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Benjamín Labatut

Teoksen Maailman kauhea vihreys tekijä

10 teosta 1,483 jäsentä 65 arvostelua 1 Favorited

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Image credit: Rodrigo Fernández, CC BY-SA 4.0 , via Wikimedia Commons

Tekijän teokset

Maailman kauhea vihreys (2019) 1,071 kappaletta
The Maniac (2023) 373 kappaletta
La piedra de la locura (2019) 29 kappaletta
Después de la Luz (2016) 2 kappaletta
Straszliwa zieleń (2023) 2 kappaletta
Arsız Yeşillik (2023) 1 kappale
Manijak 1 kappale

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Series Info/Source: This is a stand alone book. I borrowed this on audiobook from my library.

Thoughts: This was fine. I didn't realize that this book is fictional accounts of historical scientific figures (I thought it was non-fiction). This seems to be a bit sensationalized to me. I did enjoy learning the history of these scientists but am left trying to sort out what was history and what was embellishment.

There is a heavy theme of mathematicians either developing theories while in fevers or going insane. The telling wandered quite a bit as well, part of this may have been because I was listening to this on audiobook rather than reading it. I would definitely recommend reading this rather than listening to it because it is hard to follow.

There was also quite the obsession with super gory details as well as odd sexual details; not sure if these were fact, fiction, or just meant to give the story more "color". All of these details seemed over the top and I felt they were over-emphasized.

A lot of the story seems to focus on how these scientific leaps lead to destruction, although in a few cases they lead to good outcomes as well. It would have been incredibly helpful to have either a foreword or afterword discussing what was fact and fiction in this book.

I listened to this on audiobook and the narration was fine. I found that the context of the stories and how they were woven together were a bit hard to follow and I think I could have followed this easier reading it rather than listening to it. You really have to pay attention and concentrate and I listen to audiobooks mainly while doing other tasks (driving, laundry, yardwork, etc).

My Summary (3/5): Overall this was okay but I honestly would have been okay not reading this as well. The fact that it is a factual sounding account of these scientists' lives but is actually fictional leaves me frustrated, especially since there are no references or account of what is fact and what is fiction. There are a ton of gory and sexual details added which seemed to outshine the scientific discoveries. At the end this felt like more of a sensationalized treatise on how insane all these clever people were than anything else. If I had known a bit more about what this book was about prior to reading it I probably wouldn't have read it. It was somewhat interesting to learn about these scientists, but I am not sure what I actually learned since this is a fictional account.
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krau0098 | 48 muuta kirja-arvostelua | May 16, 2024 |
Una novela biografica de Johnny von Neumann.
 
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amlobo | 15 muuta kirja-arvostelua | May 3, 2024 |
This is a collection of short stories about some scientists. They are well written and show interesting and little known aspects. The stories are independent, and looks like extracted from a periodic publication or magazine.
Haber, Schwartzchild, Grothendieck, Heisemberg, Schrödinger.
 
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amlobo | 48 muuta kirja-arvostelua | May 3, 2024 |
The MANIAC: In which Benjamin Labatut displays superior intelligence and superior English prose skills (as compared to me on both counts) while writing in his third language. The last part of the book focused on the breaking of the spirits of Go and chess masters when bested by AI. I know how they feel.

I am not entirely sure how to talk about this book. I guess I will start by saying that though I thoroughly enjoyed the visual and aural spectacle of the movie Oppenheimer, I am on record as not liking the script for the film. There were a few issues for me. One was the entire inclusion of the Florence Pugh storyline. I acknowledge that Florence Pugh has exceptionally fine breasts, and finding a way to include them in any movie is good for box-office, but other than that it weakened the movie. It added bulk (not just time but superfluous subject matter) to an already bloated film. But I digress, my bigger issue, and the one that is relevant to this review, is that in the parts where things were not blowing up I sensed that there was a more interesting human story to be told than the one the Nolan brothers settled on, and I think this book contained it. Of course Oppenheimer has strong name recognition/brand value, and he is an interesting man, but he was not 1/10th as interesting as Johnny von Neumann (who was a part of many of the most notable advances in physics in the 20th century, including being one of the most productive members of the group of physicists at Los Alamos but who is acknowledged only in passing in the film Oppenheimer) and his buddies and special lady friends. And even more important, this book didn't stop with the A-bomb/H-bomb and the guilty feelings of the developers when they realized what they had wrought (that is included of course) but showed how we got to the modern computer/AI from the same bank of mathematics/physics work that gave us nuclear weapons. Labatut focuses in on how we are again justifying progress rather than thinking through the costs of some progress. Specifically, the author wants the reader to realize that like nuclear bombs, AI also has the capacity to destroy our humanity and in fact to destroy humanity writ large.

Von Neumann's story is only one of three in The MANIAC, but it is the one that owns the most real estate by far, and when someone makes this into a movie it should focus on that story. The first section of the book relates the agonizing tale of Paul Ehrenfest, an Austrian physicist who was destroyed by quantum mechanics (truly.) Ehrenfest went mad as he tried to make sense of QM in a way that made it rational and beneficial to humankind. He was unable to find a silver lining, was rendered unable to work, and came to the most tragic of ends. The last section shows us basically how AI makes humans obsolete, (illustrated by the contest between, arguably, the greatest Go player in history and AlphaGO, the go-conquering AI steamroller.) The first and third sections make for excellent reading, though the third section is less developed than it should be (but also this is tied up with the work I do, and it might be more than enough for an audience that doesn't wrestle with this sort of thing before breakfast most days.) That second section though -- that blew me away. The story is told by a host of narrators (I listened to this, and the audiobook cast was remarkable.) The narrators are all intimately tied to Johnny. Perhaps my favorite part was the section on von Neumann's invention of game theory (as told by the co-creator Oskar Morgenstern) but a close second was the portion narrated by his second wife (trust that they are the most toxic couple one can possibly imagine, and their destruction of one another and of themselves is as riveting as it is tragic.) I am not sure if the first and third sections were strictly necessary, but I do understand what Labatut wanted to say, and those sections help him say that.

The MANIAC is historical fiction, a genre I often find turgid and lumbering but which when done right is wonderful and shows us how fiction can do what straightforward historical reporting cannot. Here it is not just done right, it is incandescent.
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Narshkite | 15 muuta kirja-arvostelua | May 1, 2024 |

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Teokset
10
Jäseniä
1,483
Suosituimmuussija
#17,316
Arvio (tähdet)
4.0
Kirja-arvosteluja
65
ISBN:t
52
Kielet
16
Kuinka monen suosikki
1

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