"I cannot live without books." -- Thomas Jefferson

Friday, February 26, 2010

Frank Wilczek's The Lightness of Being

First published in 2008, Frank Wilczek's The Lightness of Being gets the paperback treatment...

The subtitle of Wilczek's book is "Mass, Ether and the Unification of Forces." What he means by that is: 1) Mass - everyone know what that is; 2) Ether - What scientists once believed was the substance found in the universe through which particles travel (i.e., light); and, 3) The Unification of Forces - A unified theory that would link Einstein's theories on gravity with quantum mechanics (which is essentially the randomness found in the universe at the subatomic level).

Wilczek is a Particle Physicist and Professor at MIT. He won the Nobel Prize in Physics in 2004 for his work as a twenty-one year old graduate student. I won't go into what exactly he won it for, because it would involve multiple definitions of subatomic particles and forces that he was studying. Suffice it to say, his work with David Gross and David Politzer helped revive quantum field theory (quantum mechanics), which had been tagged as fundamentally inconsistent when considering the interaction of strong nuclear forces at short distances. There I go. See how easy it is to get sucked into the phrases that need definition? And I'm a layman, not a particle physicist.

But, this is where Wilczek shows his greatest strength! In The Lightness of Being, Wilczek relates the mind-bending beauty and awe of mass, electro-magnetism, energy, quantum mechanics, etc., with the clarity and playfulness the layman requires.

Definitely check this book out if you have even the slightest scientific curiosity. And even if you are not particularly the scientific type, why not learn a bit about the universe from whence you came?

Monday, February 15, 2010

Marcel Dzama's The Infidels

Atomic Books publishes a monograph collection of uber-hip artist Marcel Dzama's work

Marcel Dzama is an illustrator and filmmaker. He's known for illustrations in which he utilizes a limited palette of crimson, root beer-colored browns, various hues of gray, cream, navy blue and more crimson. Absurd humor is employed often. Dzama will give the viewer a naked woman holding the mouth of a goat, while a dog does a front-paw handstand atop the goat's back. Or he'll have a line of balletic masked females wielding AK-47's (as seen in both illustrations and a music video for the Department of Eagles' song "No One Does It Like You"). Or a weird film set where nooses hang from the ceiling, with people either climbing up or hanging from the ropes. You get the idea.

Dzama's artwork taps into that age-old cliche of you either love it or hate it. It has that sort of knowing homage to outsider art without actually being outsider; which drives many people insane. And so much of his work borders on the kitschy as well. Of course, this says nothing about his talent and execution; he definitely has talent and a distinct style. And Dzama's style works wonderfully within the confines of a book.

Nestled in the middle of the book are monographs of some of his collage work, which I think are more impressive than a lot of his illustrations.

This book is definitely one to check out, particularly when you consider Atomic Books' loving packaging.