Playlist · by Michael Beraka
Math etc 2
20 episodes, 18 hours 43 mins
Catherine Jami, “The Emperor’s New Mathematics: Western Learning and Imperial Authority During the Kangxi Reign (1662-1722)” (Oxford UP, 2012)
Challenging conventional modes of understanding China and the circulation of knowledge within the history of science, Catherine Jami‘s new book looks closely at the imperial science of the reign of the Kangxi Emperor (r. 1662-1722). It focuses on the history of mathematics in this context, but situates the story of mathematics and Kangxi within a larger framework that extends from the late Ming through the years after Kangxi’s reign, and treating much more than mathematics in the course of the analysis. The Emperor’s New Mathematics: Western Learning and Imperial Authority During the Kangxi Reign (1662-1722) (Oxford University Press, 2012) takes us from the beginning of Western learning in China in the late Ming dynasty through the commissioning by Kangxi of a massive compendium that was the largest mathematical work ever printed in imperial China. Along the way, Jami’s work surveys the changing pedagogy of imperial mathematics in late imperial China, the crucial role that mater...
Leila Schneps and Coralie Colmez, “Math on Trial” (Basic Books, 2013)
You may well have seen “Numb3rs,” a TV show in which mathematicians help solve crimes. It’s fiction. But, as Leila Schneps and Coralie Colmez show in their eye-opening new book Math on Trial: How Numbers Get Used and Abused in the Court Room (Basic Books, 2013) math does play a role in criminal prosecution. Alas, it’s often bad math and, as such, often leads to bad outcomes: people get off who shouldn’t and others get convicted who shouldn’t. Schneps and Colmez show how math has been misused in ten interesting (and disturbing) cases. In some instances the errors are trivial; in others rather complex. But they all add up (excuse the pun) to injustice. Listen in and find out how and why. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
Eli Maor and Eugen Jost, “Beautiful Geometry” (Princeton UP, 2014)
Beautiful Geometry(Princeton UP, 2014),by the mathematician prof.Eli Maorand the noted artistEugen Jost. It’s a fascinating collaboration which helps to bridge the gap deplored by C. P. Snow in his classicThe Two Cultures. If you’re a lover of geometry, you’ll find some of your favorites depicted here – as well as a number of theorems that will undoubtedly be new to many readers (including the interviewer). Each result is accompanied by an original work of art by Eugen Jost. It’s fascinating not only to read about some of the more piquant results in a field (geometry) that is more than 2,500 years old, but just as delightful to see how these results inspire the creativity of an artist. If you come for the geometry, you’ll certainly stay for the artwork – and if your interest is in art, you’ll be intrigued by how a presumably dry subject such as geometrical theorems can give birth to works of exquisite beauty. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
Michael Strevens, “Tychomancy: Inferring Probability from Causal Structure” (Harvard UP, 2013)
When we’re faced with a choice between Door #1, Door #2, and Door #3, how do we infer correctly that there’s an equal chance of the prize being behind any of the doors? How is it that we are generally correct to choose the shorter of two checkout lines in the supermarket when we’re in a hurry? In his new book, Tychomancy: Inferring Probability from Causal Structure (Harvard University Press, 2013), Michael Strevens – professor of philosophy at New York University, argues that we are all equipped with a reliable, probable innate, and not fully conscious skill at probabilistic reasoning—a “physical intuition” that enables us to infer physical probabilities from perceived symmetries. This skill is found in six-month-old infants watching as red and white balls are removed in different proportions from an urn. But it also underlies important advances in the sciences, such as James Clerk Maxwell’s reasoning when he hit upon the correct distribution of velocities of a moving partic...
Oscar E. Fernandez, “Everyday Calculus: Discovering the Hidden Math All around Us (Princeton UP, 2014)
The book discussed in this interview isEveryday Calculus:Discovering the Hidden Math All around Us(Princeton University Press, 2014)byOscar E. Fernandez, who teaches mathematics – and calculus in particular – at Wellesley College. While it can be read by someone who wants to obtain a sense of what calculus is and how it’s used, it is even more enjoyable and enlightening if the reader has taken the first semester of a calculus course. The author takes the reader through a day in the author’s life, during which things one typically encounters – stock price quotations, cooling cups of coffee, getting good seats at a movie – afford an opportunity to investigate how calculus explains these everyday occurrences. Fernandez also introduces some instances where calculus has totally unexpected applications to our lives – why our GPS system relies upon Einstein’s Theory of Relativity, and why we obtain electricity via alternating current rather than direct current.Everyday Calculusshou...
Peter Gardenfors, “The Geometry of Meaning: Semantics Based on Conceptual Spaces” (MIT Press, 2014)
A conceptual space sounds like a rather nebulous thing, and basing a semantics on conceptual spaces sounds similarly nebulous. In The Geometry of Meaning: Semantics Based on Conceptual Spaces (MIT Press, 2014), Peter Gardenfors demonstrates that this need not be the case. Indeed, his research is directed towards establishing a formal, mathematically-grounded account of semantics, an account which – as expounded here – is nevertheless accessible. In this interview we discuss the essence of this proposal, focusing in particular on its implications for linguistic analysis, but also touching upon its relation to cognitive science and other related fields. The proposal makes testable predictions about the organization of individual linguistic systems, as well as their acquisition (and potentially their evolution over time). Notably, the “single domain constraint” posits that individual lexical items refer to convex regions of single domains. We discuss the significance of this idea a...
Al Cuoco and Joe Rotman, “Learning Modern Algebra: From Early Attempts to Prove Fermat’s Last Theorem” (MAA, 2013)
[Re-published with permission from Inspired by Math] The MAA (Mathematical Association of America) sent me a review copy of their new book Learning Modern Algebra: From Early Attempts to Prove Fermat’s Last Theorem. I don’t typically review textbooks but the title and then the contents of the book convinced me that I needed to interview the authors. Joe Rotman wasn’t available but I was able to chat with the other co-author, Al Cuoco. I was really struck with Al’s passion about teaching the teachers as well as the students. Al shared some great insights about the ingredients that I think should go into every math textbook to help teachers and students to develop the right habits of mind to succeed.Here are some of the questions we discussed. 1. What is your background and your experience teaching high school math to students and to teachers? 2. I attended the Ross program and you have a key role in a program that has its roots in the Ross program. Tell me about this program and ...
Margaret Morrison, “Reconstructing Reality: Models, Mathematics, and Simulations” (Oxford UP, 2015)
Almost 400 years ago, Galileo wrote that the book of nature is written in the language of mathematics. Today, mathematics is integral to physics and chemistry, and is becoming so in biology, economics, and other sciences, although amid great controversy. The messy reality of biological creatures and their social relations cannot be captured in mathematical models or computer simulations, it is argued. But what is the relation between mathematics and physical reality? Do highly abstract mathematical formalisms and computer simulations yield empirical knowledge? If so, when, and how? In Reconstructing Reality: Models, Mathematics and Simulations (Oxford University Press, 2015), Margaret Morrison, Professor of philosophy at the University of Toronto, considers the epistemological status of the results of modeling and simulation as compared, and typically contrasted with, the results of experiment. She argues that no sharp distinction between simulating the world and measuring the world...
John Allen Paulos, “A Numerate Life” (Prometheus Books, 2015)
John Allen Paulos, who has accomplished the unheard-of double of writing best-sellers about mathematics and inserting a word (‘innumeracy’) into the language, has attempted another ambitious feat – bringing mathematics to bear on one of the few subjects it has yet to examine: biography and autobiography. A Numerate Life (Prometheus Books, 2015) is simultaneously a charming memoir and a highly entertaining venture into mathematics, literature, and philosophy. This is one of those rare books that, when you have finished a section, you are torn between going on to the next section and re-reading the last section to make sure that you got everything out of it. The subtitle of the book is “A Mathematician Explores the Vagaries of Life, His Own and Probably Yours”. You’ll be a little skeptical about that subtitle before you read the book, but when you finish it, you’ll realize the subtitle nails it — he’s talking, not just about himself, but about you. fascinating read. Learn mor...
Dan Bouk, “How Our Days Became Numbered: Risk and the Rise of the Statistical Individual” (U of Chicago Press, 2015)
Who made life risky? In his dynamic new book, How Our Days Became Numbered: Risk and the Rise of the Statistical Individual (University of Chicago Press, 2015), historian Dan Bouk argues that starting in the late nineteenth century, the life-insurance industry embedded risk-making within American society and American psyches. Bouk is assistant professor of history at Colgate University, and his new book shows how insurers categorized individuals and grouped social classes in ways that assigned monetary value to race, class, lifestyles, and bodies. With lively prose, Bouk gives historical context and character to the rise of the “statistical individual” from the Guided Age to the New Deal. Bouk’s primary argument is that risks did not always already exist, nor was risk invented by the medical establishment. Instead, the threat (and reality) of economic crisis helped insurers to create risk as a commodity, and eventually to control the lives it measured. As Bouk phrases it in the i...
Brian Clegg, “How Many Moons Does the Earth Have? The Ultimate Science Quiz Book” (Icon Books, 2015)
Brian Clegg, who is arguably the most prolific science writer since Isaac Asimov, and almost certainly the most prolific British one, has written a delightfully tantalizing book entitled How Many Moons Does the Earth Have? The Ultimate Science Quiz Book (Icon Books, 2015). It’s a delectable collection of science quiz questions – and although it includes classics such as “Why Is the Sky Blue?”, many will seriously challenge even the most knowledgeable. You may finish the quiz a lot more humble about your scientific knowledge (as did your humbled correspondent), but that is more than compensated by how much you’ll learn about some of the more intriguing and sometimes lesser-known aspects of science — and how much you’ll enjoy it. And isn’t that why you want to read about science in the first place? Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
James D. Stein, “L.A. Math: Romance, Crime, and Mathematics in the City of Angels” (Princeton UP, 2016)
Romance. Crime. Mathematics. These things do not go together. Or do they? James D. Stein thinks they do, and he admirably shows us how in his wonderful collection of stories L.A. Math: Romance, Crime, and Mathematics in the City of Angels (Princeton University Press, 2016). Jim’s a mathematician, but don’t let that put you off: he’s the author of severalpopular books and an excellent writer at that. In this interview we talk about writing “clean”, math-phobia, and what everyone should really know, math-wise. Listen in. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
Adam Kucharski, “The Perfect Bet: How Science and Math Are Taking the Luck Out of Gambling” (Basic Books, 2016)
Adam Kucharski, who won the 2012 Wellcome Trust Science Writing Prize, has delivered another winner in an area rife with both winners and losers. The Perfect Bet: How Science and Math Are Taking the Luck Out of Gambling (Basic Books, 2016) is a brilliant, fascinating, and sometimes slightly terrifying look at how math and science are not just conquering gambling, the algorithms that math has devised and the computerized means of implementing them are paradoxically simultaneously removing risk and creating a lot more of it. Jim Stein is an emeritus professor of mathematics at California State University, Long Beach. As has been noted, the word ’emeritus’ comes from the Latin ‘ex’ — meaning ‘out’ — and ‘meritus’ — meaning ‘ought to be’. Despite that, Jim still teaches a course a semester, either at CSULB or El Camino Community College. He is the author of L.A. Math: Romance, Crime and Mathematics in the City of Angels, Cosmic Numbers: The Numbers That Define the Universe,...
Beineke and Rosenhouse, eds., “The Mathematics of Various Entertaining Subjects: Research in Recreational Math” (Princeton UP, 2015)
Jennifer Beineke and Jason Rosenhouse‘s new book The Mathematics of Various Entertaining Subjects: Research in Recreational Math (Princeton University Press, 2015) covers a multitude of topics and is in many ways as entertaining as the various subjects it describes. Even though the book can be skimmed simply to expose one to various aspects of recreational mathematics, I think it’s fair to say that some mathematical background is needed to fully appreciate it. But even if you’re only willing to skim the book, you’re going to find sections which will make you want to dive in more deeply. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
Ian Stewart, “Calculating the Cosmos: How Mathematics Unveils the Universe” (Basic Books, 2016)
The book discussed here is Ian Stewart’s Calculating the Cosmos: How Mathematics Unveils the Universe (Basic Books, 2016). If you would like to read a book that in my opinion represents the nicest job of presenting astronomy and cosmology in one volume since Isaac Asimov wrote The Universe half a century ago, this is absolutely the one to get. In addition, for those of us who are lovers of math, this book does a far better job than Asimov of presenting the close relationship between mathematics, astronomy, and cosmology. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
Matthew L. Jones, “Reckoning with Matter: Calculating Machines, Innovation, and Thinking about Thinking from Pascal to Babbage” (U. Chicago Press, 2016)
Matthew L. Jones’s wonderful new book traces a history of failed efforts to make calculating machines, from Blaise Pascal’s work in the 1640s through the efforts of Charles Babbage in the nineteenth century, incorporating an account of both the work and relationships of scholars and artisans, and their reflections on the nature of invention. Innovative in its approach and its form, Reckoning with Matter: Calculating Machines, Innovation, and Thinking about Thinking from Pascal to Babbage (University of Chicago Press, 2016) offers a thoughtful and beautifully-written history of technology that offers an important perspective on a division between two poles of writing the history of technology: “the collective, deterministic account of inventive activity and the individualistic, heroic, creative account (7).” In Jones’s hands, we are offered a third way of understanding cultural production in early modernity, one that did not bifurcate between imitation and originality, social an...
David Danks, “Unifying the Mind: Cognitive Representations as Graphical Models” (MIT Press, 2014)
For many cognitive scientists, psychologists, and philosophers of mind, the best current theory of cognition holds that thinking is in some sense computation “in some sense,” because that core idea can and has been elaborated in a number of different ways that are or at least seem to be incompatible in at least some respects. In Unifying the Mind: Cognitive Representations as Graphical Models (MIT Press, 2014), David Danks proposes a version of this basic theory that links the mind closely with the computational framework used in machine learning: the idea that thinking involves manipulation of symbols encoded as graphical models. Danks, who is Professor of Philosophy and Psychology at Carnegie Mellon University, argues that graphical models provide a unifying explanation of why we are able to move smoothly between different cognitive processes and why we are able to focus on features of situations that are relevant to our goals. While the book includes the mathematics behind grap...
Oscar Fernandez, “The Calculus of Happiness” (Princeton UP, 2017)
The book discussed here is entitled The Calculus of Happiness: How a Mathematical Approach to Life Adds Up to Health, Wealth, and Love (Princeton University Press, 2017) by Oscar Fernandez. If the thought of calculus makes you nervous, don’t worry, you won’t need calculus to enjoy and appreciate this book. Its actually an intriguing way to introduce some of the precalculus topics that will later be needed in a calculus class, through the examination of some of the basic mathematical ideas that can be used to analyze the problems of how to attain relationship bliss, live long, and prosper and all without being a Vulcan. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
Brian Clegg, “The Reality Frame: Relativity and Our Place in the Universe” (Icon Books, 2017)
Brian Clegg is one of England’s most prolific and popular writers on science. His latest work, The Reality Frame: Relativity and Our Place in the Universe (Icon Books, 2017), covers Einstein’s Theories of Relativity and a whole lot more. Simply as an exposition of Einstein’s theories, the book is excellent its beautifully organized and delivered, with Clegg’s usual clarity and insight. But what makes the book transcend the usual work on this subject is that Clegg looks at relativity as a concept that can help us understand what distinguishes humanity as a species, and where our species fits into the Universe. Einstein himself would have enjoyed participating in a discussion of this fascinating topic, and may well have shared some of Clegg’s points of view. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
Eli Maor, “Music by the Numbers: From Pythagoras to Schoenberg” (Princeton UP, 2018)
Most of us have heard of the math-music connection, but Eli Maor’s Music by the Numbers: From Pythagoras to Schoenberg (Princeton University Press, 2018) is THE book that explains what that connection is, and how both math and music connect to both physics and biology.There are wonderful anecdotes detailing the lives and creations of many of the great musicians, mathematicians, scientists, and philosophers who have contributed to creating music and our understanding of it.If you love music – and who doesn’t – you’ll enjoy reading this book, even if you don’t love math.And maybe, even if you don’t love math, you’ll have a greater appreciation of it after you finish the book. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
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