September 30, 2008

Books to Read While the Algae Grow in Your Fur, September 2008

Donna Kossy, Strange Creations: Aberrant Ideas of Human Origins from Ancient Astronauts to Aquatic Apes
Donna Kossy is one of the best writers about weird beliefs around. (Go read Kooks right now if you haven't.) This is a look some ideas about where humanity came from, and where it might go, which are currently on the fringes of respectability at best, although in some cases (creationism, eugenics) they didn't use to be. She's particularly good, here, on the influence of Theosophy. As always, Kossy tries very hard to be sympathetic to those she reports on, even in cases where that's obviously very hard (like eugenicists). Her readers, however, are under no such obligations.
(She misses the Lovecraft/ancient astronaut connection, however; in a sense the Cthulhu Mythos is what you get when you take Blavatsky's elaborate scheme of pre-human, material-life-but-not-as-we-know-it races, and add the assumption that aliens will be alien.)
Kage Baker, The House of the Stag
Another intricately-plotted fantasy novel, including a lengthy section where Epic Fantasy is depicted as a kind of harlequinade. Also, a portrait of the saint as a young woman.
— Brad DeLong has posted a long excerpt of one of the more amusing scenes.
Later book in the same world (only loosely connected).
Warren Ellis, Chris Weston and Laura Martin, Ministry of Space
Alternate history of the British conquest of space, aided by Wernher "we aim for the stars, and sometimes we hit London" von Braun. The technology thus closesly follows von Braun's actual proposals.
Mat Johnson and Warren Pleece, Incognegro: A Graphic Mystery
Historical mystery about lynching and passing.
Denis Bosq and Delphine Blanke, Inference and Prediction in Large Dimensions
Some aspects of prediction problems in the presence of either infinite-dimensional data (such as continuous processes observed over finite intervals of time), or infinite-dimensional parameters (such as arbitrary smooth probability distributions for noise), or both. The general setting is that of mixing processes; the major tools are (1) limit theorems for mixing processes, especially exponential inequalities; (2) kernel estimators (as in Bosq's earlier book on Nonparametric Statistics for Stochastic Processes); and (3) projection estimators, i.e., projecting the data, suitably massaged, on to a countable orthonormal basis in an appropriate Hilbert space, and adaptively truncating small components. The authors refer to all such basis decompositions as "Fourier analysis", whether the basis functions are trigonometric functions or not. Much of this comes together in the last few chapters, on "functional linear processes", i.e., linear processes taking values in infinite-dimensional function spaces, such as those of continuous curves. As is often the case, by moving to Hilbert space one can linearize an otherwise non-linear time-evolution, and so do a lot more than you'd think with autoregressive models.
This is very much a book for advanced students; familiarity with the measure-theoretic treatment of stochastic processes is essential, as is a good grasp of ordinary, finite-dimensional estimation theory, and of course familiarity with Fourier analysis and Hilbert space methods. (Knowledge of ordinary time-series methods is not so much a requirement.) The exposition is very dense and sometimes confusing, though only one section is actually impenetrable. (This is the tangential one on Blackwell's method for forecasting the probabilities of arbitrary events; it's a hard topic, but the discussion in Prediction, Learning and Games really is infinitely clearer.) Many of the results are either new to this book, or might as well be new.
Scott Lynch, The Lies of Locke Lamora and Red Seas Under Red Skies
Mind-candy: a weird yet very entertaining hybrid of fantasy and crime-caper novel. — Sequel.

Books to Read While the Algae Grow in Your Fur; Scientifiction and Fantastica; Pleasures of Detection, Portraits of Crime; Enigmas of Chance; Psychoceramics; Creationism

Posted at September 30, 2008 23:59 | permanent link

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