Archives for June 2014

PUP News of the World — June 27, 2014

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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!


ROUGH COUNTRY

Everything is bigger in Texas, right? Our first book is certainly worthy of the Lone Star State and the big things found there. This week we start off with Robert Wuthnow’s forthcoming book, ROUGH COUNTRY: How Texas Became America’s Most Powerful Bible-Belt State. Tracing the intersection of religion, race, and power in Texas from Reconstruction through the rise of the Religious Right and the failed presidential bid of Governor Rick Perry, Rough Country illuminates American history since the Civil War in new ways, demonstrating that Texas’s story is also America’s. In particular, Wuthnow shows how distinctions between “us” and “them” are perpetuated and why they are so often shaped by religion and politics.

Rough Country received a starred review in Publishers Weekly:

Anyone seeking to examine the relationship between modern American religious conservatism and politics needs to look no further than Wuthnow’s authoritative, encyclopedic survey of Texas’s influence on national trends.

Check out the introduction here.

THE TRANSFORMATION OF THE WORLD

We keep with big ideas and endeavors with our next title, THE TRANSFORMATION OF THE WORLD: A Global History of the Nineteenth Century, written by Jürgen Osterhammel and translated by Patrick Camiller. A monumental history of the nineteenth century, The Transformation of the World offers a panoramic and multifaceted portrait of a world in transition. Jürgen Osterhammel, an eminent scholar who has been called the Braudel of the nineteenth century, moves beyond conventional Eurocentric and chronological accounts of the era, presenting instead a truly global history of breathtaking scope and towering erudition. He examines the powerful and complex forces that drove global change during the “long nineteenth century,” taking readers from New York to New Delhi, from the Latin American revolutions to the Taiping Rebellion, from the perils and promise of Europe’s transatlantic labor markets to the hardships endured by nomadic, tribal peoples across the planet.

The Transformation of the World was reviewed in the Shanghai Daily by Wan Lixin. Here is a preview of the review, entitled “To grasp history, look with heart at many sides and take the long view”:

THERE is a tale of the great scholar Wang Yangming (1472-1529) that says one day he tried to understand how a bamboo works. He gazed at a bamboo in his academy with such undeviating attention and energy that before he could arrive at any conclusion he collapsed after seven days of intensive effort.

Commenting on his failure in his later life, he pointed to the importance of methodology, citing the vital importance of the heart in the understanding of the external world.

When I was confronted with an English edition of Jürgen Osterhammel’s “The Transformation of the World: A Global History of the Nineteenth Century” (translated by Patrick Camiller), my curiosity was naturally aroused by the methodology used in organizing the enormous amount of material contained in this volume of 1,000 pages.

Although Osterhammel restricts his attention to the epic 19th century, he must look beyond that century of contacts, for the seeds of changes had been sowed long ago.

Read the rest of the article over at the Shanghai Daily‘s website. Curious about Osterhammel’s extensive research? Take a look at this Q&A with the author and read the introduction of The Transformation of the World.

TAMBORA

Next, we bring you a book that will blow the top off of your bookshelf. We’re talking about TAMBORAThe Eruption That Changed the World by Gillen D”Arcy Wood. When Indonesia’s Mount Tambora erupted in 1815, it unleashed the most destructive wave of extreme weather the world has witnessed in thousands of years. The volcano’s massive sulfate dust cloud enveloped the Earth, cooling temperatures and disrupting major weather systems for more than three years. Amid devastating storms, drought, and floods, communities worldwide endured famine, disease, and civil unrest on a catastrophic scale. On the eve of the bicentenary of the great eruption, Tambora tells the extraordinary story of the weather chaos it wrought, weaving the latest climate science with the social history of this frightening period to offer a cautionary tale about the potential tragic impacts of drastic climate change in our own century.

Tambora was named as the “Book of the Week” in the Times Higher Education. Alison Stokes writes:

Although Wood is a scholar of English literature, Tambora really showcases his skills as an environmental historian. He combines rigorously researched scientific information with a vivid and compelling narrative, assembling a complex jigsaw puzzle of anecdote and evidence into a coherent account that is further brought to life by a well-considered selection of historical artworks and scientific diagrams. By focusing on the human aspects of climate change, he demonstrates both the teleconnection of different climatic events linked to the eruption, and the (often overlooked) connectedness of seemingly disparate academic disciplines and fields of inquiry. This interdisciplinary approach is Tambora’s greatest strength and should assure it a wide readership.

View the introduction of Tambora here.

STRATEGIC REASSURANCE AND RESOLVE

Our final book takes a look at the rivalry between an established and a rising world power. STRATEGIC REASSURANCE AND RESOLVEU.S.-China Relations in the Twenty-First Century addresses the growing tension between the United States and China. In this book, 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, that 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 Wall Street Journal reviewed Strategic Reassurance and Resolve, saying that the book “furnishes an important and wide-ranging toolkit to keep the conversation between the U.S. and China going.”

Check out this mention of the book on the Diplomat, where Shannon Tiezzi discusses how U.S.-China military relations are improving.

 You can view the introduction for Strategic Reassurance and Resolve here.

NEWS OF THE WORLD

Congratulations Martin Ruhs, Winner of the 2014 Best Book Award for the Migration and Citizenship Section of the American Political Science Association

Martin RuhsThe Migration and Citizenship Section of the American Political Science Association has named Martin Ruhs’s The Price of Rights: Regulating International Labor Migration  the winner of the 2014 Best Book Award in the Migration and Citizenship category. The judging committee lauded Ruhs for his “innovative, rigorous, and very comprehensive treatment of the subject of international labor migration” saying additionally that his “command of knowledge and research skills demonstrates the best practices of scholarship.”

Martin Ruhs is an Associate Professor of Political Economy at the Oxford University Department for Continuing Education and a Senior Researcher at COMPAS. He is also an Associate Member of the Department of Economics, the Department of Social Policy and Intervention and the Blavatnik School of Government. Ruhs’s research focuses on the economics and politics of international labor migration within an internationally comparative framework, which he draws on to comment on migration issues in the media and to provide policy analysis and advice for various national governments and institutions.

__________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Martin Ruhs is the author of:

The Price of Rights The Price of Rights: Regulating International Labor Migration by Martin Ruhs
Hardcover | 2013 | $35.00 / £24.95 | ISBN: 9780691132914
272 pp. | 6 x 9 | 13 line illus. 16 tables. |eBook | ISBN: 9781400848607 | Reviews Table of Contents Chapter 1[PDF]

Watch This: Digiscoping with Clay and Sharon, Episode 8 (Announcing the Winner!)

Sharon StitelerToday’s the day! In this final episode filled with thank-yous and shared memories, Sharon Stiteler of Birdchick reveals the theme of the series: good ol’ ROY G BIV (the rainbow). There were hints in Clay’s shirts and Sharon’s nail polish, and in the order of the birds themselves. Were you able to guess it?

And now: we know you’ve all been anxiously awaiting the announcement for the Winner of the Swarovski Spotting Scope, so without further delay: Congratulations to Peter Lawrence of Ottawa, Canada! Enjoy your new scope, brought to you by Swarovski Optik North America, Birdspotters Birding App, and of course, Princeton University Press.

Check out the episode here, and remember: when in doubt, visit south Texas!

Wildflower Wednesday: A Look at Summer’s Blossoming Bounty with Carol Gracie

Carol Gracie, queen of  flora, is at it again. Carol Gracie

The author of Spring Wildflowers of the Northeast: A Natural History has a new project in the works. The forthcoming book, to be called Summer Wildflowers of the Northeast, isn’t technically a field guide; but we’re betting it will be no less comprehensive. In it, Gracie plans to give a full account of the fascinating history of summer wildflowers: what pollinates them, what eats them, how their seeds are dispersed, as well as their practical and historical uses. The facts are further complemented by Gracie’s striking photographs, which we’ve sampled below. Be on the lookout for this one!

Carol Gracie is an acclaimed naturalist, photographer, and writer. Now retired, she worked for many years as an educator and tour leader with the New York Botanical Garden before teaming up with her husband, Scott Mori, on botanical research projects in South America. Her books include Wildflowers in the Field and Forest.

Enjoy these beautiful photos, and let us know in the Comments section which flowers you’ve noticed so far this season.
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Untranslatable Tuesdays – Economy

economy

To mark the publication of Dictionary of Untranslatables: A Philosophical Lexicon, we are delighted to share a series of playful graphics by our design team which illustrate some of the most interesting terms from the Dictionary. For this, the final week in our “Untranslatable Tuesdays” series, we present Economy:

FRENCH     économie

GERMAN    Wirtschaft

We hope you have enjoyed “Untranslatable Tuesdays”!

 

Maland and the Tramp: Celebrating 100 Years of Chaplin

Chuck MalandPrinceton University Press author and Charlie Chaplin aficionado (mustache included) Chuck Maland, along with hundreds of other black-and-white buffs, will flock to Bologna, Italy in late June to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Charlie Chaplin’s iconic “Tramp” character.

Participants include British director Mike Leigh, Chaplin biographer David Robinson, David Totheroh (grandson of Chaplin’s long-time cameraman), Chaplin’s son Michael, and many Chaplin enthusiasts and scholars. It is, then, a perfect moment to revisit Maland’s book, Chaplin and American Culture: The Evolution of a Star Image; in it, Maland recounts the rise and fall of Chaplin’s public reputation in America, including his rapid ascent to fame in the 1910s and 1920s, as well the rocky time Chaplin endured in the Red Scare of the early 1950s, which led to his decision to leave the U.S. and settle in Switzerland for the rest of his life.

Based in part on Maland’s research into 1700 pages of FBI files and other government documents, the book clarifies how and why Chaplin left the country in 1952, but it also traces Chaplin’s amazing popularity from 1915 to World War Two, as well as the ways that Chaplin’s star image lived on even after the filmmaker’s death in 1977 through the re-release of his films in home video formats and the use of the Tramp character’s image in ads for the early IBM PC’s.

The centenary celebrations, sponsored by the Cineteca di Bologna and the Association Chaplin, will begin on the evening of Wednesday, June 25th, with an agenda set to include film screenings, performances, and an art show, in addition to presentations. Paper topics for the latter will range from Chaplin’s imitators and his critical reception in the industry, to the Tramp’s global influence on art and philosophy.

See what it’s all about, with this trailer from the official Chaplin website:

PUP News of the World — June 20, 2014

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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!


now 6.20

MASS FLOURISHING

What do you say to chatting over soup with a Nobel Laureate? We like the idea too. Check out this Financial Times piece by Martin Wolf, where he recounts his lunch discussion with Edmund Phelps, the 2006 Nobel Laureate in economics and author of Mass Flourishing: How Grassroots Innovation Created Jobs, Challenge, and Change. The men discuss Phelps’ feelings on creativity, innovation in Europe, and the decision to rescue the financial sector in 2008. Phelps speaks about his book, and Wolf writes:

What, I ask, led to writing Mass Flourishing? He tells me he started thinking about capitalism and socialism in the 1990s. But “it was only around 2002 that I began to think about creativity. I realised that the economics profession was mired in the idea that advance is ultimately the result of scientific discovery.

“Joseph Schumpeter [an Austrian economist of the first half of the 20th century] said that it requires entrepreneurs to do the work of building commercial applications. Yet he also argued one hardly ever sees creativity in entrepreneurs.

“I was appalled by this. So I started to think about what drives innovation and what its social significance might be. The next step was to think: innovators are taking a leap into the unknown. That led me to the thought that it is also a source of fun and employee engagement.”

Read the rest of Phelps’ thoughts in the full Financial Times article.

In Mass Flourishing, Phelps draws on a lifetime of thinking to make a sweeping new argument about what makes nations prosper–and why the sources of that prosperity are under threat today. Why did prosperity explode in some nations between the 1820s and 1960s, creating not just unprecedented material wealth but “flourishing”–meaningful work, self-expression, and personal growth for more people than ever before? Phelps makes the case that the wellspring of this flourishing was modern values such as the desire to create, explore, and meet challenges.

These values fueled the grassroots dynamism that was necessary for widespread, indigenous innovation. Most innovation wasn’t driven by a few isolated visionaries like Henry Ford; rather, it was driven by millions of people empowered to think of, develop, and market innumerable new products and processes, and improvements to existing ones. Mass flourishing–a combination of material well-being and the “good life” in a broader sense–was created by this mass innovation.

Read the introduction of Mass Flourishing here.

The book is also mentioned in a post about patent and copyright laws on the AEI Ideas blog. James Pethokoukis looks to a quote from Mass Flourishing, in which Phelps argues that “now the economy is clogged with patents.” Check out the full post on the AEI Ideas blog.

RULING RUSSIA

“What’s the Matter with Russia?” asks Keith Gessen in a recent article in Foreign Affairs. Gessen, a Russian-born journalist who co-edits n+1, recounts a recent trip on Aeroflot, Russia’s largest airline, where he spoke with a fellow passenger about Russia’s annexation of Crimea. He writes:

I kept thinking — I keep thinking — what, exactly, is wrong with Russia? Why is it still so aggressive nearly 30 years after the Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev launched the process of “normalizing” Russia and its relations with the world? Why, despite two decades of optimistic predictions that it was on the path to becoming, or was on the verge of becoming, or had already become a “normal” country, had it never become one? Why couldn’t it be more like Germany, another country that used to invade other countries but now focuses on making quality automobiles and protecting the health of the euro?

Gessen turns to two books, including William Zimmerman’s Ruling Russia: Authoritarianism from the Revolution to Putin, to explore the history that led to the Russia of today. Check out the full article in Foreign Affairs.

Ruling Russia is the only book of its kind to trace the history of modern Russian politics from the Bolshevik Revolution to the presidency of Vladimir Putin. It examines the complex evolution of communist and post-Soviet leadership in light of the latest research in political science, explaining why the democratization of Russia has all but failed.

Library Journal also reviews Ruling Russia, saying:

“Western democracies often view the Russian political structure as something ‘abnormal.’ Zimmerman peels back this Western lens and looks systematically into Russian political history from Vladimir Lenin to Vladimir Putin. He delves into how a consolidated political structure solidified with each passing generation of rulers.”

See for yourself, and view the introduction of Ruling Russia here.

 

 TAMBORA

When PUP author Gillen D’Arcy Wood talks about a big volcanic explosion, he means big. On the volcanic explosivity index (VEI), the 1815 eruption of Indonesia’s Mount Tambora registered a seven out of eight. Wood’s new book, Tambora: The Eruption that Changed the World, chronicles the aftermath of the explosion, which unleashed the most destructive wave of extreme weather the world has witnessed in thousands of years. Wood is interviewed on Voice of America’s Science World to discuss the book. Hear Wood’s portion of the program below (at about 16:10).

Tambora is reviewed in the South China Morning Post and given four stars. Matthew Scott writes:

“Gillen D’Arcy Wood tells this story with skill and convincing research in Tambora: The Eruption that Changed the World, bringing together science, historic records and anecdotes from 200 years ago….Wood delivers an intriguing anecdote of historical science, describing how humans are oblivious to the links to nature all around us.”

The book also made the Edmonton Journal nonfiction bestseller list. Preview the introduction here.

 

Concepts in Color: Beautiful Geometry by Eli Maor and Eugen Jost

If you’ve ever thought that mathematics and art don’t mix, this stunning visual history of geometry will change your mind. As much a work of art as a book about mathematics, Beautiful Geometry presents more than sixty exquisite color plates illustrating a wide range of geometric patterns and theorems, accompanied by brief accounts of the fascinating history and people behind each.

With artwork by Swiss artist Eugen Jost and text by acclaimed math historian Eli Maor, this unique celebration of geometry covers numerous subjects, from straightedge-and-compass constructions to intriguing configurations involving infinity. The result is a delightful and informative illustrated tour through the 2,500-year-old history of one of the most important and beautiful branches of mathematics.

We’ve created this slideshow so that you can sample some of the beautiful images in this book, so please enjoy!

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Click here to sample selections from the book.

Watch This: Digiscoping with Clay and Sharon, The Penultimate Episode

In this episode, Clay and Sharon show off some digiscoping/iMovie techniques that allow you to watch birds in slow-motion. They also reveal a new adapter that connects your phone to your binoculars creating a super portable digiscope alternative!

There are lots of hints at the theme of the series in this episode, I think. Do you have it yet? If you think you know, make sure you send your guess in to the Birdchick at digiscoping@birdchick.com (be sure to include the answer, your first and last name, mailing address and phone number). for the complete contest details, please visit the Birdchick site.

ps — thanks for the shout out for The Warbler Guide!

Butting Heads (and iPhones): Economists Robert Gordon and Joel Mokyr Duke it Out in the Wall Street Journal

Photo Credit: WSJ.comNorthwestern Professors of Economics Robert Gordon and Joel Mokyr just can’t seem to get along.

In this past weekend’s edition of The Wall Street Journal, the two voice some distinctly adverse ideas about technological innovation in the twenty-first century – on the one hand, its success, and on the other, its stagnation.

Professor Mokyr, author of The Gifts of Athena: Historical Origins of the Knowledge Economy and co-author of The Invention of Enterprise: Entrepreneurship from Ancient Mesopotamia to Modern Times is an economic historian who’s altogether positive about the economic direction of the world-at-large. But this isn’t just blind optimism; in fact, it’s due in large part to the rapid rate of technological innovation. Mokyr notes that “new tools have led to economic breakthroughs,” and that since the field of technology is vast and unremitting, we’re hardly in danger of economic collapse.


“The divergent views are more than academic. For many Americans, the recession left behind the scars of lost jobs, lower wages and depressed home prices. The question is whether tough times are here for good. The answer depends on who you ask.”


But Professor Gordon, a macroeconomist and author of the forthcoming book Beyond the Rainbow: The American Standard of Living Since the Civil War (Princeton), and of the best-selling textbook, Macroeconomics, is hugely skeptical of such theories. He asks us to compare useful and revolutionary objects, like the flushing toilet, to the newest iPad; the former, already invented, is indispensable. Everything created thereafter is simply excess – the cherry on top, if you will. And, as new developments become only incrementally more advanced than their predecessors, technological progress will slowly grind to an anticlimactic halt.

The op-ed also gives some interesting background on both Gordon and Mokyr and tries to posit the origins of their respective beliefs, whether positive or negative. Despite their conflicts, the two can concede to one point: that the twenty-first century is unarguably the best time to be born, and the revelation is certainly an encouraging one.

Unusual Destinations for a New York Stay-cation (#NYNobodyKnows)

New Yorkers might think they have to leave the city for a great vacation, but here are some suggestions for new and delightful places to visit on a New York City stay-cation from Bill Helmreich, the author of The New York Nobody Knows. For visitors from out of town, these destinations offer a side of the city separate from the usual tourist fare. Because of the distances between these places travel by auto is advisable, except for Manhattan, where travel by cab and public transportation is another option.

Photo 4

Where in Manhattan is this delightful spot?

Manhattan:

Besides the popular destinations, there’s much else to see. Starting from the North, Fort Tryon Park is a must at this time of the year. Nearby, walk down Pinehurst and Cabrini Avenues in Washington Heights, and don’t miss Chittenden Avenue at 187th St., with a fabulous view of the Hudson, the Jersey cliffs, and the George Washington Bridge, and the famous (look it up) Halloween House. On E. 162nd Street, you’ll find Jumel Terrace, one of a kind wooden homes built in the nineteenth Century on a cobbled street, now selling for up to one million dollars. For authentic (not tourist) gospel, stop in at a small church on 114th Street, just east of 1st Avenue. and for arguably the most beautiful brownstone street in Manhattan, go down 78th Street between Amsterdam and Columbus Avenue. And, of course, there’s the gentrified Lower East Side, the East Village area (especially 9th Street east all the way to Tompkins Square Park) and much more.

Bronx:

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This spot offers a “taste of Puerto Rico in the Bronx,” according to Helmreich

The quite safe Harding Park section in the Bronx feels like you’ve stepped back into history. It’s basically a Puerto Rican village, with small, neatly tended cottages fronted by charming gardens. Chickens scampering across the narrow roads and the beating rhythms of Spanish music give it an air of authenticity. And the drop-dead views of the Manhattan skyline across the East River make it the quintessentially paradoxical Gotham experience — one of the many communities with a small-town feel, under the umbrella of the most sophisticated twenty-first-century city in the world.

And while you’re there, visit Arthur Avenue and its many first-rate Italian restaurants and cafés. For sheer natural beauty, visit Pelham Bay Park. Over three times the size of Central Park, its sweeping views of rolling hills and the nearby bay are worth the effort. You’ll need a cart for this excursion, but you won’t be sorry.

Photo 26

Steve’s Place in Brooklyn

Queens:

Go to Linden Boulevard near 180th Street in St. Albans and see the mural of all the jazz greats who once lived in the area — Fats Waller, James Brown, Ella Fitzgerald, Lena Horne, and more. Visit nearby Addisleigh Park. For Afghani, Tibetan, Filipino, Hispanic, Thai, and Indian eateries of all types, walk between 82nd and 72nd Streets along Roosevelt Avenue. For beautiful homes and mansions with spectacular views of the water and bridges, stroll through Douglaston or Forest Hills Gardens. For an old-fashioned candy store and ice cream parlor, visit Eddie’s Sweet Shop at 105-29 Metropolitan Ave, near 72nd Road.

Brooklyn:

If you’re looking for nostalgia, take a trip to 2056 85th Street in Bensonhurst. Outside, you’ll see a most remarkable collection of Brooklyn’s history and that of the country — Betty Boop, Superman’s phone booth, the Fonz, Ebbets Field, Godfather types, Wildroot hair cream, vintage autos behind garage door, and much more. Look at the incredible gingerbread house at 8200 Narrows Ave, built in 1917. There’s the incredible graffiti at Troutman and St. Nicholas or Waterbury and Meserole, both in Bushwick. And check out beautiful Marine Park, with a nearby fishing village area called Gerritsen Beach.

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Serenity now… at the Chinese Scholars Garden in Snug Harbor

Staten Island:

Enjoy a boardwalk stroll on South Beach where people sunbathe, play volleyball, and just relax. It’s 150 years old and was the locale for at least 100 films shot in the 1890s. Many silent films stars, like actress Lillian Gish and director W. D. Griffith, got their start there. Next to Snug Harbor is beautiful Von Briesen Park, adjacent to the bridge. Don’t miss the $5 million Chinese Scholar’s Garden with its stunning flowers, tiny waterfalls, and bridges, nestled within the Staten Island Botanical Gardens, a great outdoor wedding venue.

 

Quick Questions for Katherine Freese, author of The Cosmic Cocktail: Three Parts Dark Matter

Katherine FreeseKatherine Freese is the George E. Uhlenbeck Professor of Physics at the University of Michigan, and the Associate Director of the Michigan Center for Theoretical Physics. Her work has a strong focus on topics within theoretical cosmology and astroparticle physics, particularly in identifying the dark matter and dark energy that permeate the universe.

Her latest book, The Cosmic Cocktail: Three Parts Dark Matter, details the quest to solve one of the greatest scientific enigmas of all time – what is the universe made of? Dr. Freese, one of the leading experts on dark matter, recounts the earliest speculation about this murky subject stretching from the 1930s to present day in clear, accessible prose. Dr. Freese received her B.A. in Physics from Princeton University; her M.A. in Physics from Columbia University; and her Ph.D. in Physics from the University of Chicago, where she was a recipient of the William Rainey Harper Dissertation Fellowship – the highest honor that the university offers to any graduate student.

Now, on to the questions!

PUP: What inspired you to get into your field?

Katherine Freese: I was lucky to have role models and mentors who encouraged me to go into science. My parents, who were biologists, were among the founders of the field of molecular biology. Since my mother was a scientist, the notion of becoming a woman scientist wasn’t foreign to me. I dedicated my book The Cosmic Cocktail to them, as well at to my Ph.D. advisor, who was also very important.

I started graduate school as an experimentalist, working as a particle accelerator outside of Chicago to study elementary particles. Twice a week I drove into the city to take a class from David Schramm on cosmology. He was a giant of a man, both physically and intellectually. He was an Olympic hopeful wrestling champ, with the nickname “Schrammbo.” His course was so inspiring that I switched fields to work with him as my Ph.D. advisor. The field of particle astrophysics, applying the ideas of the smallest particles to the largest astronomical objects like galaxies, was in its infancy, and I learned from the master.

What would you have been if not a scientist?

I found it very hard to choose only career; in high school and college I loved everything. I always wanted to be a writer and an actress. But in the end I felt compelled to do something using mathematics, because it is ultimately so beautiful and satisfying.


“…We are creating our own questions, always driven by new technology.”


What is the biggest misunderstanding about what you do?

Now this is very funny. When I tell people I’m a cosmologist, they think I must be very good at make-up and they say, “Well that’s a good career for a woman!” No, I’m not a cosmetologist. If I say I’m an astronomer, they want me to read their palms. No, I’m not an astrologer.

If I say I’m a physicist, they think I must live in the world of the nerds because only really geeky people to physics. Well that is just plain wrong! We are not calculating balls rolling down hills (a problem that was solved centuries ago). Instead we are creating our own questions, always driven by new technology. We get to be very creative, and very collaborative, and we have a lot of fun. It is this myth that physicists are boring people that I would like to dispel in this book.

In the end I have learned to say I’m an astrophysicist because people seem to understand that best.

Why did you write this book?

I wrote the book for two reasons. I wanted to communicate the science I work on and I wanted to communicate the experience of being a scientist. It is both a popular-level book about science and a memoir.

The science side is the hunt for dark matter. Most of the matter in galaxies consists of as yet unidentified dark matter, probably some new kind of fundamental particle. This mystery was first identified in the 1930s, and I wrote the book now because scientists feel they are on the verge of discovery. I wanted to communicate the excitement that we are all feeling about resolving the bulk of the mass in the Universe. It is a great story and I thought people should know about it. Everyone should be aware of this momentous breakthrough that changes the way we look at our world.


“Science is collaborative; it’s fun. I wanted to share that experience.”


AND also, very importantly – I wanted to communicate the experience of being a scientist. How much fun it is, how exciting and creative, because I think people don’t realize that. The book tells my personal journey as a scientist, and recounts tales of the personalities of the remarkable people I met along the way. Doing science is in some ways a form of art. In the visual arts, the eyes see the colors and forms; it stimulates the brain and it gives you a high. In physics, it’s a different language, not of color or sound, but of mathematics. I get a high from doing science, and it can be better than drinking a cocktail! We are at the forefront of technology and we get to be very creative, every day. Science is collaborative; it’s fun. I wanted to share that experience.

A third secret reason for writing the book is to reach out to young women, to let them know that they too can pursue their dreams. If math or science is their passion, they should pursue it. Many of the top people in dark matter studies are women and I highlight their successes so that young women can have role models in the sciences.

My book, The Cosmic Cocktail, is the story of this search for dark matter. Like all discoveries and searches and adventures, the hunt for an answer to one of the mysteries of physics has been full of drama and excitement and surprise. And some pretty amazing characters!

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

It took me about a year and a half to write the book. I’m not a morning person, so I would wake up at around 10 AM, and get to work an hour later. I worked best on my laptop at the kitchen table in my house. Since I am a professor at the University of Michigan, of course I also had to balance my writing with research, teaching, and administrative work at the University. Sometimes for several months I would get nothing done on my book, and other times, I focused on it exclusively. I was working 7 days a week, every waking hour (other than when I was at the gym) to get all this done for about a year, and that was not easy!

In March 2013 I had a concussion in the swimming pool, when another swimmer jumped in without telling me. I came off of the wall after my flip-turn and my head crashed directly into his. It’s a little unfair that he was completely uninjured whereas I was in agony for about a month. Concussion headaches are severe: I remember thinking that the Greek god Hephaestus (the blacksmith to the gods) was hammering a pick into my brain. I thought, just get it over with and split my head open! Since I couldn’t leave the house for a month I was incredibly productive on my book, working on it for up to ten hours a day. I couldn’t handle sound or light of any kind so sat there with my sunglasses on and did nothing but write. Not a modus operandi that I would recommend to anyone else! But I did get a lot done.

What was the biggest challenge involved with bringing this book to life?

I first tried to write a book about cosmology ten years ago, but I didn’t know how to do it. I wrote down a bunch of facts about the Universe, and it all sounded very dry. But over the past ten years, I’ve been teaching students, and I gradually realized that they were much more interested if I told stories. I would describe the personalities of the scientists, or talk about some of the adventures we have in the process of doing the science. Then the students became much more excited about the course I was teaching and they ended up learning a lot more as a consequence. So gradually I came to merge my writing about the subject matter of cosmology with a memoir of my own history as a scientist. I guess you could say I found my “voice” as a writer.

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

I hope that I have succeeded in conveying the fun and passion of doing science. I badly would like to dispel the myth that scientists are nerdy people working on boring subjects, calculating formulas to solve problems laid out for us by other people. We are pretty interesting! We create our own problems, driven by new advances in technology that allow us to be creative and fun. I hope I can convince young women that they can participate in this amazingly enjoyable and collaborative world of science. And of course I do believe that people who read this book will learn about the nature of the Universe, one of the deepest mysteries of modern science.

Who do you see as the audience for this book?

I have written The Cosmic Cocktail for the interested public as my audience. The book is both science and memoir. I am often asked, “Will I understand this book?” And my answer is yes. I think people are smart and interested in understanding their world. It is human nature to explore, and to ask questions about our Universe. I have not dumbed it down but I did definitely work to make it clear to the general public for whom this is not the field of study, not their area of expertise.

The book is lighthearted and fun and tells about the science of Dark Matter and also the personalities and personal stories of people involved. My goal is to share with people the excitement of doing science!

How did you come up with the title or jacket?

The Cosmic Cocktail is the perfect name for the book, as it is a recipe for the Universe —for what the Universe is made of. People find the answer very surprising. If we add up all the material of our daily experience — our bodies, the air, the walls, the vodka and gin, the stars and planets — all of that adds up to only 5% of the content of the Universe. The rest is the mysterious dark matter and dark energy that constitute the bulk of the Universe. The nature of the dark matter has been a major focus of my research and is the subject of this book.

What are you reading right now?

The Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi. This book is a wonderful award-winning science fiction novel published in 2009. Set in the 23rd century, the book explores a dystopian future: most food has been genetically engineered to be sterile (with production controlled by a few powerful companies); carbon based energy has been used up and manually wound up springs are used instead; and a new humanoid life-form has been created, a “windup-girl.” The book is a great story and is very thought provoking.

What is your next project?

Dark stars. In 2007, my collaborators and I proposed the existence of a new kind of star, powered by dark matter annihilation rather than by fusion. We were inspired to call these objects “dark stars” after a song of the same name by Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young. The first stars that form in the history of the Universe, 200 million years after the Big Bang, reside in very dark matter-rich environments. Though the stars are made almost entirely of hydrogen and helium, a smattering of dark matter is enough to heat them and allow them to become very big and bright. They can grow to become a million times as massive as the Sun and a billion times as bright. The upcoming sequel to Hubble Space Telescope, the James Webb Space Telescope, will launch in 2018 and should be able to see them. We are now working on making predictions for what dark stars should look like in data taken by this space mission.

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Katherine Freese is the author of:

The Cosmic Cocktail The Cosmic Cocktail: Three Parts Dark Matter by Katherine Freese
Hardcover | 2014 | $29.95 / £19.95 | ISBN: 9780691153353
264 pp. | 6 x 9 | 15 color illus. 42 halftones. 31 line illus. | eBook | ISBN: 9781400850075 | Reviews Table of Contents Chapter 1[PDF]