Book Fact Friday – The Few vs. The Many

From chapter 1 of The Birth of Politics:

The elites in ancient Greece called themselves hoi aristoi, or the best men. It is from this term that we get the word ‘aristocracy.’ They also called themselves hoi oligoi, or the few, as opposed to hoi polloi, the many. The assumption was that there would only be a few rich families and the rest of the people would be poor, an idea that we can see playing out today.

The Birth of Politics: Eight Greek and Roman Political Ideas and Why They Matter
Melissa Lane

k10422In The Birth of Politics, Melissa Lane introduces the reader to the foundations of Western political thought, from the Greeks, who invented democracy, to the Romans, who created a republic and then transformed it into an empire. Tracing the origins of our political concepts from Socrates to Plutarch to Cicero, Lane reminds us that the birth of politics was a story as much of individuals as ideas. Scouring the speeches of lawyers alongside the speculations of philosophers, and the reflections of ex-slaves next to the popular comedies and tragedies of the Greek and Roman stages, this book brings ancient ideas to life in unexpected ways.

Lane shows how the Greeks and Romans defined politics with distinctive concepts, vocabulary, and practices—all of which continue to influence politics and political aspirations around the world today. She focuses on eight political ideas from the Greco-Roman world that are especially influential today: justice, virtue, constitution, democracy, citizenship, cosmopolitanism, republic, and sovereignty. Lane also describes how the ancient formulations of these ideas often challenge widely held modern assumptions—for example, that it is possible to have political equality despite great economic inequality, or that political regimes can be indifferent to the moral character of their citizens.

Book Fact Friday – Environmental Conflict

From chapter 3 of The Battle for Yellowstone:

It is estimated that 30 million buffalo once inhabited the United States. In a matter of decades this number was reduced to 23 single animals. There were two main causes of this: first, they were the focus of mass hunting and second, the U.S. government ordered them slaughtered in order to starve the Native Americans as a military strategy. The 23 surviving buffalo made their home in Yellowstone and eventually swelled their numbers to about 4,000—today they make up the “Yellowstone herd.”

The Battle for Yellowstone: Morality and the Sacred Roots of Environmental Conflict
Justin Farrell

k10517Yellowstone holds a special place in America’s heart. As the world’s first national park, it is globally recognized as the crown jewel of modern environmental preservation. But the park and its surrounding regions have recently become a lightning rod for environmental conflict, plagued by intense and intractable political struggles among the federal government, National Park Service, environmentalists, industry, local residents, and elected officials. The Battle for Yellowstone asks why it is that, with the flood of expert scientific, economic, and legal efforts to resolve disagreements over Yellowstone, there is no improvement? Why do even seemingly minor issues erupt into impassioned disputes? What can Yellowstone teach us about the worsening environmental conflicts worldwide?

Justin Farrell argues that the battle for Yellowstone has deep moral, cultural, and spiritual roots that until now have been obscured by the supposedly rational and technical nature of the conflict. Tracing in unprecedented detail the moral causes and consequences of large-scale social change in the American West, he describes how a “new-west” social order has emerged that has devalued traditional American beliefs about manifest destiny and rugged individualism, and how morality and spirituality have influenced the most polarizing and techno-centric conflicts in Yellowstone’s history.

This groundbreaking book shows how the unprecedented conflict over Yellowstone is not all about science, law, or economic interests, but more surprisingly, is about cultural upheaval and the construction of new moral and spiritual boundaries in the American West.

Book Fact Friday – Microbes

From chapter 2 of Life’s Engines:

One of the biggest ironies in biology is that microbes, the oldest self-replicating organisms on Earth, were among the last to be discovered and have largely been ignored.

Life’s Engines: How Microbes Made Earth Habitable
Paul G. Falkowski
Chapter One

k10440For almost four billion years, microbes had the primordial oceans all to themselves. The stewards of Earth, these organisms transformed the chemistry of our planet to make it habitable for plants, animals, and us. Life’s Engines takes readers deep into the microscopic world to explore how these marvelous creatures made life on Earth possible—and how human life today would cease to exist without them.

Paul Falkowski looks “under the hood” of microbes to find the engines of life, the actual working parts that do the biochemical heavy lifting for every living organism on Earth. With insight and humor, he explains how these miniature engines are built—and how they have been appropriated by and assembled like Lego sets within every creature that walks, swims, or flies. Falkowski shows how evolution works to maintain this core machinery of life, and how we and other animals are veritable conglomerations of microbes.

A vibrantly entertaining book about the microbes that support our very existence, Life’s Engines will inspire wonder about these elegantly complex nanomachines that have driven life since its origin. It also issues a timely warning about the dangers of tinkering with that machinery to make it more “efficient” at meeting the ever-growing demands of humans in the coming century.

Book Fact Friday – Incarceration Rates

From chapter 2 of Caught:

The race to incarcerate began in the 1970s. It persisted over the next four decades despite significant fluctuations in the country’s economic health and crime rates. Since then, there have been several points where different groups of people have suggested reforms because it was becoming too expensive to incarcerate as the same level, including an advisory board appointed by Ronald Reagan and fiscally conservative Republicans who had previously been penal hard-liners. Still, the rate of incarceration has not decreased, and the current model is not economically sustainable.

Caught: The Prison State and the Lockdown of American Politics
Marie Gottschalk


The huge prison buildup of the past four decades has few defenders today, yet reforms to reduce the number of people in U.S. jails and prisons have been remarkably modest. Meanwhile, a carceral state has sprouted in the shadows of mass imprisonment, extending its reach far beyond the prison gate. It includes not only the country’s vast archipelago of jails and prisons but also the growing range of penal punishments and controls that lie in the never-never land between prison and full citizenship, from probation and parole to immigrant detention, felon disenfranchisement, and extensive lifetime restrictions on sex offenders. As it sunders families and communities and reworks conceptions of democracy, rights, and citizenship, this ever-widening carceral state poses a formidable political and social challenge.

In this book, Marie Gottschalk examines why the carceral state, with its growing number of outcasts, remains so tenacious in the United States. She analyzes the shortcomings of the two dominant penal reform strategies—one focused on addressing racial disparities, the other on seeking bipartisan, race-neutral solutions centered on reentry, justice reinvestment, and reducing recidivism.

In this bracing appraisal of the politics of penal reform, Gottschalk exposes the broader pathologies in American politics that are preventing the country from solving its most pressing problems, including the stranglehold that neoliberalism exerts on public policy. She concludes by sketching out a promising alternative path to begin dismantling the carceral state.

Book Fact Friday – The Sun

From chapter 3 of The Sun’s Influence on Climate:

The Sun is about midway through its lifetime. At 5765 Kelvin, it is considered a cool star. 4,500,000,000 years ago, it formed from a dust cloud and is now burning its fuel, converting hydrogen into helium. Eventually, this burning will cease and it will end its life as a white dwarf.

The Sun’s Influence on Climate
Joanna D Haigh & Peter Cargill
Chapter 1

k10522The Earth’s climate system depends entirely on the Sun for its energy. Solar radiation warms the atmosphere and is fundamental to atmospheric composition, while the distribution of solar heating across the planet produces global wind patterns and contributes to the formation of clouds, storms, and rainfall. The Sun’s Influence on Climate provides an unparalleled introduction to this vitally important relationship.
This accessible primer covers the basic properties of the Earth’s climate system, the structure and behavior of the Sun, and the absorption of solar radiation in the atmosphere. It explains how solar activity varies and how these variations affect the Earth’s environment, from long-term paleoclimate effects to century timescales in the context of human-induced climate change, and from signals of the 11-year sunspot cycle to the impacts of solar emissions on space weather in our planet’s upper atmosphere.
Written by two of the leading authorities on the subject, The Sun’s Influence on Climate is an essential primer for students and nonspecialists alike.


Book Fact Friday – GDP

From chapter 5 of The Little Big Number:

Economic policy was not always so heavily influenced by the concept of Gross Domestic Product. Policymaking at the federal level began to be premised on the concept of GDP in earnest following the Great Depression—Franklin Delano Roosevelt exerted his influence to propel these policies forward.

The Little Big Number: How GDP Came to Rule the World and What to Do about It
Dirk Philipsen









In one lifetime, GDP, or Gross Domestic Product, has ballooned from a narrow economic tool into a global article of faith. It is our universal yardstick of progress. As The Little Big Number demonstrates, this spells trouble. While economies and cultures measure their performance by it, GDP ignores central facts such as quality, costs, or purpose. It only measures output: more cars, more accidents; more lawyers, more trials; more extraction, more pollution—all count as success. Sustainability and quality of life are overlooked. Losses don’t count. GDP promotes a form of stupid growth and ignores real development.

How and why did we get to this point? Dirk Philipsen uncovers a submerged history dating back to the 1600s, climaxing with the Great Depression and World War II, when the first version of GDP arrived at the forefront of politics. Transcending ideologies and national differences, GDP was subsequently transformed from a narrow metric to the purpose of economic activity. Today, increasing GDP is the highest goal of politics. In accessible and compelling prose, Philipsen shows how it affects all of us.

But the world can no longer afford GDP rule. A finite planet cannot sustain blind and indefinite expansion. If we consider future generations equal to our own, replacing the GDP regime is the ethical imperative of our times. More is not better. As Philipsen demonstrates, the history of GDP reveals unique opportunities to fashion smarter goals and measures. The Little Big Number explores a possible roadmap for a future that advances quality of life rather than indiscriminate growth.

Book Fact Friday – African Safari

The Kingdon Field Guide to African MammalsFrom page 369 of The Kingdon Field Guide to African Mammals by Jonathan Kingdon:

The Ethiopian Wolf is highly vocal. Its calls include group yip-howls, a yelping bark, a two-phase bleating, and an explosive scream.

The Kingdon Field Guide to African Mammals
Second edition
Jonathan Kingdon
The Kingdon Field Guide to African Mammals is the essential companion for anyone going on safari or interested in African mammals—no other field guide covers the whole continent in a portable format. Now fully revised and updated, it covers all known species of African land mammals and features 780 stunning color illustrations. Detailed species accounts describe key identification features, distribution, habitat, food, behavior, adaptations, and conservation status. Coverage of several of the more complex groups of small mammals is simplified by reference to genera, and there are introductory profiles of each mammal group and more than 500 maps. This new edition includes many newly recognized species, and classification has been fully updated.
Written and illustrated by a world authority, The Kingdon Field Guide to African Mammals is a must-have guide for travelers and armchair naturalists alike.
• Covers more than 1,100 species
• Features 780 color illustrations
• Describes key identification features, distribution, habitat, food, behavior, adaptations, and status
• Includes many newly recognized species, and classification has been fully updated

Book Fact Friday – Lady Beetles

From chapter 11 of Garden Insects of North America:

Most lady beetles lay between 5 and 30 orange-yellow eggs at a time. They are distinctive, but may sometimes resemble those of leaf beetles. Eggs are laid near colonies of insects to provide food for the larvae.

Garden Insects of North America by Whitney Cranshaw

Garden Insects of North America is the most comprehensive and user-friendly guide to the common insects and mites affecting yard and garden plants in North America. In a manner no previous book has come close to achieving, through full-color photos and concise, clear, scientifically accurate text, it describes the vast majority of species associated with shade trees and shrubs, turfgrass, flowers and ornamental plants, vegetables, and fruits—1,420 of them, including crickets, katydids, fruit flies, mealybugs, moths, maggots, borers, aphids, ants, bees, and many, many more. For particularly abundant bugs adept at damaging garden plants, management tips are also included. Covering all of the continental United States and Canada, this is the definitive one-volume resource for amateur gardeners, insect lovers, and professional entomologists alike.

To ease identification, the book is organized by plant area affected (e.g., foliage, flowers, stems) and within that, by taxa. Close to a third of the species are primarily leaf chewers, with about the same number of sap suckers. Multiple photos of various life stages and typical plant symptoms are included for key species. The text, on the facing page, provides basic information on host plants, characteristic damage caused to plants, distribution, life history, habits, and, where necessary, how to keep “pests” in check–in short, the essentials to better understanding, appreciating, and tolerating these creatures.

Whether managing, studying, or simply observing insects, identification is the first step–and this book is the key. With it in hand, the marvelous microcosm right outside the house finally comes fully into view.

• Describes more than 1,400 species–twice as many as in any other field guide
• Full-color photos for most species–more than five times the number in most comparable guides
• Up-to-date pest management tips
• Organized by plant area affected and by taxa for easy identification
• Covers the continental United States and Canada
• Provides species level treatment of all insects and mites important to gardens
• Illustrates all life stages of key garden insects and commonly associated plant injuries
• Concise, clear, scientifically accurate text
• Comprehensive and user-friendly

Also by Whitney Cranshaw: Bugs Rule!: An Introduction to the World of Insects

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.