Archives for April 2010

The Great Brain Race reviewed at The Boston Globe

Glenn C. Altschuler reviews The Great Brain Race for The Boston Globe where he is not content merely calling the book “An informative, early-days assessment of a new phenomenon: ‘free trade in minds.'” He continues on to say,

Acknowledging missteps and problems, [Wildavsky] claims, with a bow to author Thomas Friedman, that an increasingly flat academic world will bring unprecedented economic, social, and political benefits, innovative research, and spread meritocratic values to emerging nations.

David Goodstein at Town Hall Seattle

David Goodstein, author of On Fact and Fraud, spoke at Town Hall Seattle last month and his talk is the featured segment for Terry Tazioli’s Author’s Hour.

Enjoy the lecture, then pick up a copy of On Fact and Fraud.

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Diana Furchtgott-Roth ties The Great Brain Race to the debate over immigration in Arizona

In an intriguing article over at RealClearMarkets, Ms. Furchtgott-Roth makes a new connection between the controversial immigration laws in Arizona and The Great Brain Race‘s discussion of foreign students studying here in the U.S. She concludes that Ben Wildavsky is right in his conclusion that “the new global brain race is to be welcomed, not feared.”

It has been true for a long time that when foreign students receive their graduate degrees from elite American universities, far too many are also shown the door and sent back whence they came. The Great Brain Race shows how this works to America’s disadvantage.

She continues, arguing that it would make economic sense for the U.S. to not only attract the best and brightest students from around the world, but also to make it easy for them to stay here and work in the U.S. post-graduation.

America can attract the best global minds as students, but to keep them here and reap the benefits of our investment in their education and productivity, we need to reform our immigration law. It can be difficult for a bright person overseas to get a U.S. visa, even after being accepted by a first-rank university and given a scholarship. Many more obstacles need to be overcome for newly-graduated women and men who want to stay here.

Why should this be a concern? Essentially, the problem is that America is getting a poor return on the government’s heavy investment in education. Federal and state governments fund a lot of university research, but the same “brilliant students” conducting this research are then sent back to their home countries or elsewhere to work as professionals.

By making it difficult for these brilliant students to stay in America, Congress is dissipating the value America receives from taxpayers’ investments in research. For, the fact is that a significant fraction of graduate students in the United States are assisted financially with funds that come from the federal government, especially in science, technology, and engineering.

Fears that “brain circulation” will lead to “brain drain” have been popularized in the U.S., but they simply don’t reflect the reality of higher education or the economy.  Furchtgott-Rott points to another PUP title that made a similar argument about technology developed outside the U.S. as support for Wildavsky’s contentions.

As has Harvard University scholar Amar Bhidé, author of The Venturesome Economy, Wildavsky concludes that the “research discoveries in other nations provide fodder for American innovators” and that the new global brain race is to be welcomed, not feared.

Math Awareness Month – Q & A with Michael J. Schell

As part of our Math Awareness Month celebrations we asked Dr. Michael J. Schell, about his interests in mathematics and sports. Schell is the Chair and Scientific Director of Biostatistics at the MOFITT Cancer Center in Tampa, Florida, yet he is also the author of Baseball’s All-Time Best Hitters: How Statistics Can Level the Playing Field and Baseball’s All-Time Best Sluggers: Adjusted Batting Performance from Strikeouts to Home Runs. While Schell might spend his weekdays researching cancer data, he likes to spend his weekends watching baseball. Schell has even found that analyzing statistics in baseball has helped him in understanding and analyzing cancer data!

PUP: What are you currently working on?

Michael Schell: I am working on several things: fielding in baseball, and team winning performance over time in all major U.S. sports.  The latter was spurred forward by the Tampa Bays Rays great 2008 season.  For the first 10 seasons, Tampa Bay only won about 40% of their games, and had never been 5 games over .500.  In 2008, they went 97-65, breaking out of their traditional cellar dweller role.

PUP: How is mathematics used in your work?

Michael Schell: I use a branch of mathematics called statistics.  Statistics studies variation in data, and often seeks to determine whether a given result could occur by chance or not.  I frequently model data using regression methods.

During the week, I am involved in cancer research.  Knowledge that I have gained in understanding variation in data from baseball, as well as fitting changes over time have come in quite useful in analyzing cancer biomarker data, where I try to find relationships between levels of proteins in the body with the presence or absence of cancer.

PUP: How can math help us better understand baseball?

Michael Schell: Baseball managers have long known, as just one example, that it is better for the batter to be the opposite handedness to the pitcher.  This is used in setting up lineups, especially where players are “platooned”, and by selecting which pitcher to bring in from the bullpen in a given late inning situation.  In recent years, baseball teams have begun hiring statistical analysts to look for more subtle advantages revealed by statistical analysis.

Baseball can also help math in the sense that the strong knowledge of the game by fans allows them to more easily deal with concepts in math.  Thus sports examples can be an excellent way to learn statistical ideas.  That is why the linkage is being celebrated this year in Mathematics Awareness Month.

PUP: Why do you think we haven’t included outside contexts in ranking baseball heroes before?

Michael Schell: Adjustments to batting average data go back at least to the 1970s, when averages were adjusted for the league average.  My books just expanded upon that by incorporating three additional adjustments: player talent spread (using the standard deviation), ballpark effect, and aging.

There are some technical statistical details involved in doing these adjustments well.  The biggest challenges for me were: 1) adjusting for batting events that vary greatly between players, like home runs, stolen bases, and triples, and 2) estimating ballpark effects without having the home and away data for each ballpark that makes it much easier to do.

PUP: Why is ranking baseball heroes this way important?

Michael Schell: Fans would like to know where their heroes rank among the all-time greats, as it makes their experience of the game more exciting.  Without any adjustment, Tony Gwynn, who retired in 2001, ranks as the 18th best hitter for average in major league history.  All players ahead of him on the unadjusted list were retired by 1960.  After the adjustments made in my books, Gwynn ranks 1st.  Fans are greatly interested in a fairer appraisal, which is only possible through appropriate statistical adjustment.

PUP: What other ways can we use mathematics in baseball besides batting statistics?

Michael Schell: I am using mathematics to look at team winning performance over time.

PUP: How do you find yourself incorporating mathematics in other sports?

Michael Schell: I recently found that expansion teams in the NBA require about 5 years in order to become competitive with existing teams.  Another tidbit: since 1960, the New York Mets are the most inconsistent team in winning percentage in baseball.

Stanley Crouch and Daniel Pipes on Pascal Bruckner’s THE TYRANNY OF GUILT

French novelist Pascal Bruckner’s provocative new book THE TYRANNY OF GUILT: Essays on Western Masochism is starting to catch on here in the States.  Stanley Crouch reviewed the book in his The Daily Beast column and Daniel Pipes reviewed it on the National Review Online.  Also, the book was reviewed two weeks ago int he Wall Street Journal by Brendan Simms.

Look out for Pascal’s forthcoming Fall 2010 book PERPETUAL EUPHORIA: On the Duty to Be Happy.

The Princeton display at The Harvard Book Store

Thanks to economics editor Seth Ditchik for snapping this photo for us.

Charles Kupchan on Belgian PM’s Resignation

Charles Kupchan, senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations and author of How Enemies Become Friends, was interviewed by CNN International about the resignation of Belgian Prime Minister Yves Leterme following the most recent dispute between Belgium’s Dutch- and French-speaking populations:

The consequences could stretch beyond Belgium’s borders, Kupchan said, as the country is slated to hold the rotating presidency of the European Union in the second half of this year.

“People are worried that at the time when Belgium is supposed to be leading Europe, the country’s government will be floundering,” Kupchan said.

Also click over to CTV News to see Kupchan discussing Britain’s election debates.

Audrey Cronin on FiveBooks

It’s Espionage Week on FiveBooks, which means Audrey Cronin is presenting her top five books on terrorism. Among them is fellow Princeton author Alan Krueger’s new edition of What Makes a Terrorist.

Click over to read the full interview and let us know what you think of the selections.

Audrey Cronin talks Terrorism and “24” with Dina Temple-Raston of NPR

Audrey Cronin’s interview with Dina Temple-Raston about the waning influence of groups like Al-Qaida aired earlier today on NPR’s Morning Edition. Check out the full interview here.

And if you haven’t seen it already, head on over to Professor Cronin’s new book Web site, complete with research data and media clips:

You can read more about how web and graphic designer Whitney Parker built the site here.

The Fall 2010 Seasonal Announcement Catalog is online

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We’re launching our Fall 2010 list this week with our sales conference.
We invite you to be the first to checkout our new catalog online.

Also available in PDF format:

America Abroad Media interviewed Ian Buruma about Taming the Gods

View the interview, then read Taming the Gods.