Tim Chartier and the Mega Menger

math bytesHow many business cards are needed to complete a level 3 Menger Sponge? What is a level 3 Menger Sponge? Tim Chartier, author of Math Bytes: Google Bombs, Chocolate Covered Pi, and Other Cool Bits in Computing, explains.

In a Huffington Post article, A Million Business Cards Presents a Math Challenge, Chartier asks readers to go in their wallet and check for  business cards. If there aren’t any, “they may be part of a worldwide math challenge. Over the past month, people around the world have been building a mathematical structure out of more than a million business cards.” That mathematical structure is a Mega Menger, but before we get there, let’s discuss what a level 1 Menger Sponge is.

A level 1 Menger Sponge is a fractal consisting of twenty cubes. Each cube is made up of 6 business cards, so a level 1 Menger needs 120 business cards. A level 2 Menger is created using 20 level 1 Mengers, a level 3 Menger is made with 20 level 2 Mengers, so on and so on.

Here at the Press, we don’t have a million business cards to complete a Mega Menger, but we do have a lot of books. Using Chartier’s code (which you can play with here: http://lifeislinear.davidson.edu/sierpinski.html), we were able to create 2-D versions of a Menger Sponge called a Sierpinski Carpet using our jacket images. Below, see if you can figure out which books are featured in the fractal images below! Click the images to see the related title.

1.
zombies

2.
penguins

3.
amazons

4.
weeden

5.
copy

Enter to win a copy of Alan Turing: The Enigma, the Book That Inspired the Film The Imitation Game

Hodges_AlanTuring movie tie inOn November 28, The Imitation Game will open in limited release. In the film, Benedict Cumberbatch stars as Alan Turing, the genius British mathematician, logician, cryptologist and computer scientist who led the charge to crack the German Enigma Code that helped the Allies win WWII. Turing went on to assist with the development of computers at the University of Manchester after the war, but was prosecuted by the UK government in 1952 for homosexual acts which the country deemed illegal. The film is inspired by the award-winning biography Alan Turing: The Enigma by Andrew Hodges.

To celebrate the release of the film, Princeton University Press is pleased to announce the publication of a new edition of the book with a movie still cover and new material from the author that brings the story current through Turing’s pardon by the Queen. Enter our giveaway below to win a copy of the new edition of the book AND a $25.00 Fandango gift certificate.

This giveaway will run from November 11 through November 24 and is open to residents of the U.S. and Canada, aged 18 and older. No purchase is necessary. If you prefer to enter via email, please send a note to blog@press.princeton.edu. Please see complete terms and conditions below.

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Jason Weeden and Robert Kurzban on 2014 elections

weedenElections are almost always a polarizing event in this country, but Jason Weeden and Robert Kurzban, authors of The Hidden Agenda of the Political Mind: How Self-Interest Shapes Our Opinions and Why We Won’t Admit It, explain why it’s more complex than just liberals and conservatives going twelve rounds in the ring. Two days ago, The New York Times published Weeden and Kurzban’s opinion piece, Election 2014: Your Very Predictable Vote, and it has generated some internet buzz; over 500 comments have already been submitted.

The gist? Americans vote out of self-interest. The proof? “Unemployed people are more than twice as likely as people working full time to want unemployment benefits increased. African-Americans are by far the most likely proponents of affirmative action and government help for African-Americans. Rich white men are especially likely to oppose income redistribution.” Furthermore, but  unrelated to economic motivations, Weeden and Kurzban note, “People who want to have sex but don’t at the moment want babies are especially likely to support policies that ensure access to birth control and abortion. Immigrants favor generous immigration policies. Lesbians and gay men are far more likely to oppose discrimination based on sexual orientation. Those who aren’t Christian are far more likely to oppose discrimination based on religion.”

This all sounds like common sense, yet, there are many political scientists focused on the influence “parents and peers, schools and universities, political parties and leaders, and…’values’” have on American voters, and self-interest is overlooked. Weeden and Kurzban argue, “the most straightforward explanation, demographics, is also the most persuasive.” The authors go on to theorize as to what the United States might look like if policy was determined by polling residents:

“There would be greater spending on the poor, health care, Social Security and education. Immigration would be reduced. School prayer would be allowed. Anti-American speech by Muslims would be restricted. Abortion would be legal in cases of rape and fetal deformity, but illegal if the abortion was motivated by not wanting more children, by being poor, or by being single.”

So why doesn’t the United States look like this? Weeden and Kurzban have an answer for that too!

“Negotiations at the federal level result in more conservative economic policies, and more liberal social policies. That’s because they involve one set of highly educated, wealthy representatives negotiating with another, and the policies that result reflect their own core interests.”

You can read the article in its entirety, here and don’t forget to  pick up a copy of The Hidden Agenda of the Political Mind in time for the 2016 presidential election!

In the spirit of Halloween: 5 facts from Do Zombies Dream of Undead Sheep

j10305[1]Are you a Halloween costume enthusiast who gives the best costumed trick-or-treater the most candy? Do you plan on being a zombie this Halloween? Are you afraid you might not be able to distinguish between real zombies and fake ones? If you answered yes to any of those questions, read on! Below is a list of five facts from Timothy Verstynen and Bradley Voytek’s book Do Zombies Dream of Undead Sheep?: A Neuroscientific View of the Zombie Brain.

  1. According to Verstynen and Voytek, all zombies suffer from CDHD, or Consciousness Deficit Hypoactivity Disorder. Subjects with CDHD suffer from “a lack of intentional movements, lethargic and fatigued movements (akinesthesia), loss of a sense of pleasure (anhedonia), general language dysfunction (aphasia),” and much more.
  2. Ever wonder why some zombies are easily outrun and others are surprisingly quick on their feet? Verstynen and Voytek believe this phenomenon has to do with the time it takes a dead body to resurrect itself as a zombie. They call this “time-to-resurrection,” and the longer the process takes, the slower the zombie will move.
  3. CDHD seems to affect the amygdala and hypothalamus regions of the brain while leaving the primary sensory areas, cortical motor areas and basal ganglia, thalamus, and brainstem regions intact.
  4. Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS) has been used in patients with Parkinson’s to help alleviate them of their symptoms. Our authors wonder if similar kinds of therapy could be used on zombies.
  5. “Survival Tip #6: Mimic them. ‘If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em.’…If confronted with a herd of undead with no clear avenue of escape…act like a zombie.” Zombies have difficulty recognizing facing, so as long as you’ve been practicing your zombie walk and growl, you should be fine!

Whatever your motives are, hopefully these five facts will help you better identify zombies this Halloween.

 

Halloween prize pack sweepstakes includes Zombies & Calculus and Do Zombies Dream of Undead Sheep!

zombies.jpgIn honor of all things spooky and scary, Tor.com is sponsoring a Halloween Prize Pack Sweepstakes. Five winners will be presented with six books to get you in that Halloween spirit.

To win, all you have to do is comment on this post, here! Good luck and happy Halloween!

 

 

Noah Wilson-Rich author of The Bee to stop in at Labyrinth Books

Wilson-Rich_theBeeThe Press is very excited to announce that Noah Wilson-Rich, author of The Bee: A Natural History, will be making an appearance at a local book store down the street from our offices on October 21st at 6:00PM. The venue, Labyrinth Books, is an acclaimed independent book store conveniently located right on Nassau St (if you’re familiar with the area) and we hope you will join us in a discussion with Wilson-Rich about his book.

Stick around after for book signings as well!

The official zombie diagnosis, courtesy of Nerdist and Do Zombies Dream of Undead Sheep

k10305Have you and your friends ever sat around the TV after watching the most recent episode of The Walking Dead and wondered what caused the infection or virus to spread? If you have, you’re not the only one.

Kyle Hill of Nerdist recently shared the “official zombie diagnosis,” from Bradley Voytek and Timothy Verstynen’s book Do Zombies Dream of Undead Sheep? A Neuroscientific View of the Zombie Brain. It turns out zombies are actually suffering from “Consciousness Deficit Hypoactivity Disorder ,” or CDHD. How is CDHD transmitted? Hill concludes the bacteria in a zombie’s bite and the lack of proper medical care are the most likely explanations for the zombie epidemic.

Voytek and Verstynen describe the symptoms of CDHD: “lack of intentional control over their actions, lethargic and fatigued movements (akinesthesia), loss of pleasure (anhedonia), general language dysfunction (aphasia), memory impairments (amnesias), and an inability to suppress appetitive actions such as eating or aggressive ‘fight-or-flight’ behaviors.”

In the book, Voytek and Verstynen also theorize as to why some zombies are slow and other are fast. Hill sums up their theory succinctly. “They call it the time-to-resurrection hypothesis. It goes like this. The longer the brain goes without oxygen or nutrients, the more damaged it gets. Therefore, the longer it takes for a zombification to reboot your body, the more brain damage that zombie will have. Fast zombies, which traditionally ‘turn’ very quickly then can move the way they do because they have less brain damage than the slow zombies.”

To read the rest of Hill’s article, click here. Below is a 4-minute video of Hill explaining his Walking Dead theory. Who knows, he might be right!

 

Infected: World Science Festival interviews Bradley Voytek, author of Do Zombies Dream of Undead Sheep

While zombies are running (or should I say, “staggering?”) around spreading their infections in Hollywood movies and TV shows, Bradley Voytek, author of Do Zombies Dream of Undead Sheep?: A Neuroscientific View of the Zombie Brain, is spreading knowledge about the field of neuroscience, the brain, and how it can all be better understood through the study of the undead.

In this new interview with the World Science Festival, Voytek discusses need-to-know matters such as zombie symptoms and probable causes, why some zombies are slow and others fast, and his general approach to writing the book with co-author Timothy Verstynen.

World Science Fair: What consequences are there when a zombifying agent brings a dead brain back to life?

Bradley Voytek: Neurons start to die off within minutes when there’s a lack of oxygen—especially neurons in the hippocampus, this seahorse-shaped area a couple inches in from your temple, which is pretty important for forming memories. So if, as in The Walking Dead, the zombie infection takes hold after someone dies and reanimates them, if there’s that couple minutes of delay before restarting, there’s going to be some brain areas dying off.

In the book, we call this the “time to resurrection” hypothesis. If you look at “fast zombies,” like in the movie 28 Days Later, the infection there takes just seconds to transform somebody from a normal person into this rage-fueled monster. We argue that because you’re only dead for a few seconds, there hasn’t been much damage to the physical substrate of the brain, so you’re still coordinated. But in Night of the Living Dead, the undead may have been dead for weeks or months, so they would have decayed quite a bit.

Source: http://www.worldsciencefestival.com/2014/09/smart-reads-zombie-dream/

Ultimately, Voytek hopes Do Zombies Dream of Undead Sheep? will appeal to “people who don’t normally care about [the principles of neuroscience],” and they will “end up accidentally learning something about the brain.”


 

bookjacket

Do Zombies Dream of Undead Sheep?
A Neuroscientific View of the Zombie Brain
Timothy Verstynen & Bradley Voytek

Princeton at Heffers Bookshop

Heffers Bookshop in Cambridge (UK) is looking very “Princeton” right now. Heffers, which has been selling books in Cambridge for over 130 years, is currently displaying 7 “subject bays” of Princeton books: Economics, History, Maths, Natural History, Philosophy, Politics, and Popular Science. With 20 titles on offer per bay (and 20% off all Princeton titles), there’s bound to be something for everyone.

Princeton at Heffers_1

This display  will remain at Heffers well into October, so do pop in if you’re in the area.

Princeton at Heffers_3

10 facts about penguins that will make you wish you were one of them

JacketIn case you haven’t noticed, penguins have become a cultural phenomenon in recent years. From “March of the Penguins” with Morgan Freeman’s narration, to Happy Feet, Surfs Up, and their respective sequels, penguins are as captivating as ever. (I myself adopted a penguin for a year from the Philadelphia Zoo) And let’s face it, being a human can be overrated and sometimes it’s fun to just imagine what life would be like as another specie. Here are 10 facts about penguins from Tui De Roy’s, Mark Jones’s, and Julie Cornthwaite’s new book Penguins: The Ultimate Guide that will make you wish you were one of them.

Pg. 173

Penguins: The Ultimate Guide, Pg. 173

 

1.    Penguins are exceptionally fast swimmers, clocking in at 22mph. Michael Phelps, in comparison, swims at just under 4.5 mph.

2.    Have you ever opened your eyes underwater and felt the sting of the salt or chlorine? Penguins haven’t! Clear nicitating membranes serve as see-through underwater goggles.

3.    Trust issues? Some species of penguins remain monogamous to their mates for more than one season. *Queue “aww”*

4.    Smaller penguin species like the Rockhoppers leave their half-grown chicks huddling together for safety while the grown-ups “grab some grub.” These are called “crèches” and the chicks are supervised by non-breeding penguin neighbors aka baby, or should we say “penguin,” sitters you can trust.

5.    Tired of hearing terrible pick-up lines or getting “poked” on Facebook? Penguins carry out exuberant courtship displays like sky-pointing and “ecstatic greetings.”

6.    They say if you’re ever stranded at sea, don’t drink the water, it’ll only dehydrate you faster, but penguins can process seawater by means of large salt-extracting glands in their foreheads.

 

Pg. 28

Pg. 28

7.    Never play hide and seek with penguins. Their binocular vision is as good as that of owls.

8.    Despite their awkward wobble, Penguins are impressively built. Dual purpose feet allow them to easily walk across wet and slippery surfaces while their surprisingly long (but mostly hidden) legs let them commute several kilometers to their nests.

9.    Wouldn’t you like to live in a world with gender-equality? Penguins do! Males and females rarely show gender differences. In fact, it is the male Emperor Penguin who incubates the egg while the female forages for food.

10.    When it comes to fashion, penguins never have to sacrifice form for function (or the other way around). Their sleek—and chic!—coats consists of around 15 feathers per square centimeter, the densest plumage of any bird.

Under the knife with a zombie

Why do zombies act the way they do? Why, for instance, are they always looking to bite someone’s face off? Would a Snickers bar make them any less angry or violent? These are just some of the questions Tim Verstynen and Bradley Voytek try to answer in their new book Do Zombies Dream of Undead Sheep: A Neuroscientific View of the Zombie Brain.

In the video above, Verstynen and Voytek explain the nature of the relationship between the brain and emotions, but don’t let the animation and mumbling zombie fool you! These authors provide viewers with a glimpse into the field and history of neuroscience and how studying and stimulating the brain allows us to better understand complicated emotions. If you’re interested in the science behind what makes a zombie a zombie, or if you’re a grad student willing and ready to examine a zombie brain, check out the video as well as the book, Do Zombies Dream of Undead Sheep.

 


bookjacket Do Zombies Dream of Undead Sheep?
A Neuroscientific View of the Zombie Brain
Timothy Verstynen & Bradley Voytek 


10 interesting facts about bees

8-7 Bee BookWhen I was asked to write a post about bees, I felt a lump the size of a honeycomb rise in my throat. I thought to myself,  “Bees? Like the things that ruined my 8th birthday party or every trip I’ve ever taken to Rita’s Ices? Those things?!” Yes, those things, but amazingly enough, after reading through Noah Wilson-Rich’s new book The Bee: A Natural History, I can honestly say my opinion of bees has changed, for the better. Here are 10 interesting facts about bees that will hopefully either solidify your love of these insects or foster a new appreciation for them.

1. Thousands of years ago, bees evolved from carnivores to herbivores. Maybe this explains my initial irrational fear of them!

2. There are over 20,000 species of bees who are classified in nine families and further divided by short, medium, and long tongues.

The Bee: A Natural History, Pg. 67

3. Bees can see ultra violet rays. They see the world primarily in purples and blues.

4. Bees have just ten receptors for taste, but 163 receptors for smell.

5. Honey bees communicate via dancing. The Round dance communicates the nearby presence of food. The Waggle dance is used to communicate the location of a food source more than 165ft away from the hive. The direction, distance, and quality of the food is made known through the Waggle. If a threat is detected near the food, another bee will interrupt the dancing bee with a head-butt.

6. In 2000, honey bees provided an estimated $14.6 billion to the US economy.

Pg. 49

7. Only female bees sting.

8. Queen bees and worker bees share the same genes, the only difference is future queen bees are given extra rations of royal jelly.

9. Bees pollinate over 130 fruits and vegetables.

10. Flowering plants developed attractive, scented, and brightly colored flowers once bees changed their foraging preference from animal protein to a vegetarian lifestyle.