2017 Reading List

A year has passed since I have been conveniently putting off reading books mainly because I’ve always had so much studying to do, and also because facebook is the cancer that mysteriously sucks out literally hours of potential productivity time from the day. Anyway, now I’ve decided to curb my social media addiction and steer more towards books (and studies). And since making a post about your resolutions helps you complete them sooner (or so I’ve read) here is a part of my new year’s resolutions, which requires me to read at least 6 of these books by May this year (don’t you judge me now I have a med school to pass).

1. A Brief History of Time –Stephen Hawking

I’m done with half of this amazing book already and I might be worsening the pre-existing existential crisis but anyway, studying Physics in Pre Med has a lot to do why I’m still sane till now. Also Stephen Hawking, being the genius he is, explains every complicated thing in this flawless manner which makes you want to leave everything and go do a Physics major.

2. The Stranger–Albert Camus

I remember reading the first few chapters of this masterpiece of a novel last year but then stopped because I had a semester exam coming up (which I hadn’t studied for all year, thanks again to facebook). Now I want to finish it, but it’s gonna have to wait till I’m done with Brief History Of Time.

3. A History of Western Philosophy–Bertrand Russell

We had an essay from one of Bertrand Russell’s book in high school as a part of our curriculum and two years ago I had decided to read more of his works, inspired mostly by his thoughts and philosophy on science and his opinion on war and Einstein. Two years have passed and procrastination took the better of me. Until recently I had forgotten about it but then I came across Neil deGrasse Tyson’s reading list, and it had this book in it.

4.  The Metamorphosis– Franz Kafka

Okay, this one is a bit of a long shot, because I don’t really read a lot of novels but I have been seeing Kafka quotes on my Facebook timeline a lot lately and I wanted to see what the fuss is all about. Lets see how this one turns out.

5. The Communist Manifesto–Karl Marx and some other guy

My maternal aunts have been keen supporters of communism, in fact my uncle died defending communism in the time of a dictatorship on my country. My grandfather and most of my maternal side is referred to as comrades by their friends. So it was natural that I was brought up to believe in socialism. This time I wanted to read the manifesto thoroughly (not just skim it as I had done before) and decide for myself if it is the only way to save humanity.

6. Black Hole Blues And Other Songs From Outer Space– Janna Levin

“Scientists are like those levers or knobs or those boulders helpfully screwed into a climbing wall. Like the wall is some cemented material made by mixing knowledge, which is a purely human construct, with reality, which we can only access through the filter of our minds. There’s an important pursuit of objectivity in science and nature and mathematics, but still the only way up the wall is through the individual people, and they come in specifics… So the climb is personal, a truly human endeavor, and the real expedition pixelates into individuals, not Platonic forms.”

What more reason to love this book.

7. Time Travel: A Brief History– James Gleick

Although time travel has been struck off as a scientific impossibility after the popular Stephen Hawking’s party for the future time travelers (where no one showed up) one can’t help but re-visit this thought over and over in a futile pursuit to satiate the imagination of the human mind. This book is more of a philosophy and history based rather than pure science and I’m really looking forward to reading more of it.

8. The Birth of Tragedy–Friedrich Nietzsche

Although I’m not that big of a Nietzsche fan, but I would be missing out on a lot of wisdom if I left my mind devoid of any Nietzsche styled cynicism. This book would be the perfect way to rekindle my long suppressed nihilism phase.

9. The Phenomenology of Mind– Hegel

I didn’t decide to be a neuroscientist out of  boredom, it was because I have this crippling desire to read people’s minds and find out whether it’s just a bunch of chemicals and sparks holding together the fort of sanity or if there is more to it. Which means I am also obsessed with psychology (that is when I’m not overwhelmed with cosmological insignificance). Which also means Hegel is a must read for me, but only a summary because this book is long enough to awaken my procrastination demons.

10.Extraordinary Popular Delusions and The Madness of Minds– Charles Mackay

This book was a part of Carl Sagan’s reading list which is convincing enough for me to have downloaded it. Also the title is so thought-provoking.It is more of a history accounting and quite lengthy to begin with, so I hope I don’t end up reading only half of it (which I probably will, smh).

11. The Shadow of The Crescent Moon–Fatima Bhutto

The only person in the Bhutto family that I have a slight amount of respect for is Fatima Bhutto. She was once a role model for me along with Sharmeen Obaid- Chinnoy. This novel is based in a war-stricken Afghanistan and captures most of what is happening as a result of sugar-coated “peace missions” and how they affect the locals.

12. Snell’s Clinical Neuroanatomy

Because I have to pass my neurosciences module too.

13. The Republic-Plato (summary)

There is something about books that are not written in modern English that really repels me, and I think English being my second language has to do with it. And its sad when most of these ancient works are translated in hard to read English. Also The Republic is really long so a summary will suffice for now.

14.  The Quran

Being Muslim, I have read the Quran quite a few times but I havent exactly read read it. This time I aim to read it thoroughly with proper translation and explanation, and clarify all the misconceptions and misinterpretations fed to us by the media.

15. Carrie –Stephen King

You may remember me just saying how I’m not a big fan of novels but that does not hold true for Stephen King. His books aren’t novels, they are roller coaster rides imprinted onto paper. I read almost half of Carrie but I can’t really recall why I abandoned the book. Well this year is the time to resume this masterpiece.

16.  Psychology: The Science of Mind and Behaviour

I came across this when I researched some reference books to study for Behavioural Sciences and I was addicted, but it got lost under the pile of other homework and I had more important subjects like anatomy and pathology to study first. So now I’ve decided to finish this book before any other distractions/module exams come in the way.

Woahh this was a pretty long post. I hope it serves its purpose and motivates me to read at least half of the books I listed down. Here’s to a more educated 2017!

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The Ultimate Medical College Survival Kit

Do you go to a medical college? Do you spend your nights in tahajjud asking for a way out? Do you secretly want to end this torture that they call parhai? Did your acceptance of a futile and purposeless existence in a temporary world full of inescapable chaos and incurable misery destroy your social life? Then worry not, dear friend! The ultimate blog post is here to teach you about things that must always be in your bags/lives to ensure a peaceful and non-violent year in your dream institution.

The Ultimate Medical College Survival Kit

Me

When i was three
They would ask me
What i wanted to be
“Bunny!” would always be
The answer that’d get me
The most kisses and sweets

When I turned ten
They asked me again
But this time
I realized
Bunny would not suffice
Instead a couple lies
Would be enough
To get a few pats
And glances of relief
Wasn’t long until I learned
“Doctor” is what earned
The most nods in return

Then I turned twenty
And I waited patiently
For them to ask again
What I want to be
Now the choice was easy
And I had my answer ready
I knew me better
Than at ten or three
But nobody asked
And i waited and waited
Brain itching to scream
The words that gleamed
In neon lights
At the back of my eyes
Everytime I went to sleep

Heart thumping in my chest
Whispering to me
To say what burns
So passionately
The words all ready
To burst out and leave
This prison of the tongue
Alas!
Thoughts left unsung
And silently
They handed me
A college degree
A doctor is what you’ll be!
Just like you said
So live yor dream!
Congratulations! They said
Repeatedly

And nobody asked
If I wanted this mask
That portrayed a successful me
And all the while
The voice inside
Slowly muffled, then died
The heart and brain
No longer bothered
And the face accepted the mask
As the me I wanted to always be
At the expense of a dream
As silently bloomed a casualty
One this doctor could never treat

Perspective

A rather healthy way of procrastinating an upcoming exam is looking up conspiracy theories, which is exactly what I was doing when I stumbled upon this video. It’s about a certain modern Flat Earth Society, that is dedicated solely to promote the idea of the earth being disc-shaped rather than a round ball as we know it.

Now in this age, if someone comes up to me and tells me, that all that we’ve been taught about the earth being a sphere, is part of some global hoax meant to keep locals in the dark, then I would gladly label them insane. And that is exactly what this group of sceintists believes to be true.

I mean the earth is a sphere, right? We’ve seen the satellite images printed in our textbooks; the laws and forces all conform perfectly to a round earth, and all the physics makes sense. But then what drove these brilliant scientists to dig up an archaic thought, and present it with such unwavering confidence, to a world made to believe in the comfortable thought of a spherical planet? Did the thought ever cross their minds that they could be easily proven wrong or become the laughing stock, just like their predecessors?

Of course it did.

If you are a science student then you will know that a theory cannot be called so unless it can almost (if not completely) justify/explain the situation or activity at hand. And here’s the thing, this theory can eerily explain everything that happens on a spherical earth as it would on a flat one.

The Flat Earth Theory cannot be proven wrong…if you’re using the right assumptions.

The day and night cycles can be explained by assuming the sun is also a disc that’s 32 miles in diameter and only a few thousand miles away; and that an “anti-moon” exists which would explain lunar eclipses. The pull of gravity is justified by considering the flat earth to be constantly moving up with a speed of 9.8 m/s. And these are just a few of the suppositions for a disc-like earth. No matter what phenomenon you throw at them, they will find a way of justifying everything and anything.

However, some explanations are actually absurd and often created on the spot to solve one problem while completely disregarding the others. But this does not at all mean that the theory is falsifiable. The theory, as crazy as it may sound, cannot be proven wrong.

Imagine you are in outer space moving at a speed that is close to the speed of light. As you increase your speed, you will realize that your entire life has been a lie, because the earth would emerge as a flat plate-like disk less that 20 miles thick.

Let that sink in.

To the human standing in Karachi, the earth would be a rounded mass. But to an outside observer traveling as fast as light, earth would be as flat as a plate. This has to do with the mass, length and time variation with the increase of speed (cue Einsteins famous Theory of Relativity). Ignoring all the calculus stuff, here’s the long story short: If you speed up enough to approach the speed light travels in, then the objects around you would seem to change form. They would appear to you longer and having less mass, even though in reality the only thing that has changed is your speed. The only change was in the obsever’s (in this case, your) perspective.

So if you look at the earth from the eyes of a bored super-advanced alien species, sitting at the window sill of a super-fast spaceship, looking upon our fragile planet, Earth would look like just another planetary disc in space. But if you look at it from a human astronaut’s perspective, who has successfully orbited our majestic earth, while being clung to a satellite moving at the humble speed his/her body can bear, Earth would look like a huge ball of transcendental revelation.

Which brings us to this question: is everything we perceive through our flimsy brains actually real? Or is it just a mere illusion, a projection of comfortable and believable thoughts, differing for every differing perspective?

 

 

 

 

 

 

What drives us to live (ft. The awkward walkout)

 You know those rare moments, when you’re sitting in your class stifling yawns throughout the entire lecture, and suddenly you catch your teacher say something really deep, and you feel your brain snap and whir, as it tries to incorporate that beautiful piece of wisdom into one of its dusty corners called “deep-shit-to-remember-for-when-life-is-being-a-pain-in-the-neck”?

Yeah no me neither.

Anyway, this reminded me of the time I made a fool out of myself. Our Community Medicine teacher (yes we study that. God help me through this semester though) had said something really controversial, and of course, I had to step in.

“The only motivation for living is sexual desire” says our CM teacher.

Wow.

I actually zoned out for a couple of minutes as I tried to think of all (or any) kinds of counter arguments. This was not true, right? It couldn’t have been. Is this the purpose of life then? Finding the right mating partners? The rest of the lecture was a blur as I prepare myself for this tempting debate.

What about that woman who, blinded by her motherhood, is ready to kill for her child if the circumstances force her to. If she were to chose between her husband/lover and her child, she’d never let go of the kid.

What about that soldier who has left his wife and kids to fight someone else’s battles. His return is never guaranteed and he knows that. He won’t have any women there to fill the gap left by his wife (hopefully), but he still chooses imminent death over love.

What about monks and sufis and nuns who give up every worldly desire to find Him. They don’t want anything more in life than pleasing and witnessing the Creator. How can you ignore this pure, selfless dedication.

And what about our passions and aspirations that motivate us to live when we lose all will to continue with life. These goals have the power to blind you so much so that “sexual desires” might not even cross your mind!

Also, if you think about it, a serial killer who feels satisfaction in his job has his motivations, even if they’re kinda sick (sorry I’ve been binging on Dexter lately).

Anyway, the point is, saying sex drives men is like putting humans and  animals in the same category. I had to talk to the teacher about this (a very stupid decision as you’ll learn later).

So the next day, I muster up the courage and go to said teacher’s office. I had already rehearsed my argument (yes, including the dramatic pauses, in case you’re wondering). I knock on her door and the peon lets me in.

“Assalamoalaikum Miss, I wanted to discuss something you said the other day” I started.

“Yes beta what is it”

“You said that sexual drive is what motivates men to live, I don’t think that is entirely true though. How can you ignore all the other forms of passionate motivations like —”

“Beta, which lecture are you talking about?”

“Uh the one with the uh…which was on last Monday I think.”

Don’t interrupt me woman, I practiced this shit too hard.

 

“Beta, I never meant humans” —you could see the mocking evil smile slowly creeping upon her face— “I was talking about animalistic instincts and how humans are NOT animals, which was the whole point of that discussion. Weren’t you paying attention?”

“Oh”

And then I did something really sensible. I turned around and almost ran out of the office.

Mental note#1: pay more attention in class.

Mental note#2: think before embarrassing yourself in front of other people

Mental note #3: cut back a bit on Dexter.