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Following a suggestion of Moneesha Mehta (Ph.D in category theory, now working at Cisco Systems, just joined the Azimuth Forum), I've added a Recommended reading page.

As I say there:

This is a page of miscellaneous recommended reading. If you read something that seems important for scientists and engineers who want to ‘save the planet’, please add a reference or link here. Even better: say a bit about why you think it’s worth reading. Still better: summarize what it says! Also, please say who you are: we all tend to evaluate recommendations based on who they’re coming from.

In the long run, most items here should be moved to other articles on specific subjects. This is intended merely as a quick and easy way for people in a hurry to tell us what we should read.

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Comment Source:I reformatted the page a bit and added a table of contents.
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Hi everyone! Just for accuracy's sake, I have an MSc, not a PhD - too bad :-(
A thought on linking books and relevant articles/blogs/discussion threads - perhaps instead of moving book recommendation out into relevant posts, we could put links in from those posts to the book recommendation page.
Comment Source:Hi everyone! Just for accuracy's sake, I have an MSc, not a PhD - too bad :-( A thought on linking books and relevant articles/blogs/discussion threads - perhaps instead of moving book recommendation out into relevant posts, we could put links in from those posts to the book recommendation page.
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A thought on linking books and relevant articles/blogs/discussion threads - perhaps instead of moving book recommendation out into relevant posts, we could put links in from those posts to the book recommendation page.

Yes, that might be easier. We can figure it out. Some of the most important books and papers are already developing their own pages, so we can also link to those.

Comment Source:>A thought on linking books and relevant articles/blogs/discussion threads - perhaps instead of moving book recommendation out into relevant posts, we could put links in from those posts to the book recommendation page. Yes, that might be easier. We can figure it out. Some of the most important books and papers are already developing their own pages, so we can also link to those.
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I just did a blog entry inviting people to contribute their recommended reading. With luck this will draw in some new contributors. So: let's watch the Recommended reading page and fix up any formatting errors or other screwups.

Comment Source:I just did a <a href = "http://johncarlosbaez.wordpress.com/2010/10/02/recommended-reading/">blog entry</a> inviting people to contribute their recommended reading. With luck this will draw in some new contributors. So: let's watch the [[Recommended reading]] page and fix up any formatting errors or other screwups.
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Just a suggestion: The recommended reading page provides a comprehensive list of books of interest, some of those have or will have their own page, where both reviews may be written (although, I'd object, there already are a lot of reviews for most books :-) and a list of topics and references from the book, for further elaboration and discussion.

Comment Source:Just a suggestion: The recommended reading page provides a comprehensive list of books of interest, some of those have or will have their own page, where both reviews may be written (although, I'd object, there already are a lot of reviews for most books :-) and a list of topics and references from the book, for further elaboration and discussion.
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What I'd eventually like, though I don't expect it to happen soon, is not so much "reviews" of books as summaries of their main points. My dream is to make Azimuth the best place in the universe to find information about environmental issues. Right now a lot of this information is spread throughout lots of books, not well-organized and not synthesized. Different books make different points, but who puts them together?

But right now, I just want to collect as much wisdom as possible and give lots of people an easy taste of what it's like to contribute to Azimuth.

Comment Source:What I'd eventually like, though I don't expect it to happen soon, is not so much "reviews" of books as summaries of their main points. My dream is to make Azimuth the best place in the universe to find information about environmental issues. Right now a lot of this information is spread throughout lots of books, not well-organized and not synthesized. Different books make different points, but who puts them together? But right now, I just want to collect as much wisdom as possible and <i>give lots of people an easy taste of what it's like to contribute to Azimuth</i>.
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edited October 2010

Tim van Beek wrote:

I tried to classify the books and introduced subheaders, I expect the list to grow... I also added two books by Gerd Grigerenzer under "Psychology".

Great!

As you can see, I've copied this remark of yours to the existing discussion on Recommended reading. My dream is that each Azimuth Project page will have a single discussion about it here on the Forum. Every time we make an interesting change, we can log it by adding a comment to the relevant discussion. This discussion will then be a bit like the "discussion page" on Wikipedia.

Perhaps this system is overly fussy. It's mildly annoying to find already existing discussions. I'd certainly rather people start a new discussion than let the bother of finding an old one inhibit them from posting comments here! But anyway, one can find existing discussions here.

Comment Source:Tim van Beek wrote: >I tried to classify the books and introduced subheaders, I expect the list to grow... I also added two books by Gerd Grigerenzer under "Psychology". **Great!** As you can see, I've copied this remark of yours to the existing discussion on [[Recommended reading]]. My dream is that each Azimuth Project page will have a single discussion about it here on the Forum. Every time we make an interesting change, we can log it by adding a comment to the relevant discussion. This discussion will then be a bit like the "discussion page" on Wikipedia. Perhaps this system is overly fussy. It's mildly annoying to find already existing discussions. I'd certainly rather people start a new discussion than let the bother of finding an old one inhibit them from posting comments here! But anyway, one can find existing discussions [here](http://www.math.ntnu.no/~stacey/Mathforge/Azimuth/search.php).
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Thanks and sorry, I missed the search function and scanned page 1 and 2 of discussions only.

Perhaps this system is overly fussy.

I don't think so, now that I know of the search tab :-) (I was expecting an input text field instead of a tab).

Comment Source:Thanks and sorry, I missed the search function and scanned page 1 and 2 of discussions only. <blockquote> <p> Perhaps this system is overly fussy. </p> </blockquote> I don't think so, now that I know of the search tab :-) (I was expecting an input text field instead of a tab).
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edited October 2010

Yeah — just so everyone knows, we're talking about that little blue tab on top of the page that says "Search". That's how to find old discussions!

Comment Source:Yeah &mdash; just so everyone knows, we're talking about that little blue tab on top of the page that says "Search". That's how to find old discussions!
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I added some interesting-sounding books recommended by George Mobus:

Environment, Power, and Society for the Twenty-First Century: The Hierarchy of Energy

A Prosperous Way Down: Principles and Policies

Mobus' recommendations explain what they're about...

Comment Source:I added some interesting-sounding books recommended by George Mobus: _[Environment, Power, and Society for the Twenty-First Century: The Hierarchy of Energy](http://www.azimuthproject.org/azimuth/show/Recommended+reading#environment_power_and_society_for_the_twentyfirst_century_the_hierarchy_of_energy_17)_ _[A Prosperous Way Down: Principles and Policies](http://www.azimuthproject.org/azimuth/show/Recommended+reading#a_prosperous_way_down_principles_and_policies_19)_ Mobus' recommendations explain what they're about...
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BTW, didn't we discuss Jared Diamon's "Collapse" on Azimuth? I'll add this to recommended reading, too...

Comment Source:BTW, didn't we discuss Jared Diamon's "Collapse" on Azimuth? I'll add this to recommended reading, too...
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@ Tim: the book is not only about ancient societies. In part III of the book Diamond also writes about e.g. China, Australia and in part IV he lists a number of environmental problems we would need to solve in the next century.

Comment Source:@ Tim: the book is not only about ancient societies. In part III of the book Diamond also writes about e.g. China, Australia and in part IV he lists a number of environmental problems we would need to solve in the next century.
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Right, I confess that I skipped that part - feel free to add it to the summary :-)

Comment Source:Right, I confess that I skipped that part - feel free to add it to the summary :-)
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I'll do that as soon as I find back my hardcopy ;-)

Comment Source:I'll do that as soon as I find back my hardcopy ;-)
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Ahhhh....yes. There was this most memorable chapter in this book, now if I only could remembe what it was about ... :-)

Comment Source:Ahhhh....yes. There was this most memorable chapter in this book, now if I only could remembe what it was about ... :-)
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edited November 2010

On the theme of "collapse" I added another entry,

The Collapse of Complex Societies

I haven't read it but I hear it's supposed to be good, with different insights than Diamond's book. If you follow the link you'll get to a long summary of the book on someone's blog.

By the way, I'm afraid that these links to sections inside Azimuth Project pages will break. For example, the link I just included looks like this:

[The Collapse of Complex Societies](http://www.azimuthproject.org/azimuth/show/Recommended+reading#the_collapse_of_complex_societies_27)

This link is generated by clicking on this entry in the table of contents for this page. The "27" means it's the 27th section in that page. When we add another book in front of this, it won't be the 27th anymore. Then what?

Wikipedia seems to have a more robust system for naming sections of pages.

Let me try leaving out the "27" and see if the link still works:

The Collapse of Complex Societies

No. It goes to the page but not the section. Let me try replacing the 27 by "26", to simulate the effect I'm worried about:

The Collapse of Complex Societies

No. It goes to the page but not the section.

There must be some right way to do this... I'll complain to the boss.

Comment Source:On the theme of "collapse" I added another entry, [The Collapse of Complex Societies](http://www.azimuthproject.org/azimuth/show/Recommended+reading#the_collapse_of_complex_societies_27) I haven't read it but I hear it's supposed to be good, with different insights than Diamond's book. If you follow the link you'll get to a long summary of the book on someone's blog. By the way, I'm afraid that these links to sections inside Azimuth Project pages will break. For example, the link I just included looks like this: [The Collapse of Complex Societies](http://www.azimuthproject.org/azimuth/show/Recommended+reading#the_collapse_of_complex_societies_27) This link is generated by clicking on this entry in the table of contents for this page. The "27" means it's the 27th section in that page. When we add another book in front of this, it won't be the 27th anymore. Then what? Wikipedia seems to have a more robust system for naming sections of pages. Let me try leaving out the "27" and see if the link still works: [The Collapse of Complex Societies](http://www.azimuthproject.org/azimuth/show/Recommended+reading#the_collapse_of_complex_societies) No. It goes to the page but not the section. Let me try replacing the 27 by "26", to simulate the effect I'm worried about: [The Collapse of Complex Societies](http://www.azimuthproject.org/azimuth/show/Recommended+reading#the_collapse_of_complex_societies_26) No. It goes to the page but not the section. <img src = "http://math.ucr.edu/home/baez/emoticons/grumpy.gif" alt = ""/> There must be some right way to do this... I'll complain to the boss.
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My own very idiosynchratic opinion is that Tainter's book isn't very useful, so it was a good companion to Diamond's work in the sense that it shows how sound and interesting Diamond's "Collapse" really is.

Two points:

a) Tainter measures the success of a civilization by "complexity", Diamond by population strength (if they all die they have failed),

b) Tainter has a one-sided approach to the subject, compared to Diamond, namely that civilizations tend to get more "complex" until they can't handle the complexity any more and collapse.

Comment Source:My own very idiosynchratic opinion is that Tainter's book isn't very useful, so it was a good companion to Diamond's work in the sense that it shows how sound and interesting Diamond's "Collapse" really is. Two points: a) Tainter measures the success of a civilization by "complexity", Diamond by population strength (if they all die they have failed), b) Tainter has a one-sided approach to the subject, compared to Diamond, namely that civilizations tend to get more "complex" until they can't handle the complexity any more and collapse.
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I guess I found Diamond's book a bit too "materialistic" — focused on resources and physical "stuff". I'm sure that's part of the story, but I'm hoping Tainter provides a counterbalance.

Comment Source:I guess I found Diamond's book a bit too "materialistic" &mdash; focused on resources and physical "stuff". I'm sure that's _part_ of the story, but I'm hoping Tainter provides a counterbalance.
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edited November 2010

Here's an impressive flow chart from Introduction to Social Macrodynamics: Secular Cycles and Millennial Trends by Andrei Korotayev, Artemy Malkov, and Daria Khaltourina. Click to read a detailed review.

This flow chart is an attempt to describe demographic cycles in ancient China.

I'm sure my wife would say it's oversimplified.

Comment Source:Here's an impressive flow chart from <i>Introduction to Social Macrodynamics: Secular Cycles and Millennial Trends</i> by Andrei Korotayev, Artemy Malkov, and Daria Khaltourina. Click to read a detailed review. <a href = "http://www.sublimeoblivion.com/2009/12/04/cliodynamics/"> <img width = "800" src = "http://www.sublimeoblivion.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/12/china-cycles.png" alt = ""/> </a> This flow chart is an attempt to describe demographic cycles in ancient China. I'm sure my wife would say it's oversimplified.
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edited November 2010

Anatoly Karlin has a very entertaining blog. For example:

He discusses four scenarios:

I'll just quote from the "Business as Usual, or Fantasy" scenario:

The miraculous discovery of a new energy source, embodied in the element unobtainium, enabled an uninterrupted continuation of economic progress. Energy researchers all over the world slapped their balding heads in frustration in 2012 for not discovering this energy source earlier, an energy source that was non-polluting, present throughout the world’s oceans, and very easy to extract and exploit. Just a few years later world governments embarked on a geoengineering scheme to create a cloud of self-assembling nanobots, designed to cleanse up the surplus atmospheric CO2 back to its pre-industrial levels, and hopefully not turn the world’s biosphere into “grey goo” in the process.

By the time they got ready to get going with this in 2025, to their happiness they discovered it wasn’t even necessary. Just a few days before the nanobots were due to be unleashed, the theory of anthropogenic global warming was finally exposed as a massive hoax invented by Al Gore to further his megalomaniac plans for global totalitarian socialism. In an interview, the UN climate panel’s chairman admitted, “I am deeply ashamed for having perpetuated such a massive fraud on the governments of the world”. Al Gore himself couldn’t be found for comment, the conman having been raptured into the technological singularity hours before the scandal broke.

Comment Source:Anatoly Karlin has a very entertaining blog. For example: * Anatoly Karlin, [Ecotechnic Dictatorship is Our Last Hope of Averting Collapse](http://www.sublimeoblivion.com/2010/01/31/ecotechnic-dictatorship/) He discusses four scenarios: <img src = "http://www.sublimeoblivion.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/01/overshoot-scenarios-450x316.png" alt = ""/> I'll just quote from the "Business as Usual, or Fantasy" scenario: > The miraculous discovery of a new energy source, embodied in the element unobtainium, enabled an uninterrupted continuation of economic progress. Energy researchers all over the world slapped their balding heads in frustration in 2012 for not discovering this energy source earlier, an energy source that was non-polluting, present throughout the world’s oceans, and very easy to extract and exploit. Just a few years later world governments embarked on a geoengineering scheme to create a cloud of self-assembling nanobots, designed to cleanse up the surplus atmospheric CO2 back to its pre-industrial levels, and hopefully not turn the world’s biosphere into “grey goo” in the process. > By the time they got ready to get going with this in 2025, to their happiness they discovered it wasn’t even necessary. Just a few days before the nanobots were due to be unleashed, the theory of anthropogenic global warming was finally exposed as a massive hoax invented by Al Gore to further his megalomaniac plans for global totalitarian socialism. In an interview, the UN climate panel’s chairman admitted, “I am deeply ashamed for having perpetuated such a massive fraud on the governments of the world”. Al Gore himself couldn’t be found for comment, the conman having been raptured into the technological singularity hours before the scandal broke.
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This flow chart is an attempt to describe demographic cycles in ancient China.

Has this cycle occured more than once in China's history?

(Maybe you two would like "Battlestar Galactica", a recurring dark prophecy that the humans hear after the Cylons have destroyed their civilization is "all of this has happened before, all of this will happen again!").

Comment Source:<blockquote> <p> This flow chart is an attempt to describe demographic cycles in ancient China. </p> </blockquote> Has this cycle occured more than once in China's history? (Maybe you two would like "Battlestar Galactica", a recurring dark prophecy that the humans hear after the Cylons have destroyed their civilization is "all of this has happened before, all of this will happen again!").
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edited November 2010

Has this cycle occured more than once in China's history?

Yes, though I guess the word "pattern" might be better than "cycle", since it happened a bit differently each time:

Comment Source:>Has this cycle occured more than once in China's history? Yes, though I guess the word "pattern" might be better than "cycle", since it happened a bit differently each time: <a href = "http://www.sublimeoblivion.com/2009/12/04/cliodynamics/"> <img src = "http://www.sublimeoblivion.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/12/china-demography.png" alt = ""/> </a>
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edited November 2010

Yes, though I guess the word "pattern" might be better than "cycle", since it happened a bit differently each time:

I'd need this chart for the European population as well, to make a comparison - but in the case of the Europeans I have a rough idea what happend during this time, in terms of high school history (Roman empire, middle ages, 100 year war of France and England, the pest, the 30 year war etc. I think we should see significant decreases of population density around 1300 and 1650).

Comment Source:<blockquote> <p> Yes, though I guess the word "pattern" might be better than "cycle", since it happened a bit differently each time: </p> </blockquote> I'd need this chart for the European population as well, to make a comparison - but in the case of the Europeans I have a rough idea what happend during this time, in terms of high school history (Roman empire, middle ages, 100 year war of France and England, the pest, the 30 year war etc. I think we should see significant decreases of population density around 1300 and 1650).
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I added "Storms of my grandchildren" by James Hansen

Comment Source:I added "Storms of my grandchildren" by James Hansen
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Added new book The Mathematics of Life by Ian Stewart. Not read it.

Comment Source:Added new book The Mathematics of Life by Ian Stewart. Not read it.
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Comment Source:Added Critical Transitions in Nature and Society. Almost read it
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edited February 2014

Added Enough is Enough: Building a Sustainable Economy in a World of Finite Resources.

Comment Source:Added _Enough is Enough: Building a Sustainable Economy in a World of Finite Resources_.
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Comment Source:<img src = "http://math.ucr.edu/home/baez/emoticons/thumbsup.gif" alt = ""/>