What we've been reading: Reality, sitting and 1Q84

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Welcome to What We've Been Reading, the AccountingWEB editors’ weekly round up of the stories that have caught their attention.

What connects quantum gravity, sitting down and Haruki Murakami? Those shrugging their shoulders obviously haven't read this article's headline. They are, of course, all featured in this week's exciting edition of What We've Been Reading. 

Enjoy the roundup of stories from our editors, and let us know if there's something that caught your eye or if you'd like to disagree with any of our choices.

Valme: Reality Is Not What It Seems: The Journey to Quantum Gravity

Valme Claro

Carlo Rovelli’s journey to quantum gravity starts with the ancient Greek philosophers. That is because the birth of science was deeply intertwined with philosophy and both of them were tools used with the same purpose: to explain the world.

Even though they look for the same answers, in the subsequent centuries, science got increasingly detached from philosophy and the arts, a distinction that we still make.

In this book, Rovelli does a great job joining the ‘two cultures’ again. In fact, Rovelli is sympathetic towards the readers who know more about art than science. He compares physics with music – you don’t need to know how to play the instruments to enjoy the music, as you don’t need to be able to follow the equations and calculations to understand science.

“What matters in science is the understanding of the world which science provides,” writes Rovelli. “To understand the significance of the discovery that the Earth turns around the Sun, it is not necessary to follow Copernicus complicated equations“.

Rovelli writes with clarity and simplicity about complex topics, taking the reader on a journey that goes from the origins of physics to what we might find in the future. It is not a book of certainties, but it certainly opens our eyes to the unknown. After all – and Socrates would probably agree – isn’t that what wisdom is all about?

Richard: Standing desks vs sitting - why sitting ISN’T slowly killing you

Richard Hattersley

I like sitting. I’ve never been one for anything too strenuous. For instance, my entire time “playing” football as a child was mainly spent sitting on the bench. So sitting has been bred into me since I was young. My father was also a sitter. And my father’s father - well, he was a stander, but that’s another story.  

Like all offices – and this is likely the case with your office too, dear reader – AccountingWEB towers has in the past offered the stand-up desk option. Despite breathing in more when I do up my belt, I have resisted ditching the chair. Now, I am sure standing up provides a multitude of health benefits, not least the smugness of lording over your colleagues in an open plan office.

You don’t need me to tell you – as your standing colleagues probably remind you daily – about how standing reduces back pain or boosts productivity (but that one is a bit of a stretch, if you ask me).

However, as this Medium blog post outlines, standing up desks might not be all that they claim to be. Another study has found that prolonged standing could actually increase heart disease due to blood pooling in the legs. So that changes everything. Or does it.

Actually, as the blog reaches, office life isn’t as simple as stand or sit. Instead, it’s a balance.  But what makes the bigger difference is the additional things you do. The next time you’re faced with a long working day, don’t assume standing would do the trick. As the blog post recommends, take a walk in your lunch break or cut back on junk food.

Although, I can’t do either of those today as I will be spending my lunch break sitting at my desk searching for a study that debunks the evils of junk food.

Francois: 1Q84 by Haruki Murakami

Francois

There’s a stilted, sort-of David Lynch quality to Haruki Murakami’s writing. Something feels off or amiss in even the most banal exchanges.

The late and great Mark Fisher made the point that weirdness is defined by the presence of something. You walk into a room and spot something incongruous and say ‘huh, that’s weird’.

The eerie is different, though. Eeriness is hallmarked by absence. Something that’s meant to be there, but just isn’t. You can’t put your finger on it. It’s beguiling. 

Murakami’s writing is eerie. By that, I don’t mean that it’s sparse. It’s actually dense, filled with pop cultural references and slightly stilted dialogue. But it’s haunted by the eerie.

I’m not that far in yet. But this feeling - an uncanny, hypnagogic confusion - has been with me since page one. What’s happening? I’m not sure. I’m enjoying it.

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