Tuesday, 23 February 2010

Diagram "Odd Titles" Award 2010

The Diagram Prize is probably the most prestigious and sought after award in publishing.  Probably.  

It's organised and presented by the infamous and highly respected Horace Bent, a time served Old Skool publishing journalist at The Bookseller, the UK's main trade magazine.  The award is given to the book (and it has to  be a real book, none of this short-run self published three copies ever bought nonsense) with the oddest title.

This year's shortlist is:

  • Afterthoughts of a Worm Hunter by David Crompton
  • Collectible Spoons of the Third Reich by James A Yannes
  • Crocheting Adventures with Hyperbolic Planes by Daina Taimina
  • Governing Lethal Behavior in Autonomous Robots by Ronald C Arkin
  • The Changing World of Inflammatory Bowel Disease by Ellen Scherl and Maria Dubinsky
  • What Kind of Bean is This Chihuahua? by Tara Jansen-Meyer

All great and worthy entries I'm sure, but there's really no substitute for voting Crochet.  My reasoning, in the spirit of the competition, is thus:

The superb juxtaposition of relativistic equations and traditionally feminine handicraft skillfully blend against a backdrop of four dimensional hyperbolic space utilising the three dimensional creations of a wool based algorithm in a context of knot theory and non Euclidian geometry carrying a sublimely fundamental and yet simultaneous intimate and accessible viewpoint on the structure of the Universe which opens the mathematical structure of spacetime to the casual ovicentric hobbyist.


The meta-historical setting of a rural craft invokes powerful images of Einstein's modest upbringing in combination with the sub-metaphorical emotional influence of handmade knitwear leading to a subconscious acceptance of the incongruity self evident in the utilisation of a folded two dimensional yarn construct attempting to represent a geometry including a mathematically imaginary component. 

Vote Crochet, you know it makes sense.

In all seriousness, I'm shamelessly pushing this book as a winner because it's a superb book on an astoundingly beautiful subject, both in terms of mathematics, physical theories and handicraft.  In laymans terms it covers (mostly from a crochet/knitting point of view) the stunning results of writing the equations behind General Relativity into a knitting pattern.  It's not as silly as it sounds....knitting patterns are effectively computer programmes for a single strand of wool, and as such are ideal for trying to demonstrate a mathematical idea.  Einstein's theories deal with the idea of treating time as a fourth dimension....but there's no room for one in high school maths.  So he tried using imaginary numbers - ones based on the square root of minus one, and commonly shown on a graph at right angles to "normal" numbers - his little thought experiment turned out to be such an accurate description of reality that the theory has to be hard-coded into GPS satellites to stop them going out of synch by several metres a day.  
This book takes the simple but highly imaginative step of trying to show Einstein's fourth dimension by writing it into a knitting pattern.  The results are extraordinarily beautiful, closely resembling coral reefs.  It's a great coffee table book and conversation starter, odd title aside.  

You can vote for your favourite at The Bookseller website.  (Scroll down, poll on the left)

Sunday, 14 February 2010

Surf Science

Science has, on occasions, been described as both "dry" and "boring"...two words that are not generally linked to surfing in any way.  Pitched firmly in the middle of the science-curious surfer, or the surfing scientist, this is a great general exploration of the science behind wave formation, from large scale meteorological effects to the very local beach structure and wind effects.

Sadly it doesn't go into much depth concerning the hydrodynamics and technology that actually lets you ride the things, but that's probably a hugely technical step to take with what is, in essence, a highly specialised popular science book.  If you're a nautical type of any description, surfer, kitesurfer or sailor, there's plenty in this that will grab your interest.

Surf Science 
Tony Butt, Paul Russell, Rick Grigg
Alison Hodge Publishing
ISBN: 9780906720363