BOOK FACT FRIDAY – Trigonometric Delights

BOOK FACT excerpted from Trigonometric Delights by Eli Maor:

It is no coincidence that trigonometry up until the sixteenth century was developed mainly by astronomers. Aristarchus and Hipparchus, who founded trigonometry as a distinct branch of mathematics, were astronomers, as was Ptolemy, the author of the Almagest. During the Middle Ages, Arab and Hindu astronomers, notably Abul-Wefa, al-Battani, Aryabhata, and Ulugh Beg of Samarkand (1393-1449), absorbed the Greek mathematical heritage and greatly expanded it, especially in spherical trigonometry. And when this combined heritage was passed on to Europe, it was again an astronomer who was at the forefront: Johann Muller, known as Regiomontanus.

Regiomontanus was the first publisher of mathematical and astronomical books for commercial use. In 1474 he printed his Ephemerides, tables listing the position of the sun, moon, and planets for each day from 1475 to 1506. This work brought him great acclaim; Christopher Columbus had a copy of it on his fourth voyage to the New World and used it to predict the famous lunar eclipse of February 29, 1504. Regiomontanus’s most influential work was his De triangulis omnimodis (On triangles of every kind), a work in five parts (“books”) modeled after Euclid’s Elements. As he states in his introduction, Regiomontanus’s main goal in On Triangles was to provide a mathematical introduction to astronomy. Regiomontanus completed writing On Triangles in 1464, but it was not published until 1533, more than half a century after his death.

We are pleased to announce a new paperback edition is now available:
Trigonometric Delights
by Eli Maor

Trigonometry has always been an underappreciated branch of mathematics. It has a reputation as a dry and difficult subject, a glorified form of geometry complicated by tedious computation. In this book, Eli Maor draws on his remarkable talents as a guide to the world of numbers to dispel that view. Rejecting the usual arid descriptions of sine, cosine, and their trigonometric relatives, he brings the subject to life in a compelling blend of history, biography, and mathematics. He presents both a survey of the main elements of trigonometry and a unique account of its vital contribution to science and social development. Woven together in a tapestry of entertaining stories, scientific curiosities, and educational insights, the book more than lives up to the title Trigonometric Delights.

Maor also sketches the lives of some of the intriguing figures who have shaped four thousand years of trigonometric history. We meet, for instance, the Renaissance scholar Regiomontanus, who is rumored to have been poisoned for insulting a colleague, and Maria Agnesi, an eighteenth-century Italian genius who gave up mathematics to work with the poor–but not before she investigated a special curve that, due to mistranslation, bears the unfortunate name “the witch of Agnesi.” The book is richly illustrated, including rare prints from the author’s own collection. Trigonometric Delights will change forever our view of a once dreaded subject.

Eli Maor teaches the history of mathematics at Loyola University in Chicago. He is the author of To Infinity and Beyond, e: The Story of a Number, Venus in Transit, and The Pythagorean Theorem: A 4,000-Year History.

Introducing a New Biophysics Textbook

Bialek_Biophysics_caseAre you headed to Philadelphia for the Biophysical Society’s 57th Annual Meeting (#bps13) starting on February 2nd? They are expecting over 6,000 biophysicists to attend. It’s a great opportunity to see what is new in the field. And speaking of what is new in the field, professors and students, you will want to check this out – it is the textbook you’ve been waiting for:

Biophysics: Searching for Principles
by William Bialek

William Bialek provides the first graduate-level introduction to biophysics aimed at physics students. Interactions between the fields of physics and biology reach back over a century, and some of the most significant developments in biology–from the discovery of DNA’s structure to imaging of the human brain–have involved collaboration across this disciplinary boundary. For a new generation of physicists, the phenomena of life pose exciting challenges to physics itself, and biophysics has emerged as an important subfield of this discipline. Featuring numerous problems and exercises throughout, Biophysics emphasizes the unifying power of abstract physical principles to motivate new and novel experiments on biological systems.

–Covers a range of biological phenomena from the physicist’s perspective
–Features 200 problems
–Draws on statistical mechanics, quantum mechanics, and related mathematical concepts
–Includes an annotated bibliography and detailed appendixes
–Instructor’s manual (available only to teachers)
–Illustration Package available
–Supplementary Materials available

William Bialek is the John Archibald Wheeler/Battelle Professor in Physics at Princeton University, where he is also a member of the multidisciplinary Lewis-Sigler Institute for Integrative Genomics, and is Visiting Presidential Professor of Physics at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York. He is the coauthor of Spikes: Exploring the Neural Code.

“Bialek’s excellent book bears the stamp of both his originality and technical prowess. What I look for when I read a book is something unique that I know I won’t find anywhere else. Bialek delivers that in spades on a topic of great interest to scientists of all stripes.”–Rob Phillips, California Institute of Technology

For more information, please visit:

We hope you enjoy Philadelphia and stay warm!


Fact: Les Misérables was one of the most popular novels of the nineteenth century and Tolstoy called it “the greatest of all novels.” The novel took seventeen years to complete. The first version of the manuscript was written in Paris between 1845 and 1848–Les Miséres–and the definitive version was written in Guernsey between 1860 and 1862.

The book lives on and new generations enjoy plays, musicals and movies based on Les Misérables. In The Temptation of the Impossible, one of the world’s great novelists, Mario Vargas Llosa, helps us to appreciate the incredible ambition, power, and beauty of Victor Hugo’s masterpiece and, in the process, presents a humane vision of fiction as an alternative reality that can help us imagine a different and better world.

We invite you to read the introduction:

The Temptation of the Impossible:
Victor Hugo and Les Misérables

by Mario Vargas Llosa, the 2010 Winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature
Translated by John King

An Ai Weiwei book giveaway on Twitter, of course!

This week we have a special book giveaway on Twitter for Ai Weiwei’s new book, Weiwei-isms. We are giving away one book along with a signed bookplate from Ai Weiwei. Yes, he really did sign it!

Follow us on Twitter and re-tweet any @PrincetonUPress tweet by noon on Friday and you will be automatically entered into our random drawing. We’ll pick the winner on Friday at noon EST.

WEIWEI-ISM #166 “Before blogging, I was living in the Middle Ages. Now my feelings for time and space are entirely different.”

Find us on Twitter at:

Good luck!

Ai Weiwei
Edited by Larry Warsh

This collection of quotes demonstrates the elegant simplicity of Ai Weiwei’s thoughts on key aspects of his art, politics, and life. A master at communicating powerful ideas in astonishingly few words, Ai Weiwei is known for his innovative use of social media to disseminate his views. The short quotations presented here have been carefully selected from articles, tweets, and interviews given by this acclaimed Chinese artist and activist. The book is organized into six categories: freedom of expression; art and activism; government, power, and moral choices; the digital world; history, the historical moment, and the future; and personal reflections.

Together, these quotes span some of the most revealing moments of Ai Weiwei’s eventful career–from his risky investigation into student deaths in the 2008 Sichuan earthquake to his arbitrary arrest in 2011–providing a window into the mind of one of the world’s most electrifying and courageous contemporary artists.

We invite you to read the introduction online:

New Earth Science Catalog

Be among the first to check out our new Earth Science catalog at:

Three new titles in the The Princeton Primers in Climate series are featured in the catalog.  Michael L. Bender’s Paleoclimate makes an ideal introduction to the subject. In Climate and Ecosystems, David Schimel looks at how Earth’s living systems profoundly shape the physical world. David Randall’s Atmosphere, Clouds, and Climate offers a short, reader-friendly introduction to atmospheric processes. There are more books in the series and you can find information at: . We invite you to browse and download the catalog to find more great books by great authors.

Are you going to the annual American Geophysical Union meeting in San Francisco? We’ll be there at booth 634. Charles H. Langmuir & Wally Broecker will be in our booth on Wednesday, Dec 5th at 3:30 p.m. signing copies of their revised and expanded book, How to Build a Habitable Planet. This classic account of how our habitable planet was assembled from the stuff of stars introduced readers to planetary, Earth, and climate science by way of a fascinating narrative. Now this great book has been made even better. Stop by and chat with the authors. We hope to see you there.

How would you like to receive timely e-mail announcements about new Princeton books in earth science? Follow the link for a quick and easy sign-up: . Your e-mail address will remain strictly confidential.


We invite you to be the first to check out our new Religion catalog at:

From fascinating histories of ancient texts to an examination of Jewish humor, you’re going to find many books to put on your reading list. Feel free to download and browse our catalog.  Are you attending the AAR/SBL annual meeting in Chicago? You will find us at booth 206 in the exhibit hall. Please stop by and say hello and browse new books. We hope to see you there.


FACT: “No sooner did the Tacoma Narrows Bridge—the world’s third longest suspension bridge, and the pride of Washington State—open in July 1940 than it earned its epitaphic nickname, “Galloping Gertie.” The 4,000-foot structure, its main span reaching 2,800 feet, twisted and bucked in the wind. The pronounced heave, or more technically speaking the longitudinal undulation, caused some automobile passengers to complain of seasickness during crossings. Others observed oncoming cars disappearing from sight as if traveling a hilly country road. By November 7, amid 39-mile-an-hour winds, the $6,400,000 bridge wobbled and flailed, then rippled and rolled, then twisted like a roller coaster, until in its final throes it plunged, with a beastly roar, 190 feet into the waters of Puget Sound.” -Siobhan Roberts, from chapter 1 of Wind Wizard

We invite you to read the full chapter online at:

Wind Wizard:
Alan G. Davenport and the Art of Wind Engineering

by Siobhan Roberts

With Wind Wizard, Siobhan Roberts brings us the story of Alan Davenport (1932-2009), the father of modern wind engineering, who investigated how wind navigates the obstacle course of the earth’s natural and built environments–and how, when not properly heeded, wind causes buildings and bridges to teeter unduly, sway with abandon, and even collapse.

In 1964, Davenport received a confidential telephone call from two engineers requesting tests on a pair of towers that promised to be the tallest in the world. His resulting wind studies on New York’s World Trade Center advanced the art and science of wind engineering with one pioneering innovation after another. Establishing the first dedicated “boundary layer” wind tunnel laboratory for civil engineering structures, Davenport enabled the study of the atmospheric region from the earth’s surface to three thousand feet, where the air churns with turbulent eddies, the average wind speed increasing with height. The boundary layer wind tunnel mimics these windy marbled striations in order to test models of buildings and bridges that inevitably face the wind when built. Over the years, Davenport’s revolutionary lab investigated and improved the wind-worthiness of the world’s greatest structures, including the Sears Tower, the John Hancock Tower, Shanghai’s World Financial Center, the CN Tower, the iconic Golden Gate Bridge, the Bronx-Whitestone Bridge, the Sunshine Skyway, and the proposed crossing for the Strait of Messina, linking Sicily with mainland Italy.

Chronicling Davenport’s innovations by analyzing select projects, this popular-science book gives an illuminating behind-the-scenes view into the practice of wind engineering, and insight into Davenport’s steadfast belief that there is neither a structure too tall nor too long, as long as it is supported by sound wind science.


We invite you to browse and download our new anthropology catalog.

Be sure to check out Ethnography and Virtual Worlds: A Handbook of Method by Tom Boellstorff, Bonnie Nardi, Celia Pearce and T. L. Taylor. It provides practical and detailed techniques for ethnographic research customized to reflect the specific issues of online virtual worlds, both game and nongame and draws on research in a range of virtual worlds, including Everquest, Second Life,, and World of Warcraft.

Addiction by Design: Machine Gambling in Las Vegas by Natasha Dow Schüll is also new this year. It takes readers into the intriguing world of machine gambling, an increasingly popular and absorbing form of play that blurs the line between human and machine, compulsion and control, risk and reward.

You will also want to check out In Coding Freedom: The Ethics and Aesthetics of Hacking by E. Gabriella Coleman. Who are computer hackers? What is free software? And what does the emergence of a community dedicated to the production of free and open source software–and to hacking as a technical, aesthetic, and moral project–reveal about the values of contemporary liberalism? Coleman tracks the ways in which hackers collaborate and examines passionate manifestos, hacker humor, free software project governance, and festive hacker conferences.

The catalog is full of great books by great authors. We hope to see you at the AAA annual meeting in San Francisco, CA. We invite you to a party celebrating the launch of our new series Princeton Studies in Culture and Technology with series editors, Tom Boellstorff and Bill Maurer. Wine will be flowing. Details:

Friday, November 16th, 2012
4-5 p.m., Booth #507, Exhibit Hall

We look forward to seeing you there.


FACT:  “In 2012, the year 1433 of the Muslim calendar, the Islamic population throughout the world was estimated at approximately a billion and a half, representing about one-fifth of humanity. In geographical terms, Islam occupies the center of the world, stretching like a big belt across the globe from east to west. From Morocco to Mindanao, it encompasses countries of both the consumer North and the disadvantaged South. It sits at the crossroads of America, Europe, and Russia on one side and Africa, India, and China on the other. Historically, Islam is also at a crossroads, destined to play a world role in politics and to become the most prominent world religion during the 21st century. Islam is thus not contained in any national culture; it is a universal force.

“In creating The Encyclopedia of Islamic Political Thought (EIPT), our goal was to provide a solid and innovative reference work that would trace the historical roots of Islamic political thought and demonstrate its contemporary importance. The editors first met for a workshop in fall of 2007 at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, where we agreed on a framework for the encyclopedia and drafted a list of entries. The EIPT was conceived as a combination of broad, comprehensive articles on core concepts and shorter entries on specific ideas, movements, leaders, and related topics. We intended to make the EIPT accessible, informative, and comprehensive with respect to the contemporary political and cultural situation of Islam, while also providing in-depth examination of the historical roots of that situation. The core articles on central themes were designated to provide the framework for the reader to integrate and contextualize the information provided by the plethora of articles on more specific subjects. It is our hope that this organizational structure will enable the EIPT to serve as a reference work of the first order for both beginners and specialists and to support undergraduate and graduate courses on Islamic political thought.”

–Gerhard Bowering, from the introduction of The Encyclopedia of Islamic Political Thought

We invite you to read the full introduction online:

The Princeton Encyclopedia of Islamic Political Thought
Edited by Gerhard Bowering
Patricia Crone, Wadad Kadi, Devin J. Stewart, Muhammad Qasim Zaman, associate editors
Mahan Mirza, assistant editor

The first encyclopedia of Islamic political thought from the birth of Islam to today, this comprehensive, authoritative, and accessible reference provides the context needed for understanding contemporary politics in the Islamic world and beyond. With more than 400 alphabetically arranged entries written by an international team of specialists, the volume focuses on the origins and evolution of Islamic political ideas and related subjects, covering central terms, concepts, personalities, movements, places, and schools of thought across Islamic history. Fifteen major entries provide a synthetic treatment of key topics, such as Muhammad, jihad, authority, gender, culture, minorities, fundamentalism, and pluralism. Incorporating the latest scholarship, this is an indispensable resource for students, researchers, journalists, and anyone else seeking an informed perspective on the complex intersection of Islam and politics.

For more information and sample entries, please visit:


FACT: “There are more than half a million known asteroids in the region between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter and several thousand known near-Earth objects of various sizes in the Earth’s neighborhood. These numbers are rapidly growing as more and more of them are discovered. Currently, more than three thousand asteroids a month are being discovered and dozens of these monthly discoveries are in the near-Earth object population.”

Near-Earth Objects:
Finding Them Before They Find Us

by Donald K. Yeomans

Of all the natural disasters that could befall us, only an Earth impact by a large comet or asteroid has the potential to end civilization in a single blow. Yet these near-Earth objects also offer tantalizing clues to our solar system’s origins, and someday could even serve as stepping-stones for space exploration. In this book, Donald Yeomans introduces readers to the science of near-Earth objects–its history, applications, and ongoing quest to find near-Earth objects before they find us.

We invite you to read chapter one:

New Cognitive Science Catalog

We invite you to browse and download our 2013 Cognitive Science Catalog:

Will we see you at the Society of Neuroscience’s annual meeting? We are pleased to announce we’ll be there in New Orleans! Look for us at booth #135.

More from from Eric I. Schwartz, Sociology & Cognitive Science Editor:

It is with great pleasure that, on behalf of my colleagues at
Princeton University Press, I introduce the 2013 cognitive
science catalog
. The books in this catalog exemplify the
quality of scholarship that we prize. They reflect the genuinely
interdisciplinary approach that we take to developing
our publishing programs, and to this end, cognitive science
an interdisciplinary field connecting research within the
humanities, social science, and science is a natural representation
of the mission of the Press.

This year’s catalog features three major works worthy of
special notice. William Bialek’s Biophysics is a landmark
textbook that crosses disciplinary boundaries to teach
advanced students about this important subject. In Cells to
, Enrico Coen provides the first unified account
of how life transforms itself, from single cells to self-understanding.
With The Behavioral Foundations of Public
, Eldar Shafir and colleagues examine the important
nexus of human behavior and economic decision making,
and how this should inform public policy.

And not to be missed are several works new in paperback
this year, including Patricia Churchland’s Braintrust, Robert
Kurzban’s Why Everyone (Else) Is a Hypocrite, Nicholas
Humphrey’s Soul Dust, Paul Thagard’s The Brain and the
Meaning of Life
, and Max H. Bazerman and Ann E.
Tenbrunsel’s Blind Spots.

Finally, this year Princeton University Press begins exhibiting
at the annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience.
We hope to see you there, and look forward to continuing
to share this intellectually engaging journey with you.
Thank you for your support.

Eric I. Schwartz, Ph.D.
Editor, Sociology & Cognitive Science


FACT: “[C]hocolate chip cookies (CCCs) have eight times the energy as the same weight of TNT. How can that be true? Why can’t we blow up a building with CCCs instead of TNT? Almost everyone who hasn’t studied the subject assumes (incorrectly) that TNT releases a great deal more energy than cookies. That includes most physics majors….Even though chocolate chip cookies contain more energy than a similar weight of TNT, the energy is normally released more slowly, through a series of chemical processes that we call metabolism.”

Physics and Technology for Future Presidents:
An Introduction to the Essential Physics Every World Leader Needs to Know

by Richard A. Muller

We invite you to read the preface online:

“Modern science and technology have the power to shape the world we live in, for good or for evil. Muller, himself a brilliant, creative scientist, has distilled the most important scientific principles that define our choices, and has presented them clearly and objectively. To make wise decisions, not only future presidents, but future business and community leaders, and thoughtful citizens generally, need the information in this book.”–Frank Wilczek, Nobel Prize–winning physicist