Just finished (in about 3 days) Richard Ben Cramer’s How Israel Lost: The Four Questions. Fascinating collection of storytelling by a Pulitzer Prize-winning author who’s been on the watching the Middle East for 25 years or more. This is perhaps the first thing I’ve ever read that actually starts to make sense of what I’ve heard about in the news all my life. He addresses four key questions: Why do we care about Israel? Why don’t the Palestinians have a State? What is a Jewish State? And… Why is there no Peace? His personal storytelling, as opposed to historical chronologies or theoretical explanations, reminded me of Malcolm Gladwell’s Tipping Point and created for me a practical context for understanding the news reports I’ll see next week and next year.
Next up, David Bodanis’ E=mc^2: a biography of the world’s most famous equation. Here’s a taste… Consider that a 747 flies at almost Mach 1, the speed of sound. Light travels at Mach 900,000. What’s the difference? Next time you’re sitting in a coffee shop listening to somebody yapping to their friend somewhere very far away, remember that their voice signal is travelling as radio waves (speed of light) through the air and, I suppose, optical networks. The sound travels to your ears as simple, slow, sound waves. The difference is that their friend in another state actually hears them before you do!