Beth Shapiro, author of How to Clone a Mammoth, has begun her book tour across the US and the UK. Last Thursday, April 16, Beth had a wonderful event at Kepler’s Books in Menlo Park, CA, where she gave an overview of her intriguing book and fielded questions from the audience. We are featuring content related to How to Clone a Mammoth every Monday on our blog as part of our #MammothMonday series. Be sure to read the first chapter and pick up a copy of the book.
Earth Day 2015
This year we will be celebrating the 45th anniversary of the environmental movement, Earth Day. Gaylord Nelson, a former U.S. Senator from Wisconsin, founded Earth Day to inform the public on the importance of a healthy Earth. Earth Day has since evolved to focus on global warming and clean energy. Learn more about the history of Earth Day, here. To celebrate the day, we have compiled a book list.
Climate Shock: The Consequences of a Hotter Planet
Gernot Wagner & Martin L. Weitzman Climate Shock analyzes the repercussions of a hotter planet. The authors take a stance that climate change can and should be dealt with. Climate Shock depicts what could happen if we don’t deal with the environment. “This informative, convincing, and easily read book offers general audiences the basic case for global climate mitigation.” –Ian Perry, Finance & Development 

How to Clone a Mammoth: The Science of Deextinction
Beth Shapiro Could extinct species, like mammoths and passenger pigeons, be brought back to life? The science says yes. Beth Shapiro explains the process of Deextinction, what species should be restored, and anticipating how revived populations might be seen in the wild. Shapiro argues that the overarching goal should be the revitalization and stabilization of contemporary ecosystems. “[A] fascinating book…A great popular science title, and one that makes it clear that a future you may have imagined is already underway.” —Library Journal, starred review Check out our behindthescenes, #MammothMonday blog posts. 

Offshore Sea Life ID Guide: West Coast
Steve N.G. Howell & Brian L. Sullivan Released in May, this Offshore Sea Life ID Guide, is designed for quick use on day trips off the West Coast. Color plates show species as they typically appear at sea, and expert text highlights identification features. “Filled with concise information and accurate illustrations, this terrific field guide will be a handy, quick reference for the layperson and serious naturalist on boat trips off the West Coast of the United States. No other useful guides for this region deal with both marine mammals and seabirds in the same book.” –Sophie Webb, coauthor of Field Guide to Marine Mammals of the Pacific Coast 

The Bee: A Natural History
Noah WilsonRich With contributions from Kelly Allin, Norman Carreck & Andrea Quigley Bees pollinate more than 130 fruit, vegetable, and seed crops that we rely on to survive. They are crucial to the reproduction and diversity of flowering plants, and the economic contributions of these irreplaceable insects measure in the tens of billions of dollars each year. Noah WilsonRich and his team of bee experts provide a window into the vitally important role that bees play in the life of our planet. “A wellillustrated introduction to the biology of bees.” –Ian Paulsen, Birdbooker Report Check out 10 Bee Facts from the book, here. 
Math Drives Careers: Paul Nahin on Electrical Engineering and √1
Paul Nahin is the author of many books we’ve proudly published over the years, including An Imaginary Tale, Dr. Euler’s Fabulous Formula, and Number Crunching. For today’s installment in our Math Awareness Month series, he writes about his first encounter with √1.
Electrical Engineering and √1
It won’t come as a surprise to very many to learn that mathematics is central to electrical engineering. Probably more surprising is that the cornerstone of that mathematical foundation is the mysterious (some even think mystical) squareroot of minus one. Every electrical engineer almost surely has a story to tell about their first encounter with √1, and in this essay I’ll tell you mine.
Lots of different kinds of mathematics have been important in my personal career at different times; in particular, Boolean algebra (when I worked as a digital logic designer), and probability theory (when I wore the label of radar system engineer). But it’s the mathematics of √1 that has been the most important. My introduction to √1 came when I was still in high school. In my freshman year (1954) my father gave me the gift of a subscription to a new magazine called Popular Electronics. From it I learned how to read electrical schematics from the projects that appeared in each issue, but my most important lesson came when I opened the April 1955 issue.
It had an article in it about something called contrapolar power: a desk lamp plugged into a contrapolar outlet plug would emit not a cone of light, but a cone of darkness! There was even a photograph of this, and my eyes buggedout when I saw that: What wondrous science was at work here?, I gasped to myself —I really was a naive 14year old kid! It was, of course, all a huge editorial joke, along with some nifty photoretouching, but the lead sentence had me hooked: “One of the reasons why atomic energy has not yet become popular among home experimenters is that an understanding of its production requires knowledge of very advanced mathematics.” Just algebra, however, was all that was required to understand contrapolar power.
Contrapolar power ‘worked’ by simply using the negative square root (instead of the positive root) in calculating the resonant frequency in a circuit containing both inductance and capacitance. The idea of negative frequency was intriguing to me (and electrical engineers have actually made sense of it when combined with √1, but then the editors played a few more clever math tricks and came up with negative resistance. Now, there really is such a thing as negative resistance, and it has long been known by electrical engineers to occur in the operation of electric arcs. Such arcs were used, in the very early, preelectronic days of radio, to build powerful AM transmitters that could broadcast music and human speech, and not just the onoff telegraph code signals that were all the Marconi transmitters could send. I eventually came to appreciate that the operation of AM/FM radio is impossible to understand, at a deep, theoretical level, without √1.
When, in my high school algebra classes, I was introduced to complex numbers as the solutions to certain quadratic equations, I knew (unlike my mostly perplexed classmates) that they were not just part of a sterile intellectual game, but that √1 was important to electrical engineers, and to their ability to construct truly amazing devices. That early, teenage fascination with mathematics in general, and √1 in particular, was the start of my entire professional life. I wish my dad was still alive, so I could once again thank him for that longago subscription.
Birds & Natural History 2015 Catalog
We are pleased to present our new Birds & Natural History catalog for 2015. Take a look below!
Don’t miss The Kingdon Field Guide to African Mammals, now in its second edition by Jonathan Kingdon. Immerse yourself in the world of the African landscape with 780 beautiful color photographs and newly updated information.
Love penguins? Who doesn’t? New by Tui De Roy, Mark Jones & Julie Cornthwaite, we have Penguins: The Ultimate Guide, a stunning book chockfull of color photographs featuring these funny little birds in their natural habitat. Take in these beautiful images while learning about the innovative science that is helping us better understand the parts of a penguin’s life that we don’t usually get to see.
Finally, check out our Warbler Guide app on Apple iOS® as the Warblers begin their yearly migration! It allows you to identify types of birds by look and song. This app puts all the information in The Warbler Guide by Tom Stephenson and Scott Whittle right in your pocket.
You can peruse our catalog above for more leading titles in Birds & Natural History. If you’d like email updates on new titles, please go here to sign up!
#MammothMonday: Can We Clone a Mammoth?
In today’s #MammothMonday post, Beth Shapiro addresses a frequently asked question, “Can we clone a mammoth, if so when is it going to happen?” In answering, Shapiro brings up a crucial point: What is the audience willing to consider a mammoth? Find out her answer and learn more about How to Clone a Mammoth: The Science of DeExtinction in this video:
Be sure to read Chapter 1.
Jeff Nunokawa on the day after taxes
Comprised of 250 handpicked meditations from a Facebook page that has garnered past attention from The New Yorker, Note Book by Jeff Nunokawa is a new kind of literary work for the age of social media. The New Yorker called the notes “evidence of Nunokawa’s dawning sense of the importance of being earnest,” while Jeff himself says he wants his meditations to “note truth, but encourage”. On a day that might call for both, Jeff turns his attention on Facebook to the aftermath of tax day:
4484. Day After Taxes
Unbalanced in the painful sum of things (Merrill, “For Proust”)
You wake up feeling that you still owe something, but you’re not really sure what, or to whom. And you’re worried that you don’t have what it takes to pay off your debt all at once. Maybe you can pay it in monthly installments, but how can you even do that if you don’t know what you owe or to whom? Is it the Internal Revenue Service that’s still after you, or the Eternal One? (Maybe they’ve finally merged.)
I hope my father did my taxes, a young friend said the other night. I used to hope that, too.
Someone should look for an agent. Maybe that agent is you.
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Note: Your suit is granted (Herbert, “Redemption”)
Check our website for more about Note Book, including a sample chapter.
Alan Turing’s handwritten notebook brings $1 million at auction
Old journals can be fascinating no matter who they belong to, but imagine looking over the old notebook of the mathematician credited with breaking German codes during WWII.
The Associated Press and other venues reported that a handwritten notebook by British codebreaker Alan Turing, subject of the 2014 Oscarwinning film “The Imitation Game,” a movie based on our book, Alan Turing: The Enigma, brought more than $1 million at auction from an anonymous buyer on Monday. Originally given to Turing’s mathematicianfriend Robin Gandy, the notebooks are thought to be the only ones of their kind, and contain Turing’s early attempts to chart a universal language, a precursor to computer code. (In an interesting personal wrinkle, Gandy had used the blank pages for notes on his dreams, noting that, “It seems a suitable disguise to write in between these notes of Alan’s on notation, but possibly a little sinister; a dead father figure, some of whose thoughts I most completely inherited.”)
Andrew Hodges, author of Alan Turing: The Enigma, commented that “the notebook sheds more light on how Turing ‘remained committed to freethinking work in pure mathematics.'” To learn more about the life of Turing, check out the book here.
Math Drives Careers: Author Oscar Fernandez
We know that mathematics can solve problems in the classroom, but what can it do for your business? Oscar Fernandez, author of Everyday Calculus, takes a look at how knowledge of numbers can help your bottom line.
Why You Should Be Learning Math Even If You Don’t Need It for Your Job
I want to tell you a short story about epic triumph in the midst of adversity. Okay, I’m exaggerating a bit, but hear me out.
A couple of years ago, I approached Boston Scientific—an S&P 500 component—with a crazy idea: let me and a team of students from Wellesley College (a liberal arts college for women) and Babson College (a business school) do consulting work for you. It was a crazy idea because what could I—a mathematician who knew nothing about their business—and some students—who hadn’t even graduated yet—possibly offer the company? Plenty, it turns out, all thanks to our common expertise: mathematics.
Mathematics, often depicted in movies as something pocketprotectorcarrying people with less than stellar social skills do, is actually quite ubiquitous. I’d even say that mathematicians are the unsung heroes of the world. Alright, that’s a bit of hyperbole. But think about it. Deep in the catacombs of just about every company, there are mathematicians. They work in low light conditions, hunched over pages of calculations stained with daysold coffee, and think up ways to save the company money, optimize their revenue streams, and make their products more desired. You may never notice their efforts, but you’ll surely notice their effects. That recent change in the cost of your flight? Yep, it was one of us trying to maximize revenue. The reason that UPS truck is now waking you up at 6 a.m.? One of us figured out that the minimum cost route passes through your street.
But we’re dogood people too. We help optimize bus routes to get children to school faster and safer. We’ve spent centuries modelling the spread of disease. More recently, we’ve even reduced crime by understanding how it spreads. That’s why I was confident that my team and I could do something useful for Boston Scientific. Simply put, we knew math.
We spent several weeks pouring over data the company gave us. We tried everything we could think of to raise their revenues from certain products. Collectively, we were trained in mathematics, economics, computer science, and psychology. But nothing worked. It seemed that we—and math—had failed.
Then, with about three weeks left, I chanced upon an article from the MIT Technology Review titled “Turning Math Into Cash.” It describes how IBM’s 200 mathematicians reconfigured their 40,000 salespeople over a period of two years and generated $1 billion in additional revenue. Wow. The mathematicians analyzed the company’s pricesales data using “highquantile modeling” to predict the maximum amount each customer was willing to spend, and then compared that to the actual revenue generated by the sales teams. IBM then let these mathematicians shuffle around salespeople to help smaller teams reach the theoretical maximum budget of each customer. Genius, really.
I had never heard of quantile regression before, and neither had my students, but one thing math does well is to train you to make sense of things. So we did some digging. We ran across a common example of quantile modelling: food expenditure vs. household income. There’s clearly a relationship, and in 1857 researchers quantified the relationship for Belgian households. They produced this graph:
That red line is the linear regression line—the “best fit to the data.” It’s useful because the slope of the line predicts a 50 cent increase in food expenditure for a $1 increase in household income. But what if you want information about the food expenditure of the top 5% of households, or the bottom 20%? Linear regression can’t give you that information, but quantile regression can. Here’s what you get with quantile regression:
The red line is the linear regression line, but now we also have various quantile regression lines. To understand what they mean let’s focus on the topmost dashed line, which is the 95^{th} percentile line. Households above this line are in the 95^{th} percentile (or 0.95 quantile) of food expenditure. Similarly, households below the bottommost line are in the 5^{th} percentile (or 0.05 quantile) of food expenditure. Now, if we graph the slopes of the lines as a function of the percentile (also called “quantile”), we get:
(The red line is the slope of the linear regression line; it doesn’t depend on the quantile, which is why it’s a straight line.) Notice that the 0.95 quantile (95^{th} percentile) slope is about 0.7, whereas the 0.05 quantile (5^{th} percentile) slope is about 0.35. This means that for every $1 increase in household income, this analysis predicts that households in the 95^{th} percentile of food expenditure will spend 70 cents more, whereas households in the 5^{th} percentile will spend only 35 cents more.
Clearly quantile regression is powerful stuff. So, my team and I went back and used quantile regression on the Boston Scientific data. We came up with theoretical maximum prices that customers could pay based on the region the product was sold in. As with IBM, we identified lots of potential areas for improvement. When my students presented their findings to Boston Scientific, the company took the work seriously and was very impressed with what a few students and one professor could do. I can’t say we generated $1 billion in new revenue for Boston Scientific, but what I can say is that we were able to make serious, credible recommendations, all because we understood mathematics. (And we were just a team of 5 working over a period of 12 weeks!)
April is Mathematics Awareness Month, and this year’s theme is “math drives careers.” After my Boston Scientific experience and after reading about IBM’s success, I now have a greater appreciation of this theme. Not only can mathematics be found in just about any career, but if you happen to be the one to find it (and use it), you could quickly be on the fast track to success. So in between celebrating March Madness, Easter, Earth Day, and April 15^{th} (I guess you’d only celebrate if you’re due a tax refund), make some time for math. It just might change your career.
Oscar Fernandez is the author of Everyday Calculus. He is assistant professor of mathematics at Wellesley College.
#MammothMonday: What to Bring Back?
Welcome to another #MammothMonday. Beth Shapiro, author of How to Clone a Mammoth, was recently called by Brian Switek of National Geographic, “the perfect guide to the ongoing discussion about deextinction.” Today, she continues in that role, answering the question, “What to Bring Back?” In this fascinating video, Beth discusses the thinking behind the decision to bring back a large mammal as opposed to passenger pigeons.
What do you think about the debate around cloning mammoths?
Christopher Bail on antiMuslim sentiment
In this clip from the documentary aftertheshooting.com, sociologist and author Christopher Bail discusses whether the sea change in American public opinion about Islam over the past few years may have contributed to the recent murder of three young Muslims in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. His recent book, Terrified, employs computer analytics techniques to show how antiMuslim organizations have gained visibility in the public sphere. In this clip, Bail speaks with a close friend of one of the victims. You can watch the entire documentary here.
Last month, Bail spoke with Paul Rosenberg at Salon about his innovative new methodology for studying how fear is fostered in the broader cultural landscape. He was interviewed about the aftermath of the Chapel Hill shootings in the Guardian earlier this year.