Saturday, August 3, 2013

The Most Surprising Story Line About This Link ...

... the story is in The Atlantic.

I was surprised. This is a link from CarpeDiem: the case for shale gas in 5 charts. I didn't even bother going to the story initially. For me, it was a "dog-bites-man" story and held no interest for me. But Don sent me the link and I knew if I didn't check it out, I would not sleep all night, wondering what I was missing.

So, I went to the link. I didn't read much of the story -- I was too surprised to see that it was in The Atlantic and not Oil & Gas Journal or Schlumberger Today or Rigzone. 

I find The Atlantic to be "fair and balanced" and the editor uses graphs and statistics better than most mainstream media, but ever since their article questioning whether the Bakken boom has already ended, skews my view of the editors a bit. (I guess I'm a bit sensitive, a bit defensive when it comes to the Bakken). Be that as it may, this is great to see these graphs in this publication. Enjoy.

A Note To The Granddaughters

I have neither the time nor the energy to write all I wish I could write about a "fun" little book I am reading. Without notes or index, the book is only 208 pages long, an easy read, which can be read in one sitting, if one were so inclined.

I was sent an advance copy back in 2009 -- "an advance reading copy, not for resale" -- but I didn't get around to reading it until now. I read enough of it and paged through it quickly enough back in 2009 to write a review, but I never really sat down to enjoy the book until now.

The book: Perfect Rigor: A Genius + The Mathematical Breakthrough of the Century, by Masha Gessen, c. 2009. I have a soft cover edition, but I see a hard cover edition is still available.

This is the story about a Russian mathematician, Grigory Perelman, who solved a century-old math problem, and by so doing was awarded a million-dollar prize. He refused the prize; at least to date he has refused it, but the offer is still there. By American standards, he might be described as destitute; if that's too hard a word, then certainly below the poverty line. But he does math for math, and not for money.

This book explains why the Russians are so "good" in mathematics. The author Masha Gessen was a product of that environment, but fortunately for her, she emigrated to the United States some years ago; it sounds like it was when she was in her teens/early 20's.

I had trouble not reading the book to completion every time I picked it up, but when I get a really good book, I like to slow down, read only a few pages, and then giving it a rest, to think about it, before picking it up again the next day. But about page 150, after the "proof emerges," I started to lose interest -- the story had been told; it now seemed anticlimactic. How was the author going to fill out the last 50 pages --

-- and then, page 174, as if a dam burst -- the excitement overflowed again -- unexpectedly the author went a completely different direction and all of a sudden the book is even more exciting than I could have imagined. Yes, it's a nerdy, geeky, science, medical book but for folks interested in that kind of thing, wow, it's worth reading.

One of the things that makes the book so "fun": the author has walked in Perelman's shoes to some extent, as a Russian mathematician. Her writing does not seem all that polished which is one of the reasons that makes the book so enjoyable delightful (I thought of the book, Everything Is Illuminated, by Jonathan Sofran Foer, and the subsequent movie starring Elijah Wood). 

But surprisingly (?) Ms Gessen has written for Slate, the New Republic, Vanity Fair, and The New York Times.

Our older granddaughter was in a math club led by a Russian mathematician when they lived in Boston. Things now make a lot more sense. 

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