Books & papers of note

Share on FacebookShare on Google+Email this to someoneTweet about this on Twitter

This is an open thread where you can post links or pointers to books & papers you think might be interesting to those who read this weblog in comments. I generally get a lot of good pointers via comments, but if this works out I’ll just post this every month or so. I’ll leave the scope of the request to your discretion, though if you are a regular reader you know the purview of this weblog.


  1. Blood Rock by James Jackson. Amazing.

  2. Also this little red bookchair I got is incredibly useful.

  3. “The Devil’s Delusion”, by David Berlinski. Fun, entertaining, witty, well written.

  4. *Mathematical Models in Biology* by Edelstein-Keshet. 
    No genetics or pop gen in it, but it covers a shitload of other stuff, from molecular up to ecology. If you are good at analogies, it’s not hard to think “Oh, that’s like…” for your own field of interest. You just have to hope no one else has made the analogy yet. (grrrr) 
    It’s mostly ODEs (hardly any linear algebra), with PDEs explained on a need-to-know basis.

  5. For fans of the Dark Ages, Alistair Moffat’s “Arthur and the Lost Kingdoms”, Weidenfeld and Nicolson, London, 1999.  
    ‘King’ Arthur, apparently, came from Kelso and so, amazingly, does our author. Interesting speculation about Merlin too. Good fun thoughout, and he’s pretty open about what’s evidence and what’s inspired guesswork. A work to appeal to everyone who shouts for the Romano-British against those vile Picts and Germans.

  6. One of my all time favorites is “The conquest of New Spain” by Bernal Diaz – it is a first hand account by a conquistador, who accompanied Cortez in his fight to conquer the Aztec Empire and take it’s capital Tenochtitlan – aka Mexico City.

  7. Right now I’m reading 2 good books: 
    One is The Island at the Center of the World: The Epic Story of Dutch Manhattan and the Forgotten Colony that Shaped America – which details how the early trials and tribulations of the Dutch (aka Holland, the Nederlands) colonial city of New Amsterdam and its unique society, along with its hero Adriaen van der Donck, laid the foundations of New York city and indeed the culture of the US, as much or more than the New Englanders or other British colonies. 
    The other is Born on a Blue Day: Inside the Extraordinary Mind of an Autistic Savant – which is a first hand account by an young Englishman of his life growing up as a savant, with synaesthesia and Asperger’s syndrome.

  8. Ignore the BBC link above, I guess, here’s the paper 
    DNA barcoding the floras of biodiversity hotspots 
    DNA barcoding is a technique in which species identification is performed by using DNA sequences from a small fragment of the genome, with the aim of contributing to a wide range of ecological and conservation studies in which traditional taxonomic identification is not practical. DNA barcoding is well established in animals, but there is not yet any universally accepted barcode for plants. Here, we undertook intensive field collections in two biodiversity hotspots (Mesoamerica and southern Africa). Using >1,600 samples, we compared eight potential barcodes. Going beyond previous plant studies, we assessed to what extent a “DNA barcoding gap” is present between intra- and interspecific variations, using multiple accessions per species. Given its adequate rate of variation, easy amplification, and alignment, we identified a portion of the plastid matK gene as a universal DNA barcode for flowering plants. Critically, we further demonstrate the applicability of DNA barcoding for biodiversity inventories. In addition, analyzing >1,000 species of Mesoamerican orchids, DNA barcoding with matK alone reveals cryptic species and proves useful in identifying species listed in Convention on International Trade of Endangered Species (CITES) appendixes.  

  9. I enjoyed the novel by astrophysicist Janna Levin called A Madman Dreams of Turing Machines.  
    It’s constructed around parallel stories of logician Kurt Godel and Alan Turing, mathematician and pioneer of computing and crypology.  
    It’s a thoughtful and serious novel – who says scientists can’t write! 
    Also with a cryptological theme is Neal Stephenson’s Cryptomnicon. Sort of an intelligent version of an airport thriller.

  10. Tut, tut, where are my manners? I should have said “against those vile Picts, Germans and Irish”.