Criteria for a good introductory book.

Finding a good and reliable introductory book is usually hard, since we don’t know much about the subject. However, here I will present some criteria independent of the subject which could be useful, specially for math, physics, and computer science. At the end, I provide some examples. (Here, by a good book I mean something that once you are done, you would learn about the subject, and you would know what you don’t know).

The first aspect of a good book is that, it should be consistent in definitions. I believe that every chapter and every subject should be started with clear and concise definitions. Sometimes, we use terms in our everyday language which does seem to have a global meaning while it does not.  For example, the word “morality” does not have the same definition everywhere.

The second criteria is that in every chapter there should be a clear picture of what is going on, starting with the definitions and ending with what is desired.  Meanwhile giving the motivation is very helpful, however, what is a “must” is that it should contain all the details, even if something is skipped it should be mentioned that this particular part is omitted for given reason(s). I have seen in many books that some approximations are made without any justification why the approximation is valid, or without providing the range of validity of the given equation or subject.

The third criteria of a good introductory book is that,  it should contain a list of meaningful and relevant (preferably solved) exercises.  Just being an introductory does not mean it should have meaningless and useless exercises or examples. Especially, it is preferred that examples through each chapter would be continuos. Most of introductory books lack this particular criteria, where they use “simple-minded” examples.

One of the most important subjects in modern physics, is quantum mechanics. The “Quantum Mechanics” by Cohen-Tannoujdi is one of the best exemplary of instant of a good introductory book. For learning Python, “Python Programming” by John Zelle is rather a good book, however, it lacks the clear definitions. Usually, the O’Reilly is a good source of useful introductory and advanced books in computer science. In future posts, I will post a list of useful books that I came across during my ten years of university studies.

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competitive sports or weapon-less wars!

I wrote this post while ago, however, since my friends and family were happy for our national soccer and volleyball teams, I decided to postpone it. Due to the recent accident in the Brazil soccer game, I am enforced to send it anyway.

Frankly, I don’t see any advantage of investing a lot of money and time on something like soccer (I call it Football from here after). There is no point to it. Sports like football are supposed to be fun, and after hour activities with no real importance of winning or loosing. Something that everybody can play and everybody can enjoy.

It is a disgrace to humanity that after many years from Roman empire, we still celebrate someone loosing a game in a colosseum. They are vividly reminders of gladiators fights. I don’t see any human or intellectual quality in these matches. Robots with advanced mechanical brain would be able to do the same thing.

The only positive point about the world cup is that people from different countries will get together regardless of race, colour, or origin. However, I am really disappointed that we get together to see one of us loosing, and at the end, it leads to hatred rather than friendship.

I wish we would spend that huge amount of money and time on something that brings us, as a people of universe, closer together and not pulls us apart. Don’t get me wrong, I like sports but not as a professional activity. In my opinion, professional competitive physical sports are actually weapon-less wars. It is a fake demonstration of some country or some team superiority over others, with no real message in it.

As long as these games are around the world, this is a sign that we (as human-beings) are not matured enough to live peacefully together. Even more sadly when I look at my home country, I can see that not only appreciation of a sport like football/soccer has not improved people’s physical activity habits, but on the contrary, it also has burnt all the opportunities for other sports to flourish, since all the money goes mostly to soccer.

The really sad part is that a scientist, an artist, or a doctor who has devoted his/her life for humanity, does not receive any attention compared to a soccer player, who probably play for 10-15 years of his life! Not to mention that the most genius scientists (with any standard) receive much much much less than an average soccer player even in poor countries. This is the worst valuation in a human society.

I hope that we pass this competition era and enter to a collaboration era.