Visualizing Spheres & Branches of Knowledge: The Book of Circles, & The Book of Trees

I. The Book of Circles [2017] by Manuel Lima – ★★★★

This illustrated non-fiction is all about the human presentation of knowledge through circles. The author states how natural it is for humans to try to classify and systematise all sorts of knowledge, and the circle serves as a perfect vehicle for doing so because it is a perfect geometrical figure standing for the Sun, among other things, and representing a multitude of other concepts, including movement, unity, wholeness, perfection and infinity. Being a shape that is omnipresent in nature, the circle may also be attracting our attention because of our innate evolutionary tendency to seek out human faces/eyes.

A large chunk of this book is devoted to showing various circles being used to illustrate and explain all sorts of concepts and progressions, from the presentations of the solar system, scientific theorems and alchemical tables to city maps, world economics and online engagements. There are things in this book which I never thought have been or could have been analysed using a circle, including the “Lineage of Sin in the Bible” (2009) by Anna Filipova and the changing colour of Lego sets (2015) by David Eaton.

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Recent Non-Fiction Reads

I. Phantoms in the Brain: Probing the Mysteries of the Human Mind [1998] by V. S. Ramachandran★★★★★

This entertaining book presents the most mind-boggling medical cases from the field of neuroscience. In the vein of Professor Oliver Sacks (The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat [1985]), Professor V. S. Ramachandran discusses and seeks explanations to such bewildering medical conditions as Capgras delusion, where a person thinks that their relatives are imposters because of the break between their emotional and visual brain inputs, various forms of anosognosia, such as the one where a person denies that their left side of the body is completely paralysed (one possible explanation is that their brains “adapt” reality to their internal world-view “to save” their sanity), phantom limb syndrome, where a person experiences sensations in a limb they no longer possess, as well as blindsight and savant syndrome, among others. Though this book was published in 1998, it remains as informative as at the time of its publication. There have been some developments in neuroscience since 1998, but the science is still very much in the dark regarding all the curiosities about the brain presented in this book. Answering the questions posed by Professor Ramachandran will be akin to finally finding the answers to the biggest mysteries of our existence and psychology.

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