Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Einstein's Clocks, Poincare's Maps: Empires of Time by Peter Galison, a book review

I made it about a third of the way through Einstein's Clocks, Poincare's Maps: Empires of Time before I gave up.

I wanted to like it. I'm interested in science, I'm interested in time and views of time. I like books about the development of our world.  I do not, however, particularly like math, and that is where Galison lost me.

I'd be reading along, enjoying his description of the maneuvering between different nations as they tried to establish just who would get to hold the one, true meter or  which country would have the Prime Meridian, and then Galison would throw in a chunk of math to show that this or that country had already established this or that theory.

I would tell myself "I can follow this. I really can," and would dutifully plunge into an account of squared this and subtracted that while all the while in the back of my head a voice was saying "I don't care about this. I don't care about this. I don't CARE about this," until I'd give up and start skimming in search of more exploration or attempts to keep clocks synchronized, and then, blat there would be another huge chunk of numbers.

The writing between the numbers was good enough--almost good enough to keep me going--but there were other books in the book bag, and I kept putting this one down in favor of those others, and eventually, when the due date came, I did not renew.

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