The numbers one through nine have remarkable mathematical properties and characteristics. For instance, why do eight perfect card shuffles leave a standard deck of cards unchanged? Are there really “six degrees of separation” between all pairs of people? And how can any map need only four colors to ensure that no regions of the same color touch? In Single Digits, Marc Chamberland takes readers on a fascinating exploration of small numbers, from one to nine, looking at their history, applications, and connections to various areas of mathematics, including number theory, geometry, chaos theory, numerical analysis, and mathematical physics.
Many see China’s economic rise and growing middle class as precursors to democratization, as was the case for its neighbors in South Korea and Taiwan. This transition has not yet materialized, and some would argue that it won’t – and shouldn’t.
Is Chinese democracy inevitable? Professor Daniel Bell believes it is not, and supports many aspects of the Chinese political system, in which top leaders are selected based on merit and electoral democracy functions at the local level. While a transition to full democracy may not be necessary, many problems remain, including corruption, lack of transparency and repression of freedoms of speech and the press. Can these issues be addressed within China’s current political structure? How can reforms be instituted in certain areas without the system collapsing entirely? And what can other nations learn from the strengths of Chinese political meritocracy?
This event will also be available via live stream.
Could extinct species, like mammoths and passenger pigeons, be brought back to life? The science says yes. In How to Clone a Mammoth, Beth Shapiro, evolutionary biologist and pioneer in “ancient DNA” research, walks readers through the astonishing and controversial process of de-extinction. From deciding which species should be restored, to sequencing their genomes, to anticipating how revived populations might be overseen in the wild, Shapiro vividly explores the extraordinary cutting-edge science that is being used—today—to resurrect the past.
Widely noted folklorist and science historian Adrienne Mayor brings to life the story of the world’s first experimental toxicologist. Her book The Poison King: The Life and Legend of Mithradates, Rome’s Deadliest Enemy examines the brilliant rebel leader who challenged Roman imperialism in the first century B.C. The teenage Mithradates inherited a wealthy Black Sea kingdom after his mother poisoned his father. He fled into exile but returned in triumph to become a ruler of intelligence and ambition determined to build an empire to rival Rome. His uncanny ability to elude capture and surge back after devastating losses unnerved the Romans, while his mastery of poisons allowed him to foil assassination attempts and eliminate rivals. Mayor, a research scholar in classics and the history and philosophy of science at Stanford University, will explore how poison and power can operate in tandem to change the course of history.
Dr. Madeline Hsu explores a century of Chinese migrations and looks at how model minority characteristics of many Asian Americans resulted from US immigration policies.
The ocean teems with life that thrives under difficult situations in unusual environments. This illustrated lecture takes the audience to the absolute limits of the aquatic world—the fastest and deepest, the hottest and oldest creatures of the oceans. 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. It brings to life the sea’s most extreme species, and reveals how they succeed across the wide expanse of the world’s global ocean. The authors tell the unforgettable stories of some of the most marvelous life forms on Earth and the challenges they overcome to survive.
The Economic Consequences of a Hotter Planet
Gernot Wagner & Martin Weitzman
This illustrated lecture explores the likely repercussions of a hotter planet, drawing on and expanding from work previously unavailable to general audiences. It demonstrates that climate change can and should be dealt with—and what could happen if we do not.
A Method in the Madness:
Searching for Sense in Unreason
Today, mental disturbances are most commonly viewed through a medical lens, but societies across the centuries have sought to make sense of them through religion, the supernatural, or psychological or social explanations. In Madness in Civilization: A Cultural History of Insanity, from the Bible to Freud, from the Madhouse to Modern Medicine, Andrew Scull traces the long and complex history of unreason and our attempts to understand it.
Scull discusses the different ways that cultures around the world have interpreted and responded to the seemingly irrational, psychotic, and insane. Exorcism, mesmerism, Victorian asylums, the theory of humors, and modern pharmacology are among the topics he covers as he explores the manifestations and meanings of madness and our varied responses to it. He also looks at how insanity has haunted the imaginations of artists and writers, and describes the profound influence it has had on the arts.
Scull is distinguished professor of sociology and science studies at the University of California, San Diego.
Madness in Civilization is available for sale and signing.
A Discussion with Andrew Scull, George Makari, Patrick McGrath, and Sylvia Nasar
The loss of reason, a sense of alienation from the commonsense world we all like to imagine we inhabit, the shattering emotional turmoil that seizes hold and won’t let go—these are some of the traits we associate with madness. Today, mental disturbance is most commonly viewed through a medical lens, but societies have also sought to make sense of it through religion or the supernatural, or by constructing psychological or social explanations in an effort to tame the demons of unreason. In his recent book Madness in Civilization, Andrew Scull traces the long and complex history of this affliction and our attempts to treat it.
Madness in Civilization takes readers from antiquity to today, painting a vivid and often harrowing portrait of the different ways that cultures around the world have interpreted and responded to the seemingly irrational, psychotic, and insane. From the Bible to Sigmund Freud, from exorcism to mesmerism, from Bedlam to Victorian asylums, from the theory of humors to modern pharmacology, the book explores the manifestations and meanings of madness, its challenges and consequences, and our varied responses to it. It also looks at how insanity has haunted the imaginations of artists and writers and describes the profound influence it has had on the arts, from drama, opera, and the novel to drawing, painting, and sculpture.
Please join us at NYU’s Deutsches Haus (42 Washington Mews, NYC) for a presentation and panel discussion of Scull’s book.
RSVP at http://www.nyihumanities.org/event/madness-in-civilization-a-cultural-history-of-insanity/.
Ever since Adam Smith, the central teaching of economics has been that free markets provide us with material well-being, as if by an invisible hand. In Phishing for Phools, Nobel Prize–winning economists George Akerlof and Robert Shiller deliver a fundamental challenge to this insight, arguing that markets harm as well as help us. As long as there is profit to be made, sellers will systematically exploit our psychological weaknesses and our ignorance through manipulation and deception. Rather than being essentially benign and always creating the greater good, markets are inherently filled with tricks and traps and will “phish” us as “phools.”
Phishing for Phools therefore strikes a radically new direction in economics, based on the intuitive idea that markets both give and take away. Akerlof and Shiller bring this idea to life through dozens of stories that show how phishing affects everyone, in almost every walk of life.
Talk followed by Q&A, book signing and reception. Reservations are required.
The Pitfalls of a Free Market System
The free market is designed to trick us–at least, that’s what Nobel Prize-winner Robert Shiller argues in his new book Phishing for Phools. His take is simple: contrary to what Adam Smith taught us (that the free market primarily helps us) Shiller says it provides some benefits, but it’s also designed to sneakily chip away at our life’s savings. Hailed as an “entertaining and lively” account (Joseph Stiglitz) the book gives concrete examples of how the market we put so much faith in is ruining us–from overpriced gym memberships and higher credit card limits, to manipulative advertisements and big name pharmaceuticals. He’ll challenge the free market norms we’ve come to trust, explain why people should question basic capitalist assumptions, and use the daily economics everyone encounters as a social commentary on the country’s financial state.
Ever since Adam Smith, the central teaching of economics has been that free markets provide us with material well-being, as if by an invisible hand. In “Phishing for Phools,” Nobel Prize-winning economists George Akerlof and Robert Shiller deliver a fundamental challenge to this insight, arguing that markets harm as well as help us. As long as there is profit to be made, sellers will systematically exploit our psychological weaknesses and our ignorance through manipulation and deception. Rather than being essentially benign and always creating the greater good, markets are inherently filled with tricks and traps and will “phish” us as “phools.”
“Phishing for Phools” therefore strikes a radically new direction in economics, based on the intuitive idea that markets both give and take away. Akerlof and Shiller bring this idea to life through dozens of stories that show how phishing affects everyone, in almost every walk of life. We spend our money up to the limit, and then worry about how to pay the next month’s bills. The financial system soars, then crashes. We are attracted, more than we know, by advertising. Our political system is distorted by money. We pay too much for gym memberships, cars, houses, and credit cards. Drug companies ingeniously market pharmaceuticals that do us little good, and sometimes are downright dangerous.
“Phishing for Phools” explores the central role of manipulation and deception in fascinating detail in each of these areas and many more. It thereby explains a paradox: why, at a time when we are better off than ever before in history, all too many of us are leading lives of quiet desperation. At the same time, the book tells stories of individuals who have stood against economic trickery–and how it can be reduced through greater knowledge, reform, and regulation.