Martin Gardner’s Birthday Bash Celebration

Undiluted Hocus PocusMartin Gardner, an acclaimed popular mathematics and science writer and author of Undiluted Hocus-Pocus: The Autobiography of Martin Gardner, would have had his 99th birthday this month. In honor of this special occasion, the mathematical community is putting together a number of birthday celebrations.

MoMath joins the fun on October 26th from 10:00 – 5:00 with a Celebration of the Mind.

At this family-friendly event, math fans of all ages will enjoy some close-up magic tricks, explore favorite Gardner puzzles, and make their own hexaflexagon to take home (how many people can say they have their own hexaflexagon?!). As an added challenge, try to spot the two exhibits that Gardner asked Museum directors to include in MoMath.

Later that evening, MoMath will welcome Martin Gardner’s son James Gardner and a panel of experts for a discussion:

Event: Who is Martin Gardner? A Conversation with Friends, Colleagues, and Family
Date and Time: Saturday, October 26, 6:30 pm
What is it? A panel of people who knew Martin Gardner well will share their favorite stories about him and reveal just how important his contributions have been to mathematics and to math lovers around the world. Ask questions, talk with the presenters, and share your own memories and stories.
Who is participating? James Gardner (University of Oklahoma, Martin Gardner’s son)
John Conway (Emeritus Professor of Mathematics, Princeton University)
Mark Setteducati (President, Gathering 4 Gardner)
Neil Sloane (The OEIS Foundation and Rutgers University)
Colm Mulcahy (Spelman College and Author of Mathematical Card Magic: Fifty-Two New Effects)
Location: National Museum of Mathematics
11 East 26th Street, New York, NY 10010
Contact: (212) 542-0566 | info@momath.org

Space will fill up for this event, so please pre-register here: http://momath.org/about/upcoming-events/)


There are many Celebration of Mind events taking place around the world. Check out the map (http://celebrationofmind.org/) to find events close to you.

Come and celebrate the joy of math!

The Alzheimer Enigma in an Ageing World

Margaret LockA lecture by Professor Margaret Lock , author of The Alzheimer Conundrum: Entanglements of Dementia and Aging and a Marjorie Bronfman Professor in Social Studies of Medicine, Emerita, Dept. of Social Studies of Medicine, McGill University, will be taking place on October 24th.

This lecture has been convened by Dr Sahra Gibbon to form part of UCL’s Festival of Ageing and is supported by UCL Science Medicine and Society Network and UCL Anthropology.

The event is free (you can register here) and will be taking place from 6:00-7:30 PM in Gordon Square, London. For more details about the event itself, click here or email human-wellbeing@ucl.ac.uk.

lock_alzheimer11111Alzheimer’s disease is increasingly described today as an epidemic, with estimates of 115 million cases worldwide by 2050. Less visible are the ongoing epistemological arguments in the medical world about the observed entanglements of AD type dementia with “normal” aging, and the repeated efforts to delineate what exactly constitutes this elusive yet devastating condition. In early 2011 official statements appeared in relevant medical journals about a so-called paradigm shift involving a move towards a preventative approach to AD in which the detection of biomarkers indicative of prodromal Alzheimer’s disease is central. In this talk I will discuss the significance of risk predictions associated with such biomarkers, and the irresolvable uncertainties such information raises for involved individuals and families.

 

Q&A with Douglas Stone, Author of “Einstein and the Quantum”

Einstein and the QuantumA. Douglas Stone is the Carl A. Morse Professor of Applied Physics and Physics at Yale University. His book, Einstein and the Quantum: The Quest of the Valiant Swabian, reveals for the first time the full significance of Albert Einstein’s contributions to quantum theory. Einstein famously rejected quantum mechanics, observing that God does not play dice. But, in fact, he thought more about the nature of atoms, molecules, and the emission and absorption of light–the core of what we now know as quantum theory–than he did about relativity.

In a recent interview, A. Douglas Stone talked about Einstein’s contributions to the scientific community, quantum theory, and his new book, Einstein and the Quantum: The Quest of the Valiant Swabian.



Why does quantum theory matter?
At the beginning of the 20th century science was facing a fundamental roadblock: scientists did not understand the laws governing the atoms and molecules of which all materials are made, but which are unobservable due to their size.

At that time there was a real question whether the human mind was capable of understanding this microscopic realm, outside of all our direct experience of the world.  The development and success of quantum theory was a turning point for modern civilization, enabling most of the scientific advances and revolutionary technologies of the century that followed.

What are some of the ways that quantum theory has changed our lives?
There is a common misconception that quantum mechanics is mainly about very weird phenomena, remote from everyday life, such as Schrodinger’s cat, exotic sub-atomic particles, black holes, or the Big Bang.  Actually it is a precise quantitative tool to understand the materials, chemical reactions and devices we employ in modern industries, such as semiconductors, solar cells, and lasers.  An early success of the quantum theory was to help predict how to extract ammonia from the air, which could then be used as fertilizer for the green revolution that revolutionized 20th century agriculture. And of course our ability to develop both nuclear weapons and nuclear power was completely dependent upon quantum theory.

Why is Einstein’s role in quantum theory important and interesting?
It is important because a careful examination of the historical record shows that Einstein was responsible for more of the fundamental new concepts of the theory than any other single scientist.  This is arguably his greatest scientific legacy, despite his fame for Relativity Theory.  He himself said, “I have thought a hundred times more about the quantum problems than I have about Relativity Theory”. It is interesting because he ultimately refused to accept quantum theory as the ultimate truth about Nature, because it violated his core philosophical principles.

So you are saying that Einstein is famous for the wrong theory?
In a certain sense, yes.  All physicists agree that the theory of relativity, particularly general relativity, is a work of staggering individual genius.  But in terms of impact on human society and history, quantum mechanics is simply much more important.  In fact, relativity theory is incorporated into important parts of modern quantum mechanics, but in many contexts it is irrelevant.

In what ways was Einstein central to the development of the theory?
I estimate that his contributions to quantum theory would have been worthy of four Nobel Prizes if different scientists had done them, compared to the one that he received. I go through each of these contributions in its historical and biographical context in the book.

Can you give a few examples?
Quantum theory gets its name because it says that certain physical quantities, including the energies of electrons bound to atomic nuclei are quantized, meaning that only certain energies are allowed, whereas in macroscopic physics energy is a continuously varying quantity.  Typically the German physicist, Max Planck, is credited with the insight that energy must be quantized at the molecular scale, but the detailed history shows Einstein role in this conceptual breakthrough was greater.
Another key thing in quantum theory is that fundamental particles, while they move in space, sometimes behave as if they were spread out, like a wave in water, but in other contexts they appear as particles, i.e. very localized point-like objects.  Einstein introduced this “wave-particle duality” first, in 1905 (his “miracle year”), when he proposed that light, long thought to be an electromagnetic wave, also could behave like a particle, now known as the photon.
Yet another, very unusual concept in quantum theory is that fundamental particles, such as photons, are “indistinguishable” in a technical sense.  When many photons are bunched together it makes no sense to ask which is which.  This changes their physical properties in a very important way, and this insight is often attributed to the Indian physicist, S. N. Bose (hence the term “boson”).  In my view Einstein played a larger role in this advance than did Bose, although he always very generously gave Bose a great deal of credit.
The stories of these and other findings are fully told in the book and they illustrate new aspects of Einstein’s genius, unknown to the public and even to many working scientists.

What did Einstein object to about quantum theory?
Initially he reacted strongly against the intrinsic randomness and uncertainty of quantum mechanics, saying “God does not play dice”.  But after that his main objection was that quantum theory seems to break down the distinction between the subjective world of human experience and the objective description of physical reality that he considered the goal of physics, and his central mission in life. Many physicists struggle with this issue even today.

Why is Einstein’s role in quantum theory underappreciated?
Einstein ultimately rejected the theory and moved on to other areas of research, so he never emphasized the extent of his contributions.  His own autobiographical notes, written in his seventies, understate his role to an almost laughable degree. Second, Einstein’s version of quantum theory, wave mechanics, did not create a school of followers, whereas Niels Bohr, Werner Heisenberg and others reached the same point be a different route. Their school fostered the primary research thrust in atomic and nuclear physics, gradually causing the memory of Einstein’s role to fade.  Finally, the history of Einstein’s involvement with quantum theory was long (1905-1925) and complex, and few people really understand it all; I try to remedy that in this book.

Did Einstein do anything important in quantum physics after the basic theory was known?
No and yes.  He did not work in the main stream of elementary particle physics which developed shortly after the basic theory was discovered in the late nineteen twenties, since he refused to employ the standard mathematical machinery of quantum theory which everyone else used.  However, in the early 1930’s he identified a conceptual feature of quantum theory missed by all the other pioneers, which became known by the term “entanglement”. This concept, ironically, is critical to the most revolutionary area of modern quantum physics, quantum information theory and quantum computing.

What does the subtitle of the book refer to? Who is the “Valiant Swabian”?
The Valiant Swabian was a fictional crusader knight, the hero of a poem by Ludwig Uhland, a poet from Swabia where Einstein was born. In his twenties, Einstein used to refer to himself jokingly by this name, particularly with his first wife, Mileva Maric.  It was a similar to someone today calling himself “Indiana Jones” for fun.  The young Einstein was a charismatic and memorable personality, with great joie de vivre, as this nickname indicates.  He was known for his sense of humor, his rebelliousness, and for his attractiveness to women, in contrast to the benevolent, grandfatherly, star-gazer we associate with iconic pictures of the white-maned sage of later years.

How did you research this book? What materials did you have access to?
There is a very extensive trove of letters and private papers that survive in Einstein’s estate, all of which have been translated and published for the period 1886 to 1922.  From reading all of these I got a good sense of his personality.  And all of his important scientific papers in the relevant time period are available in English now, so I was able to go back and see exactly how he arrived at his revolutionary ideas about quantum theory, which I then did my best to interpret in layman’s terms. In addition I relied on several excellent biographies by Folsing, Isaacson and Pais, and historical articles by many leading historians of science, such as T.S. Kuhn and Martin Klein.

What do you hope readers take away from reading Einstein and the Quantum?
First, new insight into Einstein’s genius, and a sense of the personality of the young Einstein, before his fame. Second, appreciation of the historic significance of the successful attempt to understand the atom through quantum theory, a turning point in human civilization. Third, an understanding of how science advances as a creative, human process, with both brilliant insights and embarrassing blunders, affected by psychological and philosophical influences.

Neuro

Neuro by Nikolas Rose & Joelle M. Abi-Rached “The ‘neurofication’ of the humanities, social sciences, public policy, and the law has attracted promoters and detractors. What we have lacked until now is a critical but open-minded look at ‘neuro.’ This is what Rose and Abi-Rached have given us in this thoughtful and well-researched book. They do not jump on the neuro bandwagon, but instead offer a clear accounting of its appeal, its precedents in psychology and genetics, its genuine importance, and ultimately its limitations. A fascinating and important book.”–Martha J. Farah, University of Pennsylvania

Neuro:
The New Brain Sciences and the Management of the Mind
by Nikolas Rose & Joelle M. Abi-Rached

The brain sciences are influencing our understanding of human behavior as never before, from neuropsychiatry and neuroeconomics to neurotheology and neuroaesthetics. Many now believe that the brain is what makes us human, and it seems that neuroscientists are poised to become the new experts in the management of human conduct. Neuro describes the key developments–theoretical, technological, economic, and biopolitical–that have enabled the neurosciences to gain such traction outside the laboratory. It explores the ways neurobiological conceptions of personhood are influencing everything from child rearing to criminal justice, and are transforming the ways we “know ourselves” as human beings. In this emerging neuro-ontology, we are not “determined” by our neurobiology: on the contrary, it appears that we can and should seek to improve ourselves by understanding and acting on our brains.

Neuro examines the implications of this emerging trend, weighing the promises against the perils, and evaluating some widely held concerns about a neurobiological “colonization” of the social and human sciences. Despite identifying many exaggerated claims and premature promises, Neuro argues that the openness provided by the new styles of thought taking shape in neuroscience, with its contemporary conceptions of the neuromolecular, plastic, and social brain, could make possible a new and productive engagement between the social and brain sciences.

Endorsements

Table of Contents

Watch Nikolas Rose describe how the recent developments in the neurosciences are changing the way individuals consider their identity in health and disease

Sample this book:

Introduction [PDF]

Request an examination copy.

 

How to Build a Habitable Planet

How to Build a Habitable Planet by Charles H. Langmuir & Wally Broecker “To be worth being this unwieldy, a book ought to do something pretty remarkable. And that’s just what How to Build . . . does, as you can tell from its subtitle, The Story of Earth from the Big Bang to Humankind. Now that’s what you call a large canvas.”–Brian Clegg, Popular Science

How to Build a Habitable Planet:
The Story of Earth from the Big Bang to Humankind
by Charles H. Langmuir & Wally Broecker

Since its first publication more than twenty-five years ago, How to Build a Habitable Planet has established a legendary reputation as an accessible yet scientifically impeccable introduction to the origin and evolution of Earth, from the Big Bang through the rise of human civilization. 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. Harvard geochemist Charles Langmuir has worked closely with the original author, Wally Broecker, one of the world’s leading Earth scientists, to revise and expand the book for a new generation of readers for whom active planetary stewardship is becoming imperative.

Interweaving physics, astronomy, chemistry, geology, and biology, this sweeping account tells Earth’s complete story, from the synthesis of chemical elements in stars, to the formation of the Solar System, to the evolution of a habitable climate on Earth, to the origin of life and humankind. The book also addresses the search for other habitable worlds in the Milky Way and contemplates whether Earth will remain habitable as our influence on global climate grows. It concludes by considering the ways in which humankind can sustain Earth’s habitability and perhaps even participate in further planetary evolution.

Like no other book, How to Build a Habitable Planet provides an understanding of Earth in its broadest context, as well as a greater appreciation of its possibly rare ability to sustain life over geologic time.

Endorsements

Watch Wally Broecker deliver a public lecture addressing the global CO2 crisis at Columbia University

Table of Contents

Sample this book:

Preface [PDF]

Chapter 1 [PDF]

Request an examination copy.

 

TOMORROW: W. Bernard Carlson to be interviewed on The Diane Rehm Show

TheDianeRehmShow.org

W. Bernard Carlson - Corcoran Department of History: University of VirginiaTune into The Diane Rehm Show 11:06 a.m. (ET) for an interview with W. Bernard Carlson, author of Tesla: Inventor of the Electrical Age.

Each week, more than 2.4 million listeners across the country tune in to The Diane Rehm Show, which has grown from a small local morning call-in show on Washington’s WAMU 88.5 to one of public broadcasting’s most-listened-to programs. In 2007 and 2008, the show placed among the top ten most powerful public radio programs, based on its ability to draw listeners to public radio stations. It is the only live call-in talk show on the list.

Diane’s guests include many of the nation’s top newsmakers, journalists and authors. Guests include former president Bill Clinton, General Tommy Franks, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Julie Andrews and Toni Morrison. Newsweek magazine calls the program one of the most interesting talk shows in the country. The National Journal says Diane is “the class act of the talk radio world.”

Each hour includes dialogue with listeners who call, e-mail, Tweet or post to Facebook to join Diane’s virtual community and take part in a civil exchange of ideas.

To find a station near you in the U.S. that broadcasts The Diane Rehm Show, click here: http://thedianerehmshow.org/stations

For stations outside of the United States, visit NPR Worldwide: http://www.npr.org/templates/stations/stations/

Look at the W. Bernard Carlson interview information on The Diane Rehm Show website: http://thedianerehmshow.org/shows/2013-07-10/w-bernard-carlson-tesla-inventor-electric-age

Tesla:
Inventor of the Electrical Age

W. Bernard Carlson

Tesla: Inventor of the Electrical Age by W. Bernard CarlsonNikola Tesla was a major contributor to the electrical revolution that transformed daily life at the turn of the twentieth century. His inventions, patents, and theoretical work formed the basis of modern AC electricity, and contributed to the development of radio and television. Like his competitor Thomas Edison, Tesla was one of America’s first celebrity scientists, enjoying the company of New York high society and dazzling the likes of Mark Twain with his electrical demonstrations. An astute self-promoter and gifted showman, he cultivated a public image of the eccentric genius. Even at the end of his life when he was living in poverty, Tesla still attracted reporters to his annual birthday interview, regaling them with claims that he had invented a particle-beam weapon capable of bringing down enemy aircraft.

Plenty of biographies glamorize Tesla and his eccentricities, but until now none has carefully examined what, how, and why he invented. In this groundbreaking book, W. Bernard Carlson demystifies the legendary inventor, placing him within the cultural and technological context of his time, and focusing on his inventions themselves as well as the creation and maintenance of his celebrity. Drawing on original documents from Tesla’s private and public life, Carlson shows how he was an “idealist” inventor who sought the perfect experimental realization of a great idea or principle, and who skillfully sold his inventions to the public through mythmaking and illusion.

This major biography sheds new light on Tesla’s visionary approach to invention and the business strategies behind his most important technological breakthroughs.

W. Bernard Carlson is professor of science, technology, and society in the School of Engineering and Applied Science and professor of history at the University of Virginia. His books include Technology in World History and Innovation as a Social Process: Elihu Thomson and the Rise of General Electric, 1870-1900.

Review:

“Carlson sheds light on the man and plenty of his inventions. . . . [An] electric portrait.”–Publishers Weekly

“Superb. . . . Carlson brings to life Tesla’s extravagant self-promotion, as well as his eccentricity and innate talents, revealing him as a celebrity-inventor of the ‘second industrial revolution’ to rival Thomas Alva Edison.”–W. Patrick McCray, Nature

“A scholarly, critical, mostly illuminating study of the life and work of the great Serbian inventor.”–Kirkus Reviews

“Carlson even has something to teach readers familiar with Seifer’s dissection of Tesla’s tortured psyche in Wizard (2001) and O’Neill’s much earlier chronicle of Tesla’s childhood and early career in Prodigal Genius (1944). Carlson provides not only a more detailed explanation of Tesla’s science but also a more focused psychological account of Tesla’s inventive process than do his predecessors. Carlson also surpasses his predecessors in showing how Tesla promoted his inventions by creating luminous illusions of progress, prosperity, and peace, illusions so strong that they finally unhinge their creator. An exceptional fusion of technical analysis of revolutionary devices and imaginative sympathy for a lacerated ego.”–Bryce Christensen, Booklist starred review

“This is a fascinating glimpse into the life of a monumental inventor whose impact on our contemporary world is all too unfamiliar to the general public. Carlson relates the science behind Tesla’s inventions with a judicial balance that will engage both the novice and the academic alike. Highly recommended to serious biography buffs and to readers of scientific subjects.”–Brian Odom, Library Journal

TUESDAY, June 25 (2pm – 4pm): Book Signing with W. Bernard Carlson at the Warner Bros. Theater

National Museum of American History

Book Signing: W. Bernard Carlson

TUESDAY, JUNE 25, 2013, 2 – 4PM

Categories: Lectures & Discussions, Shopping/Book Signing
Co-sponsor: Lemelson Center for the Study of Invention and Innovation
Date: Tuesday, June 25th, 2013
Time: 2:00 PM – 4:00 PM.
Address: 14th Street and Constitution Avenue, NW Washington, D.C., 20001
Venue: American History Museum
Location: Warner Bros. Theater, 1st Floor, Center
Cost: Cost of entry is free. Books are available for sale in the Museum Store.

W. Bernard Carlson discusses his new book Tesla: Inventor of the Electrical Age. He places the legendary inventor within the cultural and technological context of his time and focuses on his inventions themselves as well as the creation and maintenance of his celebrity. Drawing on original documents from Tesla’s private and public life, Carlson shows how he was an “idealist” inventor who sought the perfect experimental realization of a great idea or principle, and who skillfully sold his inventions to the public through myth making and illusion. This major biography sheds new light on Tesla’s visionary approach to invention and the business strategies behind his most important technological breakthroughs. Book signing follows.

View the event on the National Museum of American History’s website: http://americanhistory.si.edu/events/?trumbaEmbed=view%3Devent%26eventid%3D105830002

What Is The Warner Bros. Theater?

Ranging from documentary screenings with expert panel discussions to Classic Film Festivals held in conjunction with Warner Bros., there is something of interest for nearly every visitor. The National Museum of American History is committed to exploring the legacy of American cinema as well as how film culture shapes how we perceive ourselves as Americans. The Warner Bros. Theater has state-of-the-art audio visual equipment, including 3-D capability. Made possible through a generous $5 million donation by Warner Bros., the theater allows the National Museum of American History to provide visitors with new and exciting opportunities to explore the art of film. Since its opening in 2012, the theater has hosted a full roster of public programs, from screenings, lectures, and concerts to demonstrations and film festivals.

Who Is W. Bernard Carlson?

W. Bernard Carlson, author of Tesla: Inventor of the Electrical AgeW. Bernard Carlson is a Professor at the University of Virginia, with appointments in the Department of Science, Technology, and Society (School of Engineering) and the History Department (College of Arts and Sciences). He received his Ph.D in the history and sociology of science from the University of Pennsylvania and did his postdoctoral work in business history at the Harvard Business School. He has held visiting appointments at Stanford University and the University of Manchester.

Professor Carlson is an expert on the role of technology and innovation in American history, and his research focuses on how inventors, engineers, and managers used technology in the development of major firms between the Civil War and World War I. His publications include Technology in World History, 7 volumes (Oxford University Press, 2005) as well as Innovation as a Social Process: Elihu Thomson and the Rise of General Electric, 1870-1900 (Cambridge University Press, 1991; paper reprint 2002). In 2008, Technology in World History was awarded the Sally Hacker Prize by the Society for the History of Technology. With support from the Sloan Foundation, he is currently completing a biography of the inventor Nikola Tesla.

He coordinates the Engineering Business Minor at UVA and teaches a course on “Engineers as Entrepreneurs.” He is an expert on the role of innovation in American history, specifically on how inventors, engineers, and managers used technology between 1875 and 1925 to create new systems and enterprises. With support from the Sloan Foundation, he has completed a biography of the inventor Nikola Tesla, which will appear in 2013.

Carlson has served on the board of trustees of the National Inventors Hall of Fame, and is currently serving as the executive secretary for the Society for the History of Technology. He received his Ph.D. in the history and sociology of science from the University of Pennsylvania in 1984 and did postdoctoral work in business history at the Harvard Business School.

Biography Credits:
TechnologyInWorldHistory.com and bridges magazine

Fields & Specialties
  • History of Technology; American Business History; Entrepreneurship; Social and Cognitive Theories of Innovation

Education
  • A.B. Holy Cross College 1977
  • M.A. Univ. of Pennsylvania 1981
  • Ph.D. Univ. of Pennsylvania 1984

Awards
  • Scholar in Residence, Deutsches Museum, Munich, May-June 2010.
  • Sally Hacker Prize for Best Popular Book, Society for the History of Technology, 2008.
  • National Science Foundation, Science and Technology Studies Program, grant for “Rethinking Technology, Nature, and Society: A Research and Training Program,” 2004-2007. With John K. Brown and Edmund P. Russell.
  • Sloan Foundation grant for a biography of Nikola Tesla, 1997-2000.
  • Newcomen Fellow in Business and Economic History, Graduate School of Business Administration, Harvard University, 1988-1989.

Activities
  • Executive Secretary, Society for the History of Technology, 2009-11.
  • Co-Editor, MIT Press series on “Inside Technology: New Social and Historical Approaches to Technology,” with Wiebe Bijker and Trevor J. Pinch. Since 1987. Fifty books have been published.
  • Trustee, Newcomen Society of the United States, 1990-2009.
  • Trustee, Business History Conference, 1999-2001.

Current Research
  • The [Oxford] Handbook of the History of Technology. Under contract to Oxford University Press. Serving as general editor.

Professional and Education Information Credit:
Corcoran Department of History at the University of Virginia

Tesla: Inventor of the Electrical Age

Tesla: Inventor of the Electrical Age by W. Bernard CarlsonNikola Tesla was a major contributor to the electrical revolution that transformed daily life at the turn of the twentieth century. His inventions, patents, and theoretical work formed the basis of modern AC electricity, and contributed to the development of radio and television. Like his competitor Thomas Edison, Tesla was one of America’s first celebrity scientists, enjoying the company of New York high society and dazzling the likes of Mark Twain with his electrical demonstrations. An astute self-promoter and gifted showman, he cultivated a public image of the eccentric genius. Even at the end of his life when he was living in poverty, Tesla still attracted reporters to his annual birthday interview, regaling them with claims that he had invented a particle-beam weapon capable of bringing down enemy aircraft.

Plenty of biographies glamorize Tesla and his eccentricities, but until now none has carefully examined what, how, and why he invented. In this groundbreaking book, W. Bernard Carlson demystifies the legendary inventor, placing him within the cultural and technological context of his time, and focusing on his inventions themselves as well as the creation and maintenance of his celebrity. Drawing on original documents from Tesla’s private and public life, Carlson shows how he was an “idealist” inventor who sought the perfect experimental realization of a great idea or principle, and who skillfully sold his inventions to the public through mythmaking and illusion.

This major biography sheds new light on Tesla’s visionary approach to invention and the business strategies behind his most important technological breakthroughs.

Review:

“Carlson sheds light on the man and plenty of his inventions. . . . [An] electric portrait.”–Publishers Weekly

“Superb. . . . Carlson brings to life Tesla’s extravagant self-promotion, as well as his eccentricity and innate talents, revealing him as a celebrity-inventor of the ‘second industrial revolution’ to rival Thomas Alva Edison.”–W. Patrick McCray, Nature

“A scholarly, critical, mostly illuminating study of the life and work of the great Serbian inventor.”–Kirkus Reviews

“Carlson even has something to teach readers familiar with Seifer’s dissection of Tesla’s tortured psyche in Wizard (2001) and O’Neill’s much earlier chronicle of Tesla’s childhood and early career in Prodigal Genius (1944). Carlson provides not only a more detailed explanation of Tesla’s science but also a more focused psychological account of Tesla’s inventive process than do his predecessors. Carlson also surpasses his predecessors in showing how Tesla promoted his inventions by creating luminous illusions of progress, prosperity, and peace, illusions so strong that they finally unhinge their creator. An exceptional fusion of technical analysis of revolutionary devices and imaginative sympathy for a lacerated ego.”–Bryce Christensen, Booklist starred review

“This is a fascinating glimpse into the life of a monumental inventor whose impact on our contemporary world is all too unfamiliar to the general public. Carlson relates the science behind Tesla’s inventions with a judicial balance that will engage both the novice and the academic alike. Highly recommended to serious biography buffs and to readers of scientific subjects.”–Brian Odom, Library Journal

“Carlson deftly weaves the many threads of Tesla’s story.”–Nicola Davis, Times

“Splendid.”–Jon Turney, Times Higher Education

 

Interview: How to Build a Habitable Planet author Charles H. Langmuir explains How to Build a Comprehensible Publication

1) The original edition of “How to Build a Habitable Planet,” written and published by Wally Broecker in 1985, is a legend within the university community for both its unusual breadth and clarity.  One of the first books on the Earth system, it did something very new by weaving together many fields that were traditionally kept separate — physics, chemistry, astronomy, all the Earth sciences, and biology — into one, jargon-free narrative.  What was the original inspiration behind the writing of this unusual book?

 

The growing interest in what NASA referred to as habitability.

2)  Since publication, this book been used more and more widely within introductory Geology and Earth Science courses, even inspiring courses built around the structure and contents of the book, entitled “How to Build a Habitable Planet.”  Did Broecker originally intend for the book to be used within courses?  What about this book makes it so ideal for course use?

 

The book breaks with the tradition of teaching Earth science as a collection of sub-disciplines—minerals, rocks, volcanoes, glaciers, plate tectonics, etc.  Instead, we try to have the reader learn where he or she comes from and how human beings are a consequence of an entire history beginning with the Big Bang.  So, the book combines the traditional “physical geology” and “historical geology” approaches and includes material from both of them in the context of the overall story of Earth’s evolution, its connection to the rise of Homo sapiens, and our influence and potential role on the planet.  Another aspect is the central role that biology plays in Earth’s evolution, and the importance of the interactions between all aspects of Earth, its interior, exterior, life and the cosmos.

 

3)  Charles Langmuir: You teach a course at Harvard – called, “How to Build a Habitable Planet.”  How did you originally start using the book in your course?  What is the background of the students in your course, and how many students does your course typically attract each year?  What do you hope your students will take away from taking your course and reading this book?

 

I started teaching the course, because I was working on the new version of the book.  I used draft chapters in the course and, through teaching it each year, the subject stayed alive.  I also saw what material engaged the students, and what material seemed tedious to them.  The Harvard course is a general education course — one that is designed for the non-science major.  Science majors find the course easy.  People who have not taken any science course for years can find it challenging. In my view every college student – actually, every educated human being – should know the essential elements of the story of the Earth and where we come from.  How can we engage effectively as modern citizens without such knowledge?  We do not necessarily need to know that glaciers make u-shaped valleys and rivers make v-shaped valleys, cool as that is; but, we do need to know where we come from and how we got here, and the implications that has for our planet. I hope that the students will be able to explain to their friends and family how we know the Big Bang is true, why plate tectonics and evolution are facts as well as theory, and the unique place that human beings occupy in human history – possibly marking the beginning of a new eon of geological time, should we survive that long.

 

The course at Harvard has 60 students in it this year. That, to me, is an ideal size, as it is possible to interact with the students on a personal basis and, at the same time, reach a group of significant size.

 

4)  A few years ago, you (Charles Langmuir and Wally Broecker) began collaborating on a newly revised and expanded edition of “How to Build a Habitable Planet.”  How did the idea for this collaboration and revision come about?

 

Wally pointed out that despite the book’s title, the book had no biology in it, and was weak in terms of its treatment of the solid earth.  I had been teaching half of a one semester course in introductory geology at Columbia using parts of the original book, so Wally asked me if I would like to add a couple of chapters to the original book, on plate tectonics and the origin of life.  I knew nothing about the origin of life, but loved the original edition and decided to take it on.   I then started to learn much more about many aspects of earth evolution, and the book gradually grew to its current size, as I realized that evolution, the rise of oxygen, and the recent work on the discovery of extra-solar planets all needed to be included, as well as the origin of life and more on Earth’s interior.

 

5) Why did you feel that a new edition was needed?  How is the new edition different from the original edition?

 

The new edition is far more comprehensive, with more than twice the number of chapters of the original edition.  Life is now central to the book, and the origin of life, evolution, the transformation of Earth’s exterior by life, and the connections among life, the solid Earth, atmosphere, ocean and cosmos are now a pervasive theme throughout the book.   Ocean ridges, convergent margins, mantle convection and the plate tectonic geochemical cycle are also major new additions.  All of the chapters, of course, are almost entirely rewritten to reflect the astounding growth in knowledge and understanding that has occurred over the last twenty-five years.

 

6) One of the later chapters of the book is called “Mankind at the Helm.”  How do you feel that the book informs new readers about the state of the art of climate science, and what the fate and role of our species is on our habitable planet, Earth?

 

We attempt to pose this problem in the context of our overall understanding of our planet. As a species, we are transforming the planet at a rate as fast or faster than many of the great era and eon boundaries of the past, and this is happening within our lifetimes.  It is astounding.  It is all made possible by our access to “Earth’s treasure chest,” which was gradually built up over billions of years of planetary history.  At the same time, a planet with intelligent life and civilization on it is a very different “being” than a planet without such capability.  For the first time there is the possibility of monitoring and understanding planetary systems, communicating with other intelligent life, should it exist, and transforming many planetary processes, including evolution and climate.

 

For climate science, we try to put the current situation in a larger context. It is not just that CO2 is rising, but that the rate of change is far faster then glacial to interglacial transitions, and that human emissions are several hundred times the emissions of volcanoes, which have been a major control on climate modulation over Earth history.  And Earth makes new oil at the rate that one gas station pumps gas.  We are using up hundreds of millions of years of Earth’s fossil fuel production in a few centuries.   These kinds of simple facts put the enormity of human actions in a different context than saying that CO2 is going up in the atmosphere by a few ppm per year and what the consequences are of that.

 

7)  You also write about planetary evolution and the role of extinctions and catastrophes in the history of a planet.  What are some of the ways in which catastrophes have affected our planet’s evolution in its history?

 

Catastrophes driving from Earth’s interior, the cosmos, and possibly life and climate have been a central aspect of Earth’s evolution.  Catastrophes interact with evolution in important ways, clearing out the ecospace so that new evolutionary innovations can flourish. Snowball Earth episodes may be related to the rise of oxygen.  Most mass extinctions seem to be associated with massive volcanism stemming from the core mantle boundary, and some associated with meteorite impacts.  Catastrophes are often at the same time disasters and opportunities.  The rise of oxygen can be viewed in the same way.  It was a toxic pollutant for anaerobic organisms, and is intrinsically harmful to organic matter, which breaks down in the presence of oxygen.  But, it also held the potential for an energy revolution in metabolism that permitted aerobic organisms and ultimately the rise of multi-cellular life.  It is important not to be naïve about change.  Change is inevitable.  It can be both crisis and opportunity.

 

8)  Some say that we are in the midst of a “6th extinction” event, largely caused by humans.  Do you think that there is evidence for this view?

 

Yes.  In the book we look at extinctions in terms of the “half-life” of organisms.  Looked at in that way, there is an objective assessment of whether the current extinction rate is unusual or not in a planetary context.  Life changes rapidly—there is almost complete species turnover in about 43 million years, based on the geological record. Human beings have accelerated extinction rates by ten thousand times relative to the background level that can be quantified for the Phanerozoic. If emergence of new species had been similarly accelerated, some 20% of Earth species would be new in the past two centuries.  This shows the magnitude of the human influence.  Mass extinctions of the past cannot be constrained to less than a few hundred thousand years.  We may be in the midst of one of the most rapid mass extinctions in planetary history; but, of course, it is not yet complete.  There is the possibility for us to preserve much of the biodiversity of the planet, but that seems unlikely without a major change in human behavior.

 

9)  Another of your chapters, entitled “Are We Alone?,” speaks to the fact that ~ 700 extrasolar planets have been discovered since the original edition was published.  What are some of the ways in which studying other planets and seeking other habitable worlds informs our understanding of our own planet’s climate and evolution?

 

Of course, this is one of the most exciting developments of modern science.  The discoveries to date have been constrained by the methods to exclude truly Earth-like planets (not only in terms of size, but also distance from their star), but that will change in coming years.  Perhaps the most exciting development will be if evidence is found for life anywhere else.  If it is, then life is pervasive throughout the universe.  It is very hard to know whether life is a natural, pervasive planetary process, or whether unique aspects of Earth’s history permitted it—right habitable zone in the galaxy, right habitable zone around a star, just the right volatile budget, a large moon, and so on.  But, if we find life any one other place, and we can only look at less than one in a billion places, then life is essentially everywhere.

 

The other important aspect is all the strange solar systems being discovered, so different from our own, greatly expand our understanding and imagination concerning life elsewhere.

 

10)  Since the original edition was so widely read, you must have heard stories from readers, about the effect that the book had on them.  Could you share one such story?  What effect do you hope this new edition of this classic book will have on its readers?

The most heartening comments are ones I commonly hear at the end of the course or in the evaluations, such as “I never knew science could be so interesting” or “Everyone should know this stuff!”  Just yesterday in office hours, one student said to me that she had been tutoring elementary school children, and they asked where the moon came from.  She told them about the giant impact theory, and she said the children’s eyes opened wide, and they became animated, asking all kinds of questions. One of them said, “Oh dear, what happened to all the people?”  To me, this reflected our natural human interest in our planet and where we come from, and the innate concern that is there within us, often submerged, for our fellow human beings.  In those two aspects of our nature, present in children, latent in all of us, may be a hope for the future.

 

 

bookjacket   How to Build a Habitable Planet:
The Story of Earth from the Big Bang to Humankind (Revised and Expanded Edition)

Charles H. Langmuir & Wally Broecker

Since its first publication more than twenty-five years ago, How to Build a Habitable Planet has established a legendary reputation as an accessible yet scientifically impeccable introduction to the origin and evolution of Earth, from the Big Bang through the rise of human civilization. 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. Harvard geochemist Charles Langmuir has worked closely with the original author, Wally Broecker, one of the world’s leading Earth scientists, to revise and expand the book for a new generation of readers for whom active planetary stewardship is becoming imperative.

“To be worth being this unwieldy, a book ought to do something pretty remarkable. And that’s just what How to Build . . . does, as you can tell from its subtitle, The Story of Earth from the Big Bang to Humankind. Now that’s what you call a large canvas.”–Brian Clegg, Popular Science

BOOK FACT FRIDAY

FACT: “When water boils, the liquid is converted into gas. This requires a great deal of energy—the energy of vaporization. While to heat one gram of water by one degree takes one calorie, to convert that gram of water to gas takes 539 calories.”

How to Build a Habitable Planet:
The Story of Earth from the Big Bang to Humankind
(Revised and Expanded Edition)

by Charles H. Langmuir & Wally Broecker

Since its first publication more than twenty-five years ago, How to Build a Habitable Planet has established a legendary reputation as an accessible yet scientifically impeccable introduction to the origin and evolution of Earth, from the Big Bang through the rise of human civilization. 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. Harvard geochemist Charles Langmuir has worked closely with the original author, Wally Broecker, one of the world’s leading Earth scientists, to revise and expand the book for a new generation of readers for whom active planetary stewardship is becoming imperative.

Interweaving physics, astronomy, chemistry, geology, and biology, this sweeping account tells Earth’s complete story, from the synthesis of chemical elements in stars, to the formation of the Solar System, to the evolution of a habitable climate on Earth, to the origin of life and humankind. The book also addresses the search for other habitable worlds in the Milky Way and contemplates whether Earth will remain habitable as our influence on global climate grows. It concludes by considering the ways in which humankind can sustain Earth’s habitability and perhaps even participate in further planetary evolution.

Like no other book, How to Build a Habitable Planet provides an understanding of Earth in its broadest context, as well as a greater appreciation of its possibly rare ability to sustain life over geologic time.

We invite you to read Chapter 1 here: http://press.princeton.edu/chapters/s9691.pdf

This Week’s Book Giveaway

Are you following PUP on Google+ yet? If not, today’s the day to add us to your circle—we’re hosting another giveaway this week! Follow us by Friday to win!

Alan Turing: The Enigma
The Centenary Edition

by Andrew Hodges
With a foreword by Douglas Hofstadter
and a new preface by the author

It is only a slight exaggeration to say that the British mathematician Alan Turing (1912-1954) saved the Allies from the Nazis, invented the computer and artificial intelligence, and anticipated gay liberation by decades—all before his suicide at age forty-one. This classic biography of the founder of computer science, reissued on the centenary of his birth with a substantial new preface by the author, is the definitive account of an extraordinary mind and life. A gripping story of mathematics, computers, cryptography, and homosexual persecution, Andrew Hodges’s acclaimed book captures both the inner and outer drama of Turing’s life.

Hodges tells how Turing’s revolutionary idea of 1936—the concept of a universal machine—laid the foundation for the modern computer and how Turing brought the idea to practical realization in 1945 with his electronic design. The book also tells how this work was directly related to Turing’s leading role in breaking the German Enigma ciphers during World War II, a scientific triumph that was critical to Allied victory in the Atlantic. At the same time, this is the tragic story of a man who, despite his wartime service, was eventually arrested, stripped of his security clearance, and forced to undergo a humiliating treatment program—all for trying to live honestly in a society that defined homosexuality as a crime.

“One of the finest scientific biographies ever written.”—Jim Holt, New Yorker

“A first-class contribution to history and an exemplary work of biography.”—I. J. Good, Nature

The random draw for this book with be Friday 6/29 at 11 am EST. Be sure to check out our Google+ page and add us to your circle to be entered to win!

New YouTube video for popular science title, ‘Cells to Civilizations’

Cells to Civilizations

Award winning scientist Enrico Coen’s new book, ‘Cells to Civilizations: The Principles of Change That Shape Life‘ , is published this month. He talks here about the ideas behind the book: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=urDhZkCtkvM

This Week’s Book Giveaway

Alan Turing’s Systems of Logic: The Princeton Thesis
Edited and introduced by Andrew W. Appel

Between inventing the concept of a universal computer in 1936 and breaking the German Enigma code during World War II, Alan Turing (1912-1954), the British founder of computer science and artificial intelligence, came to Princeton University to study mathematical logic. Some of the greatest logicians in the world—including Alonzo Church, Kurt Gödel, John von Neumann, and Stephen Kleene—were at Princeton in the 1930s, and they were working on ideas that would lay the groundwork for what would become known as computer science. Though less well known than his other work, Turing’s 1938 Princeton PhD thesis, “Systems of Logic Based on Ordinals,” which includes his notion of an oracle machine, has had a lasting influence on computer science and mathematics. This book presents a facsimile of the original typescript of the thesis along with essays by Andrew Appel and Solomon Feferman that explain its still-unfolding significance.

A work of philosophy as well as mathematics, Turing’s thesis envisions a practical goal—a logical system to formalize mathematical proofs so they can be checked mechanically. If every step of a theorem could be verified mechanically, the burden on intuition would be limited to the axioms. Turing’s point, as Appel writes, is that “mathematical reasoning can be done, and should be done, in mechanizable formal logic.” Turing’s vision of “constructive systems of logic for practical use” has become reality: in the twenty-first century, automated “formal methods” are now routine.

Presented here in its original form, this fascinating thesis is one of the key documents in the history of mathematics and computer science.

A slight change this week—the random draw for this book with be Thursday 5/17 at 3 pm EST. Be sure to like us on Facebook if you haven’t already to be entered to win!