Math Drives Careers: Paul Nahin on Electrical Engineering and √-1

Paul Nahin is the author of many books we’ve proudly published over the years, including An Imaginary Tale, Dr. Euler’s Fabulous Formula, and Number Crunching. For today’s installment in our Math Awareness Month series, he writes about his first encounter with √-1.

Electrical Engineering and √-1

It won’t come as a surprise to very many to learn that mathematics is central to electrical engineering. Probably more surprising is that the cornerstone of that mathematical foundation is the mysterious (some even think mystical) square-root of minus one. Every electrical engineer almost surely has a story to tell about their first encounter with √-1, and in this essay I’ll tell you mine.

Lots of different kinds of mathematics have been important in my personal career at different times; in particular, Boolean algebra (when I worked as a digital logic designer), and probability theory (when I wore the label of radar system engineer). But it’s the mathematics of √-1 that has been the most important. My introduction to √-1 came when I was still in high school. In my freshman year (1954) my father gave me the gift of a subscription to a new magazine called Popular Electronics. From it I learned how to read electrical schematics from the projects that appeared in each issue, but my most important lesson came when I opened the April 1955 issue.

It had an article in it about something called contra-polar power: a desk lamp plugged into a contra-polar outlet plug would emit not a cone of light, but a cone of darkness! There was even a photograph of this, and my eyes bugged-out when I saw that: What wondrous science was at work here?, I gasped to myself —I really was a naive 14-year old kid! It was, of course, all a huge editorial joke, along with some nifty photo-retouching, but the lead sentence had me hooked: “One of the reasons why atomic energy has not yet become popular among home experimenters is that an understanding of its production requires knowledge of very advanced mathematics.” Just algebra, however, was all that was required to understand contra-polar power.

contra power scan

Contra-polar power ‘worked’ by simply using the negative square root (instead of the positive root) in calculating the resonant frequency in a circuit containing both inductance and capacitance. The idea of negative frequency was intriguing to me (and electrical engineers have actually made sense of it when combined with √-1, but then the editors played a few more clever math tricks and came up with negative resistance. Now, there really is such a thing as negative resistance, and it has long been known by electrical engineers to occur in the operation of electric arcs. Such arcs were used, in the very early, pre-electronic days of radio, to build powerful AM transmitters that could broadcast music and human speech, and not just the on-off telegraph code signals that were all the Marconi transmitters could send. I eventually came to appreciate that the operation of AM/FM radio is impossible to understand, at a deep, theoretical level, without √-1.

When, in my high school algebra classes, I was introduced to complex numbers as the solutions to certain quadratic equations, I knew (unlike my mostly perplexed classmates) that they were not just part of a sterile intellectual game, but that √-1 was important to electrical engineers, and to their ability to construct truly amazing devices. That early, teenage fascination with mathematics in general, and √-1 in particular, was the start of my entire professional life. I wish my dad was still alive, so I could once again thank him for that long-ago subscription.

Math Drives Careers: Author Louis Gross

Gross jacketLouis Gross, distinguished professor in the departments of ecology, evolutionary biology, and mathematics at the University of Tennessee, is the author, along with Erin Bodine and Suzanne Lenhart, of Mathematics for the Life Sciences. For our third installment in the Math Awareness Month series, Gross writes on the role mathematics and rational consideration have played in his career, and in his relationship with his wife, a poet.

Math as a Career-builder and Relationship-broker

My wife is a poet. We approach most any issue with very different perspectives. In an art gallery, she sees a painting from an emotional level, while I focus on the methods the artist used to create the piece. As with any long-term relationship, after many years together we have learned to appreciate the other’s viewpoint and while I would never claim to be a poet, I have helped her on occasion to try out different phrasings of lines to bring out the music. In the reverse situation, the searching questions she asks me about the natural world (do deer really lose their antlers every year – isn’t this horribly wasteful?) force me to consider ways to explain complex scientific ideas in metaphor. As the way I approach science is heavily quantitative, with much of my formal education being in mathematics, this is particularly difficult without resorting to ways of thought that to me are second nature.

The challenges in explaining how quantitative approaches are critical to science, and that science advances in part through better and better ways to apply mathematics to the responses of systems we observe around us, arise throughout education, but are particularly difficult for those without a strong quantitative bent. An example may be helpful. One of the central approaches in science is building and using models – these can be physical ones such as model airplanes, they can be model systems such as an aquarium or they can be phrased in mathematics or computer code. The process of building models and the theories that ultimately arise from collections of models, is painstaking and iterative. Yet each of us build and apply models all the time. Think of the last time you entered a supermarket or a large store with multiple checkout-lines. How did you decide what line to choose? Was it based on how many customers were in each line, how many items they had to purchase, or whether they were paying with a check or credit card? Did you take account of your previous experience with that check-out clerk if you had it, or your experience with using self-checkout at that store? Was the criterion you used some aspect of ease of use, or how quickly you would get through the line? Or was it something else such as how cute the clerk was?

As the check-out line example illustrates, your decision about what is “best” for you depends on many factors, some of which might be quite personal. Yet somehow, store managers need to decide how many clerks are needed at each time and how to allocate their effort between check-out lines and their other possible responsibilities such as stocking shelves. Managers who are better able to meet the needs of customers, so they don’t get disgusted with long lines and decide not to return to that store, while restraining the costs of operation, will likely be rewarded. There is an entire field, heavily mathematical, that has been developed to better manage this situation. The jargon term is “queuing models” after the more typically British term for a waiting line. There is even a formal mathematical way of thinking about “bad luck” in this situation, e.g. choosing a line that results in a much longer time to be checked out than a different line would have.

While knowing that the math exists to help decide on optimal allocation of employee effort in a store will not help you in your decision, the approach of considering options, deciding upon your criteria and taking data (e.g. observations of the length of each line) to guide your decision is one that might serve you well independent of your career. This is one reason why many “self-help” methods involve making lists. Such lists assist you in deciding what factors (in math we call these variables) matter to you, how to weight the importance of each factor (we call these parameters in modeling) and what your objective might be (costs and benefits in an economic sense). This process of rational consideration of alternative options may assist you in many aspects of everyday life, including not just minor decisions of what check-out line to go into, but major ones such as what kind of car or home to purchase, what field to major in and even who to marry! While I can’t claim to have followed a formal mathematical approach in deciding on the latter, I have found it helpful throughout my marriage to use an informal approach to decision making. I encourage you to do so as well.

Check out Chapter 1 of Mathematics for the Life Sciences here.

Jeff Nunokawa on the day after taxes

Comprised of 250 handpicked meditations from a Facebook page that has garnered past attention from The New Yorker, Note Book  by Jeff Nunokawa is a new kind of literary work for the age of social media. The New Yorker called the notes “evidence of Nunokawa’s dawning sense of the importance of being earnest,” while Jeff himself says he wants his meditations to “note truth, but encourage”.  On a day that might call for both, Jeff turns his attention on Facebook to the aftermath of tax day:

4484. Day After Taxes

Unbalanced in the painful sum of things (Merrill, “For Proust”)

You wake up feeling that you still owe something, but you’re not really sure what, or to whom. And you’re worried that you don’t have what it takes to pay off your debt all at once. Maybe you can pay it in monthly installments, but how can you even do that if you don’t know what you owe or to whom?  Is it the Internal Revenue Service that’s still after you, or the Eternal One? (Maybe they’ve finally merged.)

I hope my father did my taxes, a young friend said the other night. I used to hope that, too.

Someone should look for an agent. Maybe that agent is you.


Note: Your suit is granted (Herbert, “Redemption”)

Check our website for more about Note Book, including a sample chapter.


Q&A with Linda Fowler, author of Watchdogs on the Hill

Fowler jacket

Linda Fowler is the author of the new release, Watchdogs on the Hill: The Decline of Congressional Oversight of U.S. Foreign Relations. Recently she answered some questions about the book’s contribution, her writing process, and why domestic influences in international affairs is such an important and overlooked topic.

What inspired you to get into your field?

LF: I worked on Capitol Hill right after graduating from college at a time when Congress was in disarray.  The country was tearing itself apart over the Vietnam War, and lawmakers appeared helpless to deal with the upheaval.  Octogenarians dominated the leadership in both chambers, creating opportunities for President Nixon to push the bounds of the Constitution with seeming impunity.  Once I started graduate school I wanted to better understand how the world’s most powerful legislature had ended up in such a sorry state.  I was unimaginably fortunate that one of the nation’s most distinguished congressional scholars became my teacher and mentor.  Richard Fenno taught me to see the democratic possibilities in Congress, to take a longer view about its imperfections, and to focus on close observation of the people who shape it through their daily actions.

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

LF: I learned that Congress had done a better job overseeing U.S. foreign policy since the start of the Cold War than most political observers acknowledged, but that since the mid-1990s, the institution has performed poorly in light of historical norms.  At first glance, this pattern seemed paradoxical:  why would lawmakers have been more effective monitoring the executive during a time when fears of nuclear war generated enormous pressures to defer to the White House regarding national security?  The answer eluded me until I began to focus on changes inside the Senate that devalued committee work.  When legislative craft and expertise mattered less to individual member’s success, they spent less time on committee hearings and thus diminished their capacity for oversight of the president.

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

LF: The book demonstrates that the seemingly arcane business conducted by legislative committees matters a great deal in how well Congress fulfills its constitutional responsibilities in foreign affairs.  In an era in which commentators focus on the personality of the president and his conflicts with critics, the findings of the remind us why the framers put their faith in institutions, not individuals.  The unique research design of the study combines in-depth analysis of the content of committee hearings; lengthy time series from 1947-2008; investigation of both public and secret sessions; and detailed case studies.  Together, the different facets of the project enabled me to clearly identify trends and the reasons behind them, while grounding the analysis in real-world events.

What was the best piece of advice you ever received?

LF: Early in my career, when I was struggling with my first book, someone told me to stop fussing over the introduction and go back to it once I had the individual pieces of the story.   It is advice I have followed ever since.

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

LF: I found it most challenging to create a coherent narrative that did justice to the complexity of the topic, the wide variety of historical data, and the use of both statistical and qualitative tools of analysis.

Why did you write this book? 

LF: In 2004, I had just finished a long stint in an administrative position at Dartmouth and was looking to reinvent myself as a scholar by undertaking a new project.  Several articles in the news that spring caught my attention because they quoted members of the House of Representatives publicly scolding two of the Senate’s most distinguished members, Foreign Relation’s chairman Richard Lugar (R-IN) and Armed Services chairman John Warner (R-VA), for scheduling oversight hearings of President Bush’s conduct of the war in Iraq. In the past, such pointed challenges would have been unthinkable, given the Senate’s prestige in foreign affairs.  I wanted to discover whether the Senate’s prime national security watchdogs had lost influence and, if so, what reasons lay behind the change.

Who do you see as the audience for this book? 

LF: Scholars have paid comparatively little attention to the subject of Congress and foreign policy: congressional experts focus primarily on lawmaking, while foreign policy specialists tend to overlook domestic influences in international affairs.  My objective was to redirect the attention of both camps by showing that oversight was an integral part of the legislative process and key to the rule of law and democratic accountability in war and peace.  Despite the scholarly focus, I wanted to make the book interesting to students, journalists, and people generally interested in American politics. So, I worked hard to make it accessible by using case studies to illustrate the main arguments, avoiding jargon, and burying the technical material in appendices.

How did you come up with the title or jacket? 

LF: A major theme of the book is that Congress needs to do better in overseeing U.S. foreign affairs, so I wanted a cover that conveyed both gravity and urgency.  The bold lettering of the title, the yellow color of the subtitle and the photograph of the famous hearings in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, chaired by chairman William Fulbright (D-AR), during the Vietnam War convey those messages.


Books released during the week of April 13, 2015

Among this week’s new releases is a big one for classics buffs, Josiah Ober’s The Rise and Fall of Classical Greece, one of Flavorwire’s 10 must-read academic books for 2015. You can read Chapter 1 here. Also out is Pedigree: How Elite Students Get Elite Jobs by Lauren A. Rivera, which goes behind the closed doors of top-tier investment banks, consulting firms, and law firms to reveal the truth about who really has a chance at scoring the nation’s highest-paying entry level jobs. If you think, like many Americans, that working hard is the path to upward mobility, guess again. As Mitchell Stevens, author of Creating a Class writes, “Rivera shows how educational stratification in the United States is particularly pronounced and caste-like at the gateway to elite professions, and how the boundary between elite colleges and the elite firms that recruit from them is so fuzzy as to be only ceremonial.” Read Chapter 1 here.

New in Hardcover

Modern Observational Physical Oceanography Pedigree
The Rise and Fall of Classical Greece Teaching Plato in Palestine

New in Paperback

The Great Mother

Too Hot to Handle? Jonathan Zimmerman Q&A on the problem with sex education

A product in part of the Progressive Era’s efforts to eradicate prostitution, sex education today is more likely to take its cues from the hazards of sexting. But while sex education has always been emotionally fraught, according to Jonathan Zimmerman, author of Too Hot To Handle: A Global History of Sex Education, its opponents are not limited to the realm of evangelical ministers and Conservative pundits. What exactly is the world’s problem with sex education? Zimmerman has a terrific op-ed in today’s New York Times arguing that globalization, contrary to popular belief, has limited rather than expanded such instruction. He was recently interviewed for a piece by Jessica Lahey on the, and spoke to the History News Network as well.

This week, Zimmerman took the time to sit down with Princeton University Press to shed some light on the fascinating social history of sex education, as well as his personal motivations for writing the book:

Ontario Sex Education Protest 20150224externalimagek104541


Why did you write this book?

Jonathan Zimmerman (JZ): My mother spent her career in international family planning and sex education. So she imbued me with the standard liberal American view of the subject: the United States was “behind” other Western democracies, which provide much more extensive, honest, and effective sex education than we do. And that’s why their teen pregnancy and STD rates are so much lower, or so the story goes.

So was your Mom correct?

JZ: Not exactly. First of all, it turns out that the USA was the global pioneer of sex education rather than a laggard. Eventually, countries like Sweden and the Netherlands did develop more detailed sex education than the USA, especially on the subject of contraception. But sex education is limited in those countries by citizen and teacher resistance, just as it is here. And, more interestingly, it has a different set of goals.

How so?

JZ: In Scandinavia and Continental Europe, the stated goal of sex education is not to limit negative social consequences, but rather to help each individual determine and develop her or his own sexuality. I didn’t understand the difference until I found an exchange in the Swedish archives between an educator in Ireland (where sex education was much more like the American version) and the leader of the RFSU, Sweden’s national sex education organization. The Irish educator wanted to know how Swedish sex educators kept teen pregnancy and STD rates so low. The RFSU guy replies with a kind note that says he doesn’t know whether sex education actually influences those outcomes, because there are so many other factors that affect young people’s behavior. And then he says, that’s not the point anyway! It’s to help them lead healthy and pleasurable sexual lives.

So the Americans emphasize social consequences, and the Europeans emphasize individual rights? That sounds like a very different story than the trans-Atlantic comparative tale we usually tell, in which the Americans stress the rights of individuals and the Europeans attend to the common good.

JZ: Exactly!

And I don’t imagine you could get elected to an American school board if you were pushing for a sex-education curriculum aiming to assist each teenager in developing sexual identity and pleasure.

JZ: Probably not. But there’s plenty of resistance to that perspective in Europe now, too, especially among new immigrants Countries like Sweden and the Netherlands have witnessed an enormous burst of immigration over the past two decades, mainly from Muslim and Hindu societies in North Africa, the Middle East, and South Asia. And many of these newcomers are angered and offended by a sex education stressing the “right” of each adolescent individual to engage in sex, which violates their communal or religious prescriptions on the subject. They also think that school-based sex education inhibits their own right to raise their children as they see fit.

What about their countries of origin, in the developing world? What does sex education look like there?

JZ: Until the 1980s, it barely existed. But the HIV/AIDS crisis changed all of that, especially in Africa. The question became not “Should we have sex education?” but “What kind of sex education should we have?” And in Africa and Asia, not surprisingly, it more closely resembled the abstinence-only or danger-centered approach that we see in many parts of the USA.

So would it be fair to say that an American-style sex education is more “culturally appropriate”—in many parts of the developing world—than, say, the Swedish version?

JZ: Yes, and that’s one of the central ironies of my book. Many people in the West who support so-called “comprehensive” sex education also fashion themselves “multiculturalists,” stressing the importance of diversity and the need for educators to respect it. It’s hard to square that perspective with a commitment to adolescent sexual rights, which are simply anathema in many cultures. I realized that, too, when I was in the archives in Sweden, and I came across a comment by a frustrated educator who had been trying—without a lot of success–to promote his approach in the so-called Third-World. As he acknowledged, many people in Africa, Asia, and Latin America did not share his premises on the value of the individual, at least not when it came to sex. “It is hard for people to be autonomous in cultures where autonomy seems to be of such little use,” he wrote.

What about conservatives? Wasn’t there also an irony in the way they invoked their “cultural” rights and prerogatives?

JZ: Definitely! In the USA and the UK, especially, white conservatives since the 1960s have often resisted “multiculturalism” as a divisive threat to the body politic. But on sex education, they invoked their own cultural and religious rights and—increasingly—they united with ethnic and religious minorities who shared their point of view. So in the UK, for example, you see white Tories joining hands with Muslim immigrant organizations against sex education.

And these conservatives make common cause across borders, right, as more and more people move across them?

JZ: Exactly. I think many people on the Left like to imagine that “globalization”—the rapid circulation of people and ideas around the world—as a force for liberal-ization. But in the story that I tell, globalization actually inhibits the spread of sex education by allowing critics to share ideas and strategies. Sex education has been a global movement, to be sure. But the same goes for its opposition.

In the USA and elsewhere, some conservatives have resisted or rejected scientific claims regarding evolution and climate change. Isn’t the opposition to sex education an example of similar behavior?

JZ: No. We simply don’t have the same kind of scientific knowledge or consensus about sex education as we do in the realms of evolution or climatology. And part of the reason is that there is so little sex education in the first place! It’s incredibly hard to show that something so brief and haphazard affects something as complicated as sexual behavior.

So maybe it’s really a story about what schools can do, and what they can’t?

JZ: I think so. The 20th century witnessed an enormous boom in formal schooling around the world, as well as new norms of sexual expression and behavior. Sex education brought these two trends together, but the marriage never really worked out. Kids get their messages and values about sex from other institutions, especially in the mass media. Schools just don’t factor into the equation very often, or very well.

Win a copy of Alan Turing: The Enigma, The Book That Inspired the Film The Imitation Game and tickets to see the movie

Hodges_AlanTuring movie tie inOn November 21, The Imitation Game will open in limited release. In the film, Benedict Cumberbatch stars as Alan Turing, the genius British mathematician, logician, cryptologist and computer scientist who led the charge to crack the German Enigma Code that helped the Allies win WWII. Turing went on to assist with the development of computers at the University of Manchester after the war, but was prosecuted by the UK government in 1952 for homosexual acts which the country deemed illegal. The film is inspired by the award-winning biography Alan Turing: The Enigma by Andrew Hodges.

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

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

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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

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

1177 BC: The Year Civilization Collapsed by Eric H. Cline
shtetl The Golden Age Shtetl: A New History of Jewish Life in East Europe by Yohanan Petrovsky-Shtern
Liberalism: The Life of an Idea by Edmund Fawcett
Fernandez_Everyday cover Everyday Calculus: Discovering the Hidden Math All around Us by Oscar E. Fernandez
Carlson_Tesla jacket Tesla: Inventor of the Electrical Age by W. Bernard Carlson
The Box: How the Shipping Container Made the World Smaller and the World Economy Bigger by Marc Levinson
OnBullshit On Bullshit by Harry G. Frankfurt
The Five Elements of Effective Thinking The 5 Elements of Effective Thinking by Edward B. Burger and Michael Starbird
I Ching The I Ching or Book of Changes, edited by Hellmut Wilhelm, translated by Cary F. Baynes
The Soul of the World by Roger Scruton


Princeton University Press’s Best-selling books for the past week

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

1177 BC: The Year Civilization Collapsed by Eric H. Cline
Turner_Philology Philology: The Forgotten Origins of the Modern Humanities by James Turner
Blind Spots Blind Spots: Why We Fail to Do What’s Right and What to Do about It by Max H. Bazerman and Ann E. Tenbrunsel
Carlson_Tesla jacket Tesla: Inventor of the Electrical Age by W. Bernard Carlson
Why Government Fails So Often: And How It Can Do Better by Peter H. Schuck
Fernandez_Everyday cover
Everyday Calculus: Discovering the Hidden Math All around Us by Oscar E. Fernandez
OnBullshit On Bullshit by Harry G. Frankfurt
I Ching The I Ching or Book of Changes by Hellmut Wilhelm and Cary F. Baynes
bumblebeesofnorthamerica Bumblebees of North America: An Identification Guide by Paul H. Williams, Robbin W. Thorp, Leif L. Richardson, and Sheila R. Colla
Osterhammel_Transformation The Transformation of the World: A Global History of the Nineteenth Century by Jürgen Osterhammel (trans. Patrick Camiller)


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


PUP News of the World


Welcome to the next edition of our brand new series, PUP News of the World! Every week we will be posting a round-up of all of our most exciting national and international PUP book coverage. Reviews, interviews, events, articles–this is the spot for coverage of all things “PUP books” that took place in the last week. Enjoy!


As we near the end of 2013–where did the year go?–we’ve entered the season of “Best of” lists. Princeton University Press is excited to highlight just some of the most recent titles that have been featured as the best of the past year.

Anat Admati & Martin Hellwig start it off as THE BANKERS’ NEW CLOTHES is included in The WSJ Best Nonfiction of 2013″ roundup. What separates this title from the pack? “In a year of important books about the recent economic crisis, the most important one told us simply how to stop the next one,” says the WSJ. Interested in learning more? Check out chapter one.

Mike Tyson, whose new book was released earlier this fall, pointed to a PUP book as one of his favorites of 2013. THE QUOTABLE KIERKEGAARD, edited by Gordon Marino, is a “collection of awesome quotes from that great Danish philosopher,” Tyson says.

The English translation of THE PLUM IN THE GOLDEN VASE was finally completed when PUP released the fifth volume this fall. Tash Aw names David Tod Roy’s translation as one of his favorites of the year, saying that this last volume “completes the joyous rediscovery of a genuine masterpiece.” See the full entries for both Tyson and Aw here in the Wall Street Journal‘s “12 Months of Reading” article.

For the scientists in the bunch, EINSTEIN AND THE QUANTUM is another 2013 favorite. Science Friday’s Ira Flatow named the book as one of his favorites, and Jennifer Oullette picked it for her list on Cocktail Party Physics. Have that “Einstein curiosity” about this title? Hear more from author A. Douglas Stone on this Physics Central Podcast.

Maria Popova of Brain Pickings selects ITALO CALVINO: Letters as one of her “Best Books on Writing and Creativity 2013.” Popova called the book “an absolute treasure trove in its entirety — the most profound intersection of writing, philosophy, and literary voyeurism since Susan Sontag’s journals and the diary of Anaïs Nin.” PUP is releasing a paperback edition this spring.

To round out our bunch–or should we say batch–we turn to the beloved cookbook by Merry White, which was re-released in a 40th Anniversary Edition this fall. COOKING FOR CROWDS is named one of the Atlantic‘s “Best Food Books of 2013.” Illustrated by the New Yorker‘s Ed Koren, this charming book offers simple, step-by-step instructions for easy cooking and entertaining on a grand scale–from hors d’oeuvres to desserts. Corby Kummer says:

“Not just enormously charming but useful, full of sturdy recipes that can still seem mildly exotic no matter how much we flatter ourselves at the sophistication of our palates….This is more, that is, than an artifact of Brooklyn avant la lettre. It’s full of practical dishes and tricks you’ll call your own, like tossing fresh-roasted almonds in maple syrup to serve on ice cream.”

World News 12-18


Gurcharan Das discusses the state of India and the issues highlighted in AN UNCERTAIN GLORY in his recent Wall Street Journal review. Listen to this interview with Amartya Sen, who co-authored the book with Jean Dréze.

You can also hear an interview with Francisco Bethencourt, the author of RACISMS, as he spoke to The Forum this week. RACISMS is the first comprehensive history of racism, from the Crusades to the twentieth century.

Did you hear all of the buzz about US President Barack Obama’s selfie? PUP author Simon Blackburn says it could have been worse. Check out his explanation in the Financial Times. His book, MIRROR, MIRROR, will be released this spring.


Princeton Authors Receive 2013 Nobel Prize in Economics


Lars Peter Hansen
University of Chicago
Robert J. Shiller

Yale University

Congratulations to Professors Lars Peter Hansen of the University of Chicago and Robert J. Shiller of Yale University on winning, along with economist Eugene F. Fama, the 2013 Nobel Prize in Economics, announced yesterday.

Lars Hansen is co-author with fellow Nobel laureate Thomas Sargent of the 2007 book, Robustness, and also with Professor Sargent of Recursive Models of Dynamic Linear Economies, forthcoming this December.

Commenting on Robustness David Kreps noted, “Hansen and Sargent were among the cadre of macroeconomists who challenged conventional (Keynesian) wisdom, and they are at it again, in a book that sparkles with ideas and analysis of fundamental problems in dynamic macroeconomics. The specific results reported here are, of course, interesting but this book is so much more: for young and ambitious economic theorists, this book is like the California gold fields in 1848.”

Robert Shiller is author of several PUP books, the first being his 2000 classic, Irrational Exuberance, followed in 2003 by The New Financial Order, in 2008 by The Subprime Solution, in 2009 by Animal Spirits, co-written with fellow Nobelist George Akerlof, and most recently, in 2012 by Finance and the Good Society.

Robert Shiller’s  Irrational Exuberance, which presaged the bursting of the stock market bubble in spring 2000, was the first original hardback Princeton University Press book to make the New York Times Bestseller List.  A global success, Irrational Exuberance was published in 17 translated editions around the world.  Timely as the first edition of Irrational Exuberance was, its second edition, published in the spring of 2005, was equally prescient in warning the world of the overheating of the housing bubble.  Housing and the mortgage finance debacle was the subject of Shiller’s 2008 book, The Subprime Solution.

Much as Shiller’s market analysis is represented in books such as Irrational Exuberance and The Subprime Solution, his imagination as a policy architect is on full display in his 2003 book, The New Financial Order, in which he explores how financial institutions can be engineered for the purpose of covering the biggest social risks, from homes through cities through careers and livelihoods.  In his 2012 book, Finance and the Good Society, Shiller provides the next generation of finance professionals with a tutorial on the challenges facing the investment community in the coming years framed in the context of technologically driven financial capitalism.

Finally, Shiller along with co-author economist George Akerlof, enlarges the foundations of the field of behavioral economics in the 2009 book, Animal Spirits: How Human Psychology Drives the Economy, and Why It Matters for Global Capitalism.

Commenting on Shiller’s great work, Irrational Exuberance, Paul Krugman noted that, “Robert Shiller has done more than any economist of his generation to document the less rational aspects of financial markets.”