TUESDAY, June 25 (2pm – 4pm): Book Signing with W. Bernard Carlson at the Warner Bros. Theater

National Museum of American History

Book Signing: W. Bernard Carlson

TUESDAY, JUNE 25, 2013, 2 – 4PM

Categories: Lectures & Discussions, Shopping/Book Signing
Co-sponsor: Lemelson Center for the Study of Invention and Innovation
Date: Tuesday, June 25th, 2013
Time: 2:00 PM – 4:00 PM.
Address: 14th Street and Constitution Avenue, NW Washington, D.C., 20001
Venue: American History Museum
Location: Warner Bros. Theater, 1st Floor, Center
Cost: Cost of entry is free. Books are available for sale in the Museum Store.

W. Bernard Carlson discusses his new book Tesla: Inventor of the Electrical Age. He places the legendary inventor within the cultural and technological context of his time and focuses on his inventions themselves as well as the creation and maintenance of his celebrity. Drawing on original documents from Tesla’s private and public life, Carlson shows how he was an “idealist” inventor who sought the perfect experimental realization of a great idea or principle, and who skillfully sold his inventions to the public through myth making and illusion. This major biography sheds new light on Tesla’s visionary approach to invention and the business strategies behind his most important technological breakthroughs. Book signing follows.

View the event on the National Museum of American History’s website: http://americanhistory.si.edu/events/?trumbaEmbed=view%3Devent%26eventid%3D105830002

What Is The Warner Bros. Theater?

Ranging from documentary screenings with expert panel discussions to Classic Film Festivals held in conjunction with Warner Bros., there is something of interest for nearly every visitor. The National Museum of American History is committed to exploring the legacy of American cinema as well as how film culture shapes how we perceive ourselves as Americans. The Warner Bros. Theater has state-of-the-art audio visual equipment, including 3-D capability. Made possible through a generous $5 million donation by Warner Bros., the theater allows the National Museum of American History to provide visitors with new and exciting opportunities to explore the art of film. Since its opening in 2012, the theater has hosted a full roster of public programs, from screenings, lectures, and concerts to demonstrations and film festivals.

Who Is W. Bernard Carlson?

W. Bernard Carlson, author of Tesla: Inventor of the Electrical AgeW. Bernard Carlson is a Professor at the University of Virginia, with appointments in the Department of Science, Technology, and Society (School of Engineering) and the History Department (College of Arts and Sciences). He received his Ph.D in the history and sociology of science from the University of Pennsylvania and did his postdoctoral work in business history at the Harvard Business School. He has held visiting appointments at Stanford University and the University of Manchester.

Professor Carlson is an expert on the role of technology and innovation in American history, and his research focuses on how inventors, engineers, and managers used technology in the development of major firms between the Civil War and World War I. His publications include Technology in World History, 7 volumes (Oxford University Press, 2005) as well as Innovation as a Social Process: Elihu Thomson and the Rise of General Electric, 1870-1900 (Cambridge University Press, 1991; paper reprint 2002). In 2008, Technology in World History was awarded the Sally Hacker Prize by the Society for the History of Technology. With support from the Sloan Foundation, he is currently completing a biography of the inventor Nikola Tesla.

He coordinates the Engineering Business Minor at UVA and teaches a course on “Engineers as Entrepreneurs.” He is an expert on the role of innovation in American history, specifically on how inventors, engineers, and managers used technology between 1875 and 1925 to create new systems and enterprises. With support from the Sloan Foundation, he has completed a biography of the inventor Nikola Tesla, which will appear in 2013.

Carlson has served on the board of trustees of the National Inventors Hall of Fame, and is currently serving as the executive secretary for the Society for the History of Technology. He received his Ph.D. in the history and sociology of science from the University of Pennsylvania in 1984 and did postdoctoral work in business history at the Harvard Business School.

Biography Credits:
TechnologyInWorldHistory.com and bridges magazine

Fields & Specialties
  • History of Technology; American Business History; Entrepreneurship; Social and Cognitive Theories of Innovation

  • A.B. Holy Cross College 1977
  • M.A. Univ. of Pennsylvania 1981
  • Ph.D. Univ. of Pennsylvania 1984

  • Scholar in Residence, Deutsches Museum, Munich, May-June 2010.
  • Sally Hacker Prize for Best Popular Book, Society for the History of Technology, 2008.
  • National Science Foundation, Science and Technology Studies Program, grant for “Rethinking Technology, Nature, and Society: A Research and Training Program,” 2004-2007. With John K. Brown and Edmund P. Russell.
  • Sloan Foundation grant for a biography of Nikola Tesla, 1997-2000.
  • Newcomen Fellow in Business and Economic History, Graduate School of Business Administration, Harvard University, 1988-1989.

  • Executive Secretary, Society for the History of Technology, 2009-11.
  • Co-Editor, MIT Press series on “Inside Technology: New Social and Historical Approaches to Technology,” with Wiebe Bijker and Trevor J. Pinch. Since 1987. Fifty books have been published.
  • Trustee, Newcomen Society of the United States, 1990-2009.
  • Trustee, Business History Conference, 1999-2001.

Current Research
  • The [Oxford] Handbook of the History of Technology. Under contract to Oxford University Press. Serving as general editor.

Professional and Education Information Credit:
Corcoran Department of History at the University of Virginia

Tesla: Inventor of the Electrical Age

Tesla: Inventor of the Electrical Age by W. Bernard CarlsonNikola Tesla was a major contributor to the electrical revolution that transformed daily life at the turn of the twentieth century. His inventions, patents, and theoretical work formed the basis of modern AC electricity, and contributed to the development of radio and television. Like his competitor Thomas Edison, Tesla was one of America’s first celebrity scientists, enjoying the company of New York high society and dazzling the likes of Mark Twain with his electrical demonstrations. An astute self-promoter and gifted showman, he cultivated a public image of the eccentric genius. Even at the end of his life when he was living in poverty, Tesla still attracted reporters to his annual birthday interview, regaling them with claims that he had invented a particle-beam weapon capable of bringing down enemy aircraft.

Plenty of biographies glamorize Tesla and his eccentricities, but until now none has carefully examined what, how, and why he invented. In this groundbreaking book, W. Bernard Carlson demystifies the legendary inventor, placing him within the cultural and technological context of his time, and focusing on his inventions themselves as well as the creation and maintenance of his celebrity. Drawing on original documents from Tesla’s private and public life, Carlson shows how he was an “idealist” inventor who sought the perfect experimental realization of a great idea or principle, and who skillfully sold his inventions to the public through mythmaking and illusion.

This major biography sheds new light on Tesla’s visionary approach to invention and the business strategies behind his most important technological breakthroughs.


“Carlson sheds light on the man and plenty of his inventions. . . . [An] electric portrait.”–Publishers Weekly

“Superb. . . . Carlson brings to life Tesla’s extravagant self-promotion, as well as his eccentricity and innate talents, revealing him as a celebrity-inventor of the ‘second industrial revolution’ to rival Thomas Alva Edison.”–W. Patrick McCray, Nature

“A scholarly, critical, mostly illuminating study of the life and work of the great Serbian inventor.”–Kirkus Reviews

“Carlson even has something to teach readers familiar with Seifer’s dissection of Tesla’s tortured psyche in Wizard (2001) and O’Neill’s much earlier chronicle of Tesla’s childhood and early career in Prodigal Genius (1944). Carlson provides not only a more detailed explanation of Tesla’s science but also a more focused psychological account of Tesla’s inventive process than do his predecessors. Carlson also surpasses his predecessors in showing how Tesla promoted his inventions by creating luminous illusions of progress, prosperity, and peace, illusions so strong that they finally unhinge their creator. An exceptional fusion of technical analysis of revolutionary devices and imaginative sympathy for a lacerated ego.”–Bryce Christensen, Booklist starred review

“This is a fascinating glimpse into the life of a monumental inventor whose impact on our contemporary world is all too unfamiliar to the general public. Carlson relates the science behind Tesla’s inventions with a judicial balance that will engage both the novice and the academic alike. Highly recommended to serious biography buffs and to readers of scientific subjects.”–Brian Odom, Library Journal

“Carlson deftly weaves the many threads of Tesla’s story.”–Nicola Davis, Times

“Splendid.”–Jon Turney, Times Higher Education


Interview: How to Build a Habitable Planet author Charles H. Langmuir explains How to Build a Comprehensible Publication

1) The original edition of “How to Build a Habitable Planet,” written and published by Wally Broecker in 1985, is a legend within the university community for both its unusual breadth and clarity.  One of the first books on the Earth system, it did something very new by weaving together many fields that were traditionally kept separate — physics, chemistry, astronomy, all the Earth sciences, and biology — into one, jargon-free narrative.  What was the original inspiration behind the writing of this unusual book?


The growing interest in what NASA referred to as habitability.

2)  Since publication, this book been used more and more widely within introductory Geology and Earth Science courses, even inspiring courses built around the structure and contents of the book, entitled “How to Build a Habitable Planet.”  Did Broecker originally intend for the book to be used within courses?  What about this book makes it so ideal for course use?


The book breaks with the tradition of teaching Earth science as a collection of sub-disciplines—minerals, rocks, volcanoes, glaciers, plate tectonics, etc.  Instead, we try to have the reader learn where he or she comes from and how human beings are a consequence of an entire history beginning with the Big Bang.  So, the book combines the traditional “physical geology” and “historical geology” approaches and includes material from both of them in the context of the overall story of Earth’s evolution, its connection to the rise of Homo sapiens, and our influence and potential role on the planet.  Another aspect is the central role that biology plays in Earth’s evolution, and the importance of the interactions between all aspects of Earth, its interior, exterior, life and the cosmos.


3)  Charles Langmuir: You teach a course at Harvard – called, “How to Build a Habitable Planet.”  How did you originally start using the book in your course?  What is the background of the students in your course, and how many students does your course typically attract each year?  What do you hope your students will take away from taking your course and reading this book?


I started teaching the course, because I was working on the new version of the book.  I used draft chapters in the course and, through teaching it each year, the subject stayed alive.  I also saw what material engaged the students, and what material seemed tedious to them.  The Harvard course is a general education course — one that is designed for the non-science major.  Science majors find the course easy.  People who have not taken any science course for years can find it challenging. In my view every college student – actually, every educated human being – should know the essential elements of the story of the Earth and where we come from.  How can we engage effectively as modern citizens without such knowledge?  We do not necessarily need to know that glaciers make u-shaped valleys and rivers make v-shaped valleys, cool as that is; but, we do need to know where we come from and how we got here, and the implications that has for our planet. I hope that the students will be able to explain to their friends and family how we know the Big Bang is true, why plate tectonics and evolution are facts as well as theory, and the unique place that human beings occupy in human history – possibly marking the beginning of a new eon of geological time, should we survive that long.


The course at Harvard has 60 students in it this year. That, to me, is an ideal size, as it is possible to interact with the students on a personal basis and, at the same time, reach a group of significant size.


4)  A few years ago, you (Charles Langmuir and Wally Broecker) began collaborating on a newly revised and expanded edition of “How to Build a Habitable Planet.”  How did the idea for this collaboration and revision come about?


Wally pointed out that despite the book’s title, the book had no biology in it, and was weak in terms of its treatment of the solid earth.  I had been teaching half of a one semester course in introductory geology at Columbia using parts of the original book, so Wally asked me if I would like to add a couple of chapters to the original book, on plate tectonics and the origin of life.  I knew nothing about the origin of life, but loved the original edition and decided to take it on.   I then started to learn much more about many aspects of earth evolution, and the book gradually grew to its current size, as I realized that evolution, the rise of oxygen, and the recent work on the discovery of extra-solar planets all needed to be included, as well as the origin of life and more on Earth’s interior.


5) Why did you feel that a new edition was needed?  How is the new edition different from the original edition?


The new edition is far more comprehensive, with more than twice the number of chapters of the original edition.  Life is now central to the book, and the origin of life, evolution, the transformation of Earth’s exterior by life, and the connections among life, the solid Earth, atmosphere, ocean and cosmos are now a pervasive theme throughout the book.   Ocean ridges, convergent margins, mantle convection and the plate tectonic geochemical cycle are also major new additions.  All of the chapters, of course, are almost entirely rewritten to reflect the astounding growth in knowledge and understanding that has occurred over the last twenty-five years.


6) One of the later chapters of the book is called “Mankind at the Helm.”  How do you feel that the book informs new readers about the state of the art of climate science, and what the fate and role of our species is on our habitable planet, Earth?


We attempt to pose this problem in the context of our overall understanding of our planet. As a species, we are transforming the planet at a rate as fast or faster than many of the great era and eon boundaries of the past, and this is happening within our lifetimes.  It is astounding.  It is all made possible by our access to “Earth’s treasure chest,” which was gradually built up over billions of years of planetary history.  At the same time, a planet with intelligent life and civilization on it is a very different “being” than a planet without such capability.  For the first time there is the possibility of monitoring and understanding planetary systems, communicating with other intelligent life, should it exist, and transforming many planetary processes, including evolution and climate.


For climate science, we try to put the current situation in a larger context. It is not just that CO2 is rising, but that the rate of change is far faster then glacial to interglacial transitions, and that human emissions are several hundred times the emissions of volcanoes, which have been a major control on climate modulation over Earth history.  And Earth makes new oil at the rate that one gas station pumps gas.  We are using up hundreds of millions of years of Earth’s fossil fuel production in a few centuries.   These kinds of simple facts put the enormity of human actions in a different context than saying that CO2 is going up in the atmosphere by a few ppm per year and what the consequences are of that.


7)  You also write about planetary evolution and the role of extinctions and catastrophes in the history of a planet.  What are some of the ways in which catastrophes have affected our planet’s evolution in its history?


Catastrophes driving from Earth’s interior, the cosmos, and possibly life and climate have been a central aspect of Earth’s evolution.  Catastrophes interact with evolution in important ways, clearing out the ecospace so that new evolutionary innovations can flourish. Snowball Earth episodes may be related to the rise of oxygen.  Most mass extinctions seem to be associated with massive volcanism stemming from the core mantle boundary, and some associated with meteorite impacts.  Catastrophes are often at the same time disasters and opportunities.  The rise of oxygen can be viewed in the same way.  It was a toxic pollutant for anaerobic organisms, and is intrinsically harmful to organic matter, which breaks down in the presence of oxygen.  But, it also held the potential for an energy revolution in metabolism that permitted aerobic organisms and ultimately the rise of multi-cellular life.  It is important not to be naïve about change.  Change is inevitable.  It can be both crisis and opportunity.


8)  Some say that we are in the midst of a “6th extinction” event, largely caused by humans.  Do you think that there is evidence for this view?


Yes.  In the book we look at extinctions in terms of the “half-life” of organisms.  Looked at in that way, there is an objective assessment of whether the current extinction rate is unusual or not in a planetary context.  Life changes rapidly—there is almost complete species turnover in about 43 million years, based on the geological record. Human beings have accelerated extinction rates by ten thousand times relative to the background level that can be quantified for the Phanerozoic. If emergence of new species had been similarly accelerated, some 20% of Earth species would be new in the past two centuries.  This shows the magnitude of the human influence.  Mass extinctions of the past cannot be constrained to less than a few hundred thousand years.  We may be in the midst of one of the most rapid mass extinctions in planetary history; but, of course, it is not yet complete.  There is the possibility for us to preserve much of the biodiversity of the planet, but that seems unlikely without a major change in human behavior.


9)  Another of your chapters, entitled “Are We Alone?,” speaks to the fact that ~ 700 extrasolar planets have been discovered since the original edition was published.  What are some of the ways in which studying other planets and seeking other habitable worlds informs our understanding of our own planet’s climate and evolution?


Of course, this is one of the most exciting developments of modern science.  The discoveries to date have been constrained by the methods to exclude truly Earth-like planets (not only in terms of size, but also distance from their star), but that will change in coming years.  Perhaps the most exciting development will be if evidence is found for life anywhere else.  If it is, then life is pervasive throughout the universe.  It is very hard to know whether life is a natural, pervasive planetary process, or whether unique aspects of Earth’s history permitted it—right habitable zone in the galaxy, right habitable zone around a star, just the right volatile budget, a large moon, and so on.  But, if we find life any one other place, and we can only look at less than one in a billion places, then life is essentially everywhere.


The other important aspect is all the strange solar systems being discovered, so different from our own, greatly expand our understanding and imagination concerning life elsewhere.


10)  Since the original edition was so widely read, you must have heard stories from readers, about the effect that the book had on them.  Could you share one such story?  What effect do you hope this new edition of this classic book will have on its readers?

The most heartening comments are ones I commonly hear at the end of the course or in the evaluations, such as “I never knew science could be so interesting” or “Everyone should know this stuff!”  Just yesterday in office hours, one student said to me that she had been tutoring elementary school children, and they asked where the moon came from.  She told them about the giant impact theory, and she said the children’s eyes opened wide, and they became animated, asking all kinds of questions. One of them said, “Oh dear, what happened to all the people?”  To me, this reflected our natural human interest in our planet and where we come from, and the innate concern that is there within us, often submerged, for our fellow human beings.  In those two aspects of our nature, present in children, latent in all of us, may be a hope for the future.



bookjacket   How to Build a Habitable Planet:
The Story of Earth from the Big Bang to Humankind (Revised and Expanded Edition)

Charles H. Langmuir & Wally Broecker

Since its first publication more than twenty-five years ago, How to Build a Habitable Planet has established a legendary reputation as an accessible yet scientifically impeccable introduction to the origin and evolution of Earth, from the Big Bang through the rise of human civilization. This classic account of how our habitable planet was assembled from the stuff of stars introduced readers to planetary, Earth, and climate science by way of a fascinating narrative. Now this great book has been made even better. Harvard geochemist Charles Langmuir has worked closely with the original author, Wally Broecker, one of the world’s leading Earth scientists, to revise and expand the book for a new generation of readers for whom active planetary stewardship is becoming imperative.

“To be worth being this unwieldy, a book ought to do something pretty remarkable. And that’s just what How to Build . . . does, as you can tell from its subtitle, The Story of Earth from the Big Bang to Humankind. Now that’s what you call a large canvas.”–Brian Clegg, Popular Science


FACT: “When water boils, the liquid is converted into gas. This requires a great deal of energy—the energy of vaporization. While to heat one gram of water by one degree takes one calorie, to convert that gram of water to gas takes 539 calories.”

How to Build a Habitable Planet:
The Story of Earth from the Big Bang to Humankind
(Revised and Expanded Edition)

by Charles H. Langmuir & Wally Broecker

Since its first publication more than twenty-five years ago, How to Build a Habitable Planet has established a legendary reputation as an accessible yet scientifically impeccable introduction to the origin and evolution of Earth, from the Big Bang through the rise of human civilization. This classic account of how our habitable planet was assembled from the stuff of stars introduced readers to planetary, Earth, and climate science by way of a fascinating narrative. Now this great book has been made even better. Harvard geochemist Charles Langmuir has worked closely with the original author, Wally Broecker, one of the world’s leading Earth scientists, to revise and expand the book for a new generation of readers for whom active planetary stewardship is becoming imperative.

Interweaving physics, astronomy, chemistry, geology, and biology, this sweeping account tells Earth’s complete story, from the synthesis of chemical elements in stars, to the formation of the Solar System, to the evolution of a habitable climate on Earth, to the origin of life and humankind. The book also addresses the search for other habitable worlds in the Milky Way and contemplates whether Earth will remain habitable as our influence on global climate grows. It concludes by considering the ways in which humankind can sustain Earth’s habitability and perhaps even participate in further planetary evolution.

Like no other book, How to Build a Habitable Planet provides an understanding of Earth in its broadest context, as well as a greater appreciation of its possibly rare ability to sustain life over geologic time.

We invite you to read Chapter 1 here: http://press.princeton.edu/chapters/s9691.pdf

This Week’s Book Giveaway

Are you following PUP on Google+ yet? If not, today’s the day to add us to your circle—we’re hosting another giveaway this week! Follow us by Friday to win!

Alan Turing: The Enigma
The Centenary Edition

by Andrew Hodges
With a foreword by Douglas Hofstadter
and a new preface by the author

It is only a slight exaggeration to say that the British mathematician Alan Turing (1912-1954) saved the Allies from the Nazis, invented the computer and artificial intelligence, and anticipated gay liberation by decades—all before his suicide at age forty-one. This classic biography of the founder of computer science, reissued on the centenary of his birth with a substantial new preface by the author, is the definitive account of an extraordinary mind and life. A gripping story of mathematics, computers, cryptography, and homosexual persecution, Andrew Hodges’s acclaimed book captures both the inner and outer drama of Turing’s life.

Hodges tells how Turing’s revolutionary idea of 1936—the concept of a universal machine—laid the foundation for the modern computer and how Turing brought the idea to practical realization in 1945 with his electronic design. The book also tells how this work was directly related to Turing’s leading role in breaking the German Enigma ciphers during World War II, a scientific triumph that was critical to Allied victory in the Atlantic. At the same time, this is the tragic story of a man who, despite his wartime service, was eventually arrested, stripped of his security clearance, and forced to undergo a humiliating treatment program—all for trying to live honestly in a society that defined homosexuality as a crime.

“One of the finest scientific biographies ever written.”—Jim Holt, New Yorker

“A first-class contribution to history and an exemplary work of biography.”—I. J. Good, Nature

The random draw for this book with be Friday 6/29 at 11 am EST. Be sure to check out our Google+ page and add us to your circle to be entered to win!

New YouTube video for popular science title, ‘Cells to Civilizations’

Cells to Civilizations

Award winning scientist Enrico Coen’s new book, ‘Cells to Civilizations: The Principles of Change That Shape Life‘ , is published this month. He talks here about the ideas behind the book: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=urDhZkCtkvM

This Week’s Book Giveaway

Alan Turing’s Systems of Logic: The Princeton Thesis
Edited and introduced by Andrew W. Appel

Between inventing the concept of a universal computer in 1936 and breaking the German Enigma code during World War II, Alan Turing (1912-1954), the British founder of computer science and artificial intelligence, came to Princeton University to study mathematical logic. Some of the greatest logicians in the world—including Alonzo Church, Kurt Gödel, John von Neumann, and Stephen Kleene—were at Princeton in the 1930s, and they were working on ideas that would lay the groundwork for what would become known as computer science. Though less well known than his other work, Turing’s 1938 Princeton PhD thesis, “Systems of Logic Based on Ordinals,” which includes his notion of an oracle machine, has had a lasting influence on computer science and mathematics. This book presents a facsimile of the original typescript of the thesis along with essays by Andrew Appel and Solomon Feferman that explain its still-unfolding significance.

A work of philosophy as well as mathematics, Turing’s thesis envisions a practical goal—a logical system to formalize mathematical proofs so they can be checked mechanically. If every step of a theorem could be verified mechanically, the burden on intuition would be limited to the axioms. Turing’s point, as Appel writes, is that “mathematical reasoning can be done, and should be done, in mechanizable formal logic.” Turing’s vision of “constructive systems of logic for practical use” has become reality: in the twenty-first century, automated “formal methods” are now routine.

Presented here in its original form, this fascinating thesis is one of the key documents in the history of mathematics and computer science.

A slight change this week—the random draw for this book with be Thursday 5/17 at 3 pm EST. Be sure to like us on Facebook if you haven’t already to be entered to win!

This Week’s Book Giveaway

On Wednesday, March 14 we’re celebrating Albert Einstein’s birthday and Pi Day—two very big events in Princeton! Einstein lived in Princeton for over 20 years, so to honor his big day we’re giving away a copy of a book of his quotations:

The Ultimate Quotable Einstein
Collected and edited by Alice Calaprice
With a foreword by Freeman Dyson

Here is the definitive new edition of the hugely popular collection of Einstein quotations that has sold tens of thousands of copies worldwide and been translated into twenty-five languages.

The Ultimate Quotable Einstein features 400 additional quotes, bringing the total to roughly 1,600 in all. This ultimate edition includes new sections—”On and to Children,” “On Race and Prejudice,” and “Einstein’s Verses: A Small Selection”—as well as a chronology of Einstein’s life and accomplishments, Freeman Dyson’s authoritative foreword, and new commentary by Alice Calaprice.

In The Ultimate Quotable Einstein, readers will also find quotes by others about Einstein along with quotes attributed to him. Every quotation in this informative and entertaining collection is fully documented, and Calaprice has carefully selected new photographs and cartoons to introduce each section.

-Features 400 additional quotations

-Contains roughly 1,600 quotations in all

-Includes new sections on children, race and prejudice, and Einstein’s poetry

-Provides new commentary

-Beautifully illustrated

-The most comprehensive collection of Einstein quotes ever published

Praise for previous editions: “All of us who lack Einstein’s intellectual and spiritual gifts owe a debt of gratitude to Princeton University Press for having humanized him in this innovative way.”—Timothy Ferris, New York Times Book Review

We invite you to read Chapter 1 here: http://press.princeton.edu/chapters/s9268.pdf

The random draw for this book with be Friday 3/16 at 3 pm EST. Be sure to like us on Facebook if you haven’t already to be entered to win!


FACT: “In 1975, the National Society for Autistic Children (NSAC, later the Autism Society of America,) lobbied to include autism as one of the developmental disabilities covered under the Education for All Handicapped Act. They succeeded. The bill, later revised and renamed the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, entitled children with autism and other developmental disabilities to a ‘free, appropriate, public education.’ The NSAC also demanded autism’s inclusion in the Developmental Disabilities Act, a bill authorizing services and support. . . .”

Understanding Autism: Parents, Doctors, and the History of a Disorder
by Chloe Silverman

Autism has attracted a great deal of attention in recent years, thanks to dramatically increasing rates of diagnosis, extensive organizational mobilization, journalistic coverage, biomedical research, and clinical innovation. Understanding Autism, a social history of the expanding diagnostic category of this contested illness, takes a close look at the role of emotion—specifically, of parental love—in the intense and passionate work of biomedical communities investigating autism.

Chloe Silverman tracks developments in autism theory and practice over the past half-century and shows how an understanding of autism has been constituted and stabilized through vital efforts of schools, gene banks, professional associations, government committees, parent networks, and treatment conferences. She examines the love and labor of parents, who play a role in developing—in conjunction with medical experts—new forms of treatment and therapy for their children. While biomedical knowledge is dispersed through an emotionally neutral, technical language that separates experts from laypeople, parental advocacy and activism call these distinctions into question. Silverman reveals how parental care has been a constant driver in the volatile field of autism research and treatment, and has served as an inspiration for scientific change.

Recognizing the importance of parental knowledge and observations in treating autism, this book reveals that effective responses to the disorder demonstrate the mutual interdependence of love and science.

“Autism remains a contested condition, and given the steep rise in research, diagnosis rates and media coverage, the debate is set to run and run. Science historian Chloe Silverman gives a balanced, sensitive social history of autism that unflinchingly covers many controversial byways. She explores the theory and biomedical advances, and how gene banks, schools and autism organizations have enriched understanding—augmented by parents of children with autism, whose experiences have informed and inspired much research.”—Nature

We invite you to read the Introduction here: http://press.princeton.edu/chapters/i9611.pdf

This Week’s Book Giveaway

Happy New Year! We’re kicking off 2012 with a great giveaway—In Pursuit of the Traveling Salesman: Mathematics at the Limits of Computation by William J. Cook.

What is the shortest possible route for a traveling salesman seeking to visit each city on a list exactly once and return to his city of origin? It sounds simple enough, yet the traveling salesman problem is one of the most intensely studied puzzles in applied mathematics—and it has defied solution to this day. In this book, William Cook takes readers on a mathematical excursion, picking up the salesman’s trail in the 1800s when Irish mathematician W. R. Hamilton first defined the problem, and venturing to the furthest limits of today’s state-of-the-art attempts to solve it.

Cook examines the origins and history of the salesman problem and explores its many important applications, from genome sequencing and designing computer processors to arranging music and hunting for planets. He looks at how computers stack up against the traveling salesman problem on a grand scale, and discusses how humans, unaided by computers, go about trying to solve the puzzle. Cook traces the salesman problem to the realms of neuroscience, psychology, and art, and he also challenges readers to tackle the problem themselves. The traveling salesman problem is—literally—a $1 million question. That’s the prize the Clay Mathematics Institute is offering to anyone who can solve the problem or prove that it can’t be done.

In Pursuit of the Traveling Salesman travels to the very threshold of our understanding about the nature of complexity, and challenges you yourself to discover the solution to this captivating mathematical problem.

“A gripping insider’s account of one of the great mathematical problems. This book shows how deep mathematical insights can arise from apparently simple questions, and how the results can be applied to that most human of objectives: to achieve a desired outcome in the best possible way. In Pursuit of the Traveling Salesman deserves to become an instant classic.”—Ian Stewart, author of Professor Stewart’s Hoard of Mathematical Treasures

The random draw for this book with be Friday 1/6 at 3 pm EST. Be sure to “Like” us on Facebook if you haven’t already to be entered to win!

Nicholas Humphrey discusses consciousness and performance in the San Francisco Chronicle

Nicholas Humphrey, author of Soul Dust: The Magic of Consciousness, spoke to journalist Kenneth Baker about his original view on consciousness: Humphrey claims that vivid consciousness makes us happy to be alive. This perspective is a result of Humphrey’s specific approach to the “consciousness problem”:

I’ve tried to understand the function of consciousness. Let’s not think about it as a cognitive skill but as a kind of theater, something we lay on in our own heads about who we are and the world in which we’re living. Let’s ask how does consciousness as we experience it affect people’s attitudes toward life… I say that consciousness is a performance we put on, and philosophers who have disparaged the so-called Cartesian theater of the mind have misunderstood the nature of theater. I think the world we make is in no way a simulacrum of the world.

Humphrey also explains the role of natural selection in human consciousness, arguing that vivid consciousness must have effects that lead to reproductive success, but that these effects cannot necessarily be “seen” or quantified:

Conscious awareness gives animals a pleasure in affirming their existence in ways that are life-enhancing. In getting more out of it, you prolong your life. You engage with the world, fall in love with it. The great success of our species has been that creative relation with the world that we have produced from out of our own consciousness. We find the world engaging partly because it’s singing our song, because its qualities are those we’ve imbued it with. In humans, what really changed is that we began to engage in reflection.

Read the rest of the article, including Humphrey’s views on suffering, here: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2011/09/16/RVA71KMU2Q.DTL#ixzz1Zk5UgnIn


FACT: “The use of large-scale testing grew exponentially in the United States after World War I, when it was demonstrated that a mass-administered version of what was essentially an IQ test (what was then called ‘Army Alpha’) improved the accuracy and efficiency of the placement of recruits into the various military training programs. The precursors of what would eventually become the SAT were modeled on Army Alpha.”

Uneducated Guesses: Using Evidence to Uncover Misguided Education Policies
by Howard Wainer

Uneducated Guesses challenges everything our policymakers thought they knew about education and education reform, from how to close the achievement gap in public schools to admission standards for top universities. In this explosive book, Howard Wainer uses statistical evidence to show why some of the most widely held beliefs in education today—and the policies that have resulted—are wrong. He shows why colleges that make the SAT optional for applicants end up with underperforming students and inflated national rankings, and why the push to substitute achievement tests for aptitude tests makes no sense. Wainer challenges the thinking behind the enormous rise of advanced placement courses in high schools, and demonstrates why assessing teachers based on how well their students perform on tests—a central pillar of recent education reforms—is woefully misguided. He explains why college rankings are often lacking in hard evidence, why essay questions on tests disadvantage women, why the most grievous errors in education testing are not made by testing organizations—and much more.

No one concerned about seeing our children achieve their full potential can afford to ignore this book. With forceful storytelling, wry insight, and a wealth of real-world examples, Uneducated Guesses exposes today’s educational policies to the light of empirical evidence, and offers solutions for fairer and more viable future policies.

“[T]hought-provoking. . . . He questions the anecdotal and statistical evidence that underpins many of today’s education policies and reform efforts.”—Library Journal

Uneducated Guesses is an insider’s look at using test scores to make high stakes decisions in education. In this rigorous, refreshing rebuttal of conventional thinking, Wainer argues that in the world of education policy, we all would be better served by examining the evidence that demonstrates that our ideas will improve the systems we’re trying to transform.”—Dennis Van Roekel, president, National Education Association

We invite you to read the Introduction here: http://press.princeton.edu/chapters/i9529.pdf

This Week’s Book Giveaway

This week’s book giveaway is Victor Regnault and the Advance of Photography: The Art of Avoiding Errors by Laurie Dahlberg.

This lavishly illustrated book establishes the towering influence of the scientist Victor Regnault (1810-1878) in the earliest decades of photography, a period of experimentation ripe with artistic, commercial, and scientific possibility. Regnault has a double significance to the early history of photography, as the first leader of the Société Française de Photographie (S.F.P.) and as the maker of more than two hundred calotype (paper negative) portraits and landscapes. His photographic and scientific careers intersected a third field with his appointment in 1852 as director of the Sèvres porcelain works.

Readers are treated to Regnault’s own beguiling pastoral, garden, and forest scenes; striking portraits of the scientists and artists in his circle of friends; quirky images of acoustic experiments; and an insider’s view of the Sèvres porcelain works. Regnault’s richly varied photographs also encompass perhaps the most extensive group of family portraits in early photography, and his romanticized landscapes reflect a moment when the rural outskirts of Paris were being aggressively suburbanized and industrialized.

Occupying a unique and powerful position in the overlapping spheres of photography, science, industry, and art, Regnault was elected president of the newly formed S.F.P. in 1855. By examining his intertwined activities against the backdrop of French photography’s nascent pursuit of institutional legitimacy, this book illuminates an important and overlooked body of images and the irregular cultural terrain of early photography.

“In Laurie Dahlberg’s Victor Regnault and the Advance of Photography, you will find much to satisfy both curiosity about photography’s early technology and pleasure in his subjects. . . . A fascinating book, it combines stunning images with a thoughtful biography.”—Maggie McDonald, New Scientist

The random draw for this book with be Friday 9/16 at 3 pm EST. Be sure to “Like” us on Facebook if you haven’t already to be entered to win!