HackerNews Readings
40,000 HackerNews book recommendations identified using NLP and deep learning

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turbinerneiteronJune 22, 2021

The Three Body Problem does have people caught in situations far bigger than them, but the characters do have agency and change the flow of history significantly.

I can only recommend these books, among the best I ever read.

goatloveronMay 26, 2021

Would you consider the characters of The Three Body Problem to be all that interesting? Yet it's widely considered to be a great novel. Not sure whether The Dark Forest or the third book do a better job with characters, but the plot and the ideas make the story.

fogdartonJuly 10, 2021

Assuming we could see it. I'm not a physicist but I have read this book series called The Three Body Problem, in which we discover alien structures, but in the fourth dimension.

riffraffonJuly 16, 2021

that is what I thought when I read the three-body problem.

If you can manipulate space-time at the levels exposed in the book you can trivially build orbitals that will host trillions of beings and live in a post-scarcity society for millennia, after which your society is likely to disappear waaay before you run out of space and resources.

the__alchemistonJuly 23, 2021

I agree, re The Three Body Problem. It's a fun story, but not hard sci-fi in the way Stephenson etc are. I also enjoyed the dive into mid-century communist China - it was a jarring, immersive journey into living-memory history I hadn't learned about before.

I think Diamond Age was my favorite overall Stephenson story in terms of both story and neat scifi concepts, but all of them were enjoyable. I agree on Seveneves chars all being forgettable. Dodge (The most recent one) had perhaps the dullest start, but I really liked the Dodge, Corvis, and Daisy characters.

pseudobryonJuly 30, 2021

I recently finished The Three-Body Problem and The Dark Forest, which explore the concept of aliens using their super advanced technology to mess with the results of Earth's particle accelerators, thereby stopping humanity's ability to develop technology based on new physics.

Is this discovery exciting? Or are we living in The Three-Body Problem?

throw1234651234onJuly 23, 2021

Neal Stephenson's earlier work has "more soul" - Snow Crash / Diamond Age actually has characters you care about and like, his later novels get increasingly more abstract, though even better in the technical sense. I think the only character I remember from Seveneves is the cannibal leader, that's it.

"A Deepness in the Sky" was REALLY good. The Forever War was good for the concept.

In short, yours looks like a great list I will come back to, thank you.

However, I do strongly dislike Remembrance of Earth's Past / The Three Body Problem - it's vastly overrated in my opinion and the characters make no sense. The best part of it was the intro to the first book which gave an interesting glimpse at history.

markus_zhangonAug 4, 2021

Try "The Three-Body Problem". It opened my eyes when I first read it, and every re-read still mesmerized me. The original text is in Chinese but the translation to English was done very well.

It's a trilogy in three books. If you are not sure, just purchase the first one. But I bet you would regret about only purchasing the first one.

CapmCrackaWakaonJuly 14, 2021

Reminds me of a short story by Liu Cixin, the author of the Three Body Problem. In it, a character discovers that, as a result of 11 dimensional string space, there is a finite number of possible initial configurations to the Big Bang, each one resulting in a deterministic universe with its own distinct combination of fundamental constants (speed of light, Coulomb’s constant, pi, etc.). He explores this quite a bit. It’s pure sci-fi, but fun to read.

BigProofOfStakeonJuly 29, 2021

Sounds like someone just wrapped up their reading of The Three Body Problem series.

aksssonMay 22, 2021

Well just think about all the times in history where religious culture has the upper hand, or anti-communism, or communism. To me it doesn’t matter what the dogma of the day is, the behavior of loud elements in society shouting down free expression, or unorthodox thought, is pretty repugnant. It’s not as simple as saying society is just expressing displeasure. That’s fine, but I think we can all see a different beast rising up here in the US lately that is historically recognizable. Read the opening of The Three Body Problem - that shit was real, and those social movements are a liability for any culture as it’s part of human behavior. There’s nothing exceptional about the US that prevents our society from falling victim to political cults.

ZababaonMay 26, 2021

I'll preface this by saying that I don't want to be mean and just give you honest feedback. I haven't read either of your books and just looked at the amazon page you linked, look at the cover and read the blurb for The Golden Seed, and looked at https://gabrielgambetta.com/computer-graphics-from-scratch/, looked at the cover, skimmed the table of contents and read the paragraph under the title. This is of course entirely personal feedback based on how I feel about both of your books.

For "The Golden Seed", both the cover and the blurb seem "too much", like the kind of book you encounter by the dozen in a bookstore. It's also a fiction book, which appeals less to me because I can either ask people in my family for recommendations (there are a few big readers) and then have something to talk about, or read well-known books (for example, I've read The Three-Body Problem recently, after hearing about it 4 or 5 times here and really liked it).

On the other hand, Computer Graphics from Scratch attracts me more: its cover is in the same style as "Automate the Boring Stuff with Python", of which I've heard great things about; the "from scratch" appeals to me because I like the idea of building things from scratch; the table of contents has an entire part on raytracing, and the book seems oriented at beginners, which I like because I previously tried and failed to build a raytracer following the raytracer in one weekend project, and I think I could achieve it with this book. It's a technical book, which I'll value more because it feels like I'm building a skill. I also have a friend that made a few graphics experiments as a hobby and this could be a great conversation topic.

Again, this is very personal feedback but I hope it can help you understand why some people might buy one and not the other.

TeMPOraLonMay 27, 2021

I've also been gravitating towards this kind of component categorization, but then there's the ugly problem of "cross-cutting concerns". For instance:

- The auth layer may have an opinion on how half of the other modules should work. Security is notoriously hard to isolate into a module that can be composed with others.

- Diagnostics layer - logging, profiling, error reporting, debugging - wants to have free access to everything, and is constantly trying to pollute all the clean interfaces and beautiful abstractions you design in other layers.

- User interface - UI design is fundamentally about creating a completely separate mental model of the problem being solved. To make a full program, you have to map the UI conceptualization to the "backend" conceptualization. That process has a nasty tendency of screwing with every single module of the program.

I'm starting to think about software as a much higher-dimensional problem. In Liu Cixin's "The Three Body Problem" trilogy, there's a part[0] where a deadly device encased in impenetrable unobtanium[1] is neutered by an attack from a higher dimension. While the unobtanium shell completely protects the fragile internals in 3D space, in 4D space, both the shell and the internals lie bare, unwound, every point visible and accessible simultaneously[2].

This is how I feel about building software systems. Our abstractions are too flat. I'd like to have a couple more dimensions available, to compose them together. Couple more angles from which to view the source code. But our tooling is not there. Aspect-oriented programming moved in that direction a bit, but last I checked, it wasn't good enough.


[0] - IIRC it's in the second book, "The Dark Forest".

[1] - It makes more sense in the book, but I'm trying to spoiler-proof my description.

[2] - Or, going down a dimension, for flat people living on a piece of paper, a circle is an impenetrable barrier. But when we look at that piece of paper, we can see what's inside the circle.

pjc50onMay 22, 2021

The old political cults are still there? And still causing problems? They've just learned to be slightly less visible about it. Brigham Young university will still "cancel" you for not being straight: https://www.nbcnews.com/feature/nbc-out/traumatic-whiplash-b...

> Read the opening of The Three Body Problem

Yes, the cultural revolution was bad. Revolutions tend to be massive over corrections which arise because there's no peaceful way of resolving a situation and they know that in the event of a counter revolution they will all be executed. This is why Fabianism is a good idea.

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