Archives for June 2015

Q&A with Frank Farris, Author of Creating Symmetry: The Artful Mathematics of Wallpaper Patterns

Frank A. Farris teaches mathematics at Santa Clara University and is a former editor of Mathematics Magazine, a publication of the Mathematical Association of America. He is also the author of the new Princeton University Press book Creating Symmetry: The Artful Mathematics of Wallpaper Patterns. The book provides a hands-on, step-by-step introduction to the intriguing mathematics of symmetry.

Frank Farris gave Princeton University Press a look at why he wrote Creating Symmetry, where he feels this book will have major contributions, and what comes next.

Before and After: A Peach and a Sierra Stream Become a Pattern, by Frank A Farris

Before and After: A Peach and a Sierra Stream Become a Pattern, by Frank A Farris

What inspired you to get into mathematical writing?
FF: After editing Mathematics Magazine for many years, I developed a passion for communicating mathematics: I didn’t want dry accounts written by anonymous authors; I wanted stories told by people. I wasn’t so interested in problems and puzzles, but in the stories that bring us face to face with the grand structures of mathematics.

Why did you write this book?
FF: Many years ago, I asked the innocent question: What is a wallpaper pattern, really? Creating Symmetry is the story of my dissatisfaction with standard answers and how it led me on a curious journey to a new kind of mathematical art. I took some risks and let my personality show through, while maintaining an honest, mathematically responsible approach. I hope readers enjoy the balance: real math told by a person.

What do you think is the book’s most important contribution?
FF: Most people who see my artwork say they’ve never seen anything like these images and that pleases me immensely. Of course, people have seen wallpaper patterns before, but the unusual construction method I use—wallpaper waves and photographs—gives my patterns an intricacy and rhythm that people wouldn’t create through the usual potato-stamp construction method, where the patterns is made from discrete blocks.

What is your next project?
FF: I am working on a “wallpaper lookbook,” a book for the simple joy of looking at patterns. Creating Symmetry tells people how to make the patterns, and there’s quite a lot of mathematical detail to process. Not everyone who likes my work wants to know all the details, but can still appreciate the “before and after” nature of the images.

Who do you see as the audience for this book?
FF: There are three audiences and they will read the book in different ways. The general reader, who knows some calculus but may be a little rusty, should find a refreshing and challenging way to reconnect with mathematics. Undergraduate mathematics majors will enjoy the book as a summer project or enrichment reading, as it makes surprising connections among topics they may have studied. The professional mathematician will find this light reading—a chance to enjoy the amazing interconnectedness of our field.


Beth Shapiro talks “How to Clone a Mammoth” and more on Yale Environment 360

Shapiro_HowToCloneHow to Clone a Mammoth is drawing major attention from those in the science world and beyond, raising questions about de-extinction. Slate and The Nation turned to the book when discussing the science behind Jurassic World. Could we bring extinct animals back to life? Author Beth Shapiro recently sat down with Yale Environment 360 to talk about her new book, giving insight into the fact that she doesn’t know if the mammoth is what she would chose to clone!



e360: When you talk about ecological resurrection or restoration, let’s take the mammoth for instance, what does the mammoth do for us from an ecological perspective?

Shapiro: I don’t know, and I’m actually not sure that we really want to bring mammoths back. I think mammoths are a particularly problematic species because of the ethical challenges involved. If we were going to bring mammoths back we’re going to have to involve elephants in some way, at least the way the technology exists today. And we have very little idea of how to meet the physical and psychological needs of elephants when they’re living in captivity. Until we’ve figured out how to do that, we shouldn’t be having elephants in captivity at all, much less using them in hair-brained scientific creative experiments to bring back mammoths. Especially if we don’t really know what a compelling ecological reason to bring back mammoths might be.

So might we want to use de-extinction technologies to edit the genomes of elephants? Asian elephants are the closest living relatives of mammoths and these animals are endangered. What if we could use this same technology, in an ethical way, to engineer Asian elephants that were capable of living in colder climates? If we could do that then we could expand the range of potential habitat for Asian elephants, potentially biding our time so we could clean up the habitat where they belong to the extent we could figure out how to protect them there, and they could potentially be saved from extinction. These are the kinds of applications of this technology that I can see might be much more compelling than bringing back something like the passenger pigeon.

When we think about the passenger pigeon, one thing that one would need to do would be to show what role these animals played in the habitat when they were alive and that sufficient habitat exists, so that if we were to place them back in that habitat they would be able to survive. We would also need to be able to predict what interactions they’re going to have with other species that are also now fighting for a much smaller amount of habitat than when we had passenger pigeons around. This is the same kind of question we’ll need to ask for any candidate species for de-extinction.

Check out the rest of Shapiro‘s interview here.


Book Fact Friday – Incarceration Rates

From chapter 2 of Caught:

The race to incarcerate began in the 1970s. It persisted over the next four decades despite significant fluctuations in the country’s economic health and crime rates. Since then, there have been several points where different groups of people have suggested reforms because it was becoming too expensive to incarcerate as the same level, including an advisory board appointed by Ronald Reagan and fiscally conservative Republicans who had previously been penal hard-liners. Still, the rate of incarceration has not decreased, and the current model is not economically sustainable.

Caught: The Prison State and the Lockdown of American Politics
Marie Gottschalk


The huge prison buildup of the past four decades has few defenders today, yet reforms to reduce the number of people in U.S. jails and prisons have been remarkably modest. Meanwhile, a carceral state has sprouted in the shadows of mass imprisonment, extending its reach far beyond the prison gate. It includes not only the country’s vast archipelago of jails and prisons but also the growing range of penal punishments and controls that lie in the never-never land between prison and full citizenship, from probation and parole to immigrant detention, felon disenfranchisement, and extensive lifetime restrictions on sex offenders. As it sunders families and communities and reworks conceptions of democracy, rights, and citizenship, this ever-widening carceral state poses a formidable political and social challenge.

In this book, Marie Gottschalk examines why the carceral state, with its growing number of outcasts, remains so tenacious in the United States. She analyzes the shortcomings of the two dominant penal reform strategies—one focused on addressing racial disparities, the other on seeking bipartisan, race-neutral solutions centered on reentry, justice reinvestment, and reducing recidivism.

In this bracing appraisal of the politics of penal reform, Gottschalk exposes the broader pathologies in American politics that are preventing the country from solving its most pressing problems, including the stranglehold that neoliberalism exerts on public policy. She concludes by sketching out a promising alternative path to begin dismantling the carceral state.

#NewBooks from Princeton University Press

Books released during the week of June 22, 2015.

Birds and Animals of Australia’s Top End by Nick Leseberg and Iain Campbell is perfect for exploring the wilderness of one of the most beautiful continents in the world. An essential field guide for anyone visiting the Top End, this book will vastly enhance your appreciation of the region’s remarkable wildlife.

Check out a sample of the book here.

leseberg Jacket

New Biology 2015-2016 Catalog

Our Biology 2015-2016 catalog is now available.


Don’t miss How to Clone a Mammoth, a look at the extraordinary science behind de-extinction. Evolutionary biologist and “ancient DNA” research pioneer Beth Shapiro shows readers how something that once seemed like science fiction is now possible, and what the implications are for future conservation efforts.

Looking to understand how humans made the transition from our caveman days to today’s globalized society? Look no further than The Secret of Our Success. Joseph Henrich shows us that it is the ability of human groups to socially connect that accounts for our success as a species.

Finally, in The Real Planet of the Apes, David R. Begun draws on the latest discoveries in the fossil record and his own expedition to support his argument that it was Europe, not Africa, where our ape ancestors evolved some of the most important features present in humans today, including bipedalism, dexterous hands, and larger brains.

We invite you to scroll through our catalog above to see these and many more titles!

If you’d like updates on new titles sent directly to you, subscribe here.

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“Just Married” provides insight while US awaits SCOTUS Decision on Marriage

All eyes are on the Supreme Court, as we await a decision on same-sex Macedo jacketmarriage. This potentially historic ruling has many questioning its aftereffects and what this legislation will mean for millions of couples who wish to get married. As the discussion takes shape, Stephen Macedo’s Just Married can provide insight on the institution of marriage and where he believes it should be headed.

Recently Stephen Macedo talked to Michael Hotchkiss of Princeton’s Office of Communication, discussing why marriage is so important and how his book ties into the work he is doing with students at Princeton University:


Why does marriage matter today?

SM: Marriage remains a very important signal of commitment in our society — more so in the United States than many other places. It’s about two people committing to build a life in common together, and to care for and nurture any children who are born into, or brought into, their family. The vast majority of American adults are either married or would like to be. The marital commitment, and its public recognition, contribute to the health, happiness and general well-being of children and adults in lots of ways.

How does your work on these issues tie into your teaching and work with students?

SM: This book comes directly out of my teaching in “Ethics and Public Policy,” a lecture course I have been lucky enough to teach for a dozen years. I realized several years ago, when revising the syllabus, that the debate about same-sex marriage rights had widened to include a debate about marriage itself and also monogamy. We have treated this set of issues in that class several times now, and I also discussed them in a terrific freshman seminar on “Religion and Politics.”

Engaging Princeton students on these issues has been enormously helpful to me. In fact, nine undergrads worked with me as research assistants in 2013, and two even came back for a chunk of the summer to help out. I couldn’t have done it without them and I’m very grateful. I should hasten to add that many of these students don’t agree with my conclusions, and of course that’s fine!

Read the full Q&A with Stephen Macedo, and preview the introduction to Just Married here.


#WinnerWednesdays: Congratulations to our authors!

We are celebrating the impressive honors that several of our authors have received:

Jeremiah Ostriker, co-author of the Princeton University Press publication Heart of Darkness, has been awarded the prestigious Gruber Prize.

Co-Authors Robert E. Buswell Jr. and Donald S. Lopez Jr. have been awarded the 2015 Dartmouth Medal for their work on the publication The Princeton Dictionary of Buddhism.

Nicolette Warisse Sosulski of Booklist writes:

From the time that we received our copies, we knew that The Princeton Dictionary of Buddhism was going to be a top contender for the award. In terms of craftsmanship—the book as an artifact—the book is “elegant,” as one committee member stated at the Midwinter session.The cover is one that attracts the reader, with an evocative, beautifully
lit sculpture of the Buddha on a dark background with a simple typeface. The paper is high quality, as we noticed as we fondled the 1,265 pages. From the information we gleaned from reviews and the introductory matter, it was evident that this book had breadth and depth unparalleled in other works on Buddhism, as it is the first to cover terms from all of the canonical Buddhist languages and traditions: Sanskrit, Pali, Tibetan, Chinese, Japanese, and Korean.

To explore the rest of the Booklist article, click here.

To sample The Princeton Dictionary of Buddhism, explore the preface here.

Congratulations to all of our authors on these honors and many more!

Out of Ashes – Building a Union

Out of Ashes jacket

Out of Ashes – Konrad Jarausch

25th March 1957. Twelve men meet on the Capitoline Hill in Rome to sign a treaty, two representatives each from Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Luxemburg and the Netherlands. Concerns over loss of sovereignty mean that early plans for a European Political Community and European Defence Community have been abandoned. The statesmen seeking to build a united, federal Europe – among them Konrad Adenauer, Jean Monnet and Paul Henri Spaak – have instead focused on the creation of a customs union, the European Economic Community. The significance of this treaty between France and Germany after nearly a century marked by bitter armed conflict is lost on no-one. Owing to delays in the printing of the treaty, only the title and signature pages are ready – the document signed by the twelve men is blank.

1st January 1973. The United Kingdom, Ireland and Denmark join the EEC, the first expansion of the community beyond the six original signatories. The British had declined to join the negotiations that led to the founding of the  community, Prime Minister Clement Attlee drily commenting that he saw no point in joining a club of “six nations, four of whom we had to rescue from the other two”. Two subsequent applications for admission were vetoed by France, whose President Charles de Gaulle saw the British as a trojan horse for US interests. Denmark, Ireland, and Norway, economically dependent on trade with the UK, are forced to withdraw their applications too. Only following de Gaulle’s resignation in 1969 can the British application proceed. Despite successful negotiations, the Norwegian people vote against joining in a public referendum, and Norway’s application is withdrawn. In 1994, the Norwegians will again vote against joining.

7th February 1992. Representatives of the twelve member states of the EEC, now including Greece, Spain and Portugal, meet in Maastricht to sign a new treaty. The provisions of the treaty subsume the Community into a European Union, with economic interests taking their place alongside a Common Foreign and Security Policy and agreement on Justice and Home Affairs. The treaty also lays down stringent economic guidelines, laying the groundwork for the creation of a single currency. Three countries hold referendums on the signing of the treaty – Denmark, France and Ireland. The Danes narrowly reject the Treaty: only following the negotiation of a series of opt-outs is the treaty ratified by a second referendum.

1st January 2002. A unique event in human history – the people of twelve countries across Europe wake up to a new currency, giving up marks, francs, lira, schillings, drachmas, escudos, pesetas, pounds, crowns, markkas and guilders for new euro notes and coins. Of the now fifteen countries in the Union, only Denmark, Sweden and the United Kingdom have chosen to retain their own currencies. The printing and minting of the 7.4 billion notes and 38.2 billion coins has taken over three years. Within twenty-four hours, over 90% of ATMs in the twelve countries are dispensing the new currency. But the first purchase using the new notes and coins takes place far away, on the French island of Rèunion in the Indian Ocean – a kilogram of lychees.

Tipping Point Math Tuesdays With Marc Chamberland: What’s the Best Paper Size?

Tipping Point Tuesday takes on a global debate!

The United States and Canada use paper that is 8.5 inches by 11 inches, called US letter. However, the rest of the world officially uses A4 paper, which has a different aspect ratio. Which paper size is better, US letter or A4? Find the mathematical answer with the help of Marc Chamberland in a video from his YouTube channel Tipping Point Math.


Marc Chamberland takes on more mathematical scenarios in his book Single Digits: In Praise of Small Numbers. Read the first chapter here.

On This Day – Galileo forced to cede to Church

k10498On June 22, 1633, the Roman Catholic Church forced Galileo Galilei to renounce his view that the Earth rotates around the Sun. By doing so, he avoided death and was instead placed on house arrest. The Church opposed the heliocentric model, proposed by Copernicus a century before, because it directly contradicted biblical passages that assumed a geocentric system.

In Ideas of Liberty in Early Modern Europe: From Machiavelli to Milton, Hilary Gatti argues that the early modern period laid the foundations of our modern ideas of liberty, justice, and democracy. The “Galileo affair” is one example of this process that she highlights. Gatti argues that this moment in history has become “the historical pivot around which one of the most heated discussions of our time is developing—that is, how far religious doctrine can, if at all, determine the inquiries of the scientists and the ways in which they are accepted by society and taught in its academies and schools” (104). We see this debate continuing in our own time surrounding the study of the Theory of Evolution in schools.

To learn more about how events surrounding Galileo, Machiavelli, Milton, and others contributed to our modern ideas of liberty, check out Gatti’s book. You can read the introduction online.

Book Fact Friday – The Sun

From chapter 3 of The Sun’s Influence on Climate:

The Sun is about midway through its lifetime. At 5765 Kelvin, it is considered a cool star. 4,500,000,000 years ago, it formed from a dust cloud and is now burning its fuel, converting hydrogen into helium. Eventually, this burning will cease and it will end its life as a white dwarf.

The Sun’s Influence on Climate
Joanna D Haigh & Peter Cargill
Chapter 1

k10522The Earth’s climate system depends entirely on the Sun for its energy. Solar radiation warms the atmosphere and is fundamental to atmospheric composition, while the distribution of solar heating across the planet produces global wind patterns and contributes to the formation of clouds, storms, and rainfall. The Sun’s Influence on Climate provides an unparalleled introduction to this vitally important relationship.
This accessible primer covers the basic properties of the Earth’s climate system, the structure and behavior of the Sun, and the absorption of solar radiation in the atmosphere. It explains how solar activity varies and how these variations affect the Earth’s environment, from long-term paleoclimate effects to century timescales in the context of human-induced climate change, and from signals of the 11-year sunspot cycle to the impacts of solar emissions on space weather in our planet’s upper atmosphere.
Written by two of the leading authorities on the subject, The Sun’s Influence on Climate is an essential primer for students and nonspecialists alike.


#NewBooks from Princeton University Press

Books released during the week of June 15, 2015.

This week’s new book releases include The Political Machine: Assembling Sovereignty in the Bronze Age Caucasus by Adam T. Smith, which investigates the essential role that material culture plays in the practices and maintenance of political sovereignty. Also, Christopher Dye’s The Population Biology of Tuberculosis demonstrates what must be done to prevent, control, and defeat the global threat of Tuberculosis in the twenty-first century.

New in Hardcover

 Smith jacket  Dye jacket