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A Good Place To Start

A Madman Dreams of Turing Machines 1


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Categorization is odious. There is tremendous overlap among genres. These pigeonholes are offered only as a convenience.

Janna Levin

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alexismacnab April 6th, 2010 10:16 PM PST

If you're a fan of memoirs of all genres I can heartily recommend How the Universe Got Its Spots. There's a fair amount of theoretical math and astrophysics explained in pop-science style but what I remember most was Janna's musings on dating an obsessive-compulsive musician, being a woman in a man's field, and living in Cambridge. Madman has some personal memoir bits too but is mostly about the crazy worlds of the crazy scientists Kurt Godel and Allan Turing. If you'd rather read memoir masquerading as fiction, I'd start there. She writes beautifully, and is obviously super smart in many ways. Her math and science prowess lend her a kind of insight rarely explored by other Right-Brain-Only writers.


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Janna Levin is a Professor of Physics and Astronomy at Barnard College of Columbia University. Her scientific research concerns the Early Universe, Chaos, and Black Holes. Her second book – a novel, “A Madman Dreams of Turing Machines” (Knopf, 2006)– won the PEN/Bingham Fellowship for Writers. She holds a BA in Physics and Astronomy from Barnard College of Columbia University with a concentration in Philosophy, and a PhD from MIT in Physics. She has worked at the Center for Particle Astrophysics (CfPA) at the University of California, Berkeley before moving to the UK where she worked at Cambridge University in the Department of Applied Mathematics and Theoretical Physics. Just before returning to New York, she was the first scientist-in-residence at the Ruskin School of Fine Art and Drawing at Oxford with an award from the National Endowment for Science, Technology, and Arts (NESTA). She has written for many artists and appeared on several radio and television programs. She is also the author of the popular science book, “How the Universe Got Its Spots: diary of a finite time in a finite space”.

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