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22.08.2011



64.000 words. I have sort of mixed feelings about this book. I really liked some of the ideas, hell, some were downright fascinating and I understand some of Christopher’s obsessions but at the same time it kinda feels like he isn’t a complex enough character, which might be kind of the point since he wants to simplify everything in tables and rules and clear lines but his desire to be simple needn’t reflect his internal reality (it certainly doesn’t reflect his external reality). I don’t think they mention if Christopher has Asperger’s or some other kind of autism (I think it must be the second since he’s ability to function socially is severely compromised.), maybe I just need to read more on the topic to be able to judge if it’s an acurate portrayal (the author worked with autistic children) from the inside. Have a look at the quotes, there’s some awesome stuff.  EDIT to add: Actually, the author intentionally left out any mention of a diagnosis since he doesn't feel qualified to speak for people with autism ( curious incident is not a book about asperger’s. it’s a novel whose central character describes himself as ‘a mathematician with some behavioural difficulties’. indeed he never uses the words ‘asperger’s’ or ‘autism’ (i slightly regret that fact that the word ‘asperger’s’ was used on the cover). if anything it’s a novel about difference, about being an outsider, about seeing the world in a surprising and revealing way. it’s as much a novel about us as it is about christopher). Basically, what I don't like about Christopher is that he lacks internatl conflict and so he cannot grow as a character. The world around him changes, but he remains immutable. While his perspective is interesting, it doesn't make for a lovable character.



Dictionary:


Yeoman:
could refer to a free man holding a small landed estate, a minor landowner, a small prosperous farmer

Roisterer: To engage in boisterous merrymaking; revel noisily. Boast.



Quotes:


☀ Prime numbers are what is left when you have taken all the patterns away. I think prime
numbers are like life. They are very logical but you could never work out the rules, even if you spent all your time thinking about them.


☀ And she said, "Did it make you upset to find out that your mother and Mr. Shears had an affair?"
And I said, "No."
And she said, "Are you telling the truth, Christopher?"
And then I said, "I always tell the truth."
And she said, "I know you do, Christopher. But sometimes we get sad about things and we don't like to tell other people that we are sad about them. We like to keep it a secret. Or sometimes we are sad but we don't really know we are sad. So we say we aren't sad. But really we are."
And I said, "I'm not sad."
And she said, "If you do start to feel sad about this, I want you to know that you can come and talk to me about it. Because I think talking to me will help you feel less sad. And if you don't feel sad but you just want to talk to me about it, that would be OK, too. Do you understand?"
And I said, "I understand."
And she said, "Good."
And I replied, "But I don't feel sad about it. Because Mother is dead. And because Mr. Shears isn't around anymore. So I would be feeling sad about something that isn't real and doesn't exist. And that would be stupid."


☀ And it shows that something called Occam's razor is true. And Occam's razor is not a razor that men shave with but a Law, and it says
Entia non sunt multiplicanda praeter necessitatem.
Which is Latin and it means
No more things should be presumed to exist than are absolutely necessary.


☀ But the mind is just a complicated machine.
And when we look at things we think we're just looking out of our eyes like we're looking out of little windows and there's a person inside our head, but we're not. We're looking at a screen inside our heads, like a computer screen.
And you can tell this because of an experiment which I saw on TV in a series called How the Mind Works. And in this experiment you put your head in a clamp and you look at a page of writing on a screen. And it looks like a normal page of writing and nothing is changing. But after a while, as your eye moves round the page, you realize that something is very strange because when you try to read a bit of the page you've read before it's different.
And this is because when your eye flicks from one point to another you don't see anything at all and you're blind. And the flicks are called saccades. Because if you saw everything when your eye flicked from one point to another you'd feel giddy. And in the experiment there is a sensor which tells when your eye is flicking from one place to another, and when it's doing this it changes some of the words on the page in a place where you're not looking.
But you don't notice that you're blind during saccades because your brain fills in the screen in your head to make it seem like you're looking out of two little windows in your head. And you don't notice that words have changed on another part of the page because your mind fills in a picture of things you're not looking at at that moment.
And people are different from animals because they can have pictures on the screens in their heads of things which they are not looking at. They can have pictures of someone in another room. Or they can have a picture of what is going to happen tomorrow. Or they can have pictures of themselves as an astronaut. Or they can have pictures of really big numbers. Or they can have pictures of Chains of Reasoning when they're trying to work something out.
And that is why a dog can go to the vet and have a really big operation and have metal pins sticking out of its leg but if it sees a cat it forgets that it has pins sticking out of its leg and chases after the cat. But when a person has an operation it has a picture in its head of the hurt carrying on for months and months. And it has a picture of all the stitches in its leg and the broken bone and the pins and even if it sees a bus it has to catch it doesn't run because it has a picture in its head of the bones crunching together and the stitches breaking and even more pain.
And that is why people think that computers don't have minds, and why people think that their brains are special, and different from computers. Because people can see the screen inside their head and they think there is someone in their head sitting there looking at the screen, like Captain Jean-Luc Picard in Star Trek: The Next Generation sitting in his captain's seat looking at a big screen. And they think that this person is their special human mind, which is called a homunculus, which means a little man. And they think that computers don't have this homunculus.
But this homunculus is just another picture on the screen in their heads. And when the homunculus is on the screen in their heads (because the person is thinking about the homunculus) there is another bit of the brain watching the screen. And when the person thinks about this part of the brain (the bit that is watching the homunculus on the screen) they put this bit of the brain on the screen and there is another bit of the brain watching the screen. But the brain doesn't see this happen because it is like the eye flicking from one place to another and people are blind inside their heads when they do the changing from thinking about one thing to thinking about another.
And this is why people's brains are like computers. And it's not because they are special but because they have to keep turning off for fractions of a second while the screen changes. And because there is something they can't see people think it has to be special, because people always think there is something special about what they can't see, like the dark side of the moon, or the other side of a black hole, or in the dark when they wake up at night and they're scared.


☀ There are three men on a train. One of them is an economist and one of them is a logician and one of them is a mathematician. And they have just crossed the border into Scotland (I don't know why they are going to Scotland) and they see a brown cow standing in a field from the window of the train (and the cow is standing parallel to the train).
And the economist says, "Look, the cows in Scotland are brown."
And the logician says, "No. There are cows in Scotland of which one at least is brown."
And the mathematician says, "No. There is at least one cow in Scotland, of which one side appears to be brown."


☀ Because time is not like space. And when you put something down somewhere, like a protractor or a biscuit, you can have a map in your head to tell you where you have left it, but even if you don't have a map it will still be there because a map is a representation of things that actually exist so you can find the protractor or the biscuit again. And a timetable is a map of time, except that if you don't have a timetable time is not there like the landing and the garden and the route to school. Because time is only the relationship between the way different things change, like the earth going round the sun and atoms vibrating and clocks ticking and day and night and waking up and going to sleep, and it is like west or nor-nor-east, which won't exist when the earth stops existing and falls into the sun because it is only a relationship between the North Pole and the South Pole and everywhere else, like Mogadishu and Sunderland and Canberra.
And it isn't a fixed relationship like the relationship between our house and Mrs. Shears's house, or like the relationship between 7 and 865, but it depends on how fast you are going relative to a specific point. And if you go off in a spaceship and you travel near the speed of light, you may come back and find that all your family is dead and you are still young and it will be the future but your clock will say that you have only been away for a few days or months.
And because nothing can travel faster than the speed of light, this means that we can only know about a fraction of the things that go on in the universe, like this




And this is a map of everything and everywhere, and the future is on the right and the past is on the left and the gradient of the line c is the speed of light, but we can't know about the things which happen in the shaded areas even though some of them have already happened, but when we get to f it will be possible to find out about things which happen in the lighter areas p and q.
And this means that time is a mystery, and not even a thing, and no one has ever solved the puzzle of what time is, exactly. And so, if you get lost in time it is like being lost in a desert, except that you can't see the desert because it is not a thing.
And this is why I like timetables, because they make sure you don't get lost in time.


☀ People believe in God because the world is very complicated and they think it is very unlikely that anything as complicated as a flying squirrel or the human eye or a brain could happen by chance. But they should think logically and if they thought logically they would see that they can only ask this question because it has already happened and they exist. And there are billions of planets where there is no life, but there is no one on those planets with brains to notice. And it is like if everyone in the world was tossing coins eventually someone would get 5,698 heads in a row and they would think they were very special. But they wouldn't be because there would be millions of people who didn't get 5,698 heads.
And there is life on earth because of an accident. But it is a very special kind of accident. And for this accident to happen in this special way, there have to be 3 conditions. And these are


1. Things have to make copies of themselves (this is called Replication)
2. They have to make small mistakes when they do this (this is called Mutation)
3. These mistakes have to be the same in their copies (this is called Heritability)




And these conditions are very rare, but they are possible, and they cause life. And it just happens. But it doesn't have to end up with rhinoceroses and human beings and whales. It could end up with anything.
And, for example, some people say how can an eye happen by accident? Because an eye has to evolve from something else very like an eye and it doesn't just happen because of a genetic mistake, and what is the use of half an eye? But half an eye is very useful because half an eye means that an animal can see half of an animal that wants to eat it and get out of the way, and it will eat the animal that only has a third of an eye or 49% of an eye instead because it hasn't got out of the way quick enough, and the animal that is eaten won't have babies because it is dead. And 1% of an eye is better than no eye.
And people who believe in God think God has put human beings on the earth because they think human beings are the best animal, but human beings are just an animal and they will evolve into another animal, and that animal will be cleverer and it will put human beings into a zoo, like we put chimpanzees and gorillas into a zoo. Or human beings will all catch a disease and die out or they will make too much pollution and kill themselves, and then there will only be insects in the world and they will be the best animal.




☀ And Siobhan says people go on holidays to see new things and relax, but it wouldn't make me relaxed and you can see new things by looking at earth under a microscope or drawing the shape of the solid made when 3 circular rods of equal thickness intersect at right angles. And I think that there are so many things just in one house that it would take years to think about all of them properly. And also, a thing is interesting because of thinking about it and not because of being new. For example, Siobhan showed me that you can wet your finger and rub the edge of a thin glass and make a singing noise. And you can put different amounts of water in different glasses and they make different notes because they have what are called different resonant frequencies, and you can play a tune like Three Blind Mice. And lots of people have thin glasses in their houses and they don't know you can do this. PP. 117







[dictionary], #young adult, +disability, +autism, +social issues, +family, #novel, +adventures, *author: male, [quotes], [quotes] book, 2011, book-2011, 2011: novel in English, @read in English



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