# Category Archives: book review

## Bullets and Shells, Book Review

Bullet and Shell, the Civil War as the Soldier saw it is an inexpensive book at Amazon and a good read. The mild fighting as the Arab regions shake off old dictators gives me a reason to write a book review for it: it’s a lesson on why civil war should be avoided.

The book was written in 1884 by George F. Williams, an author with a very common name and possibly several other books. The book is a fictionalized memoir of the U.S. Civil War, 1861-1865, and follows the experiences of a young college graduate who enlists in the union side.

Filed under book review, History

## An Immorality Tale

She was born with given name Johanna Maria Magdalena and a last name of either Behrend or Ritschel, my sources disagree. Her parents were unmarried, did she receive the last name of her father, Oskar Ritschel, or her mother, Auguste Behrend? In either case it was November 11, 1901. She was one of the most fascinating personalities of her time.

Youth
Her mother worked as a servant in Berlin and her father was an engineer who worked in various places around Europe. Soon after her birth, they married, but only for 3 years. Until she was 5, she stayed with her mother. Then she went to Belgium to visit her father who, after a delay of two years and insistent requests from the mother, finally told her that he had sent their child to be educated by the nuns at a convent (Catholic) boarding school in Brussels.

Her mother met and married a Jewish businessman, Richard Friedländer. When, the couple saw the conditions at the convent her mother decided to transfer her daughter to another convent, one that was less strict, in Vilvoorde, Belgium. Her parents moved to Schaerbeek, near Brussels (Belgium), and now she was able to come home to visit. With the marriage, she became Johanna Maria Magdalena Friedländer, and from the age of 7 she was raised in a household that observed both Catholic and Jewish customs.

In 1914, the world descended into the horror of the first world war. As German aliens living in Belgium, overnight the Friedländers became refugees. Eventually they made it to the German border, probably feeling fortunate that there was space available on a cattle car for them. As the modern world is one of passenger jets, the railroad was the transportation mode of the first half of the 20th century. Transport by livestock car is not a pleasant thing. Later, in the second world war, many thousands would be transported this way to the concentration camp at Buchenwald, where Richard Friedländer died. But let us return to her story.

Survivors at Buchenwald, April 16, 1945

Filed under book review, History

## Book Review: My One Contribution to Chess, F. V. Morley

The Crossroads chess club provides me with the entertainment of watching chess games, along with the discussion that is natural to accompany such. Only rarely does my excessive kibbitzing force me to accept a challenge to play; though I have been practicing with such books as 1001 Brilliant Ways to Checkmate, my ability is somewhat lacking (too much mathematics, perhaps, which spoils one by allowing one to easily retract errors). My feeling is that chess is like football. It’s relaxing to watch a game but far too much effort to play. If I’m going to endure an hour of aggravation, memorize sequences of play and their likely chance of success, suffer nervous sweat until it drools down from my armpits to my belt, and run up my heart rate, I’d like to reach orgasm at the end of it. And with much better odds than the (under) 50% I achieve at the chess club.

Anyway, while observing a game, Nathan Jermasek (perhaps with the object of quieting my comments) handed me a slim book by F. V. Morley, “My One Contribution to Chess,” the subject of this book review. It should probably be noted that F. V. Morley and his book are supposed to be fictional creations of Stephen Potter in his famous 1952 book on gamesmanship, at least according to Wikipedia’s entry on fictional books:

You can’t buy My One Contribution on Amazon at the moment, but you may be able to find a used copy if you look around a bit. Perhaps eBay once caught a whiff of one.

Does the book exist or not? It’s hard to say, and certainly I’m not going to “correct” wikipedia on this. But the choice of the name F. V. Morley is interesting in that it leads to some mathematics which might vaguely have something to do with the physics we’re working on around here.

Filed under book review, chess

## Review: ‘t Hooft’s The Conceptual Basis of Quantum Field Theory

I should be preparing for my 10 minute lecture on classification of hadrons at the American Physical Society’s Northwest meeting on Saturday, but instead I am reading Gerard ‘t Hooft’s beautiful introduction to quantum field theory, The Conceptual Basis of Quantum Field Theory. I like the approach of this book because it concentrates on what I think of as the heart of quantum field theory, Feynman diagrams.

The author begins with classical field theory, but unlike most he defines the solutions to classical field theory with Feynman diagrams! The difference with the quantum theory is that there are no loops; he calls the loops the “quantum corrections” to the classical theory. So all the diagrams are tree diagrams looking something like this:

In the above, the points each correspond to a single point in spacetime. These points are labeled $x_j$. The $G_{49}$ in the above is a propagator, the Green’s function. Each of the legs carries one of these. The $g_{jkl}$ and $\lambda{jklm}$ are included for the 3-point and 4-point vertices. They are coupling constants. Uh, I’ve been sloppy in the above, please refer to the ‘t Hooft paper for details.