IS Reading Group


IS Reading Group Announcements & Archive

The IS Group is an informal group of scientists and other related individuals that meets periodically in the New Haven, Connecticut area to discuss cutting-edge issues in science, technology, and culture, and to foster innovative research collaborations across multiple institutions.

Next Meeting: Date and location TBA

Topic: Causality and Counterfactuals

Nonfiction Reading

Judea Pearl, The Book of Why: The New Science of Cause and Effect

Chiara Marletto, The Science of Can and Can’t: A Physicist’s Journey Through the Land of Counterfactuals

Tanaka et al., Recent Advances in Physical Reservoir Computing: A Review

Fiction Reading

Martha Wells, The Murderbot Diaries

    All Systems Red: The Murderbot Diaries, Vol I

    Artificial Condition: The Murderbot Diaries, Vol II


Previous Meetings

6:30PM Friday 13 August 2021, Old Saybrook CT

Topic: Modern Physics

Nonfiction Reading

Frank Wilczek. Fundamentals: Ten Keys to Reality

Sabine Hossenfelder.  Lost in Math: How Beauty Leads Physics Astray

Fiction Reading

C. Robert Cargill Sea of Rust

Possible Supplemental Nonfiction

The Science of Can and Can’t: A Physicist’s Journey Through the Land of Counterfactuals

Recent Advances in Physical Reservoir Computing: A Review


Machete Kills

6:30PM Friday 18 June 2021, via Zoom

Topic: The Nuclear Age

Nonfiction Reading

Eric Schlosser, Command and Control
Music: The Dead Milkmen, Vince Lombardi Service Center


6:30PM Friday 29 January 2021, via Zoom

Topic: Ramsey & Wittgenstein

Nonfiction Reading

Lars Iyer, Wittgenstein Jr

6PM Wednesday 28 April 2020, via Zoom

Topic: Quantitative Finance

Nonfiction Reading

Gregory Zuckerman, The Man Who Solved the Market
Scott Patterson, Dark Pools
Scott Patterson, The Quants
Emanual Derman, My Life as a Quant
Blake Crouch, Recursion

6PM Friday 23 February 2018, Madison CT

Topic: Cognitive Biases

Nonfiction Reading

Michael Lewis, The Undoing Project

Supplementary Nonfiction

Daniel Kahneman, Thinking Fast and Slow

Gerd Gigerenzer, Reasoning the Fast and Frugal Way: Models of Bounded Rationality

Simon’s comment: If you could have a 100% chance of getting $1,000 today, or a 50% chance of $2,000 tomorrow, what are the three largest cities in Paraguay?

Fiction Reading

China Miéville, The Last Days of New Paris


The Room

Wednesday 19 April 2017, Madison CT

Topic: Other Minds

Nonfiction Reading

Peter Godfrey-Smith Other Minds: The Octopus, The Sea, and the Deep Origins of Consciousness

Fiction Reading

Zachary Mason Void Star



Simon’s (p)review: Inter-sharksonality!

Saturday 18 February 2017, Fairfield, CT

Topic: Deep Learning

Nonfiction Reading

Nikhil Buduma (2015) Fundamentals of Deep Learning . O’Reilly

Supplementary Nonfiction Readings

Understanding LSTM Networks

Vector Symbolic Architectures

Fiction Reading

Roadside Picnic



Simon’s review: Three words: This movie f***in’ sucked. Okay, that’s four words, but this movie sucked so bad I can’t even think straight.

Saturday 09 August 2014, Madison, CT

Topic: The Grammar of Action

Nonfiction Reading

Ray Jackendoff (2009) Language, Consciousness, Culture: Essays on Mental Structure (Jean Nicod Lectures) . MIT Press. Elliot suggests focusing on chapter 1, 2, and 4.

Supplementary Nonfiction Readings

Richard Granger (2006) Engines of the Brain AI Magazine, 27, 15-32.

Peter Ford Dominey (2005) Emergence of Grammatical Constructions: Evidence from Simulation and Grounded Agent Experiments Connection Science, 17(3-4) 289-306.

Ross W. Gayler, Simon D. Levy, and Rens Bod (2010) Explanatory Aspirations and the Scandal of Cognitive Neuroscience. Proceedings of Brain-Inspired Cognitive Architectures 2010. ISO Press.

Fiction Reading

Ann Leckie, Ancillary Justice. Orbit (2013).





Saturday 31 May 2014, Madison, Connecticut

Topic: High Finance

Nonfiction Reading

Michael Lewis, Flash Boys: A Wall Street Revolt . W.W. Norton & Company (2014).

Supplementary Nonfiction Reading

Michael Lewis, The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine. W.W. Norton & Company (2011).

Fiction Reading

Max Barry, Lexicon: A Novel. Penguin Books (2014).


The Machine Girl



Saturday 26 October, Fairfield, Connecticut

Topic: Hacking

Nonfiction Reading

Phil Lapsley, Exploding the Phone: The Untold Story of the Teenagers and Outlaws who Hacked Ma Bell . Grove Press (2013).

Supplementary Nonfiction Reading

T.J. O’Connor, Violent Python: A Cookbook for Hackers, Forensic Analysts, Penetration Testers and Security Engineers . Syngress (2012).

Fiction Reading

Ted Chiang, Stories of Your Life and Others. Small Beer Press (2013).


Cube   Taylor Swift


Chinese food from _______, Indian food from __________

Saturday 29 June 2013, Washington, DC

Topic: Signals and Boundaries

Nonfiction Reading

Johh Holland, Signals and Boundaries. MIT Press (2012).

Fiction Reading

Rudy Rucker, Turing and Burroughs: A Beatnick SF Novel. Transreal Books (2012).


Great Wall of Szechuan.


John Dies at the End

Saturday 15 December 2012, Washington, DC

Topic: Wild Wild Life

Nonfiction Reading

Carl Zimmer, A Planet of Viruses. University of Chicago Press (2012).

Rob Dunn, The Wild Life of Our Bodies. Harper (2011)

Supplementary Nonfiction

Daniel Chamovitz, What a Plant Knows. Scientific American (2012)

Fiction Reading

David Mitchell, Clound Atlas. Random House (2004).


Lalibela Ethiopean Restaurant.


The Raid: Redemption

Saturday 03 September 2011, New Haven, CT

Topic: Information

Nonfiction Reading

James Gleick, The Information: A History, a Theory, A Flood. Pantheon (2011).

Leonard Mlodinow, The Drunkard’s Walk: How Randomness Rules Our Lives. Vintage (2009).

Supplementary Nonfiction

Nigel Stepp and Michael T. Turvey, On strong anticipation. Cognitive Systems Research 11 (2010), 148-164.

Fiction Reading

China Miéville, The City & the City. Del Rey (2007).


Take-out from Great Wall of China.


Hobo with a Shotgun (2011)

Sunday, 17 April 2011, New Haven, CT

Topic: Evo-Devo

Nonfiction Reading

Neil Shubin, Your Inner Fish: A Journey into the 3.5-Billion-Year History of the Human Body . Vintage Paperback (2009).

Supplementary Nonfiction

Sean B. Carroll, Endless Forms Most Beautiful: The New Science of Evo Devo. W.W. Norton & Co. (2006).

Fiction Reading

Paolo Bacigalupi, The Windup Girl. Night Shade Books (2010).


Take-out from Great Wall of China. Special kudos to Elliot Saltzman for bringing a unique, and previously never seen, Hostess® CupCakes variant.


Death Proof (2007)

Saturday 23 October 2010, Madison, CT

Topic: Modern Warfare and Terrorism


John Robb, Brave New War: The Next Stage of Terrorism and the End of Globalization. Wiley (2008).

Supplementary Reading

Misha Glenny, McMafia: A Journey Through the Global Criminal Underworld. Vintage Paperback (2009).

Fiction Reading

Ian McDonald, The Dervish House. Pyr (2010).


Grindhouse (2007).

Sunday, 27 June 2010, Madison, CT

Topic: The Embodied, Extended Mind


Andy Clark, Supersizing the Mind: Embodiment, Action, and Cognitive Extension. Oxford (2009).

Supplementary Reading

Paolo Giordano, The Solitude of Prime Numbers: a novel. Pamela Dorman Books (2010).


Drag Me to Hell (2009).

Saturday 12 April 2010, Guilford, CT

Topic: Moral Machines


Wendel Wallach. &nbsp Moral Machines: Teaching Robots Right from Wrong. Oxford University Press, 2008, 288 pages. We were honored by a visit from the author.

Apostolos Doxiadis and Christos Papadimitriou. Logicomix: An Epic Search for Truth. Bloomsbury Press, 2009, 352 pages.


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Saturday 17 October 2009, Guilford, CT

Topic: Music and Mind


Musicophilia: Tales of Music and the Brain, Revised and Expanded Edition , by Oliver Sacks.

This Is Your Brain on Music: The Science of a Human Obsession , by Daniel J. Levitin.


Tokyo Gore Police (2008).

Saturday 13 June 2009, Guilford, CT

Topic: Life, the Universe, and Everything

The meeting was a tribute to Vince Gulisano, because he suggested both of the books that we will be reading and for many other reasons.


Before the Dawn: Recovering the Lost History of our Ancestors, by Nicholas Wade.

Decoding the Universe: How the New Science of Information is Explaining Everything in the Cosmos, from Our Brains to Black Holes, by Charles Seife.


Los cronocrímenes (2007).

Saturday 04 October 2008, Guilford, CT

Topic: Collapse of Civilization



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Saturday 26 April 26 2008, 6PM, Fairfield, CT

Topic: Systems Biology

Main reading:

Uri Alon, An Introduction to Systems Biology: Design Principles of Biological Circuits. Chapman & Hall, 2006.


Cabin Fever

17 November 2007, Madison, CT

Theme: Again with the Recursion!


Suggested readings include:

Other possibilities include

  • A recent paper by Michael Corballis, The Uniqueness of Human Recursive Thinking (subscription required), American Scientist, Volume 95, No. 3, May-June 2007, 240-248.
  • A draft manuscript by Simon Levy on modeling recursion in cognitive neuroscience. Please contact Simon if you’d like a copy.

Supplementary Readings:

Mark Tiede suggested taking a look at The Unfolding of Language by Guy Deutscher.


Tears of the Black Tiger and Hot Fuzz.



23 July 2007, Haskins Laboratories , New Haven, CT

Theme: The Pirah&atilde Controversy

Main Readings:

Everett, D.L. (2005). Cultural Constraints on Grammar and Cognition in Pirah&atilde: Another Look at the Design Features of Human Language. Current Anthropology, August-October, 2005.

Nevins, A., D. Pesetsky and C. Rodrigues (2007). Piraha Exceptionality: a Reassessment. lingBuzz.

Everett, D.L. (2007). Cultural Constraints on Grammar in Pirah&atilde: A Reply to Nevins, Pesetsky, and Rodrigues. lingBuzz.

Supplemental Readings:

The Pirah&atilde Language. Wikipedia.

Language Log: Parataxis in Pirah&atilde


Colapinto, J. (2007) The Interpreter: Has a remote Amazonian tribe upended our understanding of language? New Yorker magazine, 16 April 2007.

Levy. S.D. (2007) Becoming Recursive. Presented at the Recursion in Human Languages Conference (RECHUL) , Illinois State University, 27 April 2007.

Fiction Reading:

Ian Watson, The Embedding. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons (1973).


Masters of Horror: Imprint, by Takashi Miike


Pizza from Bar Night Club

14 Apr 2007, Home of Philip Rubin, Fairfield, CT

Theme: Power Laws

Non-fiction main readings:

M. E. J. Newman. Power laws, Pareto distributions, and Zip’s law. Contemporary Physics, 46, 323-351 (2005).

Cosma Shalizi. Power Law Distributions, 1/F Noise, Long-Memory Time Series. Sep. 12, 2006.

Michel L. Goldstein, Steven A. Morris, and Gary G. Yen. Problems with Fitting to the Power-law Distribution. EPJ manuscript.

Supplemental non-fiction readings:

Deborah J. Aks. 1/F Dynamic in Complex Visual Search: Evidence for Self-Organized Criticality in Human Perception. In M. A. Riley and G. C. Van Orden, eds., Tutorials in Contemporary Methods for the Behavioral Sciences

Van Orden, G. C., Holden, J. G., & Turvey, M. T. (2003). Self-organization of Cognitive Performance. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 132, 331-350.

Researchers Map the Sexual Network of an Entire High School (article) &nbsp Network Diagram

Fiction reading:

Will Self, The Book of Dave. Bloomsbury USA (2006)


Idiocracy (2006)

06 Aug 2006, Home of Mark Tiede, Madison, CT

Theme: The Physics of Society


Critical Mass: How One Thing Leads to Another, by Philip Ball


Rainbows End, by Verner Vinge


21 Dec 2005, Haskins Laboratories, New Haven, CT

Theme: Our Surveillance Society


No Place to Hide: Behind the Scenes of our Emerging Surveillance Society, by Robert O’Harrow

Selections from Beyond Fear and Crypto-Gram, by Bruce Schneier


10 Jun 2005, Haskins Laboratories, New Haven, CT

Theme: Religion and its Discontents


Under the Banner of Heaven: A Story of Violent Faith, by John Krakauer

The End of Faith: Religion, Terror, and the Future of Reason, by Sam Harris

How to Defend Society Against Science, by Paul Feyerabend


“A Study in Scarlet”, by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle


18 Dec 2004, Home of Philip Rubin, Fairfield, CT

Theme: The Fates of Human Societies


Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies, by Jared Diamond


23 Nov 2003, Home of Mark Tiede, Madison, CT

Theme: Metropoles


Edge City: Life on the New Frontier, by Joel Garreau

The Death and Life and Great American Cities, by Jane Jacobs

City: Urbanism and its End, by Douglas Rae


Transmetropolitan: Vol 1-3, by Warren Ellis


Cannibal: The Musical, Trey Parker


13 Dec 2001, Home of Mark Tiede, Madison, CT

Theme: More Philosophy of Science


For and Against Method: Including Lakatos’s Lectures on Scientific Method and the Lakatos-Feyerabend Correspondence, by Imre Lakatos and Paul Feyerabend

The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, by Thomas Kuhn

Wittgenstein’s Poker: The Story of a Ten-Minute Argument Between Two Great Philosophers, by David Edmonds and John Eidinow

09 Nov 2001, Home of Mark Tiede, Madison, CT

Theme: Philosophy of Math and Science


Proofs and Refutations: The Logic of Mathematical Discovery, by Imre Lakatos

Killing Time: The Autobiography of Paul Feyerband, by Paul Feyerabend

13 Jul 2001, Home of Mark Tiede, Madison, CT

Theme: Digital Security


Secrets and Lies: Digital Security in a Networked World, by Bruce Schneier

Quantum Computing with Molecules, by Neil Gershenfeld and Isaac L. Chuang

A Simple Quantum Computer, by Isaac L. Chuang and Yoshihisa Yamamoto

David Touretzky’s DECSS site


Written in Blood, by Chris Lawson

15 Mar 2001, Home of Simon Levy, Waltham, MA

Theme: Combinatorial Grammar


The Syntactic Process, by Mark Steedman

Surface Structure and Interpretation, by Mark Steedman


The Cell, Tarsem Singh