A bookish blog post

Sir William Crookes

In the fall of 1898 Sir William Crookes (right) gave his inaugural address as the incoming president of the British Academy of Sciences.   Unlike the typical such speech, this one was prophetic and alerted the British populace for the first time to a real and growing problem.  And the populace began to worry, because Sir William was the Al Gore of his day, alerting his country (and the world) to a looming danger.

Other than prophesying disaster, however, there were a few notable differences between Sir William and Al Gore.  First and foremost, Sir William was a true scientist, not a bloated former politician with no technical training.  He was the inventor of the predecessor of the tubes later used in televisions and radios and had discovered and added thallium to the periodic table.  The second major difference is that his worries were valid.  They weren’t concocted from a gibberish of people hoping to cash in on the public’s fears of an imaginary melting of the earth, but were born of a serious concern for the continued success of the human race.  Or at the very least, the continued success of the people of Great Britain.

Sir William Crookes was deeply (and rightfully) concerned that the world would soon run out of the ability to fertilize crops, and that, as a consequence, millions would die.  At that time Britain was importing guano (the droppings of sea birds) from islands off the coast of Peru and from the nitrate fields of Chile, but those sources were finite, and Sir William realized they would at some point run out.  (He predicted sometime in 1930 as doomsday.)

To those of us today who can go to our local hardware or garden store and grab all the fertilizer we can afford to pay for, this hand wringing seems a bit melodramatic, but at the time, it was of real concern to many scientists.  The world’s population was growing rapidly, and, like today, the vast majority of the world’s population depended upon grains – mainly wheat – for sustenance.  Most grains suck nitrogen from the soil to fuel their growth, and once that nitrogen is gone, it takes a long time to get back.  And until it does, most any crop grown in nitrogen-depleted soil fails to thrive, and yield per acre falls dramatically.

The fact that nitrogen is lacking in the soil seems strange since we all walk around breathing air that is about 80 percent nitrogen.  But the nitrogen in the air can’t get into the soil in a form plants can use unless it is ‘fixed.’  Which I guess isn’t so strange when you consider that we ourselves need nitrogen to grow and repair our tissues, but we can’t get it from the air we breathe either.  We have to get it from the protein in our diets.

Nitrogen-fixation process

Nitrogen-fixation process

Bacteria that live symbiotically with the roots of certain clovers and legumes (the so-called green manure) are able to fix nitrogen from the air and covert it to the form plants can use.  Over the years farmers had figured this out and planted clovers and legumes in fields for a year or two to replace the nitrogen and make the fields fit to grow cash crops.  Or they could use manure or compost – both traditional sources of nitrogen – to replace that needed for growth, but they needed a lot because these were not particularly rich in fixed nitrogen.  Consequently, crop rotation and spreading manure/compost wasn’t a particularly efficient way of keeping a profitable farming business growing.  A more rich and readily available source of nitrogen was needed.

When enormous deposits of guano –  about 10 stories high, extremely rich in nitrogen, and taking literally centuries to accumulate – were discovered off the coast of Peru, a bustling shipping business grew up hauling the stuff from there to Britain.  As those supplies started to dwindle, explorers found fields of nitrites in Chile that began to replace the guano.  But, as Sir William observed, those sources were finite as well, and would at some point be gone.  If nothing was done or no other sources discovered by time the Chilean fields ran out, then the world would be in real trouble.

Sir William pointed out that the populations of all the great wheat-eating peoples, the Brits, the United States and Europe mainly, would outstrip their grain of choice, resulting in the deaths of thousands and perhaps even millions.  He announced in the most racist of terms (common at the time) that if a solution of this problem weren’t discovered, and discovered fairly quickly, “the great Caucasian race will cease to be foremost in the world, and will be squeezed out of existence by races to which wheaten bread is not the staff of life.”

“It is through the laboratory,” he pontificated, “that starvation may ultimately be turned into plenty.”

I don’t know what the population at large thought about Crookes’ speech, but the scientific community took it seriously.  In Germany, a Jewish scientist named Fritz Haber, after years of work, developed a desktop working model of a machine that could convert the nitrogen from the air into ammonia, which is basically the form needed for both fertilizer and gun powder.  Other scientists thought Haber’s contraption was interesting but impractical in that the temperatures and pressures required couldn’t be produced with the technology available then in any kind of industrial-sized plant.  One non-naysayer was Carl Bosch, an engineer at BASF, the giant German chemical company.  Bosch thought he could make Haber’s machine work, and after intense effort he succeeded on a giant scale. Now Haber-Bosch machines use about one percent of the earth’s resources and provide the nitrogen that sustains around 40 percent of the earth’s population.  That’s the good news.  The bad news is that these machines allow us to live in a carb-dominant world, rich in wheat and corn. Had this technology never have been invented, who knows how the nutritional history of the world would have progressed.

The Alchemy of Air by Thomas Hager is the fascinating story of the development of the Haber-Bosch system as told through the lives of the main players.  The secrecy, the infighting, the suicides, the war-time intrigue – all provide high drama in this fascinating story.  What I found particularly interesting – not to mention germane for us today – was how Bosch, who could apparently do just about anything chemical engineering-wise, developed a method to make gasoline out of coal.  By the end of WWII, 35 percent of Germany’s gasoline and all of its gunpowder came from plants developed and built by Bosch.  Why aren’t we looking at this technology that’s already existent to help wean ourselves from foreign oil?

If a technical book is more your style, then grab a copy of Enriching the Earth by Vaclav Smil.  You will learn more about the science of ‘fixing’ nitrogen and less about the personal dramas of the main players on the stage.  I read both and found them complementary to one another.  If you read both, you will know just about everything there is to know about fertilizer and nitrogen. But if you just read one, make it The Alchemy of Air.

Below is a photograph of a Haber-Bosch plant operating in the United States today.

Fertilizer factory using the Haber-Bosch process

Fertilizer factory using the Haber-Bosch process

Let’s jump subjects and move into the world of fiction.  Mystery fiction, to be precise.  I’ve been doing a lot of traveling lately, and I catch up on my ever-growing stack of crime novels while on the airplane.  I enjoy all kinds of mystery fiction, but lately I’ve had a run of British police procedurals along with an Italian one and a few German ones thrown in the mix.

I just finished Peter Robinson’s All the Colors of Darkness, which I found so so.  I thought it a wee bit contrived, much more so than his previous books, which are good books to start with if you’re unfamiliar with the British police hierarchy.  The author was born and grew up in the UK, but has lived in Toronto for years. He writes with the knowledge that his readers won’t be up with all the British police jargon, so he goes easy on them.

Despite my ho hum feelings about this book, I did find a paragraph that caught my eye.  The paragraph describes a lazy, off-duty Saturday morning routine (which, after this setup, you know ain’t going to last long) followed by Detective Chief Inspector Alan Banks, the protagonist of the series:

Banks stopped at the newsagent’s and bought The Guardian, which he thought had the best Saturday review section, then headed to the Italian café for his espresso and a chocolate croissant.  Not the healthiest of breakfasts, perhaps, but delicious.  And it wasn’t as if he had a weight problem.  Cholesterol was another matter.  His doctor had already put him on a low dose of statin, and he had decided that that took care of the problem and allowed him to eat pretty much what he wanted.  After all, he only had to be careful with what he ate if he wasn’t taking the pill, surely?

I suspect the author of this series takes a statin.  From his photos he doesn’t appear to be overweight.  I would be willing to bet that he, like his character, takes a low-dose statin (what with all the statinators around, who doesn’t these days?) and probably doesn’t watch what he eats because the statin makes him feel safe.  Bad mistake, probably, but one I’m sure more than a few who feel themselves invincible on statins make. (Who would’ve thought I could dredge an anti-statin blog out of a mystery novel?)

If you want to get started reading Peter Robinson, find a few of his earlier books.  Try Gallows View or Hanging Valley or Past Reason Hated.  Any of his books are a good introduction for the US reader into the intricacies of how the UK police works.

I read recently the second novel in Susan Hill’s mystery series, The Pure in Heart, which is a much different kind of book than the Peter Robinson books.  Susan Hill is a prolific writer of note who sticks mainly to contemporary fiction with the occasional ghost story thrown in.  The detective novel is a departure from her normal course of work, but she adds her own creative touch to the genre.  If you decide to read this book, read the one before it, The Various Haunts of Men, first or you will learn something in The Pure in Heart that will give away a big part of the plot in the previous book.  As I say, these aren’t your regular mysteries, but that’s what makes them nice.

If you want a mystery that’s a series you can get into and that is quick and fun to read, have a go at any of the novels by Andrea Camilleri about Sicilian police inspector Salvo Montalbano.  I’ve read most of these books and just finished the most recent one, August Heat.  With this series, you can start anywhere.  These novels will certainly show you the difference between the police systems in the UK and in Italy. I don’t know where I would rather be arrested, but I do know that I wouldn’t want to have been arrested in Germany in the 1930s.

If you really want to go back to pre and post WWII Germany, read the wonderful series of books by Philip Kerr about Berlin detective Bernie Gunther.  I am currently reading The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich (I always have a long, serious book going that I dip into read a little of daily. Right now I have two: The Rise and Fall and Dawin’s On the Origin of Species.), and Kerr’s novels describe pre WWII Germany to a tee.  If you want to see what life was like for Fritz Haber, Carl Bosch and others living in Germany as Hitler came to power, you’ll do no better than to read these novels.  The first three books in the series, referred to by aficionados as the Berlin Noir trilogy are March Violets, The Pale Criminal, and A German Requiem.  You can get all three now in one large paperback, but I would save it for last.  As far as I’m concerned, the best way to read these books is from last, to second to last, then the trilogy.  In other words, in opposite order in which they were written.  Start with the last book, A Quiet Flame, move on to the next-to-last one, The One From the Other, then finish with the trilogy.  You won’t be disappointed.

As I’m sure most of you know, I read a lot.  I’ll be happy to post from time to time about some of the books I enjoy if most everyone is game.  Let me know in the comments if you like these little book reviews.  And, please, feel free to recommend any of your own favorite books.

Thanks to ALLIED 2008 151 for the photo of the fertilizer plant

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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75 thoughts on “A bookish blog post

  1. I like your choices of who-dunnits. I had never heard of Philip Kerr, but I will check the library and/or Amazon. Yes, please do suggest more books, who-dunnit or not. (I already bought the one about Lucy.)

    I’ll take that as a ‘yes’ vote.

  2. Awesome recommendations. Thank you so much. I have been looking for something new to read and have never tried mysteries.

    Cheers,
    Erich

    PS do you have a Kindle? I love mine, now I just hope that these are available on it. 🙂

    I do have a Kindle, but I haven’t really fallen in love with it yet. I did read the Italian mystery on my Kindle, but the rest as regular books.

  3. Very enjoyable post! I have been meaning to recommend to you Steven Johnson’s The Ghost Map. It’s about the London cholera epidemic of 1854, and specifically about the epidemiologist who propounded the theory that cholera was spread by something in water and not by a “miasma” in bad-smelling air, which was the prevailing theory at the time. I think you’ll see the same parallels I did between this situation and the low-carb scientists crying out against the lipid hypothesis. And the story is well-written and engaging — it’s a good read.

    I agree. I read The Ghost Map a couple of years ago and really enjoyed it.

  4. concocted from a gibberish of people hoping to cash in on the public’s fears of an imaginary melting of the earth

    Hmm, seems to me that there’s an awful lot of profit being made by companies whose businesses are endangered by a warming earth (or at least by a cessation of CO2 emissions), and that those companies have been spending money to buy research that debunks the warming effect of greenhouse gasses. Just because the guy who made the loudest splash on the subject isn’t a trained scientist doesn’t mean that there’s no valid science behind it. I had the impression that the consensus of the scientific community was that climate change due to CO2 emmisions is well-established.

    I respect your opinion, so I’m willing to look into this further. Do you have any pointers to impartial analyses (not sponsored by the oil companies) on the subject that show warming is, to use your word “imaginary”?

    You would also have the impression that the consensus of the medical community was that statins were a godsend, but just because that’s the consensus doesn’t make it true. In the case of global warming, however, there is far from a consensus. If you really want to read about it, there are a zillion websites out there with dissenting opinions. You can start by going to Climate Debate Daily, which presents opinion from both sides of the debate. You can then follow up on these. And even if you are not persuaded, you will at least know that there is not consensus.

  5. What’s up with the republican party talking points? If your goal is to speak to people about health, you will alienate less of your readership by keeping your political views to yourself.

    I didn’t view them as Republican Party talking points. If you feel alienated, I’ll be happy to refund any remaining money on your subscription. And, BTW, I’m not a Republican.

  6. Heck, yeah, it is always nice to get book recommendations (of course if someone is not into it they can ignore it). I also like following the twitter articles I would never find otherwise, given that I am still walking around with a mental fog hangover from a life centered around carbs for many years prior to ’09!

  7. Dr Mike,

    “And, please, feel free to recommend any of your own favorite books.”

    Since you asked… something short, light and very, very funny, The Case For Extinction by Professor Morton Stultifer, Hon, Ph.D (aka Richard Curtis). Written in 1970, this tongue-in-cheek “answer to Conservationists” exposes the seamy underbelly of presumably noble species who’s extinction would in fact make the world a better place. The characteristics and behavior of each candidate animal is carefully and hilariously “dissected” until not a shred of possible respect for the creature remains. And what about Man himself??!!

    A recent re-read found it just as funny and enjoyable as I did 39 years ago. For someone of our age (+/- 61 years) the nostalgic references are also endearing.

    Of course, it can be silly at times (the introduction especially) but most of it is a laugh-out-loud read.

    Try to find a used copy with the dust cover intact.

    Regards,

    Philip Thackray

    This is one I’ve never heard of. I’ll have to track it down.

  8. Best books of 2009 thus far please ?

    Did you read The Happiness Hypothesis by Haidt ?

    Also Vic Stangers’ wonderful God the failed hypothesis how science proves there’s no god.
    Stenger is so brilliantly smart;quite quite wonderful.And whislt all the while, him being a physicist its obvious that he seems to see the majesty awe and gob smackedness that is the substrate of mysticism sans all the religious twoddle.

    Rgds to you and le Mrs.

    I read The Happiness Hypothesis a couple of years ago and thought it was great. In fact, I posted on it when I did the post about the rider and the elephant.

  9. Yes I do appreciate the book reviews. I figure if I don’t get around to reading them now, at least I am aware of the books that await me. I’m still trying to get my hands on one you mentioned in an earlier post, by Hank Cardello “Stuffed, An Insiders Look…” Thanks Dr. Eades, I really enjoy reading your posts.

  10. Hi Dr Mike,
    Read “Rise and Fall” years ago. Currently reading “War & Peace” in the Maude translation.

    Another great way of getting the atmosphere of the 30s in Germany is Fritz Lang’s film “M”. Made by UFA and Lang’s first sound movie. Based on a true case of a mass murderer. The film rocketed its lead actor into fame and Hollywood: an unknown named Peter Lorre. He’s brilliant and the scene-setting of the entire film is also brilliant. 2 hours long and been published on DVD in various editions. German with subtitles. Also fascinating insight into how they sorted through data in the predigital age. The stuff about the society of beggars in the plot line is the weakest part. It may be true. Who knows?

    I can’t believe you’re not reading the Pevear/Volokhonsky translation of War & Peace, which I think is the absolute best.

  11. Wow, I usually love this blog, but I found the comments about Al Gore really insulting. Even if you don’t agree with his views, that’s not like you to throw insults like a third grader. I’m disappointed.

    I didn’t view them as insults. He is bloated. He is a former politician. And he has no technical training.

  12. experts are looking at the coal to gasoline process, and there is even a comercial plant using it (they use natural gas not coal, and produce diesel not gasoline, but the process is the same) the problem is the process costs too much. That comercial plant charges over $3/gallon just to break even. The fuel is used on trackes because there is more energy in it, meaning you are more likely to win. (in this case pull the most weight the farthest) The coal companies also have an interest in this process.

    Ethanol and biodiesel show more promise of eventially being cheaper, so that gets the attention. Though once in a while someone refers to second generation biofuels. That is just a variation on the coal to gas process.

    Thanks for the heads up.

  13. I loved this post, and I am tickled pink to know you read mystery fiction. I love it. If you like Robinson, have you read Stephen Booth, Reginald Hill (he is wonderful), Stuart Pawson? All write excellent UK police procedurals. Yes please, more posts about books are always welcome. Incidentally I am three months into a low carb lifestyle and doing well, several kilos down and feeling great.

    I have read Stephen Booth and Reginald Hill (I love Reginal Hill, especially the Dalziel and Pascoe novels), but I haven’t read Stuart Pawson. I’ll give him a try. Glad you’re doing well on low-carb.

  14. I am interested to hear what you think of Michael Crichton and his views on the global warming issue, especially his book ‘State of Fear’.

    I’ve read Crichton’s book and listened to him speak on the subject. I’m right there with him.

  15. Yes yes, more more…the serious and the fun. Reading keeps the brain healthy, distracts from angsting about personal-situational (those ‘I didn’t cause it but I’m stuck in it’) dilemmas, exposes self to new ideas that might create new connections amongst resident ideas, provides fodder for conversations, is an acceptable way to avoid social interaction when the surrounding folk appear to be the sort you really don’t want to interact with, and make long boring passages of time interesting (waiting, travel, illness-recovery, insomnia *G*). I’m always on the lookout for interesting things to read…if someone I respect found it interesting, I might too. Love the Twitter links.

  16. You seem to be able to read an enormous amount of material each day. Do you know how many words per minute you read and did you learn any techniques to increase your reading speed?

    I don’t have a clue as to how many words per minute I read, but, compared to everyone else I know, I read very fast. I’ve never taken courses on speed reading or anything like that, but I’ve read voraciously all my life. And when you do something a lot for a long time, you get good at it.

  17. Please do keep discussing your books. What you are reading etc. Every detail please! Why, since I find your recommendations excellent. Books that are informative and have a story! I just finished the book on Lucy! and it was fantastic. I would never have read these books unless you had posted about them.

    I am also picking up your comments on twitter about books (hence i just bought the philip kerr novel you mentioned there). By the way, your twitter feed is amazing, you read an enormous amount and provide one of the best recommended web lists each day. My fear is you get bored of doing it! (I am not a follower on twitter, I use the rss feed only).

    I doubt that I will get bored since I do this kind of reading everyday. Now I can simply post it with a few words of commentary. I’m glad you enjoyed Lucy. It is a great book.

  18. Nice post, first started reading here about a month ago after seeing “Fat Head” and now I check back daily. It’s always nice to find people with some sort of all-round erudition.

    Although I was a bit confused about the message about nitrogen fertilisers etc. Many meat and dairy systems have similarly high inputs of such fertilisers. Also, the net energy input for meat is higher, so I would argue that it makes little difference to dietary composition having large scale industrial nitrogen fixation. There are many reasons for it, but I don’t believe this is one. Were you trying to push the theory or just ruminating over the rapid industrialisation of central Europe over the 1930s?

    Speaking of ruminating, my usual response when talking to people about grain-fed ruminants is “you wouldn’t believe how bad it is on the animals’ digestive systems” though, in your case, you probably would. I don’t know where people forgot to use clover. You still need some fertiliser (though substantially less) and the clover can coexist with the grass. It makes it much more sustainable as well.

    No real message about nitrogen fertilizers. I was just recommending a fascinating book on how science progresses and making an aside that the law of unforeseen consequences always rears its head.

  19. Oh, and as for books, Neal Stephenson’s Baroque Cycle is what I’m chewing through at the moment. It is one Mammoth of a book/trilogy/series (8 “books” spread across 3 volumes making 1 cohesive story), though if you have time you won’t regret it, judging by the tone of this post…

    Historical fiction circa 1660-1720, lots of alchemy, science and politics.

  20. Bosch … that reminds me, the Harry Bosch novels by Michael Connelly are good whodunits. Connelly is a former crime reporter for the L.A. Times, and he knows his stuff.

    I’ve read all of the Connelly novels, even the non-Harry Bosch ones.

  21. And just to make a Trilogy of posts (sorry if this annoys anyone), but I have to reply to Henry Miller about the Biofuel.

    The problem with biofuel is that you would need to get rid of agriculture for food to make it a replacement, driving food prices up. It may lessen the fossil to air transition of carbon, but it will also contribute much more negatively to water quality and supply (a more serious problem in my opinion). People point at Brazil and say “look at all the bioethanol, role models!” but I don’t recall anyone being happy with them cutting down the rainforests, turning them into sugar fields at the time.

    I don’t claim to have the answers, I just think farmed biofuel is a joke. Waste product conversion is great, and for infrastructure building I would suggest people look at biohydrogen from cyanobacteria.

    As for anthropogenic climate change, I believe it is happening from the evidence I have seen. It is the response that is the problem. Extremists on either end only throw mud and nothing gets done, the moderates get drowned out. In a situation like politics (sorry) a moderate majority tends to stabilise each end, but when all the advisors and groups are at one end of the spectrum or the other plus having a scaremongering media, it throws things all out of proportion. I find myself regularly in arguments with both sides.

    Sorry bout the rant, pet peeve.

  22. I enjoy your blog but the negative attitude about the global warming theory is off-setting. It creeps into a lot of your blogs and I don’t get what makes you so angry about it… Let’s say they (the zealous annoying environmentalists) are completely wrong, still, are working for cleaner sources of energy, getting people to recycle, and avoiding wasteful use of resources so infuriating?

    “He is bloated. He is a former politician. And he has no technical training.” Come on, these are negative attributes chosen only to further the point that the guy is not worth listening to, at least indirectly. Pretty much what the whole “scientific” society used against Atkins, Taubes, … Mentioning these doesn’t make Gore right or wrong, they are simply irrelevant adjectives. Attack the message not the messenger.

    Could this be a case of cognitive dissonance?

    I’m annoyed because there is no consensus in the scientific community about whether global warming, er, I mean climate change (now that it’s getting cooler, we can’t call it global warming any longer) is a man-made phenomenon or simply the natural fluctuation the climate of the earth has experienced for millions of years. If one reads the anthropological literature, it is clear that even the evolution of humans has been impacted by these climate changes in eras when humans couldn’t possibly have had anything to do with them. The so-called consensus has become like a religion, accepted more on faith than on science.

    Taubes is a journalist and has never presented himself as anything else. Atkins was a physician who, like me, has had a long career taking care of overweight patients and not simply theorizing about it. Gore is a former politician who has never – at least in my opinion – contributed anything worthwhile to humanity. And he’s out flogging a religion cloaked in the raiment of science.

    Both Taubes and Atkins are in similar positions of those now disputing global warming. They are considered cranks because they have the temerity to question the religion of the low-fat diet.

  23. PS. “Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds”, quite an old book (1852) but a fascinating read on popular concepts gripped people until it came crashing down of their heads.

    I’ve never read it from cover to cover, but I own it and have dipped into it here and there. Fascinating book.

  24. Thanks for the interesting report! That was a gem of concise info that I’m sure most of us did not know about.

    I recommend the mystery novels of the late Michael Dibdin, featuring detective Aurelio Zen, all set in Italy. I think of him as Lawrence Durrell lite, with humor added.

    I’ve read most of Dibdin books including all the Aurelio Zen mysteries. In fact, one of my favorite, if nihilistic, quotes comes from the Dibden novel Dirty Tricks:

    There is no such thing as society, only individuals engaged in a constant unremitting struggle for personal advantage. There is no such thing as justice, only winners and losers.

    Dibden was a great writer; I hated to hear of his death.

  25. I vote yes. In fact, I never would have read Mistakes were made if not for your review – probably never would have heard of it. My carbo books are the Mitch Rapp series by Vince Flynn. Can’t seem to put them down once I start, so I have to intermittently fast them.

    I’ve read one of the Mitch Rapp books, but haven’t gotten to the rest of them yet. They are indeed fast paced.

  26. Yes, please!
    Detective books are my choice when I travel as I want something engaging, not too heavy but not stupid either. I also adore the Camilleri books, as I feel transported to Sicily when I read them. The other series I rate is set in Venice and written by Donna Leon, starring the food loving Commissario Brunetti. I would start with the earlier books in the series.
    Thinking about others I like in the genre – the French Maigret books are interesting and give insight into the French system. Have you tried any of Simenon’s work?
    Susan

    I have read a couple of the Donna Leon books and I always have a Simenon paperback in my briefcase (the one there right now it is Maigret in Exile). The nice thing about Simenon is that one is never lacking for material – he wrote a gazillion novels. If you like the Italian stuff, check out Magdalen Nabb’s Marshal Gaurnaccia series set in Florence. Excellent, excellent novels. Small books that are slow moving but profound.

  27. As you no doubt know Sir William is probably the best known and most rigorous scientific investigator of spiritualism in the 19th century, and looked at such phenomena as ” movement of bodies at a distance, rappings, changes in the weights of bodies, levitation, appearance of luminous objects, appearance of phantom figures, appearance of writing without human agency, and circumstances which “point to the agency of an outside intelligence” (from wikipedia). He concluded that these phenomena appeared to be ‘real’. I’d be interested in your thoughts on this part of his life!

    This part of his life is easy to understand when you realize that these sorts of things were a part of serious scientific inquiry in Victorian times.

  28. A comment on a throwaway comment:
    “Why aren’t we looking at this technology that’s already existent to help wean ourselves from foreign oil.”

    I have a question. Why is disengagement from the region viewed as a good goal? Bear with me for a moment. Most Americans want disengagement from the Middle East as a way to rid ourselves of the problem. If we don’t need their oil, we will not be involved in their politics, we can stop having military bases in their holy lands, and doing so, a big vague they will be appeased. Ignoring the whole Israel question (The evangelists will not allow us to leave Israel to rot, which means we will remain engaged in the region, even without using their fossil fuels), energy independence STILL will not produce a happier outcome.

    You have to consider what makes people willing to strap a bomb to themselves or fly a plane into a building. Maybe it’s faith, but probably, it’s lack of better alternatives. Let’s say the US manages to disengage from foreign oil. That’s going to drop the price of oil on the market across the board. You have an awful lot of 1 product economies in the middle east and it’s gonna be hard to move all those oil field workers into something like date farming or falafel frying. You already have insane levels of unemployment in the region, and you’re looking to undercut the one pillar the economy has to stand on. And this is going to solve the problem how, exactly?

    Thought experiment… you are 20, Islamic, male, from Oman, trying to get a worker visa to work in the Saudi oil fields. Already a hard gig, now 30% of the world’s consumption has gone off line and prices are in free fall. Is the state oil company going to go on a hiring spree? No, they are going to cut production, as they are doing right now, to halt the free fall of prices. You are still this Omani immigrant, and you are going to the mosque, to the religious school, and you are now being told how the US has caused this misery, in addition to supporting Israel, having troops in the holy land, not doing anything about genocide against muslims, etc.

    Israel and the US and Europe wind up no less terrorized through energy independence. I think it’s a decent goal to produce cleaner, more efficient energy, but let’s not kid ourselves into thinking it’s a foreign policy panacea, right? The critical thinkers of your blog deserve better.

    PS- Considering the warning of Al Gore against the warnings of Crooks, and the action called for, I will rank Crooks as the bigger menace to society. Let’s see: what’s the worst that could happen if both prophets of doom are ignored: Crooks: We adapt a grain free diet back in the 1800’s and stay healthy like aborigines, only we maybe don’t spread as virus-like over the face of the earth, or Coastal World is under water. Uhm, I’ll take ignoring Crooks over ignoring Gore. (second thing: AG may be a politician, may be bloated and may not have technical training, but most of the scientific community is only one of the three and a lot of them happen to think Mr. Gore has it right).

    And a lot of them think Mr. Gore has it wrong, which is my point. There isn’t a consensus on the global warming issue, but it’s being presented as such.

    I agree with your rationale vis a vis the poor Omani who gets caught up in the politics, but I don’t think the Islamic countries – poor or otherwise – will ever love us. And I agree that we will never abandon Israel (although one should never say never). But why should we be in the position of having to suck up to the Saudi Royal Family simply because we need their oil? If we are able to meet our energy needs domestically, why not do it? In my opinion, it puts us in a much better position than the one we’re in now.

  29. Mine is a definite Yes vote; love all your postings and intelligent viewpoints. I gave up long ago surfing the ‘net; too much nonsense, gibberish and off-gassing. I read your stuff first to start my day. Thanks very much.

  30. A YES vote! Love all your book reviews; I do read some of your recommendations, too. Probably won’t get to British crime mysteries though, but still enjoy reading your views about them, and who knows, maybe on the next vacation I might be tempted (traveling with a child really cuts down on reading time, though).

  31. Phosphate fertilizer plants emit toxic fluoride industrial waste products that were extremely harmful to surrounding vegetation and animals. Humans, too. A solution was found in capturing the contaminated waste emissions and liquifying them with hydrochloric acid so as to produce hydrofluosilicic acid — the industrial-grade waste product used to fluoridate water. The original chemicals used for fluoridation were waste products of the aluminum industry, but now it is phosphate fertilizer waste products that are almost universally used. Speaking of books, award-winning author Christopher Bryson’s “The Fluoride Deception” is an excellent history of the industrial money trail and PR brainwashing by the US government that resulted in the foisting of fluoridation on the American public. While fluoridation is rejected by almost all of Western European nations (who have had the same decline in tooth decay rates as in the US), the aggressive promotion of this 60 year fraud continues unabated in this country. See more on fluoridation at the web site of the Fluoride Action Network. http://www.fluoridealert.org.

  32. Love hearing your book recommendations; keep them coming! I tend to read a lot of non-fiction because I have been disappointed in so many of the fiction books recommended to me. I look forward to checking these out. Love the who dunnits if you have any more.

    I just downloaded a new browser add-on I am excited about. Being the information junkie that you are I think you and your readers will appreciate it also. Perhaps you already have it, its called Hyperwords. I use Firefox but I believe it is available for Safari as well. When you highlight a word or words, it links you to a wealth of information on the subject. Here is the link: https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/addon/1941

    Neat looking add-on. I’ll give it a try. Thanks.

  33. Forgot a book recommendation. If you want something light try “The Gold Coast” by Nelson DeMille. I read it eons ago and loved it. You may have to be Italian to really appreciate it though.

    I read it long ago, and both MD and I just read his recent sequel, The Gate House, which is also pretty good.

  34. Yes, Dr. Eades, Please keep the book recomendations. I do not watch much television so I fill my evenings with reading. Always happy to have a book I haven’t read reviewed by someone I respect.
    “He is bloated. He is a former politician. And he has no technical training.” Classic. I laughed my a** off.

  35. Tony,

    there is a reason I used the word potential in reference to biodiesel and ethanol. The have known problems as well. There are potential solutions to those problems being studied. IF they work ou there will be no problems. if you only look at todays technology we will run out of oil and revert to the stone age soon after. if you research you might be able to find a solution. We already know that Arizona alone can produce all the world’s oil as biofuel needs if we just knew how to grow algae in a desert (land curently unfarmed).

    Brazil is not cutting rain forest to grow sugar cane – sugar cane doesn’t grow in those areas. (they are cuttting rain forest for soybeans – biodiesel – but that is a different issue)

  36. Just finished reading The Great Influenza: The Story of the Deadliest Pandemic in History by John M. Barry. Great read, simultaneously absorbing and horrifying account of the Spanish flu epidemic of 1918.

    Thanks for the tip. I haven’t read this one.

  37. It was Michael Crichton’s State of Fear that first planted the seeds of doubt for global warming for me. It is a novel, but he has a lot of information in the book about the pseudo-science of environmentalism, and a great bibliography for more research.

    The Global Warming Fraud organization has a youtube site with a number of interesting video’s: http://www.youtube.com/profile?user=GlobalWarmingFraud&annotation_id=annotation_84185&feature=iv

    Thanks. I hadn’t seen this site.

  38. The average adult reader reads at about 300-350 words per minute. Interestingly, the average novel contains about 300-400 words per page … coincidence? With some speed reading training, I believe that the average reader can get their speed up to at least 1000 words per minute. If you work hard, or are an exceptional reader, you might go as high as 2000-3000 words per minute. There are some free speed reading materials on the web which I believe is all the training you need. I would not invest $ in a training course.

    The concept is simple. When most people read, they convert the words into speech … silently in their head, but it is this use of our speech centers in the brain that slows down our reading rate. The eyes/brain can absorb words faster than they can be spoken, and so the goal of speed reading is to try and bypass the speech centers of the brain. This is accomplished by using your finger as a pacer on the page. By moving your finger swiftly across/down the page … faster than you can speak, you eventually train yourself to bypass this speech conversion process, and allows for faster reading with good comprehension. This in a nutshell is all that you have to do. With much practice, anybody can improve their reading speed.

  39. Hi Doc,
    W & P in the Maude because that’s what I happened to have at hand. Still enjoying it.
    But, as a book recomendation — have you read anything by Neal Stephenson?
    His web site: http://www.nealstephenson.com/
    His book series “The Baroque Trology” (over 3,000 pages) did it for me. Though there are weaknesses in such a enormous opus, it’s wonderful in relating 17th and 18th century history with today’s digital technology. The main characters are people like Newton, Leibnitz, Hooke, and other Royal Society chaps. It’s a wonderful read and won a Hugo or two. And are bestsellers.
    Plus there’s a fourth novel (though published first, should be read after the other 3) called “Cryptonomicon” which has Turing and others as its heros.
    All compelling stuff, and while being geeky helps with some of the tech stuff, with the four books together not only do you get a rollicking tale that takes you around the world, but also explains in a unique way the fundamentals of our current technology and gives Leibnitz credit where credit’s due for his part in developing the digital domain as well as his role in the Calculus.
    Michael Richards

    Thanks for the Stephenson recommendation. Yours is the second. Maybe I’ll tackle it at some point, but not for a while. Too much other stuff stacked up right now.

  40. For a very light-hearted, laugh embarrassingly out loud read, try these two:
    Bobbie Faye’s Very (very, very) Bad Day and
    Bobbie Faye’s (kind, sorta, not exactly) Family Jewels
    both by Toni McGee Causey, who, in one of those “how’d that happen” coincidences lives down the block from some of my husband’s very distant relatives. We didn’t even know about the relatives until we’d read the first book.

    Thanks. I’ll give ’em a look.

  41. I really enjoyed all the Cornelius Ryan books regarding the 2nd WW era. Leon Uris’ books are wonderful reads.

    Favorite writers of detective fiction: Ian Rankin, Stephen Booth, Robert Crais, Michael Connolly and Giles Blunt. Blunt’s book “Forty Words for Sorrow” is awesome.

    I’ve read them all except for the Blunt. I’ve never heard of him, in fact. I’ll have to take a look. Leon Uris’s Trinity was one of my favorites. Read it years ago.

  42. I’m another person who doesn’t like the term “bloated” in regards to AG. Are you saying he is retaining fluid, or that he is fat? If he is retaining fluid, it sounds like a health problem and we should have sympathy and wish him better health. I’m bloated monthly – does that make my opinions incorrect? If he is fat, then he is much like many of the people who buy your books and read your blog. It is nice to know you think it is all right to mock those who are struggling with their weight. Won’t be buying your new book if that is the case. Gore may or may not be right (I’m not an American so I don’t have an opinion on his politics) but his personal appearance shouldn’t come into it.

    Uh, actually his personal appearance has nothing to do with it. I was using bloated as defined by mt Oxford American Dictionary. To whit:

    Swollen with vanity or self importance.

    Which, as far as I’m concerned, is the very definition of Al Gore.

    I would never criticize his weight since he was sort of a patient of ours. Somewhere in my possession I have a letter from AG thanking MD and me for Protein Power (which was given to him by Bill Clinton), the diet he used to slim down for his presidential run in 2000.

    As for not buying our book, be my guest. You’ll lose out on a ton of information you won’t find in any other source (unless you spend hours combing the medical literature); we’ll miss out on two bucks.

  43. @Henry Miller

    I wasn’t trying to criticise your post, it was more of a rant about the commonly reported idea that biofuel will fix everything, without evaluating the implications. I just get annoyed, with all the talk about world hunger that people are ripping out food crops to plant soy or sugar.

    Your algae talk in the Arizona desert is similar to the cyanobacteria cells I was talking of, both harness photosynthesis to get fuel. Thats great, cause you can put them in unfarmable areas, and would lead to different fuels (safe hydrogen burning will not be available everywhere).

    There was nothing in your post that I contest, really. I think you and I would agree more often than not. Its just that the word biofuel usually triggers some sort of rant response in my brain.

  44. I say “yes” to further book recommendations, and kindly request a post on your time management techniques! I can barely keep up with your twitter feed. Your mind must go-go-go all day.

    (I’m only half-serious about that request. But it is astonishing how much you appear to accomplish in a day :-)).

    I don’t have a particular time-management system. I just stay busy most of the time. I almost never watch television, and I always have something to read everywhere I go. MD calls all my reading material The Great Amorphous Pile. And she calls my briefcase The Great Amorphous Pile with Handles. I’m never without something to read. And now that I’ve got an iPhone, I’m never without because I loaded the Kindle app on it, so I can read the books I have on Kindle wherever I am.

  45. I’ve just finished The Black Echo last night and Bosch has become one of my favorite protagonists. Have you read any Forsythe? Avenger was a more recent one with another former tunnel rat as the good guy. I really enjoy Flynn, Thor, Cussler et all but my favorite in that genre has to be Daniel Silva and his Gabriel Allon series, esp The Confessor and Prince of Fire. Preston and Child are pretty good but can sometimes be pretty bad. I really enjoyed The Pillars of the Earth but haven’t read the follow up. Demille is very good but Gold Coast depressed me, really enjoyed Nightfall and Upcountry. Have Shogun sitting there waiting to be read but the adrenaline stuff keeps me away from it. Lastly, I must confes, I read and enjoyed Harry Potter, amazing imagination she, Rowlings, has.
    Keep up the book reviews please.

    I’ve read all the ones you’ve mentioned except for the Daniel Silva ones. I’ve read Danial Silva, but not the Gabriel Allon series. I’ll take a look. Thanks for the recommendation.

  46. Chlii is a food. Chile is a country.

    🙂

    Just sayin’.

    Otherwise good post.

    AARRRGGGHHHH!!!! Thanks for the heads up. I fixed it.

  47. If you like mysteries you’ll love the Nero Wolfe series, by Rex Stout. I have the entire set, and re-read them every decade or so; they’re that good. Ross MacDonald is another excellent mystery writer who created Lew Archer, a morose, low-key brooder.

    I really look forward to your posts, but it’d be nice if you could have someone fix the problem that causes an error everytime I try to access them. It’s a very minor inconvenience, but it should be easy to correct.

    I went on a Rex Stout binge a few years ago right after I went on my Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammet binges. Very enjoyable. And I’ve read a lot (not all, but a lot) of the Ross McDonald novels. We can’t forget Ross Thomas. If you haven’t read him, give him a try. Great books from a great writer.

  48. Dr. Michael R. Eades, you have big yes vote from me!

    I recommend “The Emperor of Scent: A True Story of Perfume and Obsession” by Chandler Burr
    http://www.amazon.com/Emperor-Scent-Story-Perfume-Obsession/dp/0375759816/ref=pd_bbs_3?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1241152760&sr=8-3 , which is a fascinating read about a new theory of smell. Also, try (if you haven’t already) “Inventing the AIDS Virus” by Peter H. Duesberg http://www.amazon.com/Inventing-AIDS-Virus-Peter-Duesberg/dp/0895263998/ref=pd_bbs_sr_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1241153290&sr=8-1 , which is “a well-credentialed scientist’s hard-driving attack on the accepted view that AIDS is an infectious disease caused by HIV.” Both books illustrate the “not so pretty” side of the peer review process.

    Keep up the great work!

    Thanks. I haven’t read the first one, but I have read (and reread) the second. Duesberg’s book is great on a number of levels. His description of the peer-review process is priceless.

  49. Speaking of Statins… I have a report to make. My Doc has been trying to get me on statins for quite a while now. I insisted I was only concerned about my small LDL and requested it to be tested.

    In December 2008 a test labelled NMR Lipoprotein Particle, Plasma
    reported Small LDL as 716. This was on low carb. After 4 months of Fast-5 added to my low carb regimen the number came back this week as 314.

    Is this NMR a reliable test? I ask because there was much confusion at the Doc’s lab. A year before they used a VAP, but then switched to the NMR. for the 2008 test. I was furious because I couldn’t really compare the results. So this time around I chose to do the NMR again so I could compare.

    Did I make the right choice? Should I have confidence in the NMR test?

    (If so then some form of IF may help other low carbers who still have high small particle LDL)

    PS. Love the book reviews. After reading Lucy I requested the local library purchase Lucy’s Legacy. I just picked it up and can’t wait to dig in.

    The NMR is a reliable test. You can have confidence in it. Congrats on your small LDL going down markedly.

  50. YES! i love the book reviews, keep ’em coming! i just read both sides of the coin…’beautiful boy” by david sheff…a truly heart wrenching account of his son’s addiction to meth and other drugs and “tweak” his son nic’s account of his addiction. both are heart breaking looks into how addiction destroys not only the addict but all those around him/her. and the saddest part for me was after finishing “tweak”, truly feeling that nic just doesn’t get it and will continue to relapse/rehab over and over and over again. i so hope i’m wrong.

    on the fiction side…. i just dug out a copy of joan didion’s “play it as it lays”…grim yes, but a more accurate account of the soullessness of hollywood is hard to find.

    and just to prove i don’t only read incredibly depressing books…just re-read “winnie the pooh” with those wonderful ernest sheppard drawings…a delight from start to finish!

  51. Yes from me please. I’ve just (simultaneously) read 2 of your other recommendations Lucy and The Great Cholestrol Con (by Dr Malcolm Kendrick not that other one!); both great reads. None of the ones in the above post appeal to me at the moment but it would be great to know what your reading on a regular basis. I practically devour books so it’s good to have a sound recommendation.

    Maybe I’ll figure a way to make these recommendations more regularly.

  52. War and peace? It was a mandatory reading in school. I remember hating it so much when I was younger. I have never had a patience to sit down and relax for more than a minute, but reading 40 pages of Mr Tolstoy depiction of trees and weather in the beginning of the book was a pure torture. He was a brilliant writer and I finally finished reading the book. But it was not easy.

    Have you ever read “Master and Margarita” by Bulgakov. He is one of my favorite Russian writers. I read it 3 times in different times and every time it read differetn depeding on how old you are at the moment. If you never read it, I highly recommend it. For whatever my opinion might be worth!

    Believe it or not, but Master and Margarita is on my nightstand right now waiting for me to work down the pile to get to it.

  53. Do please continue letting us know what you’re reading, watching, and listening to. We’ve become huge PRIME SUSPECT fans because of an offhand comment you made here some months back. You and MD have good taste, doc.

    Thanks. If you like Brit detective series, give these a try: Inspector Morse, A Touch of Frost, and my all time favorite, Foyle’s War. I enjoyed all of these more than I did Prime Suspect, so if you haven’t seen them, you’re in for a real treat.

  54. A bit of follow on:
    So, you don’t like sucking up to the House of Saud. Me neither. On the other hand, imagine what happens to the House of Saud if the US (and by extension most of the OECD) reduces/eliminates demand for their only real export product.
    According to the CIA:
    https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/sa.html#Econ
    They are 1/5th of the proven reserves of oil.
    It is 80% of budget revenues, 45% of GDP and 90% of export.
    8.8% of Saudi males are unemployed by the closest to an official estimate, though other good estimates run as high as 25% (and that’s not counting women, or foreign guest workers)
    That’s the economy. The population looks like this:
    6.4 Million foreign workers work on oil in the Kingdom.
    Out of 28 Million and change in total population, including foreigners.
    CIA doesn’t break down population into age groups very finely, but I think you can pick a trend from what they do report:
    38% of the population is <15
    59.5% is 15-64
    2.5% is 65+
    (I’d suggest there are more 16 year-olds than 64 year-olds, and probably more 20 year olds than 60 year olds)
    and 100% Muslim, mostly of the kind who don’t have issues with public beheading.

    Does this not strike you as maybe a tad precarious? A real powder keg? Remember, a third of the population between 15 and 65 are foreign nationals.

    Let’s throw a fun idea in there. The US currently uses about 24% of the world’s oil. Cut use by 20%. That reduces global demand by about 5%. Then throw the EU in that demand cut, discount them by 5% since they drive more efficient cars, have smaller houses and use less AC, and you have a 15% cut to another 15% of world oil, for a total of about 7.5%. Obviously prices drop, and the House of Saud either cuts production to hold prices up, or jacks production to squeeze out the smaller players. Remember, they are 20% of the world proven reserves. They can move the market without OPEC and they drive OPEC anyway.

    What I’m suggesting is that pulling support (or toadying or kissing up or however you want to define it) from the House of Saud (aka the Devil We Mostly Know) is VERY liable to bring about a very antagonistic Saudi peninsula, however it manages to Balkanize (Without too much imagination, we can envision an Al Qaeda owned portion around the Osama’s home town on the Yemeni border, right?) that is liable to be the Devil We Would Gladly Trade Back For the Devil We Mostly Knew. Kind of like Iran with Mohammed Mossadegh as the Devil We Mostly Knew, Shah Pahlavi as “Energy Independence” and Khomeni as The Devil We Would Gladly Trade For the Devil We Used to Hate.

    Nobody hates US relations and propping up of the Saudi regime as much as me (Remember, the Bush family has close ties and I’m not a big Bush fan, neither), but if you look at the region, the history, and the set up, I’d say the Devil we Don’t Like Now is kind of a necessary evil, considering all possible alternatives. You’re a Bush Doctrine Dreamer if you think that Energy Independence works out really well as a solution to the Middle East. We’ve seen how well that Dream has worked out (“They will welcome us as liberators.”).

    I’ll admit that I don’t have the perfect solution to all the problems in the Middle East, but I don’t like supporting the Royal Family and their lavish lifestyle, which is getting crimped somewhat because of their fecundity. And I especially don’t like supporting them when they use our funds to spread Wahhabism in an effort to keep their hungry populace from their own throats while rolling the rest of us under the bus. I’m not sure that our independence on foreign oil would lead to the scenario you describe, but I would be willing to take the chance.

  55. Book Recommendations:
    The Art of Learning by Josh Waitzkin.

    I did read it. It’s the one by the chess prodigy, right? It was okay, but didn’t live up to my expectations. It was an eye-opener, however, about how the Chinese cheat. A harbinger to what happened in the Olympics.

  56. Suggestion: Next time use ‘constipated’ instead of ‘bloated’… it may not be perceived as harsh… maybe.

    Constipated – “stilted or stodgy in appearance, expression, or action”

    I can just imagine the response I would have gotten had I written ‘A constipated former politician…’

  57. For more Italy (OK it’s really ancient Rome) have you tried the The Marcus Didius Falco Series by Lindsey Davis?

    #1 The Silver Pigs (1989)
    #2 Shadows in Bronze (1990)
    #3 Venus in Copper (1991)
    #4 The Iron Hand of Mars (1992)
    #5 Poseidon’s Gold (1993)
    #6 Last Act in Palmyra (1994)
    #7 Time to Depart (1995)
    #8 A Dying Light in Corduba (1996)
    #9 Three Hands in the Fountain (1997)
    #10 Two For The Lions (1998)
    #11 One Virgin Too Many (1999)
    #12 Ode to a Banker (2000)
    #13 A Body in the Bath House (2001)
    #14 The Jupiter Myth (2002)
    #15 The Accusers (2003)
    #16 Scandal Takes a Holiday (2004)
    #17 See Delphi and Die (2005)
    #18 Saturnalia (2007)
    #19 Alexandria (2009)

    I read one or two of these years ago. At the time, they weren’t really my cup of tea. But I should give then another try as an adult.

  58. Dr. Eades-

    I just tried to thank you for my birthday greetings but my post was returned. Today, I’m 76, almost zero carb, on my way to my daily workout at the gym, later there’ll be ribs at an overpriced steakhouse with my son. With lots of fat and lots of exercise, old age can be good. Your blog is my daily gift for which I thank you.

    A belated Happy Birthday! I hope you have many, many more.

  59. Have you read Australian crime novelist Peter Temple? His book “The broken shore” is one of the best crime novels I have read in ages. Strongly recommended. Terrific characterisation and sense of place, very gripping.

    I’ve got the book on order based on your recommendation. It had better be good. 🙂

  60. What’s the truth about cholesterol ratios? According to the mainstream, my 234 total cholesterol is high, but my HDL is 63 and my ratios are fine. However, your blogroll buddy at Heart Scan Blog writes this about ratios: http://is.gd/wfLD “By the way, the so-called “ratios” (i.e., total cholesterol to HDL and the like) are absurd notions of risk. Take weak statistical predictors, manipulate them, and try to squeeze better predictive value out of them. This is no better than suggesting that, since you’ve installed new brakes on your car, you no longer are at risk for a car accident. It may reduce risk, but there are too many other variables that have nothing to do with your new brakes. Likewise cholesterol ratios.”

    If total cholesterol says little or nothing about cardiac health, and cholesterol ratios say little or nothing about cardiac health, why even bother having cholesterol levels checked in the first place?

  61. Dr Mike, thanks for the book ideas!

    I walk about 40 miles a week and use that time to listen to audiobooks and podcasts. I am a huge fan of audiobooks, it’s such a great combination of exercising and entertainment.

    One of the most memorable audiobooks I listened to was Shantaram http://www.amazon.com/Shantaram-Novel-Gregory-David-Roberts/dp/0312330529

    It’s an autobiographical novel based on a true story of an Australian prisoner who escaped to India. It seems to be unforgettable for me.

    I would love it if you started a podcast. An hour a week with some guests and callers would be very cool.

    I started reading Shantaram a few months ago and left it on a plane (I think – I really don’t know where it is, so that’s what I assume). I haven’t gotten around to picking up an other copy and getting back into it.

  62. I am in a state of wonderment at not seeing Tony Hillerman’s name mentioned. His mystery novels set in the Navajo “Big Res” with Tribal Policeman Jim Chee and Sargent Joe Leaphorn; they are books I cannot put down once I start. He writes great thrillers set in the Big Res, and he brings in some Navajo folk lore as he goes along. It was sad that Hillerman died a short while ago, not least of all, because he will not write any more books.

    BTW, I think you are far too kind and gentle with Al Gore. I will be buying your latest book as soon as it is available. I was sorry to see it bumped from May until September.

    BTW2, Anthony Watts has a great web site on Global Climate at http://wattsupwiththat.com/.
    He has not drunk the AGW kool-aid, and presents very good, up-to-date information. He is coordinating a review of the temperature recording sites throughout North America, and other places. Many, far too many, of these sites collect garbage rather than data.

    I love Tony Hillerman and his books. MD and I got to spend some time with him 15 years or so ago. I didn’t mention him because I was discussing books I had just read, not all the books I had ever read. Hillerman’s books are a great way to learn about Navaho culture. Highly recommended, especially if you’re ever going to be traveling in New Mexico.

  63. My previous comment was an implied “yes” vote, This one is the explicit “yes” vote, just so it gets counted.

  64. Mike, off-topic because it is TV not books, but have you come across the British series called “Spooks” (I think it is shown in the USA but it is called MI5 and I gather broadcast at some obscure time. according to reviews on Amazon, the reviewers also recommend buying it from Amazon UK as it is much cheaper.

    It’s one of the best spy shows I have ever seen (well, almost, Tinker Taylor was exceptional)

    Glenice

    Haven’t seen it, but it sounds good. I did watch a number of episodes of a Brit series called Sandman (I think), which was pretty good. I’ll take a look for Spooks. Sounds right up my alley. Thanks

  65. Of polled climatologists “97.4% believe that human activity is a significant factor in changing mean global temperatures.” The figure drops down to 80% for all Earth Scientists who took the poll, compared to about half of the American public. None of the above represent a consensus, but apparently the more you know about global warming the more likely you are to believe we’re causing it…
    (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scientific_opinion_on_climate_change#Surveys_of_scientists_and_scientific_literature)

    I fear that such a near-consensus may someday be reached regarding the health impacts of sugar and starch, but then a debate ensues for decades because the affected industries keep cranking out bogus studies and hiring “expert opinion” to cloud public opinion and prevent positive change.

    People in general don’t need much encouragement to resist change keep doing what they like doing (burning energy like crazy and eating junk), so stifling progress is much easier than getting it to happen. I hope our kids understand.

  66. “Of polled climatologists “97.4% believe that human activity is a significant factor in changing mean global temperatures.” The figure drops down to 80% for all Earth Scientists who took the poll, compared to about half of the American public. None of the above represent a consensus, but apparently the more you know about global warming the more likely you are to believe we’re causing it…”

    An alternative interpretation: the more your livelihood and research depends on institutional and governmental funding, the more likely you are to support the consensus belief, whether it’s true or not. A decision was made a decade or more ago by global governments and foundations that anthropogenic global warming is the crisis of our lifetimes; any climatologist who bucks that trend tends to be professionally ridiculed or unemployed, or at the very least have his/her projects unfunded. The surprising statistic isn’t that 97.4% of climatologists support the theory; it’s that 2.6% admit that they don’t; I’m guessing those are the ones with tenure and/or near retirement. The same has been true in the nutritional field with the lipid v. carbohydrate/insulin hypothesis; it’s been professional suicide for decades for researchers to come right out and deny the lipid hypothesis, despite the weight of the evidence.

    Dr. Mike, please post your book reviews, they’re much appreciated.

  67. What a great post. I’ve been addicted to reading ever since I was 5 years old – a far healthier obsession that being addicted to carbs! And I’ve been a fan of British crime fiction since discovering both Agatha Christie and Arthur Conan Doyle when I was eleven years old.

    I’ve being reading Peter Robinson for years, though not read the most recent one you talk about. I swear in one of the author’s notes for a previous book he thanked all the medical staff who took care of him after (I believe) a heart attack – so I would not be the least surprised if he is on statins himself.

    I have not read any of the other authors you mention, so may have to take a look. I certainly loved the book about Lucy which I read of here. I love reading the other comments too, and seeing references to other favorites like Rex Stout, Tony Hillerman, and Neal Stephanson’s ‘Cryptonomicon’. Overall the British crime novels are my favorites, but I also love the Lydia Chin/Bill Smith mysteries by S.J. Rozan, set in NYC. and lately I’ve been on a kick of discovering and reading the Myron Bolitar mysteries by Harlan Coben. I guess I get a kick out of the fact that Myron was raised, and lives in, Livingston, NJ – my daughter-in-law’s home town (and apparently author Coben’s home town as well) , and where she and my son currently live. I get a kick out of all the local references and love to exclaim, “Oh wow! I know that place!” Plus the books are well-written and often very funny. 🙂

    In the interests of financial necessity, and the fear of my small 1899-vintage house imploding from the weight of all the books and bookcases, I’ve begun using the library more often. It can be hit or miss sometimes, but I’ve enjoyed being exposed to a wider variety of books without any financial commitment. But of course if I totally love a book I end up having to buy it anyway, along with all its brothers and sisters, so I’m not sure how much money (or wall space) I’m actually saving, LOL.

  68. I also enjoy book, movie, tv show reviews so hope you will continue listing yours.

    What I don’t enjoy is R or X rated material (not that any of these have that…I’m just sayin). It’s just so disappointing to hear of a popular best seller and then it be filled with continuous “f” bombs. At least if I’m aware beforehand I could select something else.