Hidden Figures and The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks: A Comparative Review

This weekend I finished listening to ‘The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks’ by Rebecca Skloot, and in January, I finished reading ‘Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race’ by Margot Lee Shetterly. The reason I wanted to review both together and compare them was because the authors have, essentially, the same goal – to reveal to the world the untold stories of those who helped in some of the greatest achievements of the 20th and 21st Centuries.

Hidden Figures looks at, as the full title reveals, the women ‘computers’ who helped in getting man into space, and putting a man on the moon; it mainly focuses on the lives of Dorothy Vaughn, Christine Darden, Mary Jackson and Katherine G. Johnson. Recently, it was made into an Oscar Nominated movie starring Taraji P. Henson, Janelle Monae and Octavia Spencer; the movie, sadly, leaves out Christine Darden and looks only at the other three.

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks takes the story of Henrietta Lacks, who was diagnosed with cervical cancer and her cancer cells seem to be immortal. These cells were named HeLa and proved to be incredibly useful in cancer research. Her story, and her unwitting contribution remained untold for several years until Rebecca Skloot came along and made it available to everyone. An adaptation of this is underway at HBO starring Rose Byrne, Oprah Winfrey and Renee Elise Goldsberry.

What I loved about the two books was that they were told very differently and yet served the same purpose. Shatterly, for the most part, kept her self out of the narrative and gave us a look at these brilliant, amazing women and their contributions to NASA, while, Skloot was an integral part of the narrative – she introduced the characters in her book, and then it went about describing how she got the information that she received and everything she, and the Lacks family had to go through.

Including yourself in the narrative is a nice way to add a dimension of emotion and opinion to it, and helps you get more involved in the narrative. On the other hand, Hidden Figures, manages to bring out the emotion of the story pretty well, and I got engaged in the narrative nonetheless. Though, I teared up more for Hidden Figures than for Immortal Life, probably because Hidden Figures was closer to home than Immortal Life.

But I must admit, initially I was apprehensive of that fact that Immortal Life was in first person, but I loved it so much once I got into it. And the experience was enhanced by the fact that I was listening to it in the audio-book format, so it felt like the author, herself, was telling me the story, and the narrator of the audiobook, Cassandra Campbell, does a brilliant job with it! The voices are amazing, and the emotion that she brings to the narration is part of why I loved the idea of the first person narrative in audio-book format, and it was her narration that was, partly, the reason why I was so moved by the story towards the end. Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot blends non-fiction, science-writing with a true story of the lives of the people directly related to the HeLa cells seamlessly into a beautiful and touching story that is a must read for non-fiction lovers, and science writing aficionados.

Hidden Figures gives us a  – mostly -objective viewpoint and presents all the facts to us, and yet it doesn’t fail in bringing out the emotion, and the struggle and their achievements. The writing was brilliant, clear and simple, and I loved the way she told the story- presenting to us, not only the lives of these brilliant female computers, but also the evolution of the agency that was to become NASA. It starts before the Space Race, and ends with a man on the moon. I particularly loved this story because the Space Race is something I was incredibly fascinated with, and – at least to me – the achievements in the 21st century context seems, in some ways, lacking due to the absence of the race element between countries, and given the current political climate filled with Climate Change Naysayers and those who would discourage science, the competition is between companies. But still, I feel that that this is lacking. So, I honestly feel that stories like Hidden Figures need to be told and re-told to remind everyone about how we got here, and that we shouldn’t waste the effort that it took to get us till where we are right now.

As a side note, the Hidden Figures movie is brilliant and Taraji P. Henson is amazing and I love her. I can’t wait to see The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks on HBO in April!

 

Three Dark Crowns by Kendare Blake Review

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I don’t usually like YA Fantasy; in fact, I actively avoid anything relating to that particular genre, because, as interesting as the premise may be, it will, inevitably, dive much deeper into the relationships, and how the girl is stuck in a love triangle, or quadrangle or whatever. No doubt, several paragraphs will be spent in describing how steamy the kisses were, how conjoined their bodies were during intercourse, how inseparable they were, how much they loved each other, and how devastated they were when the other died. Then again, my view is very prejudicial. I just don’t like the writing.

But man, oh, man this book. The premise was so interesting that I just had to pick it up to read, and as I was reading I was desperately hoping that, with every page I turned, with every new chapter I begun, the character wouldn’t fall in love with the nearest hot male character and then ruin the book. I was even willing to risk the love stuff for this book.

The premise is super interesting: there are three sisters, which are split up and given to different “clans” who specialize in certain abilities – the Poisoners, the Naturalists, and the Elementalists. These girls will grow up and learn their respective abilities, and when the time comes, something called Beltane, they will try and kill the other sister and take the throne. The time after the Belatane festival in which one of the sisters attacks one of the others is called the Ascension Year. And whichever sister gets to the throne, the respective clan will, therefore, reap the benefits.

There’s nothing particularly brilliant about the prose, but it nonetheless flows seamlessly. We are introduced to each of the three sisters and their closest folk, and we read a lot of rumination on the interesting magic system, and ways and means of killing the other sister through out the book.

The best part? There is only one tiny bit where a sex scene is described in detail, and that is one of the very very few intimate scenes in the novel.

The story is really interesting; I love the world in which they live; I love the magic system; I love the concept that the novel explored. It is really quite unique; I don’t think I’ve ever come across any such novel.

This, though, ends on a cliffhanger that’ll leave you wanting the next book immediately. I just cannot wait till later this year for the sequel. ARGH!

 

First Steps

(This was  published in my university magazine. I don’t like that my name has been printed there, but then again, who really reads the university magazines?)

First Steps

First steps are the hardest, especially when it’s on a completely new planet; it’s even worse when you’ve never known any kind of real gravity outside the artificial spin systems of the Generation Ship Amun. Me, and a couple hundred others were the first humans, if one can call us that, to ever set foot on another planet in a completely different star system. We might not even be classified as human anymore because we’ve been genetically engineered to sustain ourselves in harsh conditions, and to grow and learn very fast.

We were all born on the same day, the eight of July, and we recently turned eighteen; we don’t look it, though. To anyone else, we’d look like thirty year olds. We’ve spent the last eighteen years learning everything our individual jobs require – me, I’m a scientist, a physicist to be exact; my brother, Caleb, he’s a doctor of medicine; and our sister, she’s set to rule this colony. We’re the first settlers here, and setting foot on this new land is a momentous occasion.

The doors open slowly and the pressurized compartment allows the air to leak in with a soft hiss. All of us stand and look out through the door in amazement and wonder; for all of us, this is the first time we are seeing actual land outside of the pictures and simulations on the ship.

And then, our sister, Helen, makes the first step into the new land, into our brave new world.

And this was the biggest leap for mankind, yet.

Death, Interrupted.

(Disclaimer: I started writing only very recently, so, umm, yeah. These are something I like to call Postcard Stories, stories that can, in theory, fit on a postcard. It was inspired by a short story by Arthur C. Clarke, and his introduction to that same story. But, in what I’ve written, I don’t think I stick to it quite often, so it would, actually, constitute micro-fiction of some sort. Oh, well.)

Death, Interrupted. 

The death of Jackson Emmet Cole was interrupted by the end of the world.

It was nine o’clock on a Saturday, and Jackson Emmett Cole was ready to kill himself. He had been feeling depressed for many years now, and he thought it only appropriate to rid himself of the pain. He had failed at everything, including his life’s ambition of being a physicist – he was deluded into believing that it was as glamorous and as sexy as the physicists on TV with books on the New York Times Bestseller List.

Jackson Emmett Cole was ready to kill himself. He had a gun in his hand, loaded with just one bullet. He walked to the veranda of the secluded lodge that he had booked for himself somewhere outside Carrbridge, and then put the gun to his head. He looked up at the stars one last time and noticed something strange.

Look,” he said to no one in particular, so it fell dead in the cold wind.

Look,” he urged again, and pointed to the sky, but only the rustling of the wind seemed to acknowledge him.

Without any fuss, the stars were going out. He knew that the world was ending.

 

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

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Rogue One: A Star Wars story is the first of the anthology Star Wars movies that will release every alternate year. It’ll be very hard to tell a Star Wars without rooting it in the wide, and often confusing Mythology of the universe. They decided to look to the period between Episode III and Episode IV, the original movie.

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story tells the tale of how a group of Rebels get hold of the plans of the Death Star and transmit it to the Rebel Alliance. The movie stars Felicity Jones as Jyn Erso, the daughter of the scientist who is working on the Death Star against his will, Galen Erso, played by the magnificent Mads Milkkensen; Jyn is brought into the Rebel Alliance, against her will, to locate a pilot for the Empire, who has gone rogue, and is looking for Saw Garrera, an old friend of both Jyn and Galen, to deliver a message to him about the Death Star. The Rebel Alliance wants this message, but also wants to kill Galen, unaware of the circumstances under which he is working for the Empire. The initial teasers and trailers, though, portrayed a different Star Wars Story, but the reshoots, I’m told, have made all the difference.

As soon as I came out of the movie, I had exactly one thought: this is the best Star Wars movie I’ve seen. But the reason for this is because it was released as a prequel and not the first in the series. If Rogue One: A Star Wars Story was the first of series of Star Wars movies, then, I’m sure this movie would’ve flopped. The charm of this movie lies in the fact that it is the eighth live-action movie in the franchise. It is so deeply rooted in the mythology that it is hard to imagine this movie as a first – as a someone’s first Star Wars film- rather than a prequel. But anyway, seeing as how, and when it is placed, and not separated from the rest of the franchise, I think it is the best movie of the series.

Though, I will admit that the characters aren’t all that great, the first act is quite slow, and hard to ease into for a first time inductee. Apart from that, I do love it a lot. Felicity Jones’ Jyn was brilliant, but the actual stand out was Alan Tudyk’s K2SO, the Imperial Droid whose memory was wiped and is now with the Rebel Alliance –  it seems as though the memory wiping, and the rebel alliance induction has given him a heavy dose of sarcasm in his circuitry.

I was pleasantly surprised by how good the recreated Governor Tarkin looked in the movie; I was terrified the days leading up to it thinking it would look horrible, and weird. And I was surprised by the surprise recreation in the final scene of the movie, which directly connects this movie to the original Star Wars, or how it is now known – Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope.

You can see the connection to the new line of movies with a rebel pilot gone rogue, and the hints and flavours of John Williams’ score for The Force Awakens. Michael Giacchino’s score reminds me so much of the original movie’s score.

The movie, every moment of it, reminds me of something else in the franchise, and that is probably why I loved it so much. Every aspect of it is so familiar – from references to Star Wars Rebels, to the returning characters,  to the opening shot of the blue Bantha Milk, to the recreations. It was beautiful. It is beautifully retro, and modern at the same time. 

The writers of the movie, Weitz and Gilroy, have done a brilliant job in weaving in the references, and creating quite the enjoyable movie, but I do wish they had done a slightly better job with some of the characters. Gareth Edwards, who did wonderfully with Godzilla, succeeds once again in making a visually beautiful film. He manages the large sets brilliantly, and I must commend him for the final few minutes of the movie, especially where Vader comes out of the shadows with his lightsaber at the ready – my mind was going all over freaking out, and my eyes were busy orgasming at the beauty of it. Every scene that Darth Vader is in, he looks stunning, and the scene was shot, and directed brilliantly.

So, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, remains my favourite star wars movie since 1977. And we have to wait until next year for Episode VIII.

Arrival Review

**This contains spoilers**

I’m a little late to the party, but nevertheless, I watched Arrival just earlier today;I’ve been waiting for so long to see it! It is based on Ted Chiang’s brilliant novella, Story of Your Life, that won the Nebula Award for best Novella in 2000.

The movie follows Dr. Louise Banks, a linguist, as she is called on to decipher, and translate the language spoken by an alien race that mysteriously appeared in 12 different locations on Earth.

The movie opens to Louise’s daughter dying from cancer, where Louise, very subtly, gives away a major bit of the movie, but one wouldn’t know unless they had previously read the novella. Nonetheless, it opens to the daughter dying. From the get go, the movie has marked itself different from the source material.

From there it moves to the arrival of the Aliens, the so-called Heptapods. Dr. Louise Banks, a distinguished linguist, who has previously worked for the government, is called to help translate the language of the Heptapods, and then, subsequently, communicating with them.

When she is brought to the space ship, she enters a sort of cavern, that is within the space ship that takes them to the “looking-glass,” the device that helps them communicate with these aliens, there is an interesting effect that it has on gravity. She jumps, and lands flat on the sides, and that becomes the down as far as she is concerned (that is, her ‘upright’ is parallel to the plane of the ground. This bit wasn’t in the book, but it was an interesting addition, and I loved it a lot.

She teams up with Ian Donnelly, a theoretical physicist, who is tasked with deciphering their physics and mathematics.

She very quickly figures out that the spoken language is completely useless to the humans, for it is completely unpronounceable by us. She then moves on to their written language, and that seems to be an easier way for the two to communicate. She is building up to asking them the most important question as far as the Military is concerned: “What is your purpose here on Earth?”

A random fun fact: while they are analysing the written script, I caught a glimpse of Mathematica software as their tool. I find this really exciting because I have to use it for my work as well.

When she gets around to asking that question, the answer scares them, and confounds them: “Offer weapon.”

Upon receiving this answer, the Chinese government plans an attack against them. And back at the military base, an explosive is hidden within the ship, and goes off while Louise and Ian are still inside trying to get more information out of them.

Due to this blast, and a couple other things, things escalate very quickly and a bad situation turns far worse. And while they are supposed to evacuate, Louise tries to communicate with them once more, and when she returns, she finally manages to decipher their final message.

While all of this is happening, while she is learning the Heptapod script, she starts experiencing some sort of visions, that is later revealed to be her future. She is remembering the future, and that is because of this neat trick that when you immerse yourself in a language you also start thinking in that language. Since the Heptapod script is non-linear, this leads them to the conclusion that they experience time non-linearly and because of that, Louise, too, has started to do the same.

First off, I absolutely loved the toned down performances by the cast, and, though it’s been said enough already, especially Amy Adams’ performance. She portrayed Louise Banks brilliantly, and I thought it was wonderful.

The script expanded on the universe that Ted Chiang created, and it did so really well. Though, the script did leave out some of the interesting bits of the novella, mainly the physics bit; when the physics bit is happening in the novella, they figure out that the Heptapods find complex mathematics, like Fermat’s principle of least time, more fundamental than they the things we find fundamental. I liked that speculation on physics, the book took care of it really well, and I’m sure they could’ve spent five minutes talking about it; I’m just a bit upset about it.

They changed a lot of the final act of the book; the book’s end game is very different from the movie’s endgame. The movie’s themes are also far more complex than the book’s. I really liked the way they depicted the Heptapod script in the movie, it looked a lot like squid ink writing. The Heptapods, themselves, looked a lot different than I imagined them. Finally, the way the memories of the future, the way it was depicted, I thought it was done really well, a good way to adapt that bit from the source material.

I think the movie is a brilliant adaptation of the novella, and it stays true to the source material, and manages to maintain the concept and the feel, without making it an exact, word-for-word copy of the novella.

I honestly believe that this is one of the best, most innovative, science fiction movie of this past decade. Far superior to Interstellar, or The Martian, or Gravity. (I don’t particularly like the first and the last in that list.)

 

Gilmore Girls Seasons 1-7

So, in July, I started watching Gilmore Girls for no apparent reason other than the revival that came out few days ago on Netflix; I thought it’d be a cute show to watch, to kill some time, and it’ll be some good entertainment. But, I don’t even know how, I got hooked on to this show so so quickly.

A similar thing happened with Grey’s Anatomy, but the only difference was that I started that show for my friend. But, within the first few episodes, I got hooked on to it so easily, and now 13 season down, these characters feel like people I’ve grown up with, I am invested in their lives.

Gilmore Girls is about a mother and daughter both named Lorelei Gilmore; the daughter, though, goes by Rory. They live in Stars Hollow, and they are much-loved by the tiny town; Rory is like the town’s baby, nearly the whole town takes care of this girl. Lorelei is the manager of the Independence Inn, whose owner had taken care of Lorelei and her, then, newborn daughter after she had run away from her parents in Hartford.

Stars Hollow is also the location of Luke’s Diner where Lorelei and Rory have nearly all their meals, and coffee. Coffee is a very important part of their lives.

Luke, Lorelei and Rory share a very interesting relationship. Luke has always been there for little Rory, and throughout the series, too, he’s been there her.

When Rory gets into the prestigious Chilton, a private school that is her stepping stone to her Harvard dreams, Lorelei can’t pay the tuition. So she has to resort to asking her parents, with whom she shares a very awkward relationship because, when she had the baby, she ran away from them because she couldn’t handle her parents’ quirks when it came to their lifestyle.

This is where our story begins, Lorelei asking her parents for money, and the rest of the series chronicles the various ups and downs in Lorelei and Rory’s life, their relationships, and everything else. Lorelei quits the Independence Inn, and with her best friend Sookie starts her own inn, The Dragonfly Inn, which has been their dream for a very long time.  Rory goes from Chilton, to Yale, instead of Harvard.  She falls in love with Dean, first, then Luke’s nephew, Jess, and the Yale-brat, Logan. Briefly, in between Jess and Logan, she has an affair with the married Dean. Lorelei, on the other hand, has a thing with Christopher, Rory’s father; Max Medina, a professor at Chilton; Digger Stiles; some other guy; and finally Luke; then marries Christopher; and in the very final scene, Luke again.

The show is, beyond a doubt, one of the best drama shows I’ve seen. I loved the mother-daughter relationship between Lorelei and Rory. It is so so cute. I love the romanticism that comes with having such a small, close-knit town/community thing where everyone knows every one, and everyone looks out for each other.  I absolutely love how book obsessed Rory is, and often she reminds me of myself when it comes to books. Though, as the seasons progressed, and Rory moves to Yale and further away from Stars Hollow,  I found myself missing the Rory-Lorelei banter. I missed the frequent appearances by the random Townspeople.

One thing I found very annoying was the relationship between Lorelei and her parents. I found it incredibly annoying how both parties treat each other. Another annoying thing was Michel, the assistant Manager at the Inn. I found his accent a bit too annoying, and he was always so annoying. I couldn’t bring my self to like him.

One of the plot lines that they followed, which was incredibly heart breaking to watch was when Lorelei and Rory had their little spat, and weren’t talking for half a season, and Rory had dropped out of Yale. And when they met again in Episode 10, I cried so much; it was very heart warming.

Another instance of uncontrollable ugly crying was Rory’s valedictorian speech. Oh, and the last 30 minutes of the series finale. That was so difficult to watch without the tears stinging my eyes.

Scott Patterson’s Luke was an amazing character, and definitely my favourite behind the Lorelei and Rory.  His performance has been amazing, and consistent from the very beginning. Melissa McCarthy’s Sookie is an amazing character as well, and she played her to perfection. She was so kooky, and quirky – classic Melissa McCarthy style. Liza Weil’s Paris Geller was weird, and I found her annoying to begin with, but later I started to love her character as well.

Kelly Bishop and Edward Herrmann who played Emily and Richard Gilmore, Lorelei’s parents, were brilliant too! I loved Kelly Bishop’s uptight Emily, and Edward’s workaholic Richard. As I mentioned before, I wish the show had some reconciliation between Lorelei and her parents; both of them have done some stupid things to each other, and I get where the two parties are coming from, but I also wish they would’ve made up in the end. That is probably the only thing I didn’t like about the show.

Also, maybe, the last few episodes of the final season – it seemed a bit too rushed; and I didn’t like Lorelei and Christopher’s marriage – I thought it was a very bad move.

But, in the end, I really, really love this show, and would definitely binge it again.

Oh well, time to move on to A Year in the Life, then.

 

Quantum Weirdness

Quantum Weirdness

Or What the Hell is this Going On?

We all know that Quantum Mechanics is weird; weird doesn’t begin to explain what it really is, but all we can say is weird. Even physicists agree that Quantum Mechanics is weird. It all starts with a simple thought experiment; just put a cat in a box.

Take a cat and put it in a box along with a Geiger counter inside which is contained a bit of a radioactive substance whose atoms have a 50% probability of decaying, and 50% probability of not; in such a case where it does decay, it is connected to a hammer that will break a vial of hydrocyanic acid that will result in instantly killing the cat. Now, when this system is left all by its lonesome without any outside interference, the cat has an equal probability of being alive and dead. In Quantum Mechanics, any system is defined by a Psi-Function: and this describes the state of the system. So, in the case of this cat, the psi-function is in a superposition of the two possible states of the cat – dead, and alive. So yes, the cat is, in fact, both dead and alive in the box, in layman’s terms.

The only way to solve the problem is opening the box and seeing what state it is in; doing this constitutes a measurement – making an observation – and this collapses the wave function, causing the cat to be either dead, or alive.

So, what this actually implies is that a system exists in that particular state only after we observe it, or make a measurement.

Now, you could very well argue that this is absolutely absurd, and that’s not how reality works – you don’t need to observe something to make it exist in that state. But if we follow the Quantum Mechanical interpretation of the world, then that is how everything is.

Before we go on, lets define a couple of terms.

In Quantum Mechanics, the Observer is quite the same as a measurement apparatus; the act of making an observation is synonymous with quantum measurement, which in itself is difficult due to the Uncertainty Principle; and an Observable is anything that you measure.

In Classical Mechanics, you can very accurately describe the state of a system by stating its position and momentum. The quantum mechanical analogue to this is a quantum state, which is made up of several probabilities, but, unlike in Classical Mechanics, we cannot describe the state in terms of its position and momentum accurately; there is some inherent uncertainty in defining its position and momentum.

When we talk about Collapse of a Wave function, we mean that the function that describes the system has been found to be in one state, rather than any other, upon measurement. A system is described by a wave function, which could refer to any number of possibilities; think of a system before observation as a cloud of possibilities, it could be absolutely anything and everything. So when you make an observation, and see that it is in some state 1, rather than any of the other states, it is said to have collapsed into that state. This cloud of possibilities mentioned before is the superposition of states.

Quantum Mechanics is hugely successful because it manages to predict things very well; the mathematics of it work wonderfully, but the problem is the theory. The theory of Quantum Mechanics is incomplete, some would say, and this leaves a lot to interpretation and this gives us several interpretations of Quantum Mechanics itself.

The most famous interpretation of Quantum Mechanics is the Copenhagen Interpretation of Quantum Mechanics. This interpretation says that physical systems don’t have definite properties unless they’ve been measured, and hence causing the wave function to collapse. Niels Bohr and Werner Heisenberg developed this version between 1925 and 1927.

The Copenhagen interpretation is the most widely accepted and widely taught version, but it’s not safe from criticism. One of the major critiques of this interpretation is that it is a bit ad hoc; take the example of Schrodinger’s Cat that was mentioned before, and now add a human in the same box as the cat. Now, for the outside observer, the cat is in a superposition of states – that is dead and alive; but the human inside sees the cat to be alive. This leads us to having two different wave functions for the same cat, and you might very well be in a position to ask: “What the hell is this going on?”

Copenhagen has a nice work around; it now creates a distinction between the inside observer and the outside observer. There is something called a Heisenberg Slit, which is, in theory, an interface between he Quantum Mechanical system and the observer. So, the Copenhagen Interpretation says that if the two observers are on the same side of the slit, it’s a measurement. But if they’re on either side, then for the one on the same side as the cat, it isn’t considered a measurement.

What this basically boils down to is the seventh commandment of animalism in Animal Farm. At the beginning, the pigs say, “All animals are equal.” But later, the pigs amend that (and others) to make way for their “law breaking”: “All animals are equal, but some are more equal than others.

Another major critic of the Copenhagen Interpretations was Einstein himself. Einstein, Nathan Rosen and Boris Podolsky published a paper that came to be known as the Einstein-Podolsky-Rosen (or EPR) paradox that states that Quantum Mechanics is an incomplete description of reality.

The paper stated that this interpretation was incomplete and hence there is a possibility of a more complete theory being developed in the future. It states that if Quantum Mechanics were a complete description, then there must exist some local hidden variables to help account for the some of the other, inaccessible variables.

In what theorist Sean Carroll calls the “most embarrassing” poll in the history of physics, physicists attending a conference called Quantum Physics and the Nature of Reality were asked which interpretation of Quantum Mechanics they subscribe to and 40% said that, despite its many pitfalls, flaws and its ad hoc nature, they subscribe to the Copenhagen Interpretation; the rest couldn’t find an alternative theory to follow.

Another way of looking at Quantum Mechanics is the Many Worlds Interpretation. Taking the example of the famous cat, since it has only two possible states, reality splits into two – one where it is alive, while another where it is dead. So, we have two universes created, one in which the cat is dead, another where it is alive. The reason this isn’t that big is because it implies that the whole universe is defined by a single wave function, which is a hard truth to digest. But this interpretation, as with many other substitutes for the Copenhagen Interpretation, create more problems than they hope to solve.

Now, one of the biggest flaws of the Copenhagen interpretation is of a more existential nature. As mentioned before, the reason, according to this interpretation, that anything exists is due to observation. So, that begs the question: How do we exist?

Common sense dictates that if this were, truly, an accurate representation of reality, then something must have observed the original system, to cause a collapse into our state – the one in which we live, breathe and exist. We simply could not exist unless some measurement had been made to allow the wave function that described our universe to collapse.

Who is observing us? What caused the wave function that described our universe collapse?

Short answer: No clue.

Long Answer: Not the slightest idea.

So, really, what the hell is this going on?

Hag-Seed by Margaret Atwood Review

Hag-Seed by Margaret Atwood Review

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This is the four hundredth year of Shakespeare, and his plays are enjoyed, and loved, and relevant today, as they were in his time. The Hogarth Press was started by Virginia and her husband Leonard Woolf back in the early 20th Century. Virginia Woolf was a lover of Shakespeare, and that was reflected in her writings. Their goal was to publish new writing by new, up-and-coming writers. The Hogarth Press, famously, denied publishing James Joyce’s Ulysses.

In 2012, Hogarth was started with the same mission, and recently they started The Hogarth Shakespeare Project where prominent authors would take up their favourite Shakespeare Plays and would re-tell it in a contemporary setting.

This is the latest to be released, with more on the way. Margaret Atwood is an amazing writer, though, I’m a bigger fan of her poetry than her fiction. She has taken up The Tempest, and has set it in a prison.

As we know, The Tempest is a play about revenge, and is a bit fantastical. It follows Prospero as he brings on a tempest that shipwrecks Antonio, his brother, and his companions. He, along with Alonzo, the King of Naples, had tricked him out of his Dukedom, and now he seeks his revenge. He is aided by Caliban, a deformed child of the witch Sycorax, and Ariel, a spirit that he has trapped and now reluctantly assists him in his nefarious deeds. Meanwhile, Miranda, Prospero’s daughter, falls in love with Ferdinand,

In Hag-Seed, we meet artistic director Felix, who was fired from his position as he was directing a radical interpretation of The Tempest. Now, twelve years later, he is working at a Correctional Facility where he is teaching Shakespeare to the inmates. Here, he decides to put on a play based on The Tempest, because he learns that his former boss, and the person who was responsible for firing him, is coming to visit the Correctional Facility.

So, therein he finds the opportunity to enact his revenge, and what a novel way he takes it. This book works on two levels, putting on The Tempest as a play, and thereby taking his revenge, but also how pieces of The Tempest and the revenges are leaking into his life and re-fuelling his revenge.

The book is beautifully written, the characters work as themselves, separate from their Tempest counterparts,  as well as re-interpretations of characters of The Tempest. I don’t think I’ve read a re-telling quite like this before where the play is constantly referenced and is used a means of enacting the play in Felix’s life, and as a means of revenge.

The Tempest is one of my favourite Shakespeare plays, and Margaret Atwood is the perfect author to re-tell it, and what a success it was. I absolutely loved the book, the language, the pacing, and the Shakespeare lessons one gets from it.

If you love Shakespeare, or you just love a good read, Margaret Atwood’s Hag-Seed is the book for you!

Hyperion/The Fall of Hyperion by Dan Simmons

 

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These two books form a mammoth first part to an epic series by Dan Simmons. Hyperion follows a group of  seven people -The Consul, a detective, a poet, a soldier, a scholar, a priest, and the captain of the tree ship on which they are travelling – on a pilgrimage to Hyperion, where the Time Tombs are located, where they will, inevitably, encounter a mythical creature, worshiped by some, feared by almost everyone else, called The Shrike.

Borrowing from the structure and form of Geoffery Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales, each character shares their tale. The second one, The Fall of Hyperion, follows them as they navigate the challenging landscape of Hyperion, and the Time Tombs under the shadow of the Shrike, and the impending Ouster Invasion, and its consequences.

Both the books are mindbogglingly brilliant.

What I love about them is how different both of them are from each other; the first is divided into stories detailing the past lives of the pilgrims before the came onto the Tree Ship. And each story has a different genre to it, and each story shows their connection to the Shrike, and Hyperion. My personal favourite is the Scholar’s tale, where he talks about his daughter, who was conducting her research at one of the time tombs, The Sphinx, and due to some anomaly, she has started ageing backwards, and because of that the scholar and his wife have to take care of their daughter again.

The sequel, and the reason I’m reviewing them together, picks up where Hyperion left-off; Hyperion ends on a sort of cliffhanger, and a revelation that not all would expect. Hyperion leaves all our characters in a state of confusion, danger, and mistrust, and this is just the beginning of their journey. The Fall of Hyperion, as opposed to Hyperion, switches perspectives between the pilgrims, and Gladstone, as she prepares for the Ouster Invasion.

The second one has some twists that one wouldn’t expect, and it is perhaps the better one of the two.

I had been putting off reading this series for a very long time, only due to its immense size and the epic proportions of the book. It is definitely a Herculean task that you’d undertake reading this series; by no means is this an easy read. But every moment you spend reading this series, it is worth it, because of the rich atmosphere and the diverse world that Simmons creates. It’ll be very easy to get lost in world.

(P.S. I love the concept of time debt that is introduced, and, basically, all the technology thrills me and the little nuggets of sciencey explanation makes me very happy.)

Also, in some ways, the are some Shakespearean undertones to the characters and I love that about them.

This is one amazing book, and any self-respecting Sci-fi fan should read it, and enjoy it.

I’m currently reading the third book, Endymion, and subsequently, I’ll proceed to The Rise of Endymion, both of which take place several centuries after the events of Hyperion/The Fall of Hyperion.