Monthly Archives: September 2009

Book – My Stroke of Insight

A Brain Scientist’s Personal Journey
by Jill Bolte Taylor

A must-read for every stroke survivor. Recovering from a stroke is such a bizarre experience, many survivors think they are the first and only ones to ever walk that path. However, in this book they will find a clear and complete description of that journey. And thus not feel so alone. This is not like the more common clinical view of a ship-in-a-bottle. Rather, it’s like being on that ship’s deck.

Several key issues are covered. They include: the basic anatomy of the brain and various types of strokes, the concept of left versus right brain, the importance of neuroplasticity, the importance of patience, love and understanding (always good things, but vital in stroke recovery and not available to many unfortunates), and the danger of just accepting current dogma. There is also a good deal of metaphysics – an interesting, personal, and courageous addition.

However, it’s the first-person account that makes this a compelling and necessary read. Only an experienced brain anatomist could accurately explain the neurology. Only a stroke survivor could tell the story ‘from the inside out’. Only an intelligent and compassionate author could put it in words for others to learn from. The author is all of these. One word of caution: reading this account can be an intense and emotional experience. Public places should be avoided until you’re finished the book. This is not a shallow plug, but an actual lesson learned through cruel experience.

Book – First Principles

The Crazy Business of Doing Serious Science
by Howard Burton

The story of the founding of the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics. The book opens with a quote from the brilliant and beloved physicist Richard Feynman: “Physics is like sex. Sure, it may give some practical results, but that’s not why we do it.”
What follows is a tale of sheer joy.

Amidst an unlikely assemblage of events, in an even more unlikely place and time, driven by an even more unlikely handful of people, a seed was planted. The events were at the intersection of several lives, economic and academic forces. The place was the quiet little town of Waterloo, Ontario, Canada. The time was the final days of the dot com bubble in early 2000. The people were… well… read the book.

This is an intriguing, humorous, personal and touching story, not a boring list of famous names being dropped (which it could easily have been). Be prepared to laugh out loud when you read it. Burton is self-deprecating and honest. One gets the impression that his reasons for writing this book were purely cathartic, to use an ancient Greek reference (as the author often does).

That seed is now growing into a horrifying weed, or a spectacularly beautiful flower, depending on where you sit in academia. It’s not just new science. It’s a new way of doing science. It’s not science treated like a dairy cow by a farmer. It’s science on a pedestal, glinting in the sunlight like Athena.