Thanh Tran Academic Background Research Experience Books Blog

Books that I have read lately

The First Cell - Azra Raza

This book filled me with knowledge and sorrow for the status quo of cancer treatments that have not really been treating for the last century. A stoic acceptance of the bureaucracy in the scientific world where billions of dollars were granted to proposals for the development of animal models and cell lines culture that prove no relevance to human anatomy. A modicum of relief that a group of people who devote their lives to make the unbearable easier to bear herald a less bleak outlook in the end.

Trigonometry, Slide Rule, Mechanics - ICS Staff

My boss got me an advanced engineering slide rule. Then, he had to get me a handbook to learn how to use it. I spent my break at work learning how to do trigonometric calculations on a sliding rule.

When Breath Becomes Air - Paul Kalanithi

My favorite book because of one legacy that it left within me. People often find it hard to decide whether to try harder or let it be. For me, it's not. I always push harder, sometimes in an unnecessarily arrogant way. If things vanish tomorrow, I want to make sure I treat them the best I could today, despite how hurtful the process of letting go is. As for me and Paul Kalanithi, life is not about avoiding suffering. I accept the risk of suffering, if there is the slightest chance of getting something that makes me happy. Will too much of love make life more painful? Of course, and I am glad that it does.

The Gene: An Intimate History - Siddhartha Mukherjee

The most dramatic endeavor on digging deep into the history of science and the genes. Mukherjee took me on a rollercoaster journey to explore the answer to human heredity. Starting with spermism of Pythagoras, Aristotle's dispute of spermism, Mendel's pea garden, Darwin's excursion on the Beagle, Muller's use of X-rays on accelerating the emergence of mutations, Galton's eugenics movement, to an attempt to manipulate our genetic code, principles of inheritance and evolution have gradually appeared. I enjoyed it more than any genetics textbook.

The Art of Loving - Erich Fromm

This book basically slapped into my face that I did not know how to love at all. There are two types of love which are love as a sensation and love with knowledge and effort. Then, Fromm delved into different types of love with different worldviews. Without love, human beings cannot exist for a day, yet, the majority of us do not know how to love. The way to love someone properly is as tangible as the objective truth out there. Generally, it requires humility, objectivity, and reason. To love is to balance between justice and mercy with the capability to withhold one's narcissism. The way to love someone properly is as tangible as the objective truth out there.

The Biochemical Challenge to Evolution - Michael J. Behe

A professor told me to challenge my belief, so I picked this book that stated Darwin was wrong. The author disagreed that Darwin's theory of evolution could explain the emergence of everything from a biochemical perspective. He argued that changes in species are more than just natural selection working on variation. For example, in vision, the idea of hyperpolarization in response to light just shows how "purposeful" evolution is. It's much easier to hyperpolarize a neuron than to depolarize. With a single photon, the system stops the release of glutamate instead of waiting for cumulations of polarization from multiple photons, which works best for our survival. Another example could be the sphincter muscles in bombardier beetles that allows them to release a boiling-hot solution at their enemy in case of danger. I personally don't like wars between science and theology. I don't really advocate the idea of them walking along each other; however, I understand that even the first law of thermodynamics says that everything happens for a reason. As energy cannot be destroyed or created but converted from one to another, everything happens in a sequential procedure. One thing occurs as a verifiable consequences of the preceded event and works as a causal factor for the next one.

The Blank Slate: The Modern Denial of Human Nature - Steven Pinker

Tabula rasa. Pinker did such a brilliant job at challenging John Locke's concept of the blank slate. I really embraced it when he used perception, which is usually considered socially influenced and constructed, to back up his notion of human nature. Our perception of the world is far beyond the real world with the intrusion of top-down processing. However, our psychological experience of physical events does not mean that it's arbitrary. Our selective attention is drawned to factors that are essential to our survival. Not to justify any form of discrimination, but stereotypes are accurate to some extent, especially with real exposure. Why does categorization of objects and abstract principles make us smart but of people make us irrational and offensive? Categorization is natural, but how we act upon that is socially determined.

The Future - Al Gore

An analysis of how the future would turn out to be from the former Vice President of the US. The 6 global drivers that he mentioned were quite comprehensive. One point that I really like was when he mentioned with all technology advances, the control of evolution is in human hands, and that is quite scary considering how whenever with an advent of something, there are always someone who misuse it.

The Undoing Project - Michael Lewis

I just started it. So far great analysis on prediction errors.