Friday, December 31, 2010

Solar Minimums and Gold rushes

Reading slashdot, my favorite geek news site, I saw this story about the current low solar activity that may be affecting our world, and then saw the link to the Dalton Minimum, a period in late 1700's to early 1800's of low solar activity that may have helped cause the Year Without a Summer. Besides having a dramatic name, it may have contributed to the deaths of 10's of thousands of people, the westward migration in the US, and for those of you who care about Mormon history, the Smith family's move from Vermont to Palmyra.

I don't know about you, but my history teachers never mentioned any such thing, and in fact, never mentioned anything about science unless it was about something being invented. Steam engines, cotton gins, factories, paper, and printing presses got plenty of screen time. But using science to help explain history is a rare talent, but it sounds fascinating to me...

p.s. I'm pretty sure the existence of solar minimums can neither prove nor disprove climate change(at least on their own), but they're an interesting component to our weather systems.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Beatrice and Virgil

Beatrice and VirgilBeatrice and Virgil by Yann Martel

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

An atmospheric fable about the holocaust. While it can be criticized as thinly veiled autobiographical authorial navel-gazing, I felt the writing of the fable, the feeling of the story well outweighed the meta meta-ness of it all.

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Sunday, December 19, 2010


TwelveTwelve by Jasper Kent

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The prose is common, the perspective is first-person, the story is simple. The main character is a little blank and the twist at the end is no great revelation. The setting was very interesting, though it could have been better fleshed out, and the fantasy component had a nice small place in the world.

This is a small fantasy story with out any pretension to some grand effect on the world. Set in Russia, as Napoleon marches on Moscow, It is the story of Russian spies, and their efforts to destroy some poorly chosen allies. There is never a sense that the story could change the history, only that it might have happened parallel to history. Beware, this is a vampire story, but there are no teenagers, romance, or sparkles.

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