Archives for July 2012

ELECTION TUESDAY

FACT: “In his farewell address of 1797, George Washington warned against the dangerous ‘spirit of Party,’ which he said ‘serves always to distract the Public Councils and enfeeble the Public Administration. It ignites the Community with ill founded Jealousies and false alarms, kindles the animosity of one part against another, foments occasionally riot & insurrection.’ Yet in opposing the formation of political parties, Washington was voicing a vain hope. During Washington’s first term as president, his treasury secretary, Alexander Hamilton, had already formed the Federalist Party and his secretary of state, Thomas Jefferson, had founded the opposition Democratic-Republic Party.”

The Concise Princeton Encyclopedia of American
Political History

Edited by Michael Kazin
Rebecca Edwards & Adam Rothman, associate editors

With 150 accessible articles written by more than 130 leading experts, this essential reference provides authoritative introductions to some of the most important and talked-about topics in American history and politics, from the founding to today. Abridged from the acclaimed Princeton Encyclopedia of American Political History, this is the only single-volume encyclopedia that provides comprehensive coverage of both the traditional topics of U.S. political history and the broader forces that shape American politics–including economics, religion, social movements, race, class, and gender. Fully indexed and cross-referenced, each entry provides crucial context, expert analysis, informed perspectives, and suggestions for further reading.

Contributors include Dean Baker, Lewis Gould, Alex Keyssar, James Kloppenberg, Patricia Nelson Limerick, Lisa McGirr, Jack Rakove, Nick Salvatore, Stephen Skowronek, Jeremi Suri, Julian Zelizer, and many more.

Entries cover:

—Key political periods, from the founding to today

—Political institutions, major parties, and founding documents

—The broader forces that shape U.S. politics, from economics, religion, and social movements to race, class, and gender

—Ideas, philosophies, and movements

—The political history and influence of geographic regions

We invite you to read the Preface here: http://press.princeton.edu/chapters/p9518.pdf

Be sure to check in every Tuesday for a new tidbit from our great selection of politically-minded books.

Tim Chartier on how to use math to win gold at the Olympics

Tim Chartier, co-author of Numerical Methods: Design, Analysis, and Computer Implementation of Algorithms with Anne Greenbaum, explains how to take home the gold using math.

A free-surface simulation of the forces experienced when diving, provided by Speedo® in their press release for the Fastskin Racing System®
http://anss.client.shareholder.com/releasedetail.cfm?ReleaseID=681886

Math can help win gold in London!  From air passing over an athlete’s body, whether that person be running or biking, to water streaming along a swimsuit or the hull of a boat, many events benefit from numerical analysis and its role, in particular, in computer simulation. For example, aerodynamic research can improve a swimmer’s suit and shave off time that would otherwise be taken with added friction.  Such numerics can also inform a biker on a more efficient body position.

Such work involves computing numerical solutions of partial differential equations.  Two important stages occur in such work.  First, one must develop and utilize appropriate mathematical models.  If the model is too simple, its solution will not accurately reflect the real-world phenomenon.  In such a case, the swimmer could end up with a suit that isn’t minimizing friction with the water.  The second stage is solving the numerical solution to the model, which is performed on a computer with finite precision. As such, numerical methods that can efficiently and accurately solve the mathematical model are needed.

From sports science to the laboratory, modeling and numerics often complement each other, giving modern science a power, not possible without such digital resources.  As such, learning the strengths and limitations of numerical methods, often coming through mathematical analysis, enables one to appropriately utilize such tools and leverage them to explore today’s difficult and important problems.

So, as you watch the Olympics, keep in mind that the body mechanics and equipment we see were often informed by mathematics.  Such tools play an important role in training and the innovations that contribute to the feats we will witness in the coming weeks.

This Week’s Book Giveaway

We’re back with another giveaway! We know everyone has their social media preference, so this week we’re giving you up to three ways to win! Like us on Facebook, add us to your circle on Google+, and/or follow us on Twitter to be entered to win a copy of How to Win an Election!

How to Win an Election: An Ancient Guide for Modern Politicians
by Quintus Tullius Cicero
Translated and with an introduction by Philip Freeman

How to Win an Election is an ancient Roman guide for campaigning that is as up-to-date as tomorrow’s headlines. In 64 BC when idealist Marcus Cicero, Rome’s greatest orator, ran for consul (the highest office in the Republic), his practical brother Quintus decided he needed some no-nonsense advice on running a successful campaign. What follows in his short letter are timeless bits of political wisdom, from the importance of promising everything to everybody and reminding voters about the sexual scandals of your opponents to being a chameleon, putting on a good show for the masses, and constantly surrounding yourself with rabid supporters. Presented here in a lively and colorful new translation, with the Latin text on facing pages, this unashamedly pragmatic primer on the humble art of personal politicking is dead-on (Cicero won)—and as relevant today as when it was written.

A little-known classic in the spirit of Machiavelli’s Prince, How to Win an Election is required reading for politicians and everyone who enjoys watching them try to manipulate their way into office.

“Were he alive today, no doubt, Quintus would be making big bucks as a political consultant. . . . Speaking to us from a distance of more than two millenniums, Quintus Cicero’s words are incisive and revelatory: They remind us that, when it comes to that strange beast known as politics, human nature hasn’t changed very much since then. The past, that’s right, isn’t even past.”—Nick Owchar, Los Angeles Times

We invite you to read the Introduction here: http://press.princeton.edu/chapters/i9658.pdf

The random draw for this book with be Friday 8/3 at 11 am EST. If you like us on Facebook, add us to your circle on Google+, and/or follow us on Twitter, you’re automatically entered to win! Good luck!

Math and the Olympics

After 69 days of traveling, the Flame crossed the River Thames on Friday to reach its final destination at London’s Olympic Stadium. There are many reasons to be excited about the Olympics, but here at Princeton University Press, we can’t help but think about the abundance of equations and mathematical modeling taking place during the summer games. From the design of the Olympic logo and the sports equipment, to the actual athletics, math is taking place everywhere during the Olympics. For example, watch for the swimmers who win a race by .001 of a second!

We’re not the only ones excited about it either. Cambridge University’s math education initiative, The Millennium Mathematics Project has been running the Math and Sport: Countdown to the Games for the last 18 months. Check out their website for fun activities that celebrate both math and the Olympics: http://sport.maths.org/content/.

As the games continue, we’ll be hearing from PUP authors, excerpting from our books and staying up-to-date with the math and science of the Olympics. Stay tuned.

Heads will roll… in Princeton, NJ

A quick peek out the Princeton University Press publicity offices reveals this sight:

Hidden beneath these sheets are three of the heads from the Princeton University Art Museum’s new installation of Ai Weiwei’s “Circle of Animals/Zodiac Heads”. If the labels are to be believed, this truck holds “Rat”, “Horse”, and “Pig”. The heads are quite literally rolling down Shapiro Walk on their way to installation on Scudder Plaza.

We are doubly excited for this exhibit as we are also producing a new volume of substantial and provocative quotes from Ai Weiwei. We will soon post details of this book on our web site.

BOOK FACT FRIDAY

FACT: “The most enduring tradition of the ancient sports is the Olympic Games, founded by the Greeks in 776 BCE. The ancient Olympics involved 200-meter and 400-meter sprints, the pentathlon, long jump, discus and javelin throwing, forms of athletic competition that have more immediacy for us than any other ancient sports. Ancient Greece was a patchwork of independent city-states and overseas colonies, frequently at war with each other. Each city would organize their own games, but festivals such as the Olympics were ‘Panhellenic’—open to all Greeks. Games were held in honor of specific gods (the Olympics for Zeus, the Pythian Games for Apollo, the Isthmian Games for Poseidon), and the sanctity of the Olympics was indicated by the requirement that all military engagements cease during the games so that soldiers could attend.”

Playbooks and Checkbooks:
An Introduction to the Economics of Modern Sports

by Stefan Szymanski

What economic rules govern sports? How does the sports business differ from other businesses? Playbooks and Checkbooks takes a fascinating step-by-step look at the fundamental economic relationships shaping modern sports. Focusing on the ways that the sports business does and does not overlap with economics, the book uncovers the core paradox at the heart of the sports industry. Unlike other businesses, the sports industry would not survive if competitors obliterated each other to extinction, financially or otherwise—without rivals there is nothing to sell. Playbooks and Checkbooks examines how this unique economic truth plays out in the sports world, both on and off the field.

Noted economist Stefan Szymanski explains how modern sporting contests have evolved; how sports competitions are organized; and how economics has guided antitrust, monopoly, and cartel issues in the sporting world. Szymanski considers the motivation provided by prize money, uncovers discrepancies in players’ salaries, and shows why the incentive structure for professional athletes encourages them to cheat through performance-enhancing drugs and match fixing. He also explores how changes in media broadcasting allow owners and athletes to play to a global audience, and why governments continue to publicly fund sporting events such as the Olympics, despite almost certain financial loss.

Using economic tools to reveal the complex arrangements of an industry, Playbooks and Checkbooks illuminates the world of sports through economics, and the world of economics through sports.

“Mr. Szymanski, an economics professor at the Cass Business School at City University in London, tackles the apparent paradoxes of the sports business in the head-on style of an N.F.L. linebacker. . . . He displays an impressive global knowledge of sports ranging from basketball and cricket to tennis and rugby, and provides a wealth of revealing financial information as well as entertaining sports trivia.”—Harry Hurt III, New York Times

We invite you to read Chapter 1 here: http://press.princeton.edu/chapters/s8888.pdf

Peter Dougherty on The Global University Press

Peter Dougherty, director of Princeton University Press and newly appointed president of the Association of American University Presses, wrote a piece for The Chronicle of Higher Education this week:

Back in the 60s, an academic in New Delhi, on being introduced to the president of Princeton, greeted him politely by asking if his employer had any connection with Princeton University Press. Such was the reputation of a single American university press and its books at a time not so long ago.

The modern world’s understanding of itself has long been shaped by university-press books—whether Albert Einstein’s The Meaning of Relativity or Thomas Kuhn’s The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, Paul Samuelson’s Foundations of Economic Analysis or Carol Gilligan’s In a Different Voice, John Rawls’s A Theory of Justice or Henry Louis Gates Jr.’s The Signifying Monkey, Camille Paglia’s Sexual Personae or Robert Shiller’s Irrational Exuberance. And as the India story suggests, American university-press books are good international advertisements for the universities whose logos grace their spines…

Read on…

The Lure of a Fairy Tale

Ever ponder the alluring quality of a fairy tale? …The curious draw of Disney adaptations of these tales? …Or the possible origins and evolution of any given tale, rhyme, or story? In his latest book, The Irresistible Fairy Tale, author Jack Zipes explains why societies use fairy tales to give meaning to human life. Why were fairy tales created and how far back can we trace their beginnings? Why are these stories retold, reimagined, and continually reappearing from antiquity to modern times? Zipes argues:

“We cannot explain why the origins of the fairy tale are so inexplicable and elusive. But we can elucidate why they continue to be irresistible and breathe memetically through us, offering hope that we can change ourselves while changing the world” (20).

In his exploration of how and why fairy tales shape human nature and our world, Zipes offers the reader a profound view of the fairy tale, and a take on the nature of these tales that results from his many years of devotion to the genre.

Eager to take a look? Check out Chapter 1 of The Irresistible Fairy Tale, here.

Charter Schools, Information Technology, and Experimental Democracy

John McGinnis, author of the forthcoming Accelerating Democracy: Transforming Government Through Technological Change will be taking to Election 101 to blog regularly about technology and the election. This week he returns with an unusual structural argument for charter schools. With better tools available for evaluating success or failure of policy, can a case be made for charter schools on the basis that their sheer diversity of approaches provide perfect opportunities for testing which educational policies work and which are outright failures? Read his post here:

 


 

Charter Schools, Information Technology, and Experimental Democracy

John McGinnis

 

Education is again a central topic in many of this year’s political campaigns. One example: a state senate race in California seems to be turning on a debate about education in general and charter schools in particular. While the United States dominates the lists of the world’s greatest universities, it consistently fails to be near the top of the global charts of the best performing K-12 schools. There is a strong consensus in the United States over the need for better education. Political disagreements concern the policies that will improve learning.

The Economist had an article a week ago praising charter schools for generally better performance than other government funded schools. The article concedes that not all such schools work better. Some in fact need to be closed as outright failures.

In my book, Accelerating Democracy, I defend charter schools as injecting experimental dynamism into democracy. Because charter schools vary substantially from one another even within a single jurisdiction, they have the advantage of creating more experiments on different kinds of educational inputs (from smaller classes to merit pay). Because of the relentless increase in computational capacity we have continually better tools to evaluate through careful statistical analysis which policies work and which do not. Just as democracy in the eighteenth century needed to be nested in the technology of its time, like the printing press, so democracy today should be nested in our new information technology. Because we have the tools better to evaluate policy experiments, we should structure our institutions better to test policies. Democracy in the information age should be a more self-consciously experimental democracy.

Some structures of governance encourage experimentation more than others. Federalism, for instance, allows states to devise different solutions to social problems rather than have the federal government impose a single solution. But charter schools provide another experimental structure. Even if they deliver results that are not better on average than public schools, their diversity can help us make progress on choosing programs that make children more knowledgeable and successful. Charter schools take widely varying approaches with some emphasizing a back to basic education philosophy and others more progressive techniques. Some will use merit pay. Others will not. The results of such myriad differences can then be evaluated.

Decentralization at both the national and local level promotes experimentation. In this election season, it is important to think about what are the structures that will allow us to evaluate the success and failure of policies with the tools that modern technology makes available. That is the route to long-term policy progress.

John O. McGinnis is the George C. Dix Professor of Constitutional Law at Northwestern University.

Martin Gilens discusses Affluence and Influence on The Rachel Maddow Show

Martin Gilens appeared on The Rachel Maddow this past Monday to discuss his new book Affluence and Influence:
Economic Inequality and Political Power in America
with guest host Ezra Klein. In his book, Gilens analyzes decades of polling data and proposed policy changes and shows that when the preferences of the rich diverge from the preferences of the poor and middle class, the government responds staggeringly to the affluent. His book raises some very important questions about economic and political inequality, topics sure to become talking points leading up to November’s presidential election.

Visit NBCNews.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

ELECTION TUESDAY

FACT: “The gap between how the rich and poor vote was large in the 1940s, declined to near zero in the 1950s (a period in which there was little difference between the two parties on economic issues), increased during the 1960s and 1970s, and has been wide ever since, with the Republicans typically doing about 20% better among high-income voters than low-income voters. The rich-poor gap in recent decades has been large in elections such as in 1976 (when Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter offered relatively moderate economic platforms) as well as in years such as 1984 (when there was a clear distinction between Walter Mondale and Ronald Reagan).”

Red State, Blue State, Rich State, Poor State:
Why Americans Vote the Way They Do

by Andrew Gelman

On the night of the 2000 presidential election, Americans watched on television as polling results divided the nation’s map into red and blue states. Since then the color divide has become symbolic of a culture war that thrives on stereotypes—pickup-driving red-state Republicans who vote based on God, guns, and gays; and elitist blue-state Democrats woefully out of touch with heartland values. With wit and prodigious number crunching, Andrew Gelman debunks these and other political myths.

This expanded edition includes new data and easy-to-read graphics explaining the 2008 election. Red State, Blue State, Rich State, Poor State is a must-read for anyone seeking to make sense of today’s fractured political landscape.

“Gelman and a group of fellow political scientists crunch numbers and draw graphs, arriving at a picture that refutes the [idea] . . . of poor red-staters voting Republican against their economic interests. Instead, Gelman persuasively argues, the poor in both red states and blue still mostly vote Democratic, and the rich, nationally speaking, overwhelmingly vote Republican.”—Leo Carey, New Yorker

We invite you to read Chapter 1 here: http://press.princeton.edu/chapters/s9030.pdf

Be sure to check in every Tuesday for a new tidbit from our great selection of politically-minded books.

This Week’s Book Giveaway

How to Be a Better Birder
by Derek Lovitch

This unique illustrated handbook provides all the essential tools you need to become a better birder. Here Derek Lovitch offers a more effective way to go about identification—he calls it the “Whole Bird and More” approach—that will enable you to identify more birds, more quickly, more of the time. He demonstrates how to use geography and an understanding of habitats, ecology, and even the weather to enrich your birding experience and help you find something out of the ordinary. Lovitch shows how to track nocturnal migrants using radar, collect data for bird conservation, discover exciting rarities, develop patch lists—and much more.

This is the ideal resource for intermediate and advanced birders. Whether you want to build a bigger list or simply learn more about birds, How to Be a Better Birder will take your birding skills to the next level.

  • Explains the “Whole Bird and More” approach to bird identification
  • Demonstrates how to use geography, habitats, ecology, and the weather to be a better birder
  • Shows how to bird at night using radar, collect conservation data, develop patch lists–and more
  • Offers essential tools for intermediate and advanced birders

 

“The goal of birding, of any hobby, is expertise gratia sua, and the only reason we do it is to do it better. This slender new volume by Derek Lovitch will help almost any birder do just that.”—Rick Wright, American Birding Association blog

We invite you to read the Introduction here: http://press.princeton.edu/chapters/i9671.pdf

The random draw for this book with be Friday 7/27 at 11 am EST. Be sure to like us on Facebook if you haven’t already to be entered to win!