Autobiography and recommended books

In his autobiography "Dancing Naked in the Mind Field", Kary writes with passion and humor about a wide range of subjects: from the scientific method to parapsychology, from poisonous spiders to the HIV virus and AIDS, from global warming to astrology, from the O.J. Simpson trial to how you can turn a light bulb on with your mind.

His book challenges us to question the authority of scientific dogma even as it reveals the workings of an uncannily original scientific mind.

"We were fortunate to have the Russians as our childhood enemies. We practiced hiding under our desks in case they had the temerity to drop a nuclear weapon on Columbia, South Carolina, during school hours. In 1957 the Russians launched the space race by putting Sputnik I into orbit around Earth. It was only twenty-three inches in diameter, but it revolutionized the American educational system. The government poured millions of dollars into science education. It was a fortuitous time to be young and in love with science."

From "Dancing Naked in the Mind Field," 1998.

Thoughts and Books

I think it's true that the majority of the people who have ever lived on earth are alive today. That would imply, ceteris paribus, that at least half of the smartest people who ever wrote are writing today. So at least half of the best books are recent. Those who take more comfort in reading than listening are quite lucky to be alive now. I am one of those people. It's easy for me to start talking about books that mean as much to me as any friendship.

I am very picky. The book must be non-fiction and it must address something that speaks to all of experience. For me that usually means biology or physics.

I make exceptions when they are warranted. Sometimes I read something that I consider to be only entertainment, but it's so good that I read it anyhow. I would put Riddley Walker, by Russell Hoban, in that category. The book came to me in an odd way. One night in Berkeley in the early seventies, I ran into a psychic friend at a restaurant on Shattuck. I'd been in the lab all day and was thinking about going out for a paper. She laid the Chronicle on my table without breaking her stride, said "Your paper, doctor." Before I could be puzzled about that, she delivered another curious message before leaving, "Tonight you will meet Riddley Walker." I discovered what she meant a few hours later when I noticed a book at Moe's book store by that name. I bought it, and around two o'clock the next morning, I called to inform her that I had indeed met Riddley Walker, and was pleased with my new acquaintance.

The entire book was written phonetically. It was science fiction; set in the future about 1000 years after the "master changes" had pretty well eliminated the written word and most people. Writing was starting to come back along with gunpowder, and what people mistakenly hoped would be "the one big one." They were a bit confused about the latter. It was a haunting book. While writing, Russell Hoban was living with a family whose children were learning English grammar by the phonetic method. His other books never achieved the same level of genius.

Most of my favorite books are by physicists trying to make some communicable sense out of that quantum reality that really cannot be understood. Julian Barbour portrays a silent world completely devoid of action in The End of Time. David Bohm, now dead, in a classic from 1980, Wholeness and the Implicate Order, suggests rather convincingly that the structure of our language prevents us from being aware of the fact that nothing actually happens here, shades of Barbour, but heavy on the philosophy. Bohm is way out there, he had devotees when he passed, and you should come away from this book doubting your sanity.

The Non-Local Universe, by Robert Nadeau and Menas Kafatos, skillfully lures you to confront the same kind of madness, or either pitch the book into the nearest body of deep water. But you must accept the disturbing fact of non-locality. This means that things can be immediately and intimately connected to each other even though they are light years apart. In other words there is nothing which corresponds to our classical cognition of geometric distance, and every particle since the so-called and now doubtfully singular Big Bang is in a way the same stinking particle, and there are recent convincing experiments by Alain Aspect and Nicolus Gisin based on theories proposed in 1964 by John Bell that close the lid of doubt on this creepy notion, which Einstein, by the way, despised. In a minor aside it might be pointed out that Feynman, in his amazing practicality, suggested that the reason every electron had the same mass, was that there was only one, buzzing around the 4-D universe, and when it was going backwards in time, relative to us, we perceived it as a positron.

to read more, please download the document


Recommended Reading

Douglas Adams
The Ultimate Hitchhikers Guide
Halton Arp
Seeing Red: Red Shifts, Cosmology and Academic Science
Lyndon Ashmore
The Big Bang Blasted
Jean Auel
Clan of the Cave Bear
Robert Aunger
Electric Meme
Julian Barbour
The End of Time
John D. Barrow, and J. Frank Tipler
The Anthropic Cosmological Principle
John D. Barrow
New Theories of Everything and The Infinite Book
John M. Barry
The Great Influenza
Gregory Benford
David Berlinski
A Tour of the Calculus
Harvey Bialy
Oncogenes, Aneuploidy and AIDS
Douglas Bohm
Wholeness and the Implicate Order
Colin Bruce
Schroedingers Rabbits: The Many Worlds of Quantum
Chandler Burr
The Emperor of Scent
Orson Scott Card
Ender's Game
Sean Carrol
From Eternity to Here
Marcus Chown
We Need to Talk About Kelvin
Brian Cleg
The God Effect
Brian Cox, and Jeff Forshaw
Why Does E=mc2
Matthew B. Crawford
Shop Class as Soulcraft: An Inquiry into the Value of Work
Michael Crichton
The State of Fear
Richard Dawkins
The Ancestors Tale
The Selfish Gene
Daniel Dennett
Breaking the Spell
Consciousness Explained
Darwins Dangerous Idea
David Deutsch
The Beginning of Infinity
The Fabric of Reality
Jared Diamond
Guns, Germs and Steel
Freeman Dyson
Disturbing the Universe also Infinite in All Directions
Loren Eiseley
The Star Thrower
Paul Ewald
Plague Time: The New Germ Theory of Disease
Brian Fagan
The Long Summer: How Climate Changed Civilization
Richard Feynman
Surely You Must Be Joking, Mr. Feynman
Michael W. Friedlander
A Thin Cosmic Rain
Max G. Gergel
Excuse Me Sir, Would you like to buy a Kilo of Isopropyl Bromide
Rebecca Goldstein
Incompleteness: The Proof and Paradox of Kurt Goedel
Brian Greene
The Elegant Universe
The Fabric of the Universe
Sam Harris
The End of Faith
Jack Heighway
Einstein, the Aether and Variable Rest Mass
Russell Hoban
Riddley Walker
Douglas Hofstadter
I am a Strange Loop
Bruce M. Hood
Supersense: Why We Believe in the Unbelievable
Fred Hoyle, Geoffrey Burbidge and Jayant V. Narlikar
A Different Approach to Cosmology
Julian Jaynes
The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind
Michio Kaku
Robert Kaplan
The Nothing That Is: A Natural History of Zero
Serge Lang
Robert Lanza, and Bob Berman
Biocentrism: How Life and Consciousness are the Keys to Understanding the True Nature of the Universe
Eric J. Lerner
The Big Bang Never Happened
Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner
David Lindley
Boltzmanns Atom
David J. C. MacKay
Sustainable Energy Without the Hot Air
Cormac McCarthy
The Road
Mark W. Moffett
Adventures Among Ants
Richart A. Muller
Physics for Future Presidents
Robert Nadeau and Menas Kafatos
The Non-Local Universe
V. S. Naipaul
Beyond Belief
Isaac Newton
The Principia
Steven Pinker
How the Mind Works
Michael Pollan
The Botany of Desire
Dean Radin
Entangled Minds: Extrasensory Experience in a Quantum Reality
Lisa Randall
Warped Passages
Tom Robbins
Skinny Legs and All
Dan Rockmore
Stalking the Riemann Hypothesis
Benjamin Rosenbaum
The Ant King and Other Stories
Bruce Rosenblum and Fred Kuttner
Quantum Enigma
Gunter Sachs
The Astrology File
Oliver Sacks
The Island of the Colorblind
Erwin Schrodinger
What Is Life
Kathyrn Schulz
Being Wrong
Charles Seife
Walter Semkiw
Return of the Revolutionaries: The Case for Reincarnation
Simon Singh
Fermats Last Theorem
Lee Smolin
The Life of the Cosmos
The Trouble with Physics
Three Roads to Quantum Gravity
Willie Soon, and Steven Yaskell
The Maunder Minimum and the Variable Sun-Earth Connection
Russell Standish
Theory of Nothing
Paul J. Steinhardt and Neil Turok
Endless Universe: Beyond the Big Bang
Gunter Stent
Paradoxes of Free Will
Ian Stewart, Jack and Cohen
Figments of Reality
Leonard Susskind
The Cosmic Landscape
Henrik Svensmark and Nigel Calder
The Chilling Stars: A Cosmic View of Climate Change
Bryan Sykes
Adam's Curse
Thomas Szasz
Ceremonial Chemistryand The Myth of Mental Illness
Nassim Nicholas Taleb
The Black Swan
Michael Ray Taylor
Dark Life
Wallace Thornhill and David Talbott
The Electric Universe
The Urantia Book
ostensibly by Extraterrestrials
Vlatko Vedral
Decoding Reality
Alex Vilenkin
Many Worlds in One
Andrew Weil
The Natural Mind
Julia Whitty
The Fragile Edge
Ian Wishart
Air Con: The Inconvenient Truth About Global Warming
Peter Woit
Not Even Wrong
Herman Wouk
The Language God Talks