Published February 22, 2013
My review of David Berlinski’s The King of Infinite Space: Euclid and His Elements will be in this weekend’s edition of The Wall Street Journal. Just in time for the Oscars, there’s even a movie tie-in:
“One of the more curious historical revelations of Steven Spielberg’s “Lincoln” is that America’s 16th president was obsessed by a Greek mathematician from the fourth century B.C. While traveling from town to town as a young lawyer riding the Eighth Circuit in Illinois, Abraham Lincoln kept a copy of Euclid’s geometrical treatise, “The Elements,” in his saddlebag; his law partner Billy Herndon related that at night Lincoln would lie on the floor reading it by lamplight. Lincoln said he was moved to study Euclid by his desire to understand what a “demonstration” was, and how it differed from any other kind of argument.”
The entire review can be read here.
Happy 2013, everyone!
Image from Athanasius Kircher’s ‘Mundus Subterraneous’ (1665), shows earth’s ‘central fire’ and underground canals.
To start off the new year, here’s my latest for the Wall Street Journal: a review of three books that locate the origins of modern scientific practice where we may least expect it—in monks’s cells, magicians’s workshops, and alchemists’s hidden laboratories. Read the review here and in tomorrow’s print edition.
The books are: John Freely’s Before Galileo, John Glassie’s A Man of Misconceptions, and Lawrence Principe’s The Secrets of Alchemy.
In honor of the anniversary of the publication of Darwin’s Origin of Species on November 24, 1859:
Footage of the moth that pollinates Angraecum sesquipedale, a Madagascar orchid, whose existence Darwin predicted 142 years ago. Because the nectar is so far down the neck of this orchid, Darwin knew that there had to be a species of moth with a “tongue” long enough to pollinate it. And now that moth has been found.
This is fascinating! Watch here.
Published November 19, 2012
My picks for holiday books about science appeared in this weekend’s Wall Street Journal. You can see which 2012 releases I suggest for gift giving here.
My newest review for the Wall Street Journal is out in today’s issue. To see what I had to say about Robyn Arianrhod’s Seduced by Logic: Emilie du Chatelet, Mary Somerville, and the Newtonian Revolution, see here.
Watch out on Saturday for my contribution to the Wall Street Journal’s annual Book Gift Guide. And, coming in December, a longer essay on the birth of modern science in the 17th century.
After I returned from TED Global this summer, I was asked to contribute a piece about my experiences at TED by the magazine Design Mind. It has just come out, and can be read here.
Published October 16, 2012
In honor of the day set aside to remember Ada Lovelace, friend and collaborator of Charles Babbage (and a major player in one chapter of The Philosophical Breakfast Club), I’m passing along two links: one serious, one a bit silly, but both apropos of Lovelace and her accomplishments.
First, the serious. A recent study by Yale University found that women in science are still discriminated against in classrooms and laboratories. How sad that perceptions of women’s abilities have not changed as much as we would like to think from Lovelace’s times in the 19th century. On this day we should remember that although women have come a long way since the 1800s, there is still much work to be done.
Next, the silly (but wonderfully so): a post on the relation between Ada Lovelace and her female friend and mentor, Mary Somerville by the talented Sydney Padua—who is writing a steampunk comic about Lovelace and Babbage.
Food for thought on Lovelace day.