64 episodes

Interviews with Mathematicians about their New Books

New Books in Mathematics New Books Network

    • Natural Sciences

Interviews with Mathematicians about their New Books

    Al Posamentier, "Math Makers: The Lives and Works of 50 Famous Mathematicians" (Prometheus, 2020)

    Al Posamentier, "Math Makers: The Lives and Works of 50 Famous Mathematicians" (Prometheus, 2020)

    Today I talked to Alfred S. Posamentier, a co-author (with Christian Spreitzer) of Math Makers: The Lives and Works of 50 Famous Mathematicians (Prometheus, 2020). This charming book is more than just mathematics, because mathematicians are not just makers of mathematics. They are human beings whose life stories are often not just entertaining, but are sometimes interwoven with important historical events. Of course you get the math in this book –but I would have read this book just for the fascinating anecdotes. Just for openers, how many other disciplines have people who made remarkable contributions but were arrested for revolutionary activities in their teens, and then killed in a duel at age 21? This is the story of Evariste Galois, just one of the 50 fascinating lives you'll read about in this book.
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    • 56 min
    Maureen T. Carroll and Elyn Rykken, "Geometry: The Line and the Circle" (MAA Press, 2018)

    Maureen T. Carroll and Elyn Rykken, "Geometry: The Line and the Circle" (MAA Press, 2018)

    From an undergraduate perspective, coming from the rigid proofs and concrete constructions of middle- or high-school courses, the broad discipline of geometry can be at once intimately familiar and menacingly exotic. For most of its history, and perhaps for many of the same reasons, geometers struggled to come to terms with the unsolved problems, unstated assumptions, and untapped generalizability contained in the "bible of mathematics", Euclid's Elements.
    In their recent text, Geometry: The Line and the Circle (MAA Press, 2018), Maureen T. Carroll and Elyn Rykken have produced a unified survey of Euclidean and many significant non-Euclidean geometries, one that draws from the patterns of historical development to immerse students into progressively new territory. Their book is organized around the Elements but soon (and often) detours into spherical, finite, and other geometries that bring the limitations of the classic text—and the contributions of subsequent geometers—to the fore. Throughout, they examine the shifting roles and behaviors of two fundamental geometric concepts, the line and the circle—a narrative hook that might deserve more play in mathematics texts! In addition to their historical vignettes, Carroll and Rykken include rich selections of exercises and incorporate a variety of tactile and online tools, and their treatment is held together in an accessible and absorbing writing style. The book is tailored to an upper-level undergraduate course but could also support a history of mathematics or introduction to proofs course.
    Suggested companion works:
    Edwin A. Abbott, Flatland: A Romance of Many Dimensions (+ sequels & film adaptations)
    Norton Juster, The Dot and the Line (+ film adaptation)
    Cory Brunson (he/him) is a Postdoctoral Fellow at the Center for Quantitative Medicine at UConn Health.
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    • 49 min
    Phillipa Chong, “Inside the Critics’ Circle: Book Reviewing in Uncertain Times” (Princeton UP, 2020)

    Phillipa Chong, “Inside the Critics’ Circle: Book Reviewing in Uncertain Times” (Princeton UP, 2020)

    How does the world of book reviews work? In Inside the Critics’ Circle: Book Reviewing in Uncertain Times (Princeton University Press, 2020), Phillipa Chong, assistant professor in sociology at McMaster University, provides a unique sociological analysis of how critics confront the different types of uncertainty associated with their practice. The book explores how reviewers get matched to books, the ethics and etiquette of negative reviews and ‘punching up’, along with professional identities and the future of criticism. The book is packed with interview material, coupled with accessible and easy to follow theoretical interventions, creating a text that will be of interest to social sciences, humanities, and general readers alike.
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    • 42 min
    K. Linder et al., "Going Alt-Ac: A Guide to Alternative Academic Careers" (Stylus Publishing, 2020)

    K. Linder et al., "Going Alt-Ac: A Guide to Alternative Academic Careers" (Stylus Publishing, 2020)

    If you’re a grad student facing the ugly reality of finding a tenure-track job, you could easily be forgiven for thinking about a career change. However, if you’ve spent the last several years working on a PhD, or if you’re a faculty member whose career has basically consisted of higher ed, switching isn’t so easy. PhD holders are mostly trained to work as professors, and making easy connections to other careers is no mean feat. Because the people you know were generally trained to do the same sorts of things, an easy source of advice might not be there for you.
    Thankfully, for anybody who wishes there was a guidebook that would just break all of this down, that book has now been written. Going Alt-Ac: A Guide to Alternative Academic Careers (Stylus Publishing, 2020) by Kathryn E. Linder, Kevin Kelly, and Thomas J. Tobin offers practical advice and step-by-step instructions on how to decide if you want to leave behind academia and how to start searching for a new career. If a lot of career advice is too vague or too ambiguous, this book corrects that by outlining not just how to figure out what you might want to do, but critically, how you might go about accomplishing that.
    Zeb Larson is a recent graduate of The Ohio State University with a PhD in History. His research deals with the anti-apartheid movement in the United States. To suggest a recent title or to contact him, please send an e-mail to zeb.larson@gmail.com.
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    • 39 min
    Christopher J. Phillips, "Scouting and Scoring: How We Know What We Know About Baseball" (Princeton UP, 2019)

    Christopher J. Phillips, "Scouting and Scoring: How We Know What We Know About Baseball" (Princeton UP, 2019)

    The so-called Sabermetrics revolution in baseball that began in the 1970s, popularized by the book—and later Hollywood film—Moneyball, was supposed to represent a triumph of observation over intuition. Cash-strapped clubs need not compete for hyped-up prospects when undervalued players provide better price per run scored. Q.E.D., right?
    In Scouting and Scoring: How We Know What We Know About Baseball (Princeton University Press, 2019), historian of science Christopher J. Phillips rejects his titular dualism. He shows us that baseball can be, in the words of seminal anthropologist and noted Tampa Bay Rays fan* Claude Lévi-Strauss, “good to think with.” Both traditional amateur scouts and statistically-savvy scorers rely on metrics and bureaucracy to make their judgments count, as it were. Some like to say that baseball is quantitative at its core, but by tracing the co-evolution of the sport’s competing data sciences—with episodes that bear witness to the development of the modern press and digital computers—Phillips crafts a compelling narrative sure to delight baseball fans and historians of the human sciences alike.
    *kidding
    Mikey McGovern is a PhD candidate in Princeton University’s Program in the History of Science. He is writing a dissertation on how people used discrimination statistics to argue about rights in 1970s America, and what this means for histories of bureaucracy, quantification, law, politics, and race.
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    • 45 min
    Brian Clegg, "Conundrum: Crack the Ultimate Cipher Challenge" (Icon Books, 2019)

    Brian Clegg, "Conundrum: Crack the Ultimate Cipher Challenge" (Icon Books, 2019)

    The book we are discussing is by Brian Clegg, a well-known author of books on math and science -- but this is not exactly a book on math or science, although these subjects play a significant role. His latest book is Conundrum: Crack the Ultimate Cipher Challenge (Icon Books, 2019), which should delight and intrigue not only those who love math and science, but those who love solving puzzles. This book is a literary escape room, with a series of puzzles to be solved, all of which contribute to a final puzzle that concludes the book. And like the clues one finds in an escape room, Brian mercifully offers hints for the puzzles.
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    • 54 min

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