Saturday, January 4, 2020

Read in 2019

2019 is dead, may it rest in peace.  One thing I hope to take from the year, though, is all the things I learned in the books I finished that year.   I'm not going to review them all, there are too many, but I'll break them down into categories and bold the ones I particularly liked.  Within a category there're in chronological order, except when I mixed them up when reshuffling categories but it should be mostly right.  Some books are hard to categorize, for instance is a history of DARPA science or technology?  So it's a bit arbitrary but hopefully useful.

Science

  • The Ends of the World: Supervolcanoes, Lethal Oceans, and the Search for Past Apocalypses by Peter Brannen
  • The 10,000 Year Explosion: How Civilization Accelerated Human Evolution by Gregory Cochran
  • Power, Sex, Suicide: Mitochondria and the Meaning of Life (reread) by Nick Lane
  • The Book of Why: The New Science of Cause and Effect by Judea Pearl and Dana Mackenzie 
  • Lost in Math: How Beauty Leads Physics Astray by Sabine Hossenfelder
  • What We Know about Climate Change by Kerry Emanuel


Technology

  • The Pentagon's Brain: An Uncensored History of DARPA, America's Top-Secret Military Research Agency by Annie Jacobsen
  • The History of the Future: Oculus, Facebook, and the Revolution That Swept Virtual Reality by Blake J Harris
  • How We Got to Now: Six Innovations That Made the Modern World by Steven Johnson
  • The Second Machine Age: Work, Progress, and Prosperity in a Time of Brilliant Technologies by Eric Brynjolfsson
  • One Giant Leap: The Impossible Mission That Flew Us to the Moon by Charles Fishman
  • Feeding Everyone No Matter What: Managing Food Security After Global Catastrophe by David Dekenberger
  • Clean Meat: How Growing Meat Without Animals Will Revolutionize Dinner and the World by Paul Shapiro
  • Loonshots: How to Nurture the Crazy Ideas That Win Wars, Cure Diseases, and Transform Industries by Safi Bahcall
  • The Value of the Moon: How to Explore, Live, and Prosper in Space Using the Moon's Resources by Paul D. Spudis


History

  • 1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus by Charles C. Mann
  • The Pursuit of Power by William Hardy McNeill
  • Bury the Chains by Adam Horschild
  • Benjamin Franklin: An American Life by WaltBenjamin Franklin: An American Lifeer Isaacson
  • Blitzed: Drugs in the Third Reich by Norman Ohler
  • Grand Expectations: The United States, 1945-1974 by James T Peterson
  • The Horse, the Wheel, and Language: How Bronze-Age Riders from the Eurasian Steppes Shaped the Modern World by David W. Anthony
  • 1177 B.C.: The Year Civilization Collapsed by Eric H Cline
  • The Pursuit of Power: Europe 1815-1914 by Richard J Evans
  • Hidden Figures by Margot Lee Shetterly
  • The House of Government: A Saga of the Russian Revolution by Yuri Slezkine
  • Titan: The Life of John D. Rockefeller, Sr. by Ron Chernow
  • Days of Rage: America's Radical Underground, the FBI, and the Forgotten Age of Revolutionary Violence by Bryan Burrough
  • The Anarchy: The East India Company, Corporate Violence, and the Pillage of an Empire by William Dalrymple
  • Energy: A Human History by Richard Rhodes
  • The Great Successor: The Divinely Perfect Destiny of Brilliant Comrade Kim Jong Un by Fifield, Anna 


Development Economics

  • The Next Factory of the World: How Chinese Investment Is Reshaping Africa by Irene Yuan Sun
  • Poor Economics: A Radical Rethinking of the Way to Fight Global Poverty by Abhijit V. Banerjee
  • Escape from Rome: The Failure of Empire and the Road to Prosperity by Walter Shiedel
  • How Asia Works: Success and Failure in the World's Most Dynamic Region by Joe Studwell
  • The Bottom Billion: Why the Poorest Countries Are Failing and What Can Be Done About It by Paul Collier


Fiction

  • Lies Sleeping by Ben Aaronovich
  • The Labrynth Index by Charles Stross
  • River of Gods by Ian McDonald
  • Blood Music by Greg Bear
  • Ascendancies: The Best of Bruce Sterling by Bruce Sterling
  • The Shadow of the Torturer by Gene Wolfe
  • Revenger by Alistair Reynolds
  • The Claw of the Conciliator by Gene Wolfe
  • The January Dancer (reread) by Michael Flynn
  • The Sword of the Lictor by Gene Wolfe
  • The Citadel of the Autarch by Gene Wolfe
  • Nation by Terry Pratchett
  • Exhalation: Stories by Ted Chiang
  • Dragon (reread) by Steven Brust
  • The Iron Dragon's Mother by Michael Swanwick
  • Downbelow Station by CJ Cherryh
  • Delta-V by Daniel Suarez
  • October Man by Ben Aaronovich
  • The White Queen by Phillipa Gregory
  • Royal Flash by George MacDonald Fraser
  • We Are Legion by Dennis E. Taylor
  • This Is How You Lose the Time War by Amal El-Motar and Max Gladstone 
  • The Best of Michael Swanwick by Michael Swanwick
  • Mission of Honor by David Webber


Misc

  • Intuition Pumps And Other Tools for Thinking by Daniel Dennet
  • The High Cost of Free Parking by Donald C Shoup
  • Age of Ambition: Chasing Fortune, Truth, and Faith in the New China by Evan Osnos
  • Democracy for Realists: Why Elections Do Not Produce Responsive Government by Christopher H. Achen and Larry M. Bartels
  • Bombing to Win: Air Power and Coercion in War by Robert A. Pape
  • Birth of a Theorem: A Mathematical Adventure by Cedric Villani
  • How To: Absurd Scientific Advice for Common Real-World Problems by Randall Monroe
  • Masters of Doom: How Two Guys Created an Empire and Transformed Pop Culture by David Kushner
  • Open Borders: The Science and Ethics of Immigration by Bryan Caplan
  • Eating the Dinosaur by Chuck Klosterman

Wednesday, January 1, 2020

Overlooked Jovian moons

It’s sad that books, TV shows, etc always overlook Callisto when talking about people having settlements on Jovian moons.  Basically nobody puts one on Io except as a weird research station which is great, because Io is objectively a terrible place to have to be unless you want to learn more about how hot sulfur behaves in high radiation environments.
Europa is a common one and there are reasons for that.  We can be sure it has a liquid ocean under all that ice, which means there’s a possibility of life.  If you want a colony in a Moon’s ocean that’s an ok place to put it but we think that Ganymede and Callisto also probably have oceans too.  And they have stuff that, like, isn’t water on their surfaces if you want access to other elements for some strange reason.  If you’re not going to put a colony underwater then Europa’s surface is super radioactive and unprotected humans will tend to get a lethal dose after one day on the surface, though under a kilometer of ice you’re fine
Ganymede has lots to recommend it, lots of ice *and* non-ice.  But its radiation is still bad.  Not immediately but you’ll get a yearly dose on the surface 30 times higher than the lowest dose clearly linked to cancer and 60 times higher than the one we let nuclear power plant operators be exposed to.  Enough shielding is very doable, particularly with all that ice around, but you’ll need to spend lots of time indoors.
But Callisto?  On Callisto you get the same dose of background radiation you get within Earth’s protective Van Allen belt.  There are some extra cosmic rays compared to down here in the atmosphere but it’s the same radiation environment the astronauts on the ISS see which seems to be basically fine.  Plus you get the same access to both ice and non-ice you get on Ganymede.  Clearly Callisto is where you make your first space settlement.
Oh, and there are a bunch of other moons but they’re tiny and don’t have enough gravity to make things like cooking or pooping convenient.  We don’t really know how healthy the 1/8 g on the big moons is compared to 0g or 1g so that might make a big health difference too.  Or not, there’s some research on the ISS going on now with animals in centrifuges that might give us a clue in a little while.

Read in 2019

2019 is dead, may it rest in peace.  One thing I hope to take from the year, though, is all the things I learned in the books I finished tha...