What We Are Reading Today: A Culture of Growth, by Joel Mokyr

Updated 14 May 2018
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What We Are Reading Today: A Culture of Growth, by Joel Mokyr

  • The book provides startling reasons for why the foundations of our modern economy were laid in the mere two centuries between Columbus and Newton. 

During the late 18th century, innovations in Europe triggered the Industrial Revolution and the sustained economic progress that spread across the globe. 

While much has been made of the details of the Industrial Revolution, what remains a mystery is why it took place at all. 

Why did this revolution begin in the West and not elsewhere, and why did it continue, leading to today’s unprecedented prosperity? 

In this groundbreaking book, celebrated economic historian Joel Mokyr argues that a culture of growth specific to early modern Europe and the European Enlightenment laid the foundations for the scientific advances and pioneering inventions that would instigate explosive technological and economic development. 

Bringing together economics, the history of science and technology, and models of cultural evolution, Mokyr demonstrates that culture — the beliefs, values, and preferences in society that are capable of changing behavior — was a deciding factor in societal transformations. 

Combining ideas from economics and cultural evolution, “A Culture of Growth” provides startling reasons for why the foundations of our modern economy were laid in the mere two centuries between Columbus and Newton. 

 


What We Are Reading Today: The Plaid Model

Updated 16 February 2019
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What We Are Reading Today: The Plaid Model

Author: Richard Evan Schwartz

Outer billiards provides a toy model for planetary motion and exhibits intricate and mysterious behavior even for seemingly simple examples. It is a dynamical system in which a particle in the plane moves around the outside of a convex shape according to a scheme that is reminiscent of ordinary billiards.
The Plaid Model, which is a self-contained sequel to Richard Schwartz’s Outer Billiards on Kites, provides a combinatorial model for orbits of outer billiards on kites, says a review on the Princeton University Press website. Schwartz relates these orbits to such topics as polytope exchange transformations, renormalization, continued fractions, corner percolation, and the Truchet tile system.
The combinatorial model, called “the plaid model,” has a self-similar structure that blends geometry and elementary number theory.
The results were discovered through computer experimentation and it seems that the conclusions would be extremely difficult to reach through traditional mathematics.