300 episodes

Interviews with Scholars of Public Policy about their New Books

New Books in Public Policy New Books Network

    • Social Sciences

Interviews with Scholars of Public Policy about their New Books

    Matt Cook, "Sleight of Mind: 75 Ingenious Paradoxes in Mathematics, Physics, and Philosophy" (MIT Press, 2020)

    Matt Cook, "Sleight of Mind: 75 Ingenious Paradoxes in Mathematics, Physics, and Philosophy" (MIT Press, 2020)

    Paradox is a sophisticated kind of magic trick. A magician's purpose is to create the appearance of impossibility, to pull a rabbit from an empty hat. Yet paradox doesn't require tangibles, like rabbits or hats. Paradox works in the abstract, with words and concepts and symbols, to create the illusion of contradiction. There are no contradictions in reality, but there can appear to be. In Sleight of Mind: 75 Ingenious Paradoxes in Mathematics, Physics, and Philosophy (MIT Press, 2020), Matt Cook and a few collaborators dive deeply into more than 75 paradoxes in mathematics, physics, philosophy, and the social sciences. As each paradox is discussed and resolved, Cook helps readers discover the meaning of knowledge and the proper formation of concepts―and how reason can dispel the illusion of contradiction.
    The journey begins with “a most ingenious paradox” from Gilbert and Sullivan's Pirates of Penzance. Readers will then travel from Ancient Greece to cutting-edge laboratories, encounter infinity and its different sizes, and discover mathematical impossibilities inherent in elections. They will tackle conundrums in probability, induction, geometry, and game theory; perform “supertasks”; build apparent perpetual motion machines; meet twins living in different millennia; explore the strange quantum world―and much more.
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    • 54 min
    Andrew Leigh, "Randomistas: How Radical Researchers Are Changing Our World" (Yale UP, 2018)

    Andrew Leigh, "Randomistas: How Radical Researchers Are Changing Our World" (Yale UP, 2018)

    From the unending quest to turn metal into gold to the major discoveries that reveal how the universe works, experiments have always been a critical part of the hard sciences. In recent decades social scientists have started to catch up and the results are shifting the way we do nearly everything. Randomized control trials, called RCT’s, have a logic so simple that anyone can understand how they work and even run them themselves. It’s simple. You come up with an idea to get something to happen. You take a group of subjects and randomly split it in half. You try your idea on one group and leave the other group alone. The difference in outcomes will tell you if your idea works or not.
    In Randomistas: How Radical Researchers Are Changing Our World (Yale University Press, 2018), Andrew Leigh demonstrated the impact that social scientists are making with this powerful tool. From opportunity experiments to changing your socks, researchers are putting old ideas to the test and finding out what works and what doesn’t. The book reads like a series of interesting examples places beautifully together to shed light on how it is that we can be better at finding out what we do and do not know.
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    • 41 min
    Sara Hughes, "Repowering Cities: Governing Climate Change Mitigation in New York City, Los Angeles, and Toronto" (Cornell UP, 2019)

    Sara Hughes, "Repowering Cities: Governing Climate Change Mitigation in New York City, Los Angeles, and Toronto" (Cornell UP, 2019)

    Scholars like Ben Barber have suggested that cities provide the democratic culture to pragmatically problem-solve challenging policy issues – such as climate change. Many North American cities have announced ambitious goals to mitigate climate change, particularly the reduction of green house gases.
    In her new book Repowering Cities: Governing Climate Change Mitigation in New York City, Los Angeles, and Toronto (Cornell University Press, 2019). Sara Hughes creatively combines the literature on cities with a comparative case study of three American cities to explore how New York, Los Angeles, and Toronto moved from making commitments to fulfilling them. She uses qualitative interviews, government reports, policy and program documents, newspaper articles, and climate data to demonstrate that climate change mitigation in large cities is underpinned by a common set of government strategies rather than any particular city characteristic or policy agenda. Her book identifies institution building, coalition building, and capacity building as the foundation for any effort to repower cities regardless of whether it is in the service of increasing solar power or energy conservation.
    Our conversation includes discussion of Michael Bloomberg’s ambitious plan for NYC (and the puzzle of why he did not emphasize his success when running for president) and some thoughts on how the dense cities in this case study might deploy their institutions and leadership to address COVID-19.
    Susan Liebell is associate professor of political science at Saint Joseph’s University in Philadelphia. She is the author of Democracy, Intelligent Design, and Evolution: Science for Citizenship (Routledge, 2013).
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    • 53 min
    Elizabeth A. Wheeler, "HandiLand: The Crippest Place on Earth" (U Michigan Press, 2019)

    Elizabeth A. Wheeler, "HandiLand: The Crippest Place on Earth" (U Michigan Press, 2019)

    Throughout her new book, HandiLand: The Crippest Place on Earth (University of Michigan Press 2019), Elizabeth A. Wheeler uses a fictional place called HandiLand as a yardstick for measuring how far American society has progressed toward social justice and how much remains to be done. In a rich array of chapters, Wheeler considers the new prominence of youth with disabilities in contemporary young adult and children’s literature. From these and other sources, she derives principles for understanding social justice from the everyday experiences of adults and families with disabilities, including her own. Wheeler intersperses literary analysis with personal memoir in an effort to fashion tool kits for those whose “work, ideas, and hands touch young people with disabilities,” which is all of us.
    Carrie Lane is a Professor of American Studies at California State University, Fullerton and author of A Company of One: Insecurity, Independence, and the New World of White-Collar Unemployment. Her research concerns the changing nature of work in the contemporary U.S. She is currently writing a book on the professional organizing industry. To contact her or to suggest a recent title, email clane@fullerton.edu.
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    • 59 min
    Diane Jones Allen, "Lost in the Transit Desert: Race, Transit Access, and Suburban Form" (Routledge, 2017)

    Diane Jones Allen, "Lost in the Transit Desert: Race, Transit Access, and Suburban Form" (Routledge, 2017)

    Increased redevelopment, the dismantling of public housing, and increasing housing costs are forcing a shift in migration of lower income and transit dependent populations to the suburbs. These suburbs are often missing basic transportation, and strategies to address this are lacking. This absence of public transit creates barriers to viable employment and accessibility to cultural networks, and plays a role in increasing social inequality.
    In her book Lost in the Transit Desert: Race, Transit Access, and Suburban Form (Routledge, 2017), Diane Jones Allen investigates how housing and transport policy have played their role in creating these "Transit Deserts," and what impact race has upon those likely to be affected. Jones Allen uses research from New Orleans, Baltimore, and Chicago to explore the forces at work in these situations, as well as proposing potential solutions. Mapping, interviews, photographs, and narratives all come together to highlight the inequities and challenges in Transit Deserts, where a lack of access can make all journeys, such as to jobs, stores, or relatives, much more difficult. Alternatives to public transit abound, from traditional methods such as biking and carpooling to more culturally specific tactics, and are examined comprehensively.
    This is valuable reading for students and researchers interested in transport planning, urban planning, city infrastructure, and transport geography.
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    • 47 min
    Josh Seim, "Bandage, Sort, and Hustle: Ambulance Crews on the Front Lines of Urban Suffering" (U California Press, 2020)

    Josh Seim, "Bandage, Sort, and Hustle: Ambulance Crews on the Front Lines of Urban Suffering" (U California Press, 2020)

    What is the role of the ambulance in the American city? The prevailing narrative provides a rather simple answer: saving and transporting the critically ill and injured. This is not an incorrect description, but it is incomplete.
    Drawing on field observations, medical records, and his own experience as a novice emergency medical technician, sociologist Dr. Josh Seim reimagines paramedicine as a frontline institution for governing urban suffering. Bandage, Sort, and Hustle: Ambulance Crews on the Front Lines of Urban Suffering (University of California Press, 2020) argues that the ambulance is part of a fragmented regime that is focused more on neutralizing hardships (which are disproportionately carried by poor people and people of color) than on eradicating the root causes of agony. Whether by compressing lifeless chests on the streets or by transporting the publicly intoxicated into the hospital, ambulance crews tend to handle suffering bodies near the bottom of the polarized metropolis.
    Dr. Seim illustrates how this work puts crews in recurrent, and sometimes tense, contact with the emergency department nurses and police officers who share their clientele. These street-level relations, however, cannot be understood without considering the bureaucratic and capitalistic forces that control and coordinate ambulance labor from above. Beyond the ambulance, this book motivates a labor-centric model for understanding the frontline governance of down-and-out populations.
    In this interview, Dr. Seim and I discuss the idea of urban suffering, his in-depth, immersive ethnographic methods, how ambulance crews categorize and sort patients, and interactions between institutions like the police, hospitals, and ambulance crews. Bandage, Sort, Hustle is one of the best monographs I have read. Dr. Seim’s writing about his experience made the entire study more interesting to read because of his unique perspective as a sociologist on the front lines as an Emergency Medical Technician. I recommend this book for students, professors, and anyone else interested in labor, medical sociology, culture, ethnography, or urban sociology.
    Krystina Millar is a PhD student in the Department of Sociology at Indiana University. Her research interests include gender, sociology of the body, and sexuality. You can find her on Twitter at @KrystinaMillar.
     
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    • 1 hr 1 min

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