Dec 8 2014

Next gift suggestion: Chad Orzel’s EUREKA!




Another book that I jumped right up and ordered as soon as I knew it existed: Eureka! Discovering Your Inner Scientist, by physicist Chad Orzel.

Chad has been making a name for himself lately as a science communicator, as well as being  an actual working scientist. And this, by me, is good. As much as I love science, it’s through the science journalists that I find out what is going on.

His previous books were How to Teach Physics to Your Dog, and How to Teach Relativity to Your Dog. In them he revives the grand tradition (going all the way back to the Greek philosophers) of presenting ideas by means of a conversation between two parties. In this case it’s especially useful, as Emmy is a very practical, focused and pragmatic dog.   It’s a good idea to stay grounded, when you’re discussing something like quantum physics…

Chad and Enmy

I haven’t yet received my copy of Eureka. I pre-ordered it so that it will pop up on my Kindle on December 9th, the instant it’s released (I’m writing this post on December 8th).

But I couldn’t wait, so I went exploring through the book on Amazon, using the “Look Inside” feature. I was able to look at a lot, possibly because I was on record as having bought the book. And I found much to love.

The moment that made me sit up straight and say “YES!” was when he first expresses the scientific process as taking place in four stages: looking, thinking, testing, and telling.

Does this sound familiar? It should. It’s what the Steerswomen do.

Chad works out those four stages in the rest of the book  — and his point in Eureka! is that the scientific process is not some mysterious activity engaged in only by hyper-intelligent (and socially clumsy) braniacs.    In fact, we use scientific thinking every day, and have done so ever since we were us.

“For as long as there have been humans, then, there have been humans doing science. The process of looking at the world, figuring out how things work, testing that knowledge, and sharing it with others ought to be taken as one of the defining traits of our species. The process of science is not some incidental offshoot of more general human activity; it’s the very thing that makes us who we are.”

Eureka! Discovering Your Inner Scientist, on Amazon

Here’s a video of Chad Orzel explaining what playing bridge has to do with the discovery of dark matter.

And here’s a video of Chad explaining what stamp collecting has to do with Darwin and the theory of evolution through natural selection.

And here’s Uncertain Principles, Chad Orzel’s blog.

And, oh, look: Yet another little article of mine from the misty depths of antiquity, coincidentally discussing a closely-related topic.

(As Cecil said on the very first episode of Welcome to Night Vale: “We have all been scientists at one point or another in our lives.”)

Dec 6 2014

Laurie J. Marks : Elemental Logic and more




The new world of ebooks has benefitted a lot of writers.  I’m one, as you know.   (My ebook sales this year will exceed my writing income from any previous year.)

It looks like Laurie J. Marks might turn out be another.

Laurie is best known for her Elemental Logic series (originally from Tor Books).   The first two volumes are out of print… But now all three books have been released as ebooks by her current publisher, Small Beer Press.

This makes me glad.  I just now went and bought them.  (I now have them in two forms…)

Also making me glad:  I know there won’t be a long wait for the fourth volume.   In fact, I have a pre-final-edit copy right here…

Well, I won’t gloat too much.  But it helps to know the author.

I especially like the design of Laurie’s magical system, and how it operates through the citizens of the land of Shaftal.  You can (sometimes) work magic. But more often magic is working you — and not at your convenience.   The land has its own plans and needs.

Years and years ago, I wrote a review of the first book in the Elemental Logic series, Fire Logic.   I actually can’t now recall where it was published (online somewhere).   I thought I’d just link to it, but after searching the Internet assiduously, I find I can’t locate it anywhere…

Fortunately, I have a copy,  and I’ve put it here for you to read in its original oddly stilted and slightly turgid entirety. 

Well, I wrote it ages ago, as I said.. but I still stand by it!

Here are some cogent quotes from it:

“Marks delivers her story in prose that is rich, graceful, and often stunning.   I have far too often read authors whose prose merely gets the job done, gets the character from point A to point B by relating the events between: prose so colorless that it is often referred to as “invisible”, as if that were a virtue.   But life itself is not like that; events vibrate with connection and connotation. Marks’ skill with the language allows her to gift us with a fuller experience. Her characters feel deeply, think fiercely, love sharply.”


“In designing her system of magic, Marks displays both literary skill and psychological wisdom. The traits of each element are personality traits that we recognize, representing categories of people that we can identify in our own world. We know these people; we’ve met them all our lives.   Marks gives us a name for them and their ways, and this real-world link makes it easy and natural for us to take one more step and accept, for the story’s sake, the possibilities of Shaftali magic.”

Oh, and you know who else wrote a glowing review?  James Davis Nicoll, who has titled it his review: “Someone whose books I need to obsessively collect”

(One thing you should note: if you are a person who is put off by same-sex romance in a novel, this is not a book for you.)

Laurie’s other books are also hard to find, and out of print — but she has plans to put them up as ebooks, too.  So, you might soon have a lot of Laurie J. Marks books to add to your ebook library.

Laurie J. Marks’ ebooks from Small Beer Press (epub and mobi)

Laurie J. Marks’ Water Logic trade paperback from Small Beer Press

Laurie J. Marks’ books and ebooks on Amazon

The audiobook version of Fire Logic

And here’s where you can hear me sing “The Loyal General”,  a song from Shaftal, with words by Laurie and music by me (contains spoilers for Water Logic)

James Davis Nicoll’s review of Fire Logic

Laurie’s own website, (including Elemental Profile Quiz)