Archives for March 2014

PUP News of the World, March 28, 2014


Each week we post a round-up of some of our most exciting national and international PUP book coverage. Reviews, interviews, events, articles–this is the spot for coverage of all things “PUP books” that took place in the last week. Enjoy!

untranslatablesHow many times do we search for the perfect word for what we are trying to express? Sometimes, this goal is made entirely unattainable by linguistic differences between languages. In Dictionary of Untranslatables, Barbara Cassin compiles an encyclopedic dictionary of close to 400 important philosophical, literary, and political terms and concepts that defy easy–or any–translation from one language and culture to another. Drawn from more than a dozen languages, terms such as Dasein (German), pravda (Russian), saudade (Portuguese), and stato (Italian) are thoroughly examined in all their cross-linguistic and cross-cultural complexities. Spanning the classical, medieval, early modern, modern, and contemporary periods, these are terms that influence thinking across the humanities. The entries, written by more than 150 distinguished scholars, describe the origins and meanings of each term, the history and context of its usage, its translations into other languages, and its use in notable texts.

Dictionary of Untranslatables was recently reviewed by the South China Morning Post where it received a five star review. The book has also been featured in Dublin Review of Books, as well as in Independent.

“[G]reat success….By preserving the specificity of words in their source languages, but then proceeding though so many near-synonyms in other tongues, the Dictionary bridges this ideological divide, providing a different way of understanding what it is to be in, and between, languages.”—Tom Bunstead, Independent

Check out this innovative new book today! Read the Preface and Introduction here.

strategicWith China a steadily rising world power, there are many theories as to the future of U.S.-China relations discussed; some theories end in extreme conflict, and others in strong cooperation and interdependence.  In Strategic Reassurance and Resolve, James Steinberg and Michael O’Hanlon stake out a third, less deterministic position. They argue that there are powerful domestic and international factors, especially in the military and security realms, which could well push the bilateral relationship toward an arms race and confrontation, even though both sides will be far worse off if such a future comes to pass. They contend that this pessimistic scenario can be confidently avoided only if China and the United States adopt deliberate policies designed to address the security dilemma that besets the relationship between a rising and an established power. The authors propose a set of policy proposals to achieve a sustainable, relatively cooperative relationship between the two nations, based on the concept of providing mutual strategic reassurance in such key areas as nuclear weapons and missile defense, space and cyber operations, and military basing and deployments, while also demonstrating strategic resolve to protect vital national interests, including, in the case of the United States, its commitments to regional allies.

Strategic Reassurance and Resolve was reviewed in Publishers Weekly, which said,

 “[T]he points Steinberg and O’Hanlon make deserve the attention of all readers interested in the connection between U.S. and China going forward.”― Publishers Weekly

With subject matter related to the future of our country and its foreign relations, this book is a must read for anyone interested in international politics and the U.S. relationship with China.

son also rises We like to take pride in the “American Dream” and accomplishing goals our family, and ancestors before them, have never accomplished. But how much of our fate is tied to the status of our parents and grandparents? How much does this influence our children? More than we wish to believe. While it has been argued that rigid class structures have eroded in favor of greater social equality, The Son Also Rises proves that movement on the social ladder has changed little over eight centuries. Using a novel technique–tracking family names over generations to measure social mobility across countries and periods–renowned economic historian Gregory Clark reveals that mobility rates are lower than conventionally estimated, do not vary across societies, and are resistant to social policies. The good news is that these patterns are driven by strong inheritance of abilities and lineage does not beget unwarranted advantage. The bad news is that much of our fate is predictable from lineage. Clark argues that since a greater part of our place in the world is predetermined, we must avoid creating winner-take-all societies. Challenging popular assumptions about mobility and revealing the deeply entrenched force of inherited advantage, The Son Also Rises is sure to prompt intense debate for years to come.

Author Gregory Clark recently had an interview with Marketplace found here.The Son Also Rises was also featured in The Globe & Mail, where it was referred to as “Deeply challenging….” by reviewer Margaret Wente.

Get your hands on a copy of this intriguing book now and start reading the Introduction here.

fragile by design Economic crises seem to be a more and more regular occurrence, but how does politics effect the severity and frequency of these economic problems? Fragile by Design is a revealing exploration of the ways that politics inevitably intrudes into bank regulation. Charles Calomiris and Stephen Haber combine political history and economics to examine how coalitions of politicians, bankers, and other interest groups form, why some endure while others are undermined, and how they generate policies that determine who gets to be a banker, who has access to credit, and who pays for bank bailouts and rescues.

Fragile by Design was recently reviewed in the Financial Times, where it was praised for offering necessary explanation of the way the economy operates in relation to politics.

“ One reason why economists did not see the financial crisis coming is that the models most macro and financial economists deal in are free of politics. Fragile by Design offers a much-needed supplement.”-Martin Sandbu, Financial Times

Want to better understand the complex relationship between economics and politics? Begin reading Chapter 1 of Fragile by Design here.

dollar trap Speaking of economic crises, the importance  of the U.S. dollar has been called into question in recent years. How is it that a currency which seems to fluctuate so frequently is still an international standard in many regards.  The near collapse of the U.S. financial system in 2008-2009, political paralysis that has blocked effective policymaking, and emerging competitors such as the Chinese renminbi have heightened speculation about the dollar’s looming displacement as the main reserve currency. The Dollar Trap powerfully argues, the financial crisis, a dysfunctional international monetary system, and U.S. policies have paradoxically strengthened the dollar’s importance.

Eswar Prasad examines how the dollar came to have a central role in the world economy and demonstrates that it will remain the cornerstone of global finance for the foreseeable future. Marshaling a range of arguments and data, and drawing on the latest research, Prasad shows why it will be difficult to dislodge the dollar-centric system. With vast amounts of foreign financial capital locked up in dollar assets, including U.S. government securities, other countries now have a strong incentive to prevent a dollar crash.

The Dollar Trap author Eswar Prasad recently wrote an op-ed piece for the International New York Times further discussing the state of the U.S. dollar today and its persisting power.

Begin reading the Preface and Chapter 1 of The Dollar Trap now to learn more about where the U.S. dollar currently stands and how it has come to its current significance.





Princeton Cooks… Beef Ragoût

We invited our Princeton colleagues to try their hand at cooking and baking the delicious treats found in Cooking for Crowds: 40th Anniversary Edition by Merry “Corky” White. Here, Deborah Grondahl, Digital Publications Assistant at Princeton University Press, takes on a Beef Ragoût recipe, swapping out flour for a gluten-free friendly alternative. Recipe is below.  Bon Appetit!


Beef Ragoût

Deborah Grondahl

in bowls

After reading through the cookbook, Cooking for Crowds–this is the recipe that said “Cook Me”. Maybe it was the peppercorns, maybe it was the orange zest but I needed to make this recipe.  One problem—the recipe calls for flour. I have a gluten-free kitchen. What do I do?  After reading and re-reading the recipe, the flour is used to coat the meat, so substituting with a different type of flour is easy.  I used an all-purpose mix that has potato, garbanzo, tapioca and sorghum flours, but I’m sure you could easily use potato or corn starch.  I went with the all-purpose mix because I thought the bean flavor might lend itself to the complex flavors of the dish.

Making this seems straight forward enough—Prep, Sear, Simmer, Eat. The recipe scales easily to accommodate the crowd you are serving.  Two, is not a crowd, but I like to make extra for lunch the next day or another diner and the recipe does say its better the next day.


I love using fresh herbs, but often don’t have them on hand. I had planned to make this so I had the thyme. Finely chopped


Half-moons of Onions—sounds so fancy

Orange zest.  This is what drew me to this recipe, strips of orange zest.

orange peel


onions in pot

Okay, so this isn’t a picture of the meat being seared.  It’s the after picture with those fancy half-moons of onions.


in pot

A pot of promise.  The recipe says you can use either beef stock or red wine or both. I used stock, because I didn’t have wine. After you put everything in the pot, the recipe says to cover with additional liquid (not mentioned in the ingredients). Luckily I had additional stock on hand and there was no issue.


Sserved over rice:

in bowls



Beef Ragoût

After watching me try several recipes for beef stew, my daughter developed this one, which is especially good because of the added orange peel. Use only the orange part: do not use white of peel as it is very bitter when cooked.

  6 12 20 50
butter 2 tbs 4 tbs 7 tbs 1 c
cooking oil 1 tbs 2 tbs 3 tbs 8 tbs
stewing beef, preferably chuck,cut into ½ -inch chunks 1½ lbs 3 lbs 6 lbs 12 lbs
medium onions, sliced 2 4 7 16
all-purpose flour 2 tbs 4 tbs 7 tbs 1 c
dry, red wine 1 c 2 c 3½ c 7 c
beef stock 1 c 2 c 3½ c 7 c
carrots, peeled and roughly chopped 2 4 7 16
garlic cloves, finely chopped 1 2 4 7
fresh thyme, finely chopped 1 tsp 2 tsp 1 tbs 1½ tbs
dried thyme ½ tsp 1 tsp 1½ tsp 2 tsp
bay leaves 1 2 4 8
tomato paste 1 tbs 2 tbs 3½ tbs 1½6-oz cans
2-inch, thin strips of orange peel 2 4 7 12
peppercorns 6 12 20 40
salt 1 tsp 2 tsp 3½ tsp 2 tbs

Melt the butter and oil together in a large, heavy saucepan. Have a large casserole at hand.

Over medium heat brown the meat, several pieces at a time, and as they are browned, remove them to the casserole. Add the onions to the pan and cook until soft over a medium flame.

Add the flour to the beef and toss to cover well, add the browned onions to the beef. Add the wine or stock, and bring to a simmer, stirring. Then add the carrots and the remaining ingredients. Add extra stock, wine, or water to cover all the ingredients.

Reduce the heat to very low, cover, and simmer for about 2 hours, or until the meat is soft to the touch or the fork. Do not let it cook too much or the meat will disintegrate. And watch the liquid, so that it doesn’t boil away. Let the ragoût cool to room temperature, then refrigerate.

Reheat slowly and serve with whipped potatoes, boiled noodles, or rice. Or just crusty French bread and salad.

NOTE: This is 100 percent better the next day, so be sure to make it ahead.

This recipe is taken from:


Cooking for Crowds
40th Anniversary Edition
Merry White
With a new foreword by Darra Goldstein and a new introduction by the author

“[Merry White’s] book, made up of recipes she collected as the caterer for the Harvard Center for European Studies, suggested a new way of entertaining, with self-serve spanakopita, petite shrimp quiche and that savior of the anxious cook, the casserole that can be made a day ahead. Edward Koren’s woolly illustrations set the tone: vegetables are our friends, and food tastes best in groups. Even though pesto and vindaloo are no longer exotic, during the holidays her attitude (and her meatballs) may be what every stressed-out host needs.”–Alexandra Lange, New York Times

Princeton University Press’s best-selling titles for the last week

These are the best-selling books for the past week.


GDP: A Brief but Affectionate History by Diane Coyle
Tesla: Inventor of the Electrical Age by W. Bernard Carlson Tesla: Inventor of the Electrical Age by W. Bernard Carlson
On Bullshit by Harry G. Frankfurt
The Limits of Partnership: U.S.-Russian Relations in the Twenty-First Century by Angela E. Stent
Fragile by Design: The Political Origins of Banking Crises and Scarce Credit by Charles W. Calomiris & Stephen H. Haber
1177 BC: The Year Civilization Collapsed by Eric H. Cline
Rare Birds of North America by Steve Howell, Ian Lewington, and Will Russell
Revolutionary Ideas: An Intellectual History of the French Revolution from The Rights of Man to Robespierre by Jonathan Israel
The Dollar Trap: How the U.S. Dollar Tightened Its Grip on Global Finance by Eswar S. Prasad
The Box: How the Shipping Container Made the World Smaller and the World Economy Bigger by Marc Levinson

Quick Questions for Tim Chartier, author of Math Bytes

Tim Chartier, Photo  courtesy Davidson CollegeTim Chartier is author of Math Bytes: Google Bombs, Chocolate-Covered Pi, and Other Cool Bits in Computing. He agreed to be our first victi… interview subject in what will become a regular series. We will ask our authors to answer a series of questions in hopes to uncover details about why they wrote their book, what they do in their day job, and what their writing process is. We hope you enjoy getting to know Tim!

PUP: Why did you write this book?

Tim Chartier: My hope is that readers simply delight in the book.  A friend told me the book is full of small mathematical treasures.  I have had folks who don’t like math say they want to read it.  For me, it is like extending my Davidson College classroom.  Come and let’s talk math together.  What might we discover and enjoy?  Don’t like math?  Maybe it is simply you haven’t taken a byte of a mathematical delight that fits your palate!

PUP: Who do you see as the audience for this book?

TC: I wanted this book, at least large segments of it, to read down to middle school.  I worked with public school teachers on many of the ideas in this book.  They adapted the ideas to their classrooms.  And yet, the other day, I was almost late taking my kids to school as I had to pull them from reading my book, a most satisfying reason.  In my mime training, Marcel Marceau often said, “Create your piece and let the genius of the audience teach you what you created.”  I see this book that way.  I wrote a book that I see my students and the many to whom I speak in broad public settings smiling at as they listen.  Who all will be in the audience of this book?  That’s for me to learn from the readers.  I look forward to it.

Don’t like math? Maybe it is simply you haven’t taken a byte of a mathematical delight that fits your palate!

PUP: What do you think is the book’s most important contribution?

TC: When I describe the book to people, many respond with surprise or even better a comment like, “I wish I had a teacher like you.”  My current and former students often note that the book is very much like class.  Let’s create and play with ideas and discover how far they can go and, of great interest to me, how fun and whimsical they can be.

PUP: What inspired you to get into your field?

TC: My journey into math came via my endeavors in performing arts.  I was performing in mime and puppetry at international levels in college.  Math was my “back-up” plan.  Originally, I was taking math classes as required courses in my studies in computer science.  I enjoyed the courses but tended to be fonder of ideas in computer science.  I like the creative edge to writing programming.  We don’t all program in the same way and I enjoyed the elegance of solutions that could be found.  This same idea attracted me to math — when I took mathematical proofs.  I remember studying infinity – a topic far from being entirely encompassed by my finite mind.  Yet, through a mathematical lens, I could examine the topic and prove aspects of it.  Much like when I studied mime with Marcel Marceau, the artistry and creativity of mathematical study is what drew me to the field and kept me hooked through doctoral studies.

PUP: What is the biggest misunderstanding people have about what you do?

TC: Many think mathematics is about numbers.  Much of mathematics is about ideas and concepts.  My work lies at the boundary of computer science and mathematics.  So, my work often models the real world so often mathematics is more about thinking how to use it to glean interesting or new information about our dynamic world.  Numbers are interesting and wonderful but so is taking a handful of M&Ms and creating a math-based mosaic of my son or sitting with my daughter and using chocolate chips to estimate the value of Pi.  And, just for the record, the ideas would be interesting even without the use of chocolate but that doesn’t hurt!

PUP: What would you have been if not a mathematician?

TC: Many people think I would have been a full-time performer.  I actually intentionally walked away from that field.  I want to be home, have a home, walk through a neighborhood where I know my neighbors.  To me, I would have found a field, of some kind, where I could teach.  Then, again, I always wanted to be a creative member of the Muppet team – either creating ideas or performing!

I pick projects that I believe aren’t just exciting now, but will be exciting in retrospect.

PUP: What was the best piece of advice you ever received?

TC: At one time, I was quite ill.  It was a scary time with many unknowns.  I remember resting in a dark room and wondering if I could improve and get better.  I reflected on my life and felt good about where I was, even if I was heading into my final stretch.  I remember promising myself that if I ever got better that I would live a life that later — whether it be a decade later or decades and decades later — that I would try to live a life that I could again feel good about whenever I might again be in such a state.  I did improve but I pick projects that I believe aren’t just exciting now, but will be exciting in retrospect.  This book is easily an example of such a decision.

PUP: Describe your writing process. How long did it take you to finish your book? Where do you write?

TC: The early core of the book happened at 2 points.  First, I was on sabbatical from Davidson College working at the University of Washington where I taught Mathematical Modeling.  Some of the ideas of the book drew from my teaching at Davidson and were integrated into that course taught in Seattle.  At the end of the term, my wife Tanya said, “You can see your students and hear them responding.  Sit now and write a draft. Write quickly and let it flow.  Talk to them and get the class to smile.”  It was great advice to me.  The second stage came with my first reader, my sister Melody.  She is not a math lover and is a critical reader of any manuscript. She has a good eye.  I asked her to be my first reader.  She was stunned.  I wanted her to read it as I knew if she enjoyed it, even though there would be parts she wouldn’t understand fully, then I had a draft of the book I wanted to write.  She loved it and soon after I dove into the second draft.

PUP: Do you have advice for other authors?

TC: My main advice came from award-winning author Alan Michael Parker from Davidson College.  As I was finishing, what at the time I saw as close to my final draft, Alan said, “Tim, you are the one who will live with this book for a lifetime.  Many will read it only once.  You have it for the rest of your life.  Write your book. Make sure it is your voice.  Take your time and know it is you.”  His words echoed in me for months.  I put the book down for several months and then did a revision in which I saw my reflection in the book’s pages — I had seen my reflection before but never as clearly.

Tim is the author of:


Math Bytes
Google Bombs, Chocolate-Covered Pi, and Other Cool Bits in Computing
Tim Chartier

“A magnificent and curious romp through a wonderful array of mathematical topics and applications: maze creation, Google’s PageRank algorithm, doodling, the traveling salesman problem, math on The Simpsons, Fermat’s Last Theorem, viral tweets, fractals, and so much more. Buy this book and feed your brain.”–Clifford A. Pickover, author of The Math Book

Math Bytes is a playful and inviting collection of interesting mathematical examples and applications, sometimes in surprising places. Many of these applications are unique or put a new spin on things. The link to computing helps make many of the topics tangible to a general audience.”–Matt Lane, creator of the Math Goes Pop! Blog


Bob Geddes to Give Talk, Tour, and Book Signing at the Institute for Advanced Study

Calling all Princeton-area architecture fans: Bob Geddes will be giving a lecture, tour, and book signing of Fit: An Architect’s Manifesto, at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, NJ, on Saturday, April 5th, from 10:00 AM to 1:30 PM (EDT), sponsored by DOCOMOMO Philadelphia and DOCOMOMO NY/Tri-State.

Tickets and full event details are available via Eventbrite ($20 for DOCOMOMO members / $25 for non-members / FREE for IAS faculty, scholars, and staff).

Photo: Amy Ramsey, Courtesy of Institute for Advanced StudyMake it New, Make it Fit

The architecture of Geddes, Brecher, Qualls, and Cunningham (GBQC) has been largely overlooked in recent years—despite a remarkable and influential body of work beginning with their runner-up submission for the Sydney Opera House (1956). As significant contributors (along with Louis Kahn) to the “Philadelphia School,” GBQC’s efforts challenged modernist conceptions of space, functional relationships, technology, and—with an urbanist’s eye—the reality of change over time.

To explore the thinking behind the work, founding partner Robert Geddes, FAIA, will speak about his recent publication, Fit: An Architect’s Manifesto. In addition, Geddes will guide a tour through the venue for his talk, the Institute of Advanced Study’s Simmons Hall—a GBQC masterwork of 1971. Geddes will also participate in an informal discussion with participants during lunch at the IAS Cafeteria.

10:00-10:30am      Dilworth Room. Event check in. Coffee served.
10:30-11:15am        Make it New, Make it Fit Lecture by Bob Geddes
11:15-11:50am        Building Tour
11:50-12:10pm       Lunch at cafeteria where discussion continues
12:10-1:00pm         Lunch and discussion
1:00-1:30pm           Wrap up and book signing.

LOT ‘B’ enter through West Building. When you arrive at the site, please bring a copy of your tickets, either printed or displayed on your mobile phone.

About the speaker
Robert Geddes is dean emeritus of the Princeton School of Architecture and founding partner of GBQC—recipient of the AIA’s Firm of the Year Award in 1979. Educated under Walter Gropius at Harvard’s Graduate School of Design, Geddes returned to his native Philadelphia in 1950 where he began his work as an educator at the University of Pennsylvania.

PUP News of the World, March 21, 2014


Each week we post a round-up of some of our most exciting national and international PUP book coverage. Reviews, interviews, events, articles–this is the spot for coverage of all things “PUP books” that took place in the last week. Enjoy!

news of the world 3-21


Ahoy, there! Our first book this week is certainly a trip. It dives into the icy Arctic and boiling hydrothermal vents–and exposes the eternal darkness of the deepest undersea trenches–to show how marine life thrives against the odds. This thrilling book brings to life the sea’s most extreme species, and tells their stories as characters in the drama of the oceans. Coauthored by Stephen Palumbi, one of today’s leading marine scientists, The Extreme Life of the Sea tells the unforgettable tales of some of the most marvelous life forms on Earth, and the challenges they overcome to survive.

This title was reviewed this week in the New Scientist. Adrian Barnett writes:

The whole safari is conducted with a verve and joy that only comes from a deep love of the subject, a life-long dedication to its exploration and a true communicator’s sense of the mot juste. This experience and range means the Palumbis can write comfortably about research and researchers, and about the physical and mental exploration of the ocean’s ecology.

Nature also reviewed the book this week, saying that it is “a brilliant use of the rich store of research into Earth’s largest habitat.”

Think you have your sea legs ready? Read the prologue here. You can also listen to an interview with authors Stephen and Tony Palumbi, where host Judith Siers-Poisson says that a “really great” book like this can rock your world.


Two Princeton University Press authors contributed op-eds to the Financial Times‘ special weekend issue devoted to the upcoming Oxford Literary Festival. University of Oxford professor Ian Goldin discusses how globalization is both vital and risky. Read the full FT article for more on his reasoning. Professor Goldin’s forthcoming book, The Butterfly Defect, addresses the widening gap between systemic risks and their effective management. It shows how the new dynamics of turbo-charged globalization has the potential and power to destabilize our societies. Drawing on the latest insights from a wide variety of disciplines, Ian Goldin and Mike Mariathasan provide practical guidance for how governments, businesses, and individuals can better manage risk in our contemporary world. Check out the introduction here.

Up next is Alexander McCall Smith, author of What W.H. Auden Can Do for You. When facing a moral dilemma, Isabel Dalhousie–Edinburgh philosopher, amateur detective, and title character of a series of novels by McCall Smith–often refers to the great twentieth-century poet W. H. Auden. This is no accident: McCall Smith has long been fascinated by Auden. Indeed, the novelist, best known for his No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency series, calls the poet not only the greatest literary discovery of his life but also the best of guides on how to live.

In this recent op-ed, McCall Smith discusses “What W.H. Auden can teach us in times of crisis.” Auden, who left England for the United States during WWII, has been criticized for leaving his country when conflict was brewing. McCall Smith writes:

My personal experience of writing or talking about Auden and what he has to say to us has surprisingly often been met by objections that he was, to put it bluntly, a coward. It seems that people are not prepared to forgive what they see as Auden’s failure to serve his country in its hour of need. The facts, though, are not quite as simple as that.

Read the full piece in the FT for more on Auden, who McCall Smith argues is a source of wisdom for how to act in a time of crisis. You can also view Chapter One of McCall Smith’s book here.

 1177 B.C.


What could cause the collapse of an entire civilization? In 1177 B.C., marauding groups known only as the “Sea Peoples” invaded Egypt. The pharaoh’s army and navy managed to defeat them, but the victory so weakened Egypt that it soon slid into decline, as did most of the surrounding civilizations. After centuries of brilliance, the civilized world of the Bronze Age came to an abrupt and cataclysmic end. Kingdoms fell like dominoes over the course of just a few decades. But the Sea Peoples alone could not have caused such widespread breakdown. How did it happen?

Eric H. Cline’s forthcoming 1177 B.C. tackles this mystery. Bringing to life the vibrant multicultural world of these great civilizations, he draws a sweeping panorama of the empires and globalized peoples of the Late Bronze Age and shows that it was their very interdependence that hastened their dramatic collapse and ushered in a dark age that lasted centuries.

This week, the book was reviewed in the New Yorker. Adam Gopnik writes:

The memorable thing about Cline’s book is the strangely recognizable picture he paints of this very faraway time….It was as globalized and cosmopolitan a time as any on record, albeit within a much smaller cosmos. The degree of interpenetration and of cultural sharing is astonishing.

So what does this mean for us today? Professor Cline addresses this in an op-ed for the Huffington Post. Cline writes:

Today, in the current global economy, and in a world recently wracked by earthquakes and tsunamis in Japan and the “Arab Spring” democratic revolutions in Egypt, Tunisia, Libya, Syria, and Yemen, the fortunes and investments of the United States and Europe are inextricably intertwined within an international system that also involves East Asia and the oil-producing nations of the Middle East. It is, I would argue, a situation with parallels from the Late Bronze Age.

The selfie-conscious: ‘Mirror Mirror’ queries our eternal preoccupation with our ‘selves’

Blackburn jacketFor those among us active on social media platforms such as Facebook, Instragram or Twitter, it is hard to miss the viral trend that has succeeded ‘Movember’ and the ‘NekNomination’; the ‘#NoMakeupSelfie’. Created to raise awareness and encourage donations to breast cancer research, the craze invites girls and women to take a ‘selfie’ (Oxford English Dictionary: ‘a photograph that one has taken of oneself, typically with a smartphone or webcam and uploaded to a social media website’) wearing no make-up, and then to nominate friends to do the same. The internet and media have exploded with responses that both condemn and condone the purportedly philanthropic trend, with Yomi Adegoke of The Independent describing it as ‘narcissism masked as charity’. But now that the phenomenon of the ‘selfie’ has been teamed up with charitable giving – generally deemed to be ‘self-less’ – this craze has now entered into the debate surrounding ‘selfie-mania’ and ‘self-love’ that Simon Blackburn explores in Mirror Mirror: The Uses and Abuses of Self-Love.

Blackburn examines this modern phenomenon in conjunction with the classical origins of a consideration of the self, such as ‘Know thy self’, a trope that was advocated by Apollo’s oracle at Delphi. However, ‘Mirror Mirror’ reminds us that Narcissus was warned against this advice by what Blackburn describes as ‘the highly reliable’, ‘blind seer Tiresius’, and he goes on to explore this contradiction and the subsequent dispute between ignorance and knowledge of the self. Blackburn underpins these modern and classical references with a discussion of philosophy, psychology, and morality, reflected in his chapter titles: ‘Temptation’, ‘Hubris’, and ‘Respect’. Mirror Mirror skilfully moves through a multi-faceted examination of what it means to be and to document our ‘selves’, and why we have been, and continue to be, so obsessed with them.

By Hannah Lucas, Princeton University Press Europe intern, March 2014


5, 4, 3, 2, 1…. Blast off! Announcing University Presses in Space

A collaborative web site, University Presses in Space, launched this week in an effort to bring together space exploration and astronomy/astrophysics titles from across the university press universe. “University presses have explored the known universe and beyond, producing a galaxy of intriguing and informative books about outer space and space exploration,” notes the introductory page.

The web site is created with readers in mind. As Ellen W. Faran, director of The MIT Press, wrote in her announcement of the launch, “The hypothesis here is that space readers don’t stop at one book and that they appreciate quality.”

We are delighted to see Princeton University Press titles like The Cosmic Cocktail: Three Parts Dark Matter by Katherine Freese and Heart of Darkness: Unraveling the Mysteries of the Invisible Universe by Jeremiah P. Ostriker and Simon Mitton included in the mix.

Maybe we can get an endorsement from others who have boldly gone into space before us?

The Extreme Life of the Sea at the Commonwealth Club/WonderFest, San Francisco

Steve Palumbi, one of today’s leading marine scientists, takes us to the absolute limits of the aquatic world—into the icy arctic, toward boiling hydrothermal vents, and into the deepest undersea trenches—to show how marine life thrives against the odds. He helps us appreciate and understand the fastest and deepest, the hottest and oldest creatures of the oceans.

But such fragile ecosystems face new challenges: climate change and overfishing could pose the greatest threats yet to our planet’s tenacious marine life. Prof. Palumbi shares unforgettable stories of some of the most marvelous life forms on Earth, and reveals surprising lessons of how we humans can learn to adapt to climate change.

This lecture was recorded at the Commonwealth Club earlier this year. Steve and Tony’s book is The Extreme Life of the Sea. You can sample the prologue here:

The Princeton in Europe Lecture 2014

Diarmaid MacCulloch (c) Chris Gibbons SMALLER RESWe are delighted to announce that The Princeton in Europe Lecture 2014 will be given by Sir Diarmaid MacCulloch. Professor MacCulloch is at the Faculty of Theology and Religion, University of Oxford, and has a special interest in the history of Christianity. The author of numerous books on the history of religion, Diarmaid MacCulloch has also presented BBC documentaries, such as A History of Christianity and, most recently, How God Made the English. This year’s Princeton in Europe Lecture, which will be held at the British Academy, is entitled:

“What if Arianism had won?: A reformation historian looks at medieval Europe”

This event is open to the general public and is free to attend, but please register in advance by emailing Hannah Paul:

Wolfson Auditorium at the British Academy  *  Tuesday 8th April 2014  * Drinks will be served from 5.30pm, and the lecture will begin at 6.30pm * We look forward to seeing you there.

* Photograph (c) Chris Gibbons


These Two Numbers Make Spring Possible (and the other seasons too)

Happy first day of spring! Princeton University Press is celebrating the coming of the crocuses and daffodils with this mathematical post by Oscar Fernandez, author of Everyday Calculus: Discovering the Hidden Math All around Us.

March 20th. Don’t recognize that date? You should, it’s the official start of spring! I won’t blame you for not knowing, because after the unusually cold winter we’ve had it’s easy to forget that higher temperatures are coming. But why March 20th, and not the 21st or the 19th? And while we’re at it, why are there even seasons at all?

The answer has to do with 2 numbers. Don’t worry, they’re simple numbers (not like pi [1]). Stick around and I’ll show you some neat graphs to help you understand where they come from, and hopefully entertain you in the process too.

The first star of this show is the number 92 million. No, it’s not the current Powerball jackpot; it’s also not the number of times a teenager texts per day. To appreciate its significance, have a look at our first chart:

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Figure 1: The average surface temperature (on the vertical axis) of the planets in our solar system sorted by their distance from our sun (the horizontal axis). From left to right: Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto (technically, Pluto lost its planet status in 2006).

That first planet on the left is Mercury. It’s about 36 million miles away from the sun and has an average surface temperature of 333o. (Bring LOTS of sunscreen.) Fourth down the line is the red planet, Mars. At a distance of about 141 million miles from the sun, Mars’ average temperature is -85o. (Bring LOTS of hot chocolate.) We could keep going, but the general trend is clear: planets farther away from the sun have lower average temperatures.[2]

If neither 333o nor -85o sound inviting, I’ve got just the place for you: Earth! At a cool 59o this planet is … drumroll please … 92 million miles from the sun.

We actually got lucky here. You see, it turns out that a planet’s temperature T is related to its distance r from the sun by the formula , where k is a number that depends on certain properties of the planet. I’ve graphed this curve in Figure 1. Notice that all the planets (except for the pesky Venus) closely follow the curve. But there’s more here than meets the eye. Specifically, the T formula predicts that a 1% change in distance will result in a 0.5% change in temperature.[3] For example, were Earth just 3% closer to the sun—about 89 million miles away instead of 92 million—the average temperature would be about 1.5o higher. To put that in perspective, note that at the end of the last ice age average temperatures were only 5o to 9o cooler than today.[4]

So our distance from the sun gets us more reasonable temperatures than Mercury and Mars have, but where do the seasons come from? That’s where our second number comes in: 23.4.

Imagine yourself in a park sitting in front of a bonfire. You’re standing close enough to feel the heat but not close enough to feel the burn. Now lean in. Your head is now hotter than your toes; this tilt has produced a temperature difference between your “northern hemisphere” and your “southern hemisphere.” This “tilt effect” is exactly what happens as Earth orbits the sun. More specifically, our planet is tilted about 23.4o from its vertical axis (Figure 2).

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Figure 2. Earth is tilted about 23.4o from the plane of orbit with the sun (called the ecliptic plane).

Because of its tilt, as the Earth orbits the sun sometimes the Northern Hemisphere tilts toward the sun—roughly March-September—and other times it tilts away from the sun—roughly September-March (Figure 3).[5]


Figure 3. Earth’s tilt points toward the sun between mid-March and mid-September, and points away from it the remaining months of the year. The four marked dates describe how this “tilt effect” changes the number of daylight hours throughout the year. Assuming you live in the Northern Hemisphere, days are longest during the summer solstice (shorter nights) and shortest during the winter solstice (longer nights). During the equinoxes, daytime and nighttime are about the same length.

Now that you know how two numbers—92 million and 23.4—explain the seasons, let’s get back to spring in particular. As Figure 3 shows, there are two days each year when Earth’s tilt neither points toward nor away from the sun. Those two days, called the equinoxes, divide the warmer months from the colder ones. And that’s exactly what happened on March 20th: we passed the spring equinox.

Before you go, I have a little confession to make. It’s not entirely true that just two numbers explain the seasons. Distance to the sun and Earth’s tilt are arguably the most important factors, but other factors—like our atmosphere—are also important. But that would’ve made the title a lot longer. And anyway, I would’ve ended up explaining those factors using more numbers. The takeaway: math is powerful, and the more you learn the better you’ll understand just about anything.[6]


[1] The ratio of a circle’s circumference to its diameter, pi is a never-ending, never repeating number. It is approximately 3.14.

[2] Venus is the exception. Its thick atmosphere prevents the planet from cooling.

[3] Here’s the explanation for the mathematically inclined. In calculus, changes in a function are described by the function’s derivative; the derivative of T is . This tells us that for a small change dr in r the temperature change dT is . Relative changes are ratios of small changes in a quantity to its original value. Thus, the relative change in temperature, dT/T, is

which is minus 0.5 times the relative change in distance, dr/r. The minus sign says that the temperature decreases as r increases, confirming the results of Figure 1.

[5] Just like in our thought experiment, the Southern Hemisphere’s seasons are swapped with our own; when one is cold the other is warm and vice versa.

Two PUP books share the 2013 Sonia Rudikoff Prize from the Northeast Victorian Studies Association

Empty Houses: Theatrical Failure and the Novel by David Kurnick and The Rise and Fall of Meter: Poetry and English National Culture, 1860–1930 by Meredith Martin are co-Winners of the 2013 Sonia Rudikoff Prize, Northeast Victorian Studies Association. Congratulations!The Rudikoff Prize was awarded for the best first book in Victorian Studies published in 2012. Here’s a bit more about the award from their web site:“The Sonya Rudikoff Award was established by the Robert Gutman family in honor of Mr. Gutman’s late wife. Ms. Rudikoff was an active member of the Northeast Victorian Studies Association and a recognized scholar. Her book, Ancestral Houses: Virginia Woolf and the Aristocracy, was published posthumously. A text nominated for this award should be the author’s first book, and the subject should address Victorian literature and/or culture. Our focus is on Victorian Great Britain and the Empire, though we will consider texts that are transatlantic in focus. We will not, however, consider texts that are strictly American Victorian.”

Link to the list of current and past winners:

Congratulations to David Kurnick and Meredith Martin!