hard to judge a book when it fails to create an opinion, when the work is neither bad nor too impressive. I call this situation ‘The Valley of Hot and Cold’.

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Away from the stereotypes: A Wonderful Boss!

September 3, 2014
A Wonderful Boss

Author: Virender Kapoor
Publisher: Bloomsbury India
Year: 2014
ISBN: 978-93-82951-58-2
Rating: ★★★☆☆
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The moment I opened this book, I had mentally braced myself to be reading about stark comparisons between a leader and a boss. However, I was very pleasantly surprised to realize how the Kapoor has projected the quality of being a boss as a sub product of the quality of being a leader.

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Review: The Last Song of Dusk

September 1, 2014
The Last Song of Dusk by Siddharth Dhanvant Shanghvi
Author: Siddharth Dhanvant Shanghvi
Publisher: Penguin Books
Year: 2005
ISBN: 9780143423188
Rating: ★★★★½
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The story is intensely gripping – just when you feel that no more misfortune can befall these characters, a dark tragedy is just around the corner, waiting to happen. Just when you dream of a happy ending, the twist takes your breath away.

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Bond, Ruskin Bond: Love Among the Bookshelves

August 29, 2014
Love Among the Bookshelves by Ruskin Bond

Author: Ruskin Bond
Publisher: Penguin Books
Year: 2014
ISBN: 9780670087341
Rating: ★★★☆☆
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For many of us in India today, it was Ruskin Bond’s stories that sowed the seed of a lifelong love for reading. Fans go knocking at his home in the hills, and throng every time he is at a city bookstore, hanging on to every word he speaks.

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Review: The Story of Jews-Finding the Words by Simon Schama

August 27, 2014
Review: The Story of the Jews - Finding the Words by Simon Schama

Author: Simon Schama
Publisher: Random House
Year: 2013
ISBN: 9781847921338
Rating: ★★★☆☆
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Simon Schama’s ‘The Story of Jews – Finding the Words’ is a gloriously detailed account of the Jewish people. The author has dealt with various controversial issues in Jewish history in a knowledgeable and scholarly manner. 

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India, Land of The Mouse Charmers

August 25, 2014
The Mouse Charmers by Anuradha Goyal
Author: Anuradha Goyal
Publisher: Random House India
Year: 2014
ISBN: 9788184004922
Rating: ★★★★☆
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The Mouse Charmers glimmers with elegant intelligence. Anuradha, in this book, unravels the business specifics of twelve companies that began as digital entrepreneurships and now sail with their magnificent masts, ruling the waters of Indian markets.

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Unbreakable: The Mary Kom Autobiography

August 21, 2014
Unbreakable by Mary Kom
Author: Mary Kom
Publisher: Harper
Year: 2013
ISBN: 9789351160090
Rating: ★★★☆☆
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Doesn’t it look all warm and happy? Medals, fame and a Bollywood movie based upon you. However, only a few people know what pains Mary underwent to reach such dizzying heights of success.

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