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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


 

bookjacket

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

Richard Ocejo on what bars tell us about gentrification in downtown Manhattan

The idea of bars as windows for understanding how cities change over time is an important claim in my new book, Upscaling Downtown: From Bowery Saloons to Cocktail Bars in New York City. I studied the growth and impacts of nightlife scenes in the downtown Manhattan areas of the East Village, Lower East Side, and Bowery for four years, and in that time came to know a lot of bars quite well. I cover a lot of history in the book, and show how intertwined bars and nightlife have been with key changes and events in these neighborhoods.

Each of the following bars represents a different era in the history of downtown Manhattan, covering the mid-nineteenth century to today. I refer to each directly or indirectly in the book. Anyone interested in learning more about where these neighborhoods have been and what they are like now could use this list to guide them.

1) McSorley’s Old Ale House, 15 East 7th Street, New York, NY

Having opened in 1McSorley854 (or so they claim), the oldest bar in continuous operation in New York City (or so they claim) was immortalized by Joseph Mitchell in The New Yorker for staunchly adhering to tradition—in 1940. The praise is no different today in tourists’ guidebooks: sawdust floors, assorted tsotchkes with inch-thick dust, stoic servers, and only two drink choices (ale, light or dark) make McSorley’s an “authentic” example of old New York. It opened at a time when working-class Irish immigrants lived in what is now the East Village. It became a simple neighborhood bar, and today McSorley’s lends downtown a historic authenticity from the distant past with a mix of regulars and visitors from around the world.

2) Milano’s Bar, 51 East Houston Street, New York, NY

The last of the “Bowery bars,” I heavily feature Milano’s, where I began my research, in a chapter on the history of the notorious Bowery, New York City’s former Skid Row. The bar opened in 1924, at a time when Little Italy was a vibrant ethnic enclave, and not the Italian-themed tourist attraction it is today. Over the decades homeless men from the nearby Bowery and its flophouses populated the bar. It was one of many dozens of such establishments downtown, until reinvestment in the area starting in the 1980s led to their decline. By the time I started studying it, in 2004, Milano’s had a mix of homeless men, regulars in their 30s-50s who moved to the area when it started gentrifying, and young newcomers in their 20s interested in checking out an authentic New York “dive bar.” Grittier than McSorley’s, Milano’s survives because of this balanced clientele, and because of a preservationist owner who did not want to see it changed or closed.

3) Blue and Gold Tavern, 79 East 7th Street, New York, NY

Another downtowBlue and Goldn “dive bar,” Blue and Gold has a different history from Milano’s. It opened in the 1960s for the neighborhood’s incoming Ukrainian population (the name refers to the national flag). When I spoke with owners who opened bars at the start of gentrification, they said the only bars open at the time were Ukrainian or Puerto Rican, and their owners mostly kept to themselves and their own communities. These and a few other post-war groups (such as Chinese) represent the last wave of immigrants to move to downtown neighborhoods. As the Ukrainian population has faded, Blue and Gold remains a neighborhood bar for some, and a remarkably cheap throwback for visiting revelers.

4) 2A, 25 Avenue A, New York, NY

While not very creatively-named (it is located at the corner of 2nd Street and Avenue A), 2A signified downtown’s gentrification in the 1980s. Bars like 2A were new places that accommodated the area’s new residents, such as artists, musicians, and students, as both patrons and bartenders. Taking advantage of low rents and inexpensive startup costs, these bars drew in these newcomers who were in need of local hangouts, and tried to exclude the neighborhood’s seedier elements, such as drug addicts and the homeless. The bars that succeeded, like 2A, remain in business today. With two floors and large windows overlooking a highly changed street, 2A still accommodates creative pursuits with regular DJs, film nights, and comedy shows.

5) Continental, 25 3rd Avenue, New York, NY

Among the many arts scenes and activities that thrived in downtown Manhattan, punk rock left one of the largest impressions in popular culture. Most famously, the club CBGB spawned such world-famous acts as the Ramones, the Talking Heads, and Blondie. Many of these artists lived, worked, and performed downtown. Continental opened in 1991 as another small venue that catered to alternative music genres. It became best known for housing hardcore rock bands. By 2006, with advanced gentrification in effect, neither small clubs for up-and-coming talent in non-mainstream genres nor young musicians honing their sound could afford to exist in downtown Manhattan. The owner changed formats from rock club to a dive-themed bar, with fake wood paneling and ridiculously low-priced drink deals ($10 for 5 shots of any liquor). Continental is now a destination for visiting revelers and college students looking for a cheap start to their night, a cheap end to their night, or simply a cheap night out.

6) Death & Co., 433 East 6th Street, New York, NY

Finally, we comeDeath & Co to an example of the latest wave of bars that have opened in downtown Manhattan and helped make it a new upscale destination. Unlike the owners of 2A and Continental, people who wanted to open a bar downtown in the 2000s must deal with high rents, more intense competition, and a need stand out among the rest. These owners, however, are less likely to live in the neighborhood, more likely to have access to investment capital, and more likely to have grand ideas and concepts for their bars. Opened in 2007, Death & Co. is a specialized cocktail bar and part of a renaissance of classic cocktails that have swept through downtown and across the city. The backbar is well-curated, the drinks are well-crafted (and pricey), and the experience is designed to be uniquely separate from the history of the neighborhood. They succeed in attracting downtown’s latest wave of hip, young, and increasingly wealthy residents and visitors in search of stylish consumption.


This is a guest post by Richard Ocejo, assistant professor of sociology at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, CUNY.

bookjacket

Upscaling Downtown
From Bowery Saloons to Cocktail Bars in New York City
Richard E. Ocejo

A look within — MRI technology in action

It’s 2014, and although we don’t have flying cars or teleportation, we do have some truly amazing technologies. The video of a live birth posted below has been making the social media rounds in recent weeks, and it is a wonderful glimpse of the imaging possible through magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) technology.

To fully understand the history and future challenges of imaging technology, we recommend Denis Le Bihan’s book Looking Inside the Brain: The Power of Neuroimaging. Le Bihan is one of the leading scientists and developers of MRI technology, so who better to guide readers through the history of imaging technology from the x-ray and CT scan to the PET scan and MRI. He also explains how neuroimaging uncovers afflictions like stroke or cancer and the workings of higher-order brain activities, such as language skills and also takes readers on a behind-the-scenes journey through NeuroSpin, his state-of-the-art neuroimaging laboratory.


 

bookjacket

Looking Inside the Brain
The Power of Neuroimaging
Denis Le Bihan
Translated by Teresa Lavender Fagan

Invisible in the Storm wins the 2015 Louis J. Battan Author’s Award, American Meteorological Society

Congratulations to Ian Roulstone & John Norbury, co-authors of Invisible in the Storm: The Role of Mathematics in Understanding Weather, on winning the 2015 Louis J. Battan Author’s Award given by the American Meteorological Society.

The prize is “presented to the author(s) of an outstanding, newly published book on the atmospheric and related sciences of a technical or non-technical nature, with consideration to those books that foster public understanding of meteorology in adult audiences.” In the announcement of the prize, the committee said Invisible in the Storm “illuminates the mathematical foundation of weather prediction with lucid prose that provides a bridge between meteorologists and the public.”

For more information about the 2015 AMS awards: http://www.ametsoc.org/awards/2015awardrecipients.pdf


bookjacket

Invisible in the Storm
The Role of Mathematics in Understanding Weather
Ian Roulstone & John Norbury

Princeton at Heffers Bookshop

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

Princeton at Heffers_1

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

Princeton at Heffers_3

Book trailer for Atlas of Cities edited by Paul Knox


Princeton University Press senior designer Jason Alejandro created this book trailer for Atlas of Cities edited by Paul Knox. (The catchy song in the background is the aptly named “Weekend in the City” by Silent Partner.)

8-7 Atlas of Cities Atlas of Cities
Edited by Paul Knox

 

Quick Questions for Nigel Dodd, author of The Social Life of Money

Nigel Dodd  is a professor in the Sociology Department at the London School of Economics (LSE). Dodd’s  interest in the sociology of money has led him to author The Sociology of Money: Economics, reason, and contemporary society (1994) and Social Theory and Modernity (1999), but it is his new book, The Social Life of Money, that we will discuss today. Besides teaching courses in Classical, Modern, and Contemporary Social Thought at the LSE, Dodd is also editor-in-chief of the British Journal of Sociology, and he has made several appearances on BBC World Service to discuss “various aspects of the 2007-9 financial crisis.”

Referring often to George Simmel’s Philosophy of Money (1907), The Social Life of Money is Dodd’s attempt to better understand and define the rapid and ever changing field of “money.” By reexamining the nature of money in the aftermath of the global economic crisis and by including thinkers such as Nietzsche, Benjamin, Bataille, Deleuze and Guattari, Baudrillard, Derrida, and Hardt and Negri—all of whom  fall outside the field of monetary theory—Dodd lays down the framework for understanding money in a different way.

Now, on to the questions!

Why did you write The Social Life of Money?

In the first instance, I wrote the book because although I could see what a varied and energetic field ‘money’ had become outside of economics, there were too many scholars who were simply not engaging with each other, but limiting their engagements to their own niche within the field. I even found that there were disagreements about terminology – for example, what some scholars claimed was ‘money’, others said was merely ‘currency’, and sorting out a way through this conceptual thicket wasn’t easy. So I wanted to write a book that brought this field together into a more coherent shape – not by synthesizing everything into one basic approach, but by providing a framework in which different approaches can speak to each other, and their relative insights brought to bear on important questions. I would describe myself as a ‘monetary pluralist’ – not wedded to a single theory of money but convinced that different theories work well according to context. So I wanted to write a book that gave expression to this, which was in a way a ‘celebration’ of intellectual multiplicity in monetary scholarship. Then, as I started to write the book as the financial crisis unfolded, I began to see this pluralism in a more practical way – these were not just different ways of theorizing money, but different ways of organizing it too that could make a serious contribution to debates about how our monetary systems could (or should) be changed in response to the crisis. I found that whereas money was being ‘blamed’ for the crisis by many mainstream commentators, it is in fact an important opportunity, a focal point for rethinking its role in society. However, while most debates about this are concerned with finding a single set of solutions, I sense that the best way forward is pluralism – we need not one ‘improved’ monetary system, but rather a range of different monetary forms that can address the many different problems (about financial exclusion, the dominance of big banks, monetary freedom, debt etc.) that the financial crisis exposed. So what started out as conceptual pluralism took on an increasingly practical character.


“I would describe myself as a ‘monetary pluralist’ – not wedded to a single theory of money but convinced that different theories work well according to context.”


What was the most interesting thing you learned from writing this book?

I learned three key things. First, I learned about an extraordinary range of brilliant work that has been undertaken by scholars from right across the social sciences into the nature of money. Since I first worked in this field in the early 1990s, there has been a tremendous explosion of interest in money as a social, political and cultural – not just an economic – phenomenon. There are some fantastic scholars working on money, and I hope that my book reflects the energy of an ever-changing field. Second, I learned that perhaps the greatest shift in our perception of money has been that it is increasingly being regarded by scholars as a force for positive social transformation. Whereas classical scholars tended to see money as something negative that was likely to disturb societies and communities, contemporary scholars are keen to view money as something that can be organized in such a way as to make a positive contribution to social change. This intellectually challenging as well as empowering. Third, I encountered hugely interesting writing about money in some very unexpected places, which I have tried to bring to the book as much as I can. So while the book covers the ‘usual suspects’ in the monetary field, it also looks to less common sources for its ideas, such as Nietzsche, Benjamin, Derrida and Bataille. None of these is a ‘monetary theorist’, but if anything this makes what they say about money even more interesting and worth hearing.

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

The book examines a very wide range of theories about the nature and purpose of money, and therefore presents readers with a tremendous variety of ideas about how money can be used and organized. This is hugely important today because the era in which ‘money’ was mainly what was defined and organized by the state is coming to an end. Alternative currencies – from electronic currencies such as Bitcoin to local currencies such as the Bristol and Brixton pound to forms of social lending – are growing at an astonishing rate today, and we need a greater range of conceptual tools in order to understand them. We also need to understand – and the book argues very strongly for this – that there are myriad ways of organizing our money, not just one ‘correct’ way. Money can be organized differently – by small groups and communities, nations or groups of nations, private organizations, and so on – according to what it is needed for. Some forms of money are designed to counter forms of social (and, specifically, financial) exclusion, while others are designed to bring communities together – or, in the case of Bitcoin, to bypass the constraints associated with major institutions such as banks and the states. There isn’t one ‘money’ that can do all of these things. In the future, we will become more and more used to interacting with a variety of different monies.

What is your next project?

I am excited by the idea that money can be used to transform society in a positive way, so I am embarking on a project that looks into the links between money and utopian thought and practice. This builds on the final chapter of The Social Life of Money. Once you start examining different theories of money, it becomes clear that almost all of them have a utopian strain. What I mean by this is that money gets associated with idealized forms of social and economic existence. The Euro was a recent – albeit flawed – example of this, because it was conceived as a means of uniting Europe socially, politically and culturally. There are lots of problems with this, of course: the idea that something like money might be used to bring people closer together, to forge a common identity, is quite problematic. But there is nothing new about this, there is a fascinating history of ways in which money has been used to achieve – or at least try to achieve – political and social ideals. Even Bitcoin could be described as utopian, because it is premised on the ideal of a currency that does not need to be regulated, does not need a sovereign authority in order to be valued, and is not controlled by large banks. The image of society behind Bitcoin, which is broadly libertarian, is troubling for some, inspiring for others. But again, here is an instance where money is being allied to broader ideals about freedom, identity and justice. So that will be my next project, to understand these links between money and utopianism in more depth.

What was the biggest challenge involved with bringing this book to life?

There were two main challenges. The first challenge was controlling the material, I had a huge amount of literature to go through and it kept on growing. I tried a number of different ways of organizing the chapters, and as a result, the book’s structure took a very long time to stabilize, indeed it didn’t really take its final shape until the last few months of writing. This made the writing process exhausting and stressful, because I was never really sure about how much progress I was making. I’m sure this isn’t unique; many colleagues seem to have had similar experiences. But there were periods when I felt the project would never come together. As it stands, I really like the group of chapters, and the order of chapters, that I came up with. Having a strong theme for each chapter – such as ‘guilt’ and ‘waste’, for example – provides a great focus. The second main challenge was in dealing with a fast-moving world. I started the book just as the financial crisis was in full swing, and this had an effect on the writing process that was both exhilarating and unsettling. I was very easily distracted at first, and found myself framing the book too closely in accordance with themes that were emerging from discussion of the crisis. There was also a vast amount being written about various aspects of the monetary and financial system, so I had to keep up with that literature as I was writing. Finally, there were prevailing uncertainties to deal with: once the Euro crisis was in full swing, I was writing about a currency that many commentators were saying could collapse any time soon. So, money was very much a moving target. I coped with this challenge by taking the arguments back to their theoretical core as much as possible.

What is the most influential book you’ve read?

In the money field it would have to be Georg Simmel’s Philosophy of Money (1907), which is a vast text that is packed with ideas. I first read it in 1988, and have been consulting it regularly ever since and finding new things to think about every time that I do. Simmel’s book plays quite a big role in The Social Life of Money. This is partly because I use his description of money as a ‘claim upon society’ to organize a number of the key arguments of the book. Once we realize that Simmel did not mean ‘society’ in the sense of a nation-state society, but rather had more fluid and flexible understanding of social life in mind – he uses the term ‘sociation’ to describe this – then one starts to see how his arguments can be used to frame the idea that money gains its value not from states and big banks, but rather from the multi-faceted practices of its users. In this sense, Simmel’s book is very much of ‘our’ time, because it resonates with arguments about wresting control of money away from large unwieldy institutions and restoring it to the ‘ownership’ of the people who use it. This explains why I was keen in the book to portray Simmel in a different way. We have become used to thinking of him as a critic of money, as someone who portrayed money as largely damaging to society, because of its cold and anonymous qualities. While such ideas are undoubtedly present in Simmel’s book, there are plenty of other ideas too, where he portrays money as culturally rich. Simmel was also something of a utopian, as I argue in the book’s final chapter. So one of the things I hope people gain from reading The Social Life of Money is a whole new perspective on a book they may have thought they could categorize in just one way.


 

bookjacket

The Social Life of Money
Nigel Dodd

Amazon beauty tips for “clean and glossy” skin

Amazon Beauty Face Mask Recipe

Shopping list:
Cypress
Cedar
Frankincense

Oh, and you will need one of these.

mortar-and-pestle-301801_1280
“The women make a mixture of cypress, cedar, and frankincense. They pound these ingredients into a paste on a rough stone, adding a little water. When this substance takes on a smooth, thick consistency, they cover their faces, and indeed their whole bodies, with the paste and retire for the night. When they remove the plaster on the next morning, comments Herodotus, a sweet odor is imparted to them and their skin is clean and glossy.”

Read more about the ablutions of the Amazons at Wonders and Marvels: http://www.wondersandmarvels.com/2014/09/beauty-secrets-of-the-ancient-amazons.html

And while you’re there, enter to win a copy of The Amazons: Lives and Legends of Warrior Women across the Ancient World by Adrienne Mayor.

#StoryTime with Bill T. Jones — #29

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j10299[1]Click the image above to read Story #29 from Bill T. Jones’s Story/Time: The Life of an Idea.

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

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

Pg. 173

Penguins: The Ultimate Guide, Pg. 173

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Pg. 28

Pg. 28

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

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

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

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

Do not disturb

Is it really Friday again? Of course, I’m not complaining, but it feels like just yesterday we were reading about one way in which beetles protect themselves from predators. Luckily for us, Arthur V. Evans’ book Beetles of Eastern North America has enough material for Fun Facts Friday to last us a long time.

Beetles have been around for millions of years, so they must be doing something right, right? Actually, they do a lot of things right, and one of those things is mating. As Evans notes, “With relatively short lives that last only weeks or months, most beetles have little time to waste in finding mates.” How do they find mates you ask? Mating behavior varies from specie to specie, but here are two of the most interesting ones.

Biouminescence is described by Evans as “the best-known example of visual communication in beetles…” A whitish, greenish-yellow, or reddish light emanates from many eastern fireflies (Lampyridae) and adult female glowworms (Phengodidae). But what’s arguably stranger than a beetle’s glowing abdomen? How about a male death-watch beetle (Ptinidae) banging its head against the walls of its wooden galleries to “lure females into their tunnels…” (Evans 20) Hey, whatever works.

These are just two examples of beetles’ mating behaviors, but you can discover more about beetle mating, defense mechanisms, and collecting beetles in Evans’ book Beetles of Eastern North America. Hope you enjoyed this week’s Fun Fact Friday and have a great weekend!


 

Arthur V. Evans is the author of:

Evans_Beetles Beetles of Eastern North America by Arthur V. Evans
Paperback | 2014 | $35.00 / £24.95 | ISBN: 9780691133041 | 560 pp. | 8 x 10 | 1,500+ color illus. 31 line illus. | eBook | ISBN: 9781400851829 | Reviews  Table of Contents  Preface[PDF]  Sample Entry[PDF]

Princeton University Press’s best-selling books for the week

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

1177 BC: The Year Civilization Collapsed by Eric H. Cline
The Bankers’ New Clothes: What’s Wrong with Banking and What to Do about It by Anat Admati & Martin Hellwig
The Founder’s Dilemmas: Anticipating and Avoiding the Pitfalls That Can Sink a Startup by Noam Wasserman
Why Not Socialism? by G. A. Cohen
OnBullshit On Bullshit by Harry G. Frankfurt
The Calculus Lifesaver: All the Tools You Need to Excel at Calculus by Adrian Banner
Tesla: Inventor of the Electrical Age by W. Bernard Carlson
The 5 Elements of Effective Thinking by Edward B. Burger & Michael Starbird
The Bee: A Natural History Noah Wilson-Rich
The Age of the Vikings Anders Winroth