google earth B’ham

In the remote case you do not know yet, the earth application by the Google folks is a must have. Too bad you need windows 2000 or newer to run the thing….. But with some effort you can look at these maps without the earth application (linux users…). Anyway, we noticed that the trees in front of the house we used to lived in in Birmingham (AL) are no longer there…To be complete you can see the same thing with Microsoft’s Virtual earth, or on the TerraServer.
And, while on this topic, by clicking here you can see that driving a bicycle back from work was a real effort!

After reading this feature on the BBC web site, let me append a link to the “maps” at amazon, although Birmingham is not one 22 major cities in the US.

The one true platonic haven by John L. Casti


This is a charming little book in the genre ‘scientific fiction’. No, not a typo, not science fiction but ‘scientific fiction’. John Casti basically describes what might have been the discussions between a number of illustrious scientists, in 1946, in and around ‘the true platonic heaven’ i.e. the Institute of Advanced Study in Princeton. Einstein and Godel, Oppenheimer, Bethe and Von Neumann and Pauli, Ulam and Wigner, Dyson and Weyl…. all are discussing the limits of knowledge in the post war years, when the value of computers to science was not yet established, when Einstein was still searching for his theory of everything, and when the probabilistic (trowing dice) nature of quantum physics kept, as it still does, bothering both physicists an philosophers. All this may sound terribly difficult but John Casti does a really superb job in explaining things. Will all this be digestible if you have never ever been in contact with any of these subjects? I can’t answer that question but i am sure this charming little book will arouse your curiosity.
This new genre is sometimes presented as a means of bridging the gap between the two cultures as described by C.P. Snow, but I have my doubts here and the short appearance of T.S. Eliot is rather awkward. For me, the literary quality of this book, whatever that may be, does not bother me. Casti’s style is both easy to read but still rather precise and never unnecessary technical.
I have but one complaint though, the book is too short an i can’t wait until Casti writes another one. In the mean time i plan to re-read his previous scientific fiction ‘The Cambridge Quintet’!