Book Fact Friday – #8 Single Digits

From chapter eight of Marc Chamberland’s Single Digits:

How many times should you shuffle a deck of cards so that they’re well-mixed? Gamblers know that three or four times is not sufficient and take advantage of this fact. In 1992, researchers did computer simulations and estimated that seven rough riffle shuffles is a good amount. They took their research further and figured out that further shuffling does not significantly improve the mixing. If the shuffler does a perfect riffle shuffle (a Faro shuffle), in which s/he perfectly cuts the deck and shuffles so that each card from one side alternates with each card from the other side, then a standard 52-card deck will end in the same order that it started in after it is done 8 times.

Single Digits: In Praise of Small Numbers by Marc Chamberland
Read chapter one or peruse the table of contents.

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.
Each chapter focuses on a single digit, beginning with easy concepts that become more advanced as the chapter progresses. Chamberland covers vast numerical territory, such as illustrating the ways that the number three connects to chaos theory, an unsolved problem involving Egyptian fractions, the number of guards needed to protect an art gallery, and problematic election results. He considers the role of the number seven in matrix multiplication, the Transylvania lottery, synchronizing signals, and hearing the shape of a drum. Throughout, he introduces readers to an array of puzzles, such as perfect squares, the four hats problem, Strassen multiplication, Catalan’s conjecture, and so much more. The book’s short sections can be read independently and digested in bite-sized chunks—especially good for learning about the Ham Sandwich Theorem and the Pizza Theorem.
Appealing to high school and college students, professional mathematicians, and those mesmerized by patterns, this book shows that single digits offer a plethora of possibilities that readers can count on.

BOOK FACT FRIDAY – He Runs, She Runs

From chapter one of Deborah Jordan Brooks’ He Runs, She Runs: Why Gender Stereotypes Do Not Harm Women Candidates:

The 2012 elections increased the number of women in national office further, with a record number of both women House members (81) and women senators (20) sworn into office the following January. Several states (Hawaii, Massachusetts, North Dakota, and Wisconsin) elected women Senators for the first time ever, while New Hampshire elected the first-ever all women congressional delegation, along with a woman governor to boot. Describing the 2012 results, Karen Tumulty of the Washington Post claimed that, “Twenty years after the election that was heralded as the ‘year of the woman’ comes another one that could be called that.” While representing significant progress over a relatively short time, the ratios of female to male political leaders are still nowhere near gender parity at any level of American government.

We are pleased to announce the publication of
He Runs, She Runs: Why Gender Stereotypes Do Not Harm Women Candidates
by Deborah Jordan Brooks.

We invite you to read chapter one at:

While there are far more women in public office today than in previous eras, women are still vastly underrepresented in this area relative to men. Conventional wisdom suggests that a key reason is because female candidates start out at a disadvantage with the public, compared to male candidates, and then face higher standards for their behavior and qualifications as they campaign. He Runs, She Runs is the first comprehensive study of these dynamics and demonstrates that the conventional wisdom is wrong.

With rich contextual background and a wealth of findings, Deborah Jordan Brooks examines whether various behaviors–such as crying, acting tough, displays of anger, or knowledge gaffes–by male and female political candidates are regarded differently by the public. Refuting the idea of double standards in campaigns, Brooks’s overall analysis indicates that female candidates do not get penalized disproportionately for various behaviors, nor do they face any double bind regarding femininity and toughness. Brooks also reveals that before campaigning begins, women do not start out at a disadvantage due to gender stereotypes. In fact, Brooks shows that people only make gendered assumptions about candidates who are new to politics, and those stereotypes benefit, rather than hurt, women candidates.

Proving that it is no more challenging for female political candidates today to win over the public than it is for their male counterparts, He Runs, She Runs makes clear that we need to look beyond public attitudes to understand why more women are not in office.

Deborah Jordan Brooks is associate professor of government at Dartmouth College. Previously, she was a senior research director at the Gallup Organization. For more information about this new book, please visit:

Book Fact Friday: The Latino Catholic Experience in America

InMatovina_LatinoCatholicism light of the recent election of Pope Francis, a native Spanish speaker and the first of his position to hail from the Americas, we thought an excerpt on Catholicism among those in the United States with origins in Latin America would pique your interest.

FACT: “Catholics comprise the largest religious group in the United States, encompassing nearly a fourth of all U.S. residents. Hispanics constitute more than a third of U.S. Catholics. They are the reason why Catholicism is holding its own relative to other religions in the United States. According to researchers of the American Religious Identification Survey, without the ever-growing number of Latinos in this country, the U.S. Catholic population would be declining at a rate similar to mainline Protestant groups. And given the relative youthfulness of the Latino community, Hispanic Catholics will continue to represent an increasing percentage of U.S. Catholics over time. They already comprise more than half of U.S. Catholics under the age of twenty-five and more than three-fourths of Catholics under eighteen in Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and California. Robert Putnam and David Campbell succinctly sum up these demographics in their much-discussed 2010 study about the state of American religion, avowing that the Catholic Church in the United States ‘is on its way to becoming a majority-Latino institution.'”
Timothy Matovina in Latino Catholicism: Transformation in America’s Largest Church

Read chapter one here:

Most histories of Catholicism in the United States focus on the experience of Euro-American Catholics, whose views on such concerns as church reform, social issues, and sexual ethics have dominated public debates. Latino Catholicism provides a comprehensive overview of the Latino Catholic experience in America from the sixteenth century to today, and offers the most in-depth examination to date of the important ways the U.S. Catholic Church, its evolving Latino majority, and American culture are mutually transforming one another.

Timothy Matovina assesses how Latinos’ attempts to celebrate their faith and bring it to bear on the everyday realities of their lives have shaped parishes, apostolic movements, leadership, ministries, worship, voting patterns, social activism, and much more. At the same time, the lives and faith of Latino Catholics are being dramatically refashioned through the multiple pressures of assimilation, the upsurge of Pentecostal and evangelical religion, other types of religious pluralism, growing secularization, and ongoing controversies over immigration and clergy sexual abuse. Going beyond the widely noted divide between progressive and conservative Catholics, Matovina shows how U.S. Catholicism is being shaped by the rise of a largely working-class Latino population in a church whose leadership at all levels is still predominantly Euro-American and middle class.

Latino Catholicism highlights the vital contributions of Latinos to American religious and social life, demonstrating in particular how their engagement with the U.S. cultural milieu is the most significant factor behind their ecclesial and societal impact.

BOOK FACT FRIDAY – Trigonometric Delights

BOOK FACT excerpted from Trigonometric Delights by Eli Maor:

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

We invite you to read the introduction:

The Temptation of the Impossible:
Victor Hugo and Les Misérables

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


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

We invite you to read the full chapter online at:

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

by Siobhan Roberts

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

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

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


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

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

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

We invite you to read the full introduction online:

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

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

For more information and sample entries, please visit:


FACT: “Argentina’s first coup, supported by middle-class groups, occurred in 1930 when General José F. Uriburu attempted to establish a praetorian regime in some ways akin to Benito Mussolini’s fascist state. Following Uriburu’s brief reign, the military was in an out of power—with truly civilian governments seldom enjoying more than a few consecutive years in office—until 1983. The army’s political involvement was partially motivated by their aversion to Peronist influences in politics. Juan Perón, a former army colonel who took an important role in the 1943 coup and subsequently served as minister of labor, was thrice elected president (1946, 1952, and 1973) and became immensely popular among the lower classes. The armed forces detested Perón’s left-wing populist polices and, backed by opposition parties and the Roman Catholic Church, toppled his regime in 1955. Following an eighteen-year exile, Perón returned to Buenos Aires and to power in 1973 only to be felled by heart attacks nine months later.”

The Soldier and the Changing State: Building Democratic
Armies in Africa, Asia, Europe, and the Americas

by Zoltan Barany

The Soldier and the Changing State is the first book to systematically explore, on a global scale, civil-military relations in democratizing and changing states. Looking at how armies supportive of democracy are built, Zoltan Barany argues that the military is the most important institution that states maintain, for without military elites who support democratic governance, democracy cannot be consolidated. Barany also demonstrates that building democratic armies is the quintessential task of newly democratizing regimes. But how do democratic armies come about? What conditions encourage or impede democratic civil-military relations? And how can the state ensure the allegiance of its soldiers?

Barany examines the experiences of developing countries and the armed forces in the context of major political change in six specific settings: in the wake of war and civil war, after military and communist regimes, and following colonialism and unification/apartheid. He evaluates the army-building and democratization experiences of twenty-seven countries and explains which predemocratic settings are most conducive to creating a military that will support democracy. Highlighting important factors and suggesting which reforms can be expected to work and fail in different environments, he offers practical policy recommendations to state-builders and democratizers.

We invite you to read the Introduction here:


FACT: “Upon his inauguration, Obama was in a position somewhat similar to Ronald Reagan’s in 1980. Both took office when Americans were pessimistic about the economy and dissatisfied with the incumbent president. In a late November 1980 Gallup poll, only 31% of Americans approved of the job Jimmy Carter was doing. At the same point in time in 2008, only 29% approved of George W. Bush.”

“The Hand You’re Dealt” from The Gamble:
Choice and Chance in the 2012 Presidential Election

by John Sides & Lynn Vavreck

“The Hand You’re Dealt” is the first of a series of free eBook preview chapters from John Sides and Lynn Vavreck’s groundbreaking Fall 2013 book, The Gamble: Choice and Chance in the 2012 Presidential Election. These eBook chapters are scheduled to be released between August and December 2012.

What are the odds that Barack Obama will be reelected in November, despite a weak economy? Many answers to this question are backed by little more than speculation and spin. But what does current and historical data—and political science—suggest? In this chapter, political analysts John Sides and Lynn Vavreck show that Obama is surprisingly popular given the state of the economy, and they offer several explanations—including Obama’s likability and the fact that more people blame George W. Bush for the country’s economic problems than blame Obama. But Sides and Vavreck also show that the mixed economic picture and the events of Obama’s first term make it likely that the election will be close. These are just some of the points that Sides and Vavreck make in this incisive chapter as they gauge the most important factors in the political and economic landscape going into the election campaign—and what they portend for Obama’s (and Mitt Romney’s) chances.

This book represents an unprecedented effort to use a “Moneyball” approach to tell the story of what promises to be a dramatic election campaign, drawing on large quantities of data about the economy, public opinion, news coverage, and political advertising to determine the factors that really make a difference. At the same time, Sides and Vavreck will be visiting the campaign trail to find out what matters most to both of the campaigns and to voters. The result promises to be the only book about the election that combines on-the-ground reporting, social science, and quantitative data in order to look beyond the anecdote, folklore, and conventional wisdom that too often pass for analysis of presidential elections.

To find out more, download this chapter and begin reading the authors’ special introduction to this and the other free chapters that will follow as the election campaign unfolds.

The Gamble is scheduled to be published as a complete print and ebook in September 2013.

Be sure to check in every Tuesday for a new tidbit from our great selection of politically-minded books.


FACT: “Farming began in Bali with the arrival of the Austronesians, who colonized the Indonesian archipelago between 4,500 and 3,000 years ago. The Austronesians were farmers and fishermen whose agricultural assemblage included pigs, dogs, and chickens; root and tree crops such as coconuts, bananas, taro, and bamboo; and a tool technology that included stone adzes.”

Perfect Order: Recognizing Complexity in Bali
by J. Stephen Lansing

Along rivers in Bali, small groups of farmers meet regularly in water temples to manage their irrigation systems. They have done so for a thousand years. Over the centuries, water temple networks have expanded to manage the ecology of rice terraces at the scale of whole watersheds. Although each group focuses on its own problems, a global solution nonetheless emerges that optimizes irrigation flows for everyone. Did someone have to design Bali’s water temple networks, or could they have emerged from a self-organizing process?

Perfect Order—a groundbreaking work at the nexus of conservation, complexity theory, and anthropology—describes a series of fieldwork projects triggered by this question, ranging from the archaeology of the water temples to their ecological functions and their place in Balinese cosmology. Stephen Lansing shows that the temple networks are fragile, vulnerable to the cross-currents produced by competition among male descent groups. But the feminine rites of water temples mirror the farmers’ awareness that when they act in unison, small miracles of order occur regularly, as the jewel-like perfection of the rice terraces produces general prosperity. Much of this is barely visible from within the horizons of Western social theory.

The fruit of a decade of multidisciplinary research, this absorbing book shows that even as researchers probe the foundations of cooperation in the water temple networks, the very existence of the traditional farming techniques they represent is threatened by large-scale development projects.

We invite you to read Chapter 1 here:


FACT: “In 1964, Ronald Reagan was co-chair of Barry Goldwater’s campaign in California. He spoke out frequently in support of Goldwater’s brand of conservative Republicanism. But Reagan’s big moment in the campaign, the event that would put him on a trajectory for the White House, came by accident. Shortly before the November election, Goldwater canceled a major Los Angeles fund-raising speech. The organizers asked Reagan to fill in. Reagan, though tailoring his remarks to promote Goldwater, gave the same basic speech he had been honing for years. However, few Americans outside of GE plants or what Reagan self-mockingly called the ‘mashed potato’ lecture circuit had ever heard it. The crowd of bigwig Republican donors was starstruck by Reagan’s performance. Especially as compared to Goldwater (but really as compared to any contemporary political figure), Reagan was, as soon would be said everywhere, a great communicator. A group of wealthy men asked Reagan to repeat the speech on national television. They would buy the airtime.”

The Rise and Fall of Modern American Conservatism:
A Short History

by David Farber

The Rise and Fall of Modern American Conservatism tells the gripping story of perhaps the most significant political force of our time through the lives and careers of six leading figures at the heart of the movement. David Farber traces the history of modern conservatism from its revolt against New Deal liberalism, to its breathtaking resurgence under Ronald Reagan, to its spectacular defeat with the election of Barack Obama.

Farber paints vivid portraits of Robert Taft, William F. Buckley Jr., Barry Goldwater, Phyllis Schlafly, Ronald Reagan, and George W. Bush. He shows how these outspoken, charismatic, and frequently controversial conservative leaders were united by a shared insistence on the primacy of social order, national security, and economic liberty. Farber demonstrates how they built a versatile movement capable of gaining and holding power, from Taft’s opposition to the New Deal to Buckley’s founding of the National Review as the intellectual standard-bearer of modern conservatism; from Goldwater’s crusade against leftist politics and his failed 1964 bid for the presidency to Schlafly’s rejection of feminism in favor of traditional gender roles and family values; and from Reagan’s city upon a hill to conservatism’s downfall with Bush’s ambitious presidency.

The Rise and Fall of Modern American Conservatism provides rare insight into how conservatives captured the American political imagination by claiming moral superiority, downplaying economic inequality, relishing bellicosity, and embracing nationalism. This concise and accessible history reveals how these conservative leaders discovered a winning formula that enabled them to forge a powerful and formidable political majority.

We invite you to read the Introduction here:

Be sure to check in every Tuesday for a new tidbit from our great selection of politically-minded books.


FACT: 100 years ago, on September 12, 1912, Woodrow Wilson delivered a talk to New York State Democratic Leaders in Syracuse, NY. Here’s a snippet of his talk that day:

“…there is no use being the representative of the party for the time being unless you understand it, unless you know the man you are dealing with. I must in candor, I must in faithfulness to you, try to show you the inside of my mind, and if I have found the words to do so, I am very happy.”

The Papers of Woodrow Wilson, Volume 25: Aug.-Nov., 1912
by Woodrow Wilson
Edited by Arthur S. Link

This volume opens with Wilson’s speech of August 7, 1912, accepting the Democratic presidential nomination, and ends with his election as President of the United States on November 5, 1912.

All of Wilson’s significant extant personal and political correspondence and all significant incoming correspondence for this period is published, most of it for the first time. The most important contents of this volume are the texts of Wilson’s campaign speeches. A few have been omitted, and some are excerpted to avoid undue repetition. Most of his speeches are included, however, not only because they are essential to understanding his political philosophy and oratorical style, but also because all previous editions were found to be both incomplete and defective. The major accomplishment of this volume is the textual restoration of the great New Freedom speeches to their original majestic language and form. Altogether, they constitute one of the great oratorical accomplishments in modern history. Complete texts or substantial portions are provided of forty major addresses and many short speeches and remarks.