Save the Date — David Reimer, “Count Like an Egyptian” at the Princeton Public Library on May 29


Join the fun on May 29 at 7:00 PM as the Princeton Public Library and Princeton University Press welcome David Reimer, professor of mathematics and statistics at The College of New Jersey, for an exploration of the world of ancient Egyptian math and the lessons it holds for mathematicians of all levels today.

Prof. Reimer will present a fun introduction to the intuitive and often-surprising art of ancient Egyptian math. Learn how to solve math problems with ancient Egyptian methods of addition, subtraction, multiplication and division and discover key differences between Egyptian math and modern day calculations (for example, in spite of their rather robust and effective mathematics, Egyptians did not possess the concept of fractions).

Following the lecture, Prof. Reimer will sign copies of his new book, Count Like an Egyptian. Copies of will be available for purchase at the lecture or you can pick up a copy ahead of time at Labyrinth Books.

Toby Tyrrell, author of On Gaia, explains how he came to question the Gaia Hypothesis

We interviewed Toby Tyrrell about his new book “On Gaia” last week. This week, we’re proud to link to this article in which he details some of the research that led him to view the Gaia Hypothesis with a critical eye:

Nitrogen is exceptionally abundant in the environment, it makes up 78 per cent of air, as dinitrogen (N2). N2 is also much more plentiful in seawater than other dissolved forms of nitrogen. The problem is that only organisms possessing the enzyme nitrogenase (organisms known as nitrogen-fixers) can actually use N2, and there aren’t very many of them. This is obviously a less than ideal arrangement for most living things. It is also unnecessary. Nitrogen starvation wouldn’t happen if just a small fraction of the nitrogen locked up in N2 was available in other forms that can be used by all organisms; yet biological processes taking place in the sea keep nearly all that nitrogen as N2. If you think about what is best for life on Earth and what that life can theoretically accomplish, nitrogen starvation is wholly preventable.

This realisation led me to wonder what other aspects of the Earth environment might be less than perfect for life. What about temperature? We know that ice forming inside cells causes them to burst and that icy landscapes, although exquisite to the eye, are relatively devoid of life. We can also see that ice ages – the predominant climate state of the last few million years – are rather unfortunate for life as a whole. Much more land was covered by ice sheets, permafrost and tundra, all biologically impoverished habitats, during the ice ages, while the area of productive shelf seas was only about a quarter of what it is today. Global surveys of fossil pollen, leaves and other plant remains clearly show that vegetation and soil carbon more than doubled when the last ice age came to an end, primarily due to a great increase in the area covered by forests.

Although the cycle of ice ages and interglacials is beyond life’s control, the average temperature of our planet – and hence the coldness of the ice ages – is primarily determined by the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere. As this is potentially under biological control it looks like another example of a less than perfect outcome of the interactions between life on Earth and its environment.

Look further and you find still more examples. The scarcity of light at ground level in rainforests inhibits growth of all but the most shade-tolerant plants. There’s only really enough light for most plants at canopy height, often 20 to 40 metres up, or below temporary gaps in the canopy. The intensity of direct sunlight does not increase the higher you go, so having the bulk of photosynthesis taking place at such heights brings no great advantage to the forest as a whole. Rather the contrary, trees are forced to invest large amounts of resources in building tall enough trunks to have the chance of a place in the sun. This arrangement is hard to understand if you expect the environment to be arranged for biological convenience, but is easily understood as an outcome of plants competing for resources.

Source: “Not Quite Perfect”, Planet Earth Online:


Read a sample chapter from On Gaia: A Critical Investigation of the Relationship between Life and Earth [PDF].

PUP Best Sellers for the Past Week

This list takes into account print and e-editions of Princeton University Press books.


j9925[1] The Battle of Bretton Woods: John Maynard Keynes, Harry Dexter White, and the Making of a New World Order by Benn Steil
j9929[1] The Bankers’ New Clothes: What’s Wrong with Banking and What to Do about It by Anat Admati & Martin Hellwig
crossley The Crossley ID Guide: Raptors by Richard Crossley, Jerry Liguori, & Brian Sullivan
j8973[1] This Time Is Different: Eight Centuries of Financial Folly by Carmen M. Reinhart & Kenneth S. Rogoff
Tesla: Inventor of the Electrical Age by W. Bernard Carlson
The Golden Ticket: P, NP, and the Search for the Impossible by Lance Fortnow
The Founder’s Dilemmas: Anticipating and Avoiding the Pitfalls That Can Sink a Startup by Noam Wasserman
The 5 Elements of Effective Thinking by Edward B. Burger & Michael Starbird
QED: The Strange Theory of Light and Matter by Richard P. Feynman
Einstein Gravity in a Nutshell by A. Zee

Series Design Series, part 1 – The Jung Paperbacks

In part 1 of the new Series Design Series of blog posts, we speak with Maria Lindenfeldar, Art Director for Princeton University Press, about the series design for The Jung Paperbacks. With this series, PUP has undertaken to repackage our extensive backlist of Jung books and present them as what they are — a significant and cohesive portion of our publishing program. Unlike a “new” series, these books all existed with in different forms for years before they were re-purposed in this series — a distinction that differentiates this design initiative from other series. Scroll down below the image for Maria’s thoughts on the design process and the unique challenges posed by this series.


Image Map

View this image as a larger PDF: The Jung Paperbacks (pdf)

The Design Overview: This was a repackaging project. As the organizing motif, we used mandalas created by one of Jung’s patients, a repeating circle theme and almost identical typography.  For “Introduction to Jungian Psychology,” we kept most elements consistent, replacing the mandala with an engaging portrait of Jung and reducing the palette to black and gold.

Q: When you approach a project like this, does the original book cover from the earlier edition sway the design at all?

Maria: In this case, the original covers influenced us very little. The books had come from various spin-off series we had done, and only a few of them looked similar to one another. From the outset, we knew that we wanted the new editions to look more like a set. Because we came up with the mandala idea fairly early in the process, we did not investigate using any of the art on the previous covers.

This is not always the case with redesigns. In some instances, the original design provides a direct inspiration for the new project. I’m working on some series designs right now, and my first instinct is to dig into our own past for a touchstone.

Q: The mandalas are beautiful and colorful, but also provocative with snakes slithering around and through the patterns. How did you come on the idea to include mandalas and how many mandalas did you have to choose from? Did you give some thought to matching mandala to subject?

Maria: The first time that we spoke about the project, I suggested the mandalas to Kathleen Lynch (the fantastic designer we used for this series). I had seen several of them reproduced in a color insert of one of our previously published volumes. We were able to get further examples from the Jung foundation. Kathleen narrowed the choices and paired the images with the titles. She and I didn’t discuss matching mandalas to particular books, but Kathleen is very much a “thinking designer,” and I wouldn’t be surprised if there were deliberate choices made.

Q: Each cover features three circles, intersecting – one the mandala, one the title of the book, and one the cover. The impression I get is that title, author, and mandala must be looked at for their individual parts, but also as a single, combined graphic. Was this a deliberate choice or just a happy accident?

Maria: A deliberate choice. It’s part of the gestalt that we developed for the series design, and it’s why the design works so well. All of the elements click into place.

Q: Why did you decide to modify the design for Introduction to Jungian Psychology?

Maria: We always thought of “The Introduction” as the mother ship with the other books as its satellites. We wanted there to be a very strong family resemblance, but we didn’t want the hierarchy to be flat. By altering the color scheme and replacing the mandala with the portrait, we hoped to say, “This is related but not identical.” Also, by using black and gold, we hoped to suggest that it was more elemental or foundational than the others.


Explore the mandalas used on these covers by clicking on any of the thumbnails below or above.