"I'm Not Convinced We Know Anything"

Brain Rules by John Medina: Weekend Read

Brain Rules by John Medina: Weekend Read

So this weekend I diverged a bit from physics and sci-fi to indulge in something different; biology. And by any standards there’s nothing more fascinating in biology than brain science; okay maybe it’s a tie with genetics :) John Medina’s brain rules is one of those books that would be easily classified as eye opening. It takes the reader through a series of points that completely change the way you think about the brain, and thankfully puts some long held ideas to rest along with other myths.

Being a computer programmer seated at my desk day after day tackling one algorithm after another I’m tempted to think that I’m giving my brain the best exercise. But as it turns out am not doing it any favors sitting all day. Medina points out how physical exercise is a crucial part of keeping your brain fit. This point among others make you realize how you and the whole human species have been doing a lot of things wrong since we moved out of the caves. Reading the book you will probably be convinced like me to want to ask my boss if I can bring my pillow to work for a very important afternoon nap. The beauty of brain rules is that every fact is backed by research replicated by neuroscientists around the world.

The book gives a rather different picture of how perception works than what you will remember from high school. It reveals something much more complex. The communication of the eye with the brain for example is not as simple as portrayed in 11th grade biology books. The process of seeing involves a lot of tasks by different organs, and different parts of the brain including disintegration of the visual information at one point sending it to different parts of the brain, reassembly at another point  etc. The process is so complex and detailed such that things like the color of an object, location, motion are all interpreted by different faculties of the brain. Amazing eh? And there’s a Jennifer Aniston neuron in every one of us?

Most importantly the book calls to action for teachers to work with researchers and redesign the classroom to be more accommodating of the brain as we currently know it. From the many research backed points that Medina brings out you will clearly see why this makes a lot of sense.

It’s an easy read, doable in a day. It’s very exciting since Medina – knowing how the brain works – is good at keeping you engaged with the interesting supporting stories, a good sense of humor and some amazing brain related abilities and disabilities that have been encountered in medicine. Though some disabilities have been detrimental to the subjects, they have been key in our understanding of the most important part our anatomy.

I think physicists have an easier job since they can theorize and point their telescopes to the sky. Brain science is less accommodating of theories since things often turn out to be unexpected and it involves cutting open people’s brains or waiting for someone with a special condition.

All in all I can gladly say I know more about myself after reading this book and how to allow my brain function optimally. And so in conclusion, two words, ‘Must Read!’.

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, the book vs the movie

The Book
My new most favorite author is Douglas Adams – already got the other four books in this series* for Christmas. His sense of humor is very unique and unlike any other that I have read. His jokes are completely unpredictable , out of this world and they never disappoint. It’s not one of those books that start out funny and the author gets tired along the way leaving the rest of it filled with dry humor that barely make you smile.

It tackles the biggest philosophical questions in a way that keeps you entertained and yearning for more. I wouldn’t say it answers those questions or even attempts a ‘philosophically viable’ argument in that direction but it does encourage one to think outside the box. Like way outside the box.

It’s by far the funniest book I’ve ever read. I kept wondering how they pulled off the movie given the complex nature of his writing. The only way would be doing a seriously funny science fiction that is borderline goofy. The Hitchhikers Guide to The Galaxy is an easy read and a very short book that you can easily do in one sitting. Maybe two. If you are looking for a good laugh you should definitely give it a go.

Here is one of the funny bits that really cracked me up:  “He had an odd feeling of being like a man in the act of adultery who is surprised when the woman’s husband wanders into the room, changes his trousers, passes a few idle remarks about the weather and leaves again.” You don’t get that kind of humor anywhere else.Makes you wonder how he comes up with things like those. But it is a risky sense of humor as your audience might at times think too hard before they realize it’s a joke. Great work Douglas!

The Movie

This was rather disappointing. I would easily say it’s one of the worst movies I’ve ever seen. I watched it after reading the book and was thinking that doing a movie out of it was too ambitious given the nature of the book.

Truth is there’s no way they would have captured the story as it is in the book and portrayed it in a 2 hour movie. I feel bad for anyone who watched the movie without reading the book first because I can only imagine how confused they might have been; most of the jokes are funnier if you remember the context in the book. The movie leapfrogs through the story and misses out on a lot of flesh and other pivotal parts of the story

I love goofy movies like Scary Movie but this I didn’t like. Maybe it’s because of the very high standards set by the book.