Monthly Archives: November 2012

The King Whisperers

Long back I read Grigory Rasputin’s story in  a Tamil magazine called Gokulam. It narrates the entire story of Rasputin -his arrival to the Tzar’s palace to heal Alex, the prince from his illness and his subsequent rise and fall. Since then, I have wanted to read more, Kerwin Swint’s The King Whisperers brings the lot together.

What makes one a great puppet master? A superb understanding of human psychology, manipulation of the main weakness in the ruler and an unquenchable taste for more power. There are some who do not fall under this ambit, yet are great manipulators and decide the fate of their country by their selfless desire to do good-like Kamaraj of India. And we have Agrippo the younger, Himmeler, Cromwell, Cierco, Rove, Che Guera-each a treasure trove of interesting facts..

What a diversity of characters! Swint saves us the trouble by categorizing them into 10 titles-Fixers, King Makers, Rebels, Silver tongued devils, Generals, Schemers and the lot. He also adds interesting trivia which makes the book even more desirable-like Lawerence of Arabia who was actually the Indiana Jones even before Harrison Ford donned the cap and the whip, Cierco’s oratorical skills which failed to save him at the most needed hour, Che’s tactics, so on.

As we read about each of them, we only wonder at what they are capable. And what they accomplished.

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Micro

The highest amount of magnetic field conjured by man was 60 tesla, 2 million times that of the earth’s magnetic field.

In the 1960’s, a company researched with high level magnetic fields. The company subjected its volunteers to highly volatile magnetic fields over a period of 10 years. Nothing unusual was found in the subjects, except that they had lost a quarter of an inch in height. The finding was dismissed as trifling. But the result threw up a possibility of followup..

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Michael Crichton’s last novel Micro finished by Richard Preston deals with the micro world in a chilling way. If you had read Timeline by Crichton, you will appreciate this. You may also recall the movie Honey I shrunk the kids, which dealt with the micro world in an urban sense.

Add these together and you get a hell of a novel-one that terrifies and intrigues you without giving space for logical thinking. Seven graduate students doing research in various scientific fields are recruited by a company called Nanigen, specializing in micro robot manufacture and research. As they embark on a promising career and adventure, they receive their first warning to stay away, but ignore it.

Then all hell breaks loose…Thrust into the Hawaiian jungles, shrunken to a quarter of a millimeter in size, they find themselves the fodder for every imaginable being-centipedes, millipedes, wasps, ants. To top it up, the company that sent them inside does not want them to return and sends out termination teams.

The only thing the students have as a weapon is their accumulated knowledge in their respective fields to harness and survive….for it is the norm of the day.

The pages run fast. Just as you think all is over, a fresh difficulty/opportunity for the micro humans pops up. Imagine an ant the size of a skyscraper, a wasp the size of an eagle. And to beat them all, imagine robots the size of a dot, getting into your blood and bleeding you to death-surgibots. Nanotechnology sure has its kicks.

Get ready for a hell of a read.

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The Tao of Physics

This book was staring at me for a long time. I should admit that I was a little spooked by this book. The title was an eye puller. Finally, one fine day I decided to break the ice and bought both-The Tao of Physics and its sequel-Turning Point.

Though I am aware of the similarities between Eastern mysticism and physics, particularly science as a whole  from my mother, it is refreshing to read it in detail from such a wonderful book. The author-Fritjof Capra, draws parallel from Hinduism, Buddhism, Chinese Thought(now I understand Lao’s puzzles a bit!), Taoism, Zen to explain his point. More than the intended point of the author, it is an eye opener as he analyses briefly all the said religions. One learns about the other rel with which he is not acquainted.

And he explains the scientific facts in a lucid, fantabulous way, easily understandable to anyone with a general knowledge of science  Who would have thought that the Nataraja form of Shiva had so much information? We are aware of a few, but not in such detail.

Not only explaining the finest similarities, the author has also experienced the oneness of all which is important as to enable him to reach right into the reader’s mind and quell the doubts remaining per se.

I really enjoyed his book and felt  a bit ashamed that I read it so late.

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