April 28, 2017

Archives for February 2004

Must-Read Books: Readers' Choices

Last week, I asked readers to name five must-read books on science and technology. The results are below. I included nominations from my comments section, from the comments over at Crooked Timber, and from any other blogs I spotted. This represents the consensus of about thirty people.

The most-mentioned book was Hofstadter’s Goedel, Escher, Bach, which received eight votes. Interestingly, GEB was the only book that received negative votes (urging me not to include it). One of the negative voters called it a “show-off book”.

The results:

Rank Book Author Votes
1 Goedel, Escher, Bach Hofstadter 8
2 Guns, Germs, and Steel Diamond 6
3 (tie) On the Origin of Species Darwin 5
3 (tie) The Character of Physical Law Feynman 5
5 (tie) A Brief History of Time Hawking 4
5 (tie) What is Mathematics? Courant, Robbins 4
5 (tie) The Selfish Gene Dawkins 4
8 (tie) QED Feynman 3
8 (tie) The Visual Display of Quantitative Information Tufte 3
8 (tie) The Double Helix Watson, Crick 3

Six books received two votes: Kuhn’s The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, Feynman’s The Feynman Lectures on Physics, Freud’s Interpretation of Dreams, Medawar’s The Limits of Science, Pinker’s The Blank Slate, and Schneier’s Beyond Fear. Eighty-five books received a single mention.

As in the university presidents’ survey, the respondents to my query showed a notable lack of consensus.

I’ll post my list tomorrow.

California Court: DeCSS Not a Trade Secret

A California state appeals court has ruled in DVD-CCA v. Bunner, holding that the DeCSS program is not a trade secret, so a lower court was wrong to order Andrew Bunner not to post the program on his website.

DeCSS, you may recall, is a program that decrypts data from DVDs. It’s posted at hundreds or thousands of places on the net. Since the program was already widespread before Bunner posted it, DVD-CCA had no argument that Bunner’s posting posed any additional danger. The court also noted that Bunner played no role in the initial disclosure and spread of DeCSS.

This is a sensible ruling. The only surprise is that it took the California courts so long to reach this conclusion.

(I should note that the court left open the possibility that DVD-CCA could present more evidence to prove the trade secret status of DeCSS; but it’s hard to imagine what evidence could exist that they haven’t already presented.)

Jason Shultz has a collection of quotes from the opinion.

Paris Hilton: Auteur

Some day a great book will be written, dissecting the current copyright mania. And the page-three example, showing just how ridiculous things got, will be this: a legal dispute over whether Paris Hilton can claim authorship of the infamous video.

[Link credit: James Grimmelmann at LawMeme.]