Forecasting & Business Charts [Slideshow]

The slideshow below, assembled by Walter Friedman, author of Fortune Tellers: The Story of America’s First Economic Forecasters, brings together several forecasting and business charts from the early twentieth century.

More information on many of these charts and the forecasters themselves is in Friedman’s book which you can sample here. If you would like to download a PDF of these images and captions, please right click and save this file.

Fortune Tellers 2
Fortune Tellers 1
1 The Babson Compositplot, 1921
2 Irving Fisher's Diagram of the Equation of Exchange, 1912
3 Irving Fisher's Diagram of the Equation of Exchange, 1912
4 John Moody's View of the Economy, 1904
5 James H Brookmire's Barometer, 1907
6 Brookmire's Barometer Chart
7 Harvard Economic Service Chart
Karl Karsten's Map of Business Conditions
9 Brookmire's Cycle Chart of Business and Banking
10 Malcolm Rorty's Depiction of the Business Cycle
11 Babson's Map of the United States for Merchants and Bankers, 1911
12 Brookmire's survey of business conditions in the United States

A new type of forecasting

The years from the turn of the century to World War I were a fertile time for many business analysts, including the scientific management exponent, F. W. Taylor. While some experts sought to improve the inner workings of firms, other tried to make sense of the very atmosphere in which business operated.

Who were the Fortune Tellers?

After the Panic of 1907, economic forecasters began producing newsletters.

Roger W. Babson published Babson’s Reports, which featured the Compositplot of ups and downs. In 1909, John Moody, who is today remembered for his credit rating company, started his own weekly market report. In 1910 Irving Fisher, a pioneer of mathematical economics, published the first of several charts, intended for economic prediction, in the Journal of Economics. Around this same time, James Brookmire, the son of a grocer in St. Louis, founded the Brookmire Economic Chart company and began publishing forecasts on a regular basis.

The most influential forecasting chart of the period belonged to the Harvard Economic Service, which, in 1922, founded a weekly newsletter that featured its A-B-C curve. Along with these charts were other efforts to map economic activity, including Malcolm Rorty’s sketch of the business cycle and several attempts to capture the geography of business within the U.S.

The Babson Compositplot, from 1921

The large shaded areas marked A, B, C, D, E, F, and G, represent depressions below and expansions above the “normal” line. Babson believed that areas of expansion (B, for instance), would be equal to areas of recession (C, for instance) that followed. The chart also contained a wealth of other information, including stock prices, bond prices, and commodity prices.

Source: Roger W. Babson, Business Barometers Used in the Accumulation of Money (Wellesley Hills, Mass: Babson Institute, 1921), insert.

Irving Fisher’s Diagram of the Equation of Exchange for use in forecasting, 1912

While Fisher did not produce a forecasting chart, he did create a diagram to illustrate the Equation of Exchange (MV + M’V’ = PT), which he depicted showing a mechanical balance. The left side of the balance symbolized the left side of the equation, with a small weight standing for M, the money in circulation, and a larger bank book standing for M’, deposits in checking accounts. The distance to the left of the fulcrum of the weight represented the velocity of circulation (V) and the distance of the bankbook, the velocity of circulation of bank deposits (V’).

(continued in the next slide)

Irving Fisher’s Diagram of the Equation of Exchange for use in forecasting, 1912

The volume of trade (T) was represented by a tray on the right, with the index of prices (P) at which these goods were sold, represented by the distance of the tray to the right. The diagram showed the changes in the values for all the components of the Equation of Exchange from 1896 to 1911. To predict the future, Fisher thought, one needed to look especially at recent changes in the bank deposits, which, if rising rapidly, indicated a coming crisis.

Source: Irving Fisher, “‘The Equation of Exchange,’ 1896-1910,” The American Economic Review 1:2 (Jun 1911): p. 299.

John Moody’s view of the economy

In this 1904 chart, Moody encapsulates a firm-centered view of the economy, in this case showing the dominance of the Morgan banking interests and Rockefeller’s Standard Oil. Moody wrote at the top of the chart, “The large circle in the center of the chart indicates the dominant position of the Trust-formed industries of the Nation; directly linked to and representing this dominant force we find two groups of capitalists, the Standard Oil, or Rockefeller, and the Morgan groups.” Moody’s diagram resembled something of a family tree of capitalism.

Source John Moody, The Truth about The Trusts: A Description and Analysis of the American Trust Movement (New York: Moody Publishing Company, 1904), between pages viii and ix.

James H. Brookmire’s Barometer, close-up

James H. Brookmire’s Barometer depicted three indexes of economic sectors—business activity, the stock market (an index of thirty-two stocks), and banking resources. The small print reads, “Condition of business, banking, and the stock market in February, 1907, foretelling the panic of October, 9 months later.”

Source: The Brookmire Economic Chart Company, A Graphic Record of Fundamental, Financial and Business Conditions Since 1885 (St. Louis: Brookmire, 1913).

Brookmire’s Barometer Chart

Here, Brookmire combined his barometer with a chart of values over time for general business (a black line), average stocks (in shaded line), and banking (in sold red).

Source: The Brookmire Economic Chart Company, A Graphic Record of Fundamental, Financial and Business Conditions Since 1885 (St. Louis: Brookmire, 1913).

Harvard Economic Service Chart

Harvard Economic Service Chart, like Brookmire’s Barometer, was a leading indicator model. Persons believed that Group A (representing stocks) forecast Group B (representing business activity); in turn Group B forecasted Group C (representing banking). In this way, the three indexes together created a view of overall business conditions and, in Person’s words, “future tendencies.” The graph above showed historical values from 1903 to 1908.

Source: Warren M. Persons, “The Index: A Statement of Results,” Review of Economic Statistics 1:2 (April 1919): 112.

Karl Karsten’s “Map of Business Conditions”

Economist Karl Karsten showed American states in relative proportion to their population and shaded according to condition of “business activity,” with the darkest states (New Hampshire and Vermont) representing poor levels. The chart revealed the relative geographic distribution of business activity and population—still very weighted toward New England, Pennsylvania (with the rise of the steel industry in Pittsburgh), and Illinois (with the growth of Chicago and its meatpacking plants and grain industry).

Source: Karl Karsten Papers, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.

Brookmire’s Cycle Chart of Business and Banking

This chart shows how the ups and downs of business activity tended to deplete and then free up banking resources. As business activity ran from “normal” to “prostrate,” banking resources climbed from “normal” to “abundant” and even “plethoric.” When business activity subsequently climbed to “feverish” and “hazardous,” at the peak of the cycle, banking resources fell to “overextended” and even “critical.”

Source: The Brookmire Economic Chart Company, A Graphic Record of Fundamental, Financial and Business Conditions Since 1885 (St. Louis: Brookmire, 1913).

Malcolm Rorty’s depiction of the business cycle

In this graph, capitalist economies had four discernible phases: revival, prosperity, liquidation, and depression. Above each of these four, Rorty included a list of economic conditions common to each to help readers determine the end of one phase and the start of the next. Note that the chart showed an especially sharp drop of business activity during times of liquidation or crisis.

Source Rorty, Some Problems in Current Economics (1922).

Babson’s Map of the United States for Merchants and Bankers, 1911

The map showed regions where failures were increasing (shown in squares) and business declining (shown in circles).

Brookmire’s survey of business conditions in the United States

Regions were color-coded to indicate whether crop production was good, fair, or poor. Cities were marked with stars if they were numerous business failures, with diamonds if they held dull opportunities for salesmen, and ampersands if the opportunities for salesmen were improving.

Source: The Brookmire Economic Chart Company, A Graphic Record of Fundamental, Financial and Business Conditions Since 1885 (St. Louis, Mo., 1912).

Fortune Tellers 2 thumbnail
Fortune Tellers 1 thumbnail
1 The Babson Compositplot, 1921 thumbnail
2 Irving Fisher's Diagram of the Equation of Exchange, 1912 thumbnail
3 Irving Fisher's Diagram of the Equation of Exchange, 1912 thumbnail
4 John Moody's View of the Economy, 1904 thumbnail
5 James H Brookmire's Barometer, 1907 thumbnail
6 Brookmire's Barometer Chart thumbnail
7 Harvard Economic Service Chart thumbnail
Karl Karsten's Map of Business Conditions thumbnail
9 Brookmire's Cycle Chart of Business and Banking thumbnail
10 Malcolm Rorty's Depiction of the Business Cycle thumbnail
11 Babson's Map of the United States for Merchants and Bankers, 1911 thumbnail
12 Brookmire's survey of business conditions in the United States thumbnail

 

 

Quick Questions for Michael Scott, author of Delphi

Michael Scott, credit, David WilsonMichael Scott is an assistant professor of classics and ancient history at the University of Warwick, though he is perhaps most recognized as a presenter for ancient history documentaries on National Geographic, the History channel, Nova, and the BBC. His new book on Delphi has been getting excellent reviews so far, including this from The Spectator: “Tells you everything there is to know about Delphi.” We couldn’t agree more and hope you will sample this complimentary chapter.

The book presents a thorough history of this historical site–expanding our understanding beyond the oracle to incorporate Delphi’s importance as a site of commerce, international politics, sporting competitions, culture, and on and on. It also includes a brief chapter for present-day visitors with insider’s tips on the sights to see making it the perfect companion for anyone planning a trip to see Delphi for themselves.

Now, on to the questions!

PUP: What inspired you to get into your field?

Michael Scott: A trip to Greece–indeed to Delphi–when I was 17 at school convinced me to study Classics at University. Whilst there, I was lucky enough to study at the British Schools at Rome and at Athens and to study in and amongst a wide range of fascinating archaeological sites. From that point on, I never looked back

What do you think is the book’s most important contribution?

For me, this book highlights what history, and particularly ancient history, really is. Not a list of undisputed facts about what happened, but a continuing dialogue–from then right up to now–of different, sometimes overlapping, sometimes contradictory arguments about how to understand the past, and the place of the past in our present and future. As the saying goes, ‘the future is certain, the past just keeps on changing.’


To properly understand any one moment and event, I argue that we need to connect histories from around the globe.


What was the most influential book you’ve read?

Tough one. In regard to the study of the ancient world, probably E R Dodds’s Greeks and the Irrational. I remember reading it just before starting my undergraduate degree and it entirely changing my perception of what studying the ancient world would be like.

Why did you write this book?

I wrote this book because while Delphi has been extensively studied, that study has often been piecemeal (in focusing on one particular activity at Delphi), or compartmentalized (in terms of focusing on what particular period of its 1000+ year history), or written from the standpoint of a particular kind of evidence (literary, inscriptional or archaeological). But that is not how the ancients saw, used or perceived Delphi. If we are to understand Delphi and its unique place and longevity within the ancient world, we have to get to grips with how the different sources portray Delphi’s portfolio of activities interacting across its lifespan to create a place that remained at the centre of the ancient world for so long.

PUP: What is your next project?

In my next book project, I want to break down some of the disciplinary boundaries between arenas of study in our ancient past. The book will focus on some of the most famous dates in our ancient story: 2000 BC and the completion of Stonehenge; 508 BC and the origins of democracy; 218 BC and Hannibal’s march across the Alps as well as 312 AD Constantine’s victory at the battle of Milvian Bridge. But exploring these critical moments is only the beginning. To properly understand any one moment and event, I argue that we need to connect histories from around the globe to examine what was happening elsewhere at these crucial times. So, yes, democracy may have been invented in ancient Greece in 508 BC, but what was happening politically at that time in Italy, or indeed in China? Constantine may have begun Rome’s march to Christianity in 312 AD, but what great shifts in religious observance were happening in India or North Africa? In asking that question, this book will connect up our different pasts and as a result enable us to understand the varying speeds, and kinds, of evolution that the regions of our world have been through. It will open up a window onto the similar and different challenges and issues we have faced, as well as the responses and ideas we have developed as a result.


Michael is the author of:

bookjacket Delphi
A History of the Center of the Ancient World

Michael Scott
Cloth | 2014 | $29.95 / £19.95 | ISBN: 9780691150819
448 pp. | 6 x 9 | 8 color illus. 41 halftones. 3 maps.
eBook | ISBN: 9781400851324″Like the two eagles released by Zeus from opposite ends of the world who then met in Delphi, Michael Scott gets to the heart of antiquity’s most celebrated and enigmatic oracle. A vivid and lucid study that reanimates the mentality of those who consulted Apollo more convincingly than any other I have read.”–Tom Holland, author of Persian Fire: The First World Empire and the Battle for the West

Untranslatable Tuesdays – Dasein

dasein_final

To mark the publication of Dictionary of Untranslatables: A Philosophical Lexicon, we are delighted to share with you a series of wonderful images, created by our design team, which illustrate some of the most interesting words in the Dictionary. First up on “Untranslatable Tuesday”, is Dasein, a German word which the editors of the Dictionary say “has become a paradigm of the untranslatable”. Of course, it is hard to say what it means, as it is “untranslatable”, but it is similar to:

ENGLISH      life

FRENCH       existence, réalité humaine, être-là/existence, temps, durée d’une existence, présence, vie, être

GERMAN    Kampf ums Dasein (struggle for life)

ITALIAN       essere-ci, esserci, adessere

LATIN           existentia

 

 

 

Princeton Cooks… Beef Ragoût

We invited our Princeton colleagues to try their hand at cooking and baking the delicious treats found in Cooking for Crowds: 40th Anniversary Edition by Merry “Corky” White. Here, Deborah Grondahl, Digital Publications Assistant at Princeton University Press, takes on a Beef Ragoût recipe, swapping out flour for a gluten-free friendly alternative. Recipe is below.  Bon Appetit!


 

Beef Ragoût

Deborah Grondahl

in bowls

After reading through the cookbook, Cooking for Crowds–this is the recipe that said “Cook Me”. Maybe it was the peppercorns, maybe it was the orange zest but I needed to make this recipe.  One problem—the recipe calls for flour. I have a gluten-free kitchen. What do I do?  After reading and re-reading the recipe, the flour is used to coat the meat, so substituting with a different type of flour is easy.  I used an all-purpose mix that has potato, garbanzo, tapioca and sorghum flours, but I’m sure you could easily use potato or corn starch.  I went with the all-purpose mix because I thought the bean flavor might lend itself to the complex flavors of the dish.

Making this seems straight forward enough—Prep, Sear, Simmer, Eat. The recipe scales easily to accommodate the crowd you are serving.  Two, is not a crowd, but I like to make extra for lunch the next day or another diner and the recipe does say its better the next day.

Prep:

I love using fresh herbs, but often don’t have them on hand. I had planned to make this so I had the thyme. Finely chopped

thyme

Half-moons of Onions—sounds so fancy

Orange zest.  This is what drew me to this recipe, strips of orange zest.

orange peel

Sear:

onions in pot

Okay, so this isn’t a picture of the meat being seared.  It’s the after picture with those fancy half-moons of onions.

Simmer:

in pot

A pot of promise.  The recipe says you can use either beef stock or red wine or both. I used stock, because I didn’t have wine. After you put everything in the pot, the recipe says to cover with additional liquid (not mentioned in the ingredients). Luckily I had additional stock on hand and there was no issue.

Eat:

Sserved over rice:

in bowls

 


 

Beef Ragoût

After watching me try several recipes for beef stew, my daughter developed this one, which is especially good because of the added orange peel. Use only the orange part: do not use white of peel as it is very bitter when cooked.

  6 12 20 50
butter 2 tbs 4 tbs 7 tbs 1 c
cooking oil 1 tbs 2 tbs 3 tbs 8 tbs
stewing beef, preferably chuck,cut into ½ -inch chunks 1½ lbs 3 lbs 6 lbs 12 lbs
medium onions, sliced 2 4 7 16
all-purpose flour 2 tbs 4 tbs 7 tbs 1 c
dry, red wine 1 c 2 c 3½ c 7 c
or        
beef stock 1 c 2 c 3½ c 7 c
carrots, peeled and roughly chopped 2 4 7 16
garlic cloves, finely chopped 1 2 4 7
fresh thyme, finely chopped 1 tsp 2 tsp 1 tbs 1½ tbs
or        
dried thyme ½ tsp 1 tsp 1½ tsp 2 tsp
bay leaves 1 2 4 8
tomato paste 1 tbs 2 tbs 3½ tbs 1½6-oz cans
2-inch, thin strips of orange peel 2 4 7 12
peppercorns 6 12 20 40
salt 1 tsp 2 tsp 3½ tsp 2 tbs

Melt the butter and oil together in a large, heavy saucepan. Have a large casserole at hand.

Over medium heat brown the meat, several pieces at a time, and as they are browned, remove them to the casserole. Add the onions to the pan and cook until soft over a medium flame.

Add the flour to the beef and toss to cover well, add the browned onions to the beef. Add the wine or stock, and bring to a simmer, stirring. Then add the carrots and the remaining ingredients. Add extra stock, wine, or water to cover all the ingredients.

Reduce the heat to very low, cover, and simmer for about 2 hours, or until the meat is soft to the touch or the fork. Do not let it cook too much or the meat will disintegrate. And watch the liquid, so that it doesn’t boil away. Let the ragoût cool to room temperature, then refrigerate.

Reheat slowly and serve with whipped potatoes, boiled noodles, or rice. Or just crusty French bread and salad.

NOTE: This is 100 percent better the next day, so be sure to make it ahead.


This recipe is taken from:

bookjacket
<align=”center”>

Cooking for Crowds
40th Anniversary Edition
Merry White
With a new foreword by Darra Goldstein and a new introduction by the author

“[Merry White's] book, made up of recipes she collected as the caterer for the Harvard Center for European Studies, suggested a new way of entertaining, with self-serve spanakopita, petite shrimp quiche and that savior of the anxious cook, the casserole that can be made a day ahead. Edward Koren’s woolly illustrations set the tone: vegetables are our friends, and food tastes best in groups. Even though pesto and vindaloo are no longer exotic, during the holidays her attitude (and her meatballs) may be what every stressed-out host needs.”–Alexandra Lange, New York Times

Princeton University Press’s best-selling titles for the last week

These are the best-selling books for the past week.

 

GDP: A Brief but Affectionate History by Diane Coyle
Tesla: Inventor of the Electrical Age by W. Bernard Carlson Tesla: Inventor of the Electrical Age by W. Bernard Carlson
On Bullshit by Harry G. Frankfurt
The Limits of Partnership: U.S.-Russian Relations in the Twenty-First Century by Angela E. Stent
Fragile by Design: The Political Origins of Banking Crises and Scarce Credit by Charles W. Calomiris & Stephen H. Haber
1177 BC: The Year Civilization Collapsed by Eric H. Cline
Rare Birds of North America by Steve Howell, Ian Lewington, and Will Russell
Revolutionary Ideas: An Intellectual History of the French Revolution from The Rights of Man to Robespierre by Jonathan Israel
The Dollar Trap: How the U.S. Dollar Tightened Its Grip on Global Finance by Eswar S. Prasad
The Box: How the Shipping Container Made the World Smaller and the World Economy Bigger by Marc Levinson

Quick Questions for Tim Chartier, author of Math Bytes

Tim Chartier, Photo  courtesy Davidson CollegeTim Chartier is author of Math Bytes: Google Bombs, Chocolate-Covered Pi, and Other Cool Bits in Computing. He agreed to be our first victi… interview subject in what will become a regular series. We will ask our authors to answer a series of questions in hopes to uncover details about why they wrote their book, what they do in their day job, and what their writing process is. We hope you enjoy getting to know Tim!

PUP: Why did you write this book?

Tim Chartier: My hope is that readers simply delight in the book.  A friend told me the book is full of small mathematical treasures.  I have had folks who don’t like math say they want to read it.  For me, it is like extending my Davidson College classroom.  Come and let’s talk math together.  What might we discover and enjoy?  Don’t like math?  Maybe it is simply you haven’t taken a byte of a mathematical delight that fits your palate!

PUP: Who do you see as the audience for this book?

TC: I wanted this book, at least large segments of it, to read down to middle school.  I worked with public school teachers on many of the ideas in this book.  They adapted the ideas to their classrooms.  And yet, the other day, I was almost late taking my kids to school as I had to pull them from reading my book, a most satisfying reason.  In my mime training, Marcel Marceau often said, “Create your piece and let the genius of the audience teach you what you created.”  I see this book that way.  I wrote a book that I see my students and the many to whom I speak in broad public settings smiling at as they listen.  Who all will be in the audience of this book?  That’s for me to learn from the readers.  I look forward to it.


Don’t like math? Maybe it is simply you haven’t taken a byte of a mathematical delight that fits your palate!


PUP: What do you think is the book’s most important contribution?

TC: When I describe the book to people, many respond with surprise or even better a comment like, “I wish I had a teacher like you.”  My current and former students often note that the book is very much like class.  Let’s create and play with ideas and discover how far they can go and, of great interest to me, how fun and whimsical they can be.

PUP: What inspired you to get into your field?

TC: My journey into math came via my endeavors in performing arts.  I was performing in mime and puppetry at international levels in college.  Math was my “back-up” plan.  Originally, I was taking math classes as required courses in my studies in computer science.  I enjoyed the courses but tended to be fonder of ideas in computer science.  I like the creative edge to writing programming.  We don’t all program in the same way and I enjoyed the elegance of solutions that could be found.  This same idea attracted me to math — when I took mathematical proofs.  I remember studying infinity – a topic far from being entirely encompassed by my finite mind.  Yet, through a mathematical lens, I could examine the topic and prove aspects of it.  Much like when I studied mime with Marcel Marceau, the artistry and creativity of mathematical study is what drew me to the field and kept me hooked through doctoral studies.

PUP: What is the biggest misunderstanding people have about what you do?

TC: Many think mathematics is about numbers.  Much of mathematics is about ideas and concepts.  My work lies at the boundary of computer science and mathematics.  So, my work often models the real world so often mathematics is more about thinking how to use it to glean interesting or new information about our dynamic world.  Numbers are interesting and wonderful but so is taking a handful of M&Ms and creating a math-based mosaic of my son or sitting with my daughter and using chocolate chips to estimate the value of Pi.  And, just for the record, the ideas would be interesting even without the use of chocolate but that doesn’t hurt!

PUP: What would you have been if not a mathematician?

TC: Many people think I would have been a full-time performer.  I actually intentionally walked away from that field.  I want to be home, have a home, walk through a neighborhood where I know my neighbors.  To me, I would have found a field, of some kind, where I could teach.  Then, again, I always wanted to be a creative member of the Muppet team – either creating ideas or performing!


I pick projects that I believe aren’t just exciting now, but will be exciting in retrospect.


PUP: What was the best piece of advice you ever received?

TC: At one time, I was quite ill.  It was a scary time with many unknowns.  I remember resting in a dark room and wondering if I could improve and get better.  I reflected on my life and felt good about where I was, even if I was heading into my final stretch.  I remember promising myself that if I ever got better that I would live a life that later — whether it be a decade later or decades and decades later — that I would try to live a life that I could again feel good about whenever I might again be in such a state.  I did improve but I pick projects that I believe aren’t just exciting now, but will be exciting in retrospect.  This book is easily an example of such a decision.

PUP: Describe your writing process. How long did it take you to finish your book? Where do you write?

TC: The early core of the book happened at 2 points.  First, I was on sabbatical from Davidson College working at the University of Washington where I taught Mathematical Modeling.  Some of the ideas of the book drew from my teaching at Davidson and were integrated into that course taught in Seattle.  At the end of the term, my wife Tanya said, “You can see your students and hear them responding.  Sit now and write a draft. Write quickly and let it flow.  Talk to them and get the class to smile.”  It was great advice to me.  The second stage came with my first reader, my sister Melody.  She is not a math lover and is a critical reader of any manuscript. She has a good eye.  I asked her to be my first reader.  She was stunned.  I wanted her to read it as I knew if she enjoyed it, even though there would be parts she wouldn’t understand fully, then I had a draft of the book I wanted to write.  She loved it and soon after I dove into the second draft.

PUP: Do you have advice for other authors?

TC: My main advice came from award-winning author Alan Michael Parker from Davidson College.  As I was finishing, what at the time I saw as close to my final draft, Alan said, “Tim, you are the one who will live with this book for a lifetime.  Many will read it only once.  You have it for the rest of your life.  Write your book. Make sure it is your voice.  Take your time and know it is you.”  His words echoed in me for months.  I put the book down for several months and then did a revision in which I saw my reflection in the book’s pages — I had seen my reflection before but never as clearly.


Tim is the author of:

bookjacket

Math Bytes
Google Bombs, Chocolate-Covered Pi, and Other Cool Bits in Computing
Tim Chartier

“A magnificent and curious romp through a wonderful array of mathematical topics and applications: maze creation, Google’s PageRank algorithm, doodling, the traveling salesman problem, math on The Simpsons, Fermat’s Last Theorem, viral tweets, fractals, and so much more. Buy this book and feed your brain.”–Clifford A. Pickover, author of The Math Book

Math Bytes is a playful and inviting collection of interesting mathematical examples and applications, sometimes in surprising places. Many of these applications are unique or put a new spin on things. The link to computing helps make many of the topics tangible to a general audience.”–Matt Lane, creator of the Math Goes Pop! Blog

 

The selfie-conscious: ‘Mirror Mirror’ queries our eternal preoccupation with our ‘selves’

Blackburn jacketFor those among us active on social media platforms such as Facebook, Instragram or Twitter, it is hard to miss the viral trend that has succeeded ‘Movember’ and the ‘NekNomination’; the ‘#NoMakeupSelfie’. Created to raise awareness and encourage donations to breast cancer research, the craze invites girls and women to take a ‘selfie’ (Oxford English Dictionary: ‘a photograph that one has taken of oneself, typically with a smartphone or webcam and uploaded to a social media website’) wearing no make-up, and then to nominate friends to do the same. The internet and media have exploded with responses that both condemn and condone the purportedly philanthropic trend, with Yomi Adegoke of The Independent describing it as ‘narcissism masked as charity’. But now that the phenomenon of the ‘selfie’ has been teamed up with charitable giving – generally deemed to be ‘self-less’ – this craze has now entered into the debate surrounding ‘selfie-mania’ and ‘self-love’ that Simon Blackburn explores in Mirror Mirror: The Uses and Abuses of Self-Love.

Blackburn examines this modern phenomenon in conjunction with the classical origins of a consideration of the self, such as ‘Know thy self’, a trope that was advocated by Apollo’s oracle at Delphi. However, ‘Mirror Mirror’ reminds us that Narcissus was warned against this advice by what Blackburn describes as ‘the highly reliable’, ‘blind seer Tiresius’, and he goes on to explore this contradiction and the subsequent dispute between ignorance and knowledge of the self. Blackburn underpins these modern and classical references with a discussion of philosophy, psychology, and morality, reflected in his chapter titles: ‘Temptation’, ‘Hubris’, and ‘Respect’. Mirror Mirror skilfully moves through a multi-faceted examination of what it means to be and to document our ‘selves’, and why we have been, and continue to be, so obsessed with them.

By Hannah Lucas, Princeton University Press Europe intern, March 2014

 

5, 4, 3, 2, 1…. Blast off! Announcing University Presses in Space

header_upinspace_1200
A collaborative web site, University Presses in Space, launched this week in an effort to bring together space exploration and astronomy/astrophysics titles from across the university press universe. “University presses have explored the known universe and beyond, producing a galaxy of intriguing and informative books about outer space and space exploration,” notes the introductory page.

The web site is created with readers in mind. As Ellen W. Faran, director of The MIT Press, wrote in her announcement of the launch, “The hypothesis here is that space readers don’t stop at one book and that they appreciate quality.”

We are delighted to see Princeton University Press titles like The Cosmic Cocktail: Three Parts Dark Matter by Katherine Freese and Heart of Darkness: Unraveling the Mysteries of the Invisible Universe by Jeremiah P. Ostriker and Simon Mitton included in the mix.

Maybe we can get an endorsement from others who have boldly gone into space before us?

The Extreme Life of the Sea at the Commonwealth Club/WonderFest, San Francisco

Steve Palumbi, one of today’s leading marine scientists, takes us to the absolute limits of the aquatic world—into the icy arctic, toward boiling hydrothermal vents, and into the deepest undersea trenches—to show how marine life thrives against the odds. He helps us appreciate and understand the fastest and deepest, the hottest and oldest creatures of the oceans.

But such fragile ecosystems face new challenges: climate change and overfishing could pose the greatest threats yet to our planet’s tenacious marine life. Prof. Palumbi shares unforgettable stories of some of the most marvelous life forms on Earth, and reveals surprising lessons of how we humans can learn to adapt to climate change.

This lecture was recorded at the Commonwealth Club earlier this year. Steve and Tony’s book is The Extreme Life of the Sea. You can sample the prologue here: http://press.princeton.edu/chapters/s10178.pdf

The Princeton in Europe Lecture 2014

Diarmaid MacCulloch (c) Chris Gibbons SMALLER RESWe are delighted to announce that The Princeton in Europe Lecture 2014 will be given by Sir Diarmaid MacCulloch. Professor MacCulloch is at the Faculty of Theology and Religion, University of Oxford, and has a special interest in the history of Christianity. The author of numerous books on the history of religion, Diarmaid MacCulloch has also presented BBC documentaries, such as A History of Christianity and, most recently, How God Made the English. This year’s Princeton in Europe Lecture, which will be held at the British Academy, is entitled:

“What if Arianism had won?: A reformation historian looks at medieval Europe”

This event is open to the general public and is free to attend, but please register in advance by emailing Hannah Paul: hpaul@pupress.co.uk.

Wolfson Auditorium at the British Academy  *  Tuesday 8th April 2014  * Drinks will be served from 5.30pm, and the lecture will begin at 6.30pm * We look forward to seeing you there.

* Photograph (c) Chris Gibbons

 

These Two Numbers Make Spring Possible (and the other seasons too)

Happy first day of spring! Princeton University Press is celebrating the coming of the crocuses and daffodils with this mathematical post by Oscar Fernandez, author of Everyday Calculus: Discovering the Hidden Math All around Us.


March 20th. Don’t recognize that date? You should, it’s the official start of spring! I won’t blame you for not knowing, because after the unusually cold winter we’ve had it’s easy to forget that higher temperatures are coming. But why March 20th, and not the 21st or the 19th? And while we’re at it, why are there even seasons at all?

The answer has to do with 2 numbers. Don’t worry, they’re simple numbers (not like pi [1]). Stick around and I’ll show you some neat graphs to help you understand where they come from, and hopefully entertain you in the process too.

The first star of this show is the number 92 million. No, it’s not the current Powerball jackpot; it’s also not the number of times a teenager texts per day. To appreciate its significance, have a look at our first chart:

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Figure 1: The average surface temperature (on the vertical axis) of the planets in our solar system sorted by their distance from our sun (the horizontal axis). From left to right: Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto (technically, Pluto lost its planet status in 2006).

That first planet on the left is Mercury. It’s about 36 million miles away from the sun and has an average surface temperature of 333o. (Bring LOTS of sunscreen.) Fourth down the line is the red planet, Mars. At a distance of about 141 million miles from the sun, Mars’ average temperature is -85o. (Bring LOTS of hot chocolate.) We could keep going, but the general trend is clear: planets farther away from the sun have lower average temperatures.[2]

If neither 333o nor -85o sound inviting, I’ve got just the place for you: Earth! At a cool 59o this planet is … drumroll please … 92 million miles from the sun.

We actually got lucky here. You see, it turns out that a planet’s temperature T is related to its distance r from the sun by the formula , where k is a number that depends on certain properties of the planet. I’ve graphed this curve in Figure 1. Notice that all the planets (except for the pesky Venus) closely follow the curve. But there’s more here than meets the eye. Specifically, the T formula predicts that a 1% change in distance will result in a 0.5% change in temperature.[3] For example, were Earth just 3% closer to the sun—about 89 million miles away instead of 92 million—the average temperature would be about 1.5o higher. To put that in perspective, note that at the end of the last ice age average temperatures were only 5o to 9o cooler than today.[4]

So our distance from the sun gets us more reasonable temperatures than Mercury and Mars have, but where do the seasons come from? That’s where our second number comes in: 23.4.

Imagine yourself in a park sitting in front of a bonfire. You’re standing close enough to feel the heat but not close enough to feel the burn. Now lean in. Your head is now hotter than your toes; this tilt has produced a temperature difference between your “northern hemisphere” and your “southern hemisphere.” This “tilt effect” is exactly what happens as Earth orbits the sun. More specifically, our planet is tilted about 23.4o from its vertical axis (Figure 2).

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Figure 2. Earth is tilted about 23.4o from the plane of orbit with the sun (called the ecliptic plane).

Because of its tilt, as the Earth orbits the sun sometimes the Northern Hemisphere tilts toward the sun—roughly March-September—and other times it tilts away from the sun—roughly September-March (Figure 3).[5]

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Figure 3. Earth’s tilt points toward the sun between mid-March and mid-September, and points away from it the remaining months of the year. The four marked dates describe how this “tilt effect” changes the number of daylight hours throughout the year. Assuming you live in the Northern Hemisphere, days are longest during the summer solstice (shorter nights) and shortest during the winter solstice (longer nights). During the equinoxes, daytime and nighttime are about the same length.

Now that you know how two numbers—92 million and 23.4—explain the seasons, let’s get back to spring in particular. As Figure 3 shows, there are two days each year when Earth’s tilt neither points toward nor away from the sun. Those two days, called the equinoxes, divide the warmer months from the colder ones. And that’s exactly what happened on March 20th: we passed the spring equinox.

Before you go, I have a little confession to make. It’s not entirely true that just two numbers explain the seasons. Distance to the sun and Earth’s tilt are arguably the most important factors, but other factors—like our atmosphere—are also important. But that would’ve made the title a lot longer. And anyway, I would’ve ended up explaining those factors using more numbers. The takeaway: math is powerful, and the more you learn the better you’ll understand just about anything.[6]

 


[1] The ratio of a circle’s circumference to its diameter, pi is a never-ending, never repeating number. It is approximately 3.14.

[2] Venus is the exception. Its thick atmosphere prevents the planet from cooling.

[3] Here’s the explanation for the mathematically inclined. In calculus, changes in a function are described by the function’s derivative; the derivative of T is . This tells us that for a small change dr in r the temperature change dT is . Relative changes are ratios of small changes in a quantity to its original value. Thus, the relative change in temperature, dT/T, is

which is minus 0.5 times the relative change in distance, dr/r. The minus sign says that the temperature decreases as r increases, confirming the results of Figure 1.

[5] Just like in our thought experiment, the Southern Hemisphere’s seasons are swapped with our own; when one is cold the other is warm and vice versa.

Two PUP books share the 2013 Sonia Rudikoff Prize from the Northeast Victorian Studies Association

Empty Houses: Theatrical Failure and the Novel by David Kurnick and The Rise and Fall of Meter: Poetry and English National Culture, 1860–1930 by Meredith Martin are co-Winners of the 2013 Sonia Rudikoff Prize, Northeast Victorian Studies Association. Congratulations!The Rudikoff Prize was awarded for the best first book in Victorian Studies published in 2012. Here’s a bit more about the award from their web site:“The Sonya Rudikoff Award was established by the Robert Gutman family in honor of Mr. Gutman’s late wife. Ms. Rudikoff was an active member of the Northeast Victorian Studies Association and a recognized scholar. Her book, Ancestral Houses: Virginia Woolf and the Aristocracy, was published posthumously. A text nominated for this award should be the author’s first book, and the subject should address Victorian literature and/or culture. Our focus is on Victorian Great Britain and the Empire, though we will consider texts that are transatlantic in focus. We will not, however, consider texts that are strictly American Victorian.”

Link to the list of current and past winners: http://www.nvsa.org/rudikoff3.htm

Congratulations to David Kurnick and Meredith Martin!

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