What We Are Reading Today: Islamic Exceptionalism: How the struggle over Islam is reshaping the world

Updated 07 June 2018
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What We Are Reading Today: Islamic Exceptionalism: How the struggle over Islam is reshaping the world

“The Arab Spring was really … a collective loss of faith in politics,” writes Shadi Hamid in Islamic Exceptionalism, which argues for a new understanding of how Islam and Islamism shape politics. 

Islam has manifested its exceptionalism through its remarkable ability to withstand pressures of modernization and secularization in countries in the Middle East and beyond, he argues. Democratic countries such as Tunisia, Turkey, Indonesia and Malaysia have also been active Islamist centers.

“In Indonesia and Malaysia, there has been a coming to terms with Islam’s role in public life, whereas in much of the Middle-East, there hasn’t, at least not yet,” Hamid writes.

While Christianity has withdrawn from political life, Islam has retained its power and purity in the face of secularism. Hamid examines the reasons behind the failure of the Arab Spring, discussing the different modes of reconciling religion and state, the AKP model in Turkey and the Ennahda model in Tunisia. He is at his best analyzing the Muslim Brothers’ disastrous rule in Egypt. 

Islam’s relation to politics is unique and “the democratic process must play out for a long enough period so that Islam, Islamism, and democracy can evolve in a natural, uncontrived fashion,” he concludes.


What We Are Reading Today: How to Fall Slower Than Gravity

Updated 14 November 2018
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What We Are Reading Today: How to Fall Slower Than Gravity

Author: Paul J. Nahin

Paul Nahin is a master at explaining odd phenomena through straightforward mathematics. In this collection of 26 intriguing problems, he explores how mathematical physicists think. Always entertaining, the problems range from ancient catapult conundrums to the puzzling physics of a very peculiar kind of glass called NASTYGLASS— and from dodging trucks to why raindrops fall slower than the rate of gravity. The questions raised may seem impossible to answer at first and may require an unexpected twist in reasoning, but sometimes their solutions are surprisingly simple. Nahin’s goal, however, is always to guide readers— who will need only to have studied advanced high school math and physics— in expanding their mathematical thinking to make sense of the curiosities of the physical world.
The problems are in the first part of the book and the solutions are in the second, so that readers may challenge themselves to solve the questions on their own before looking at the explanations. The problems show how mathematics — including algebra, trigonometry, geometry, and calculus — can be united with physical laws to solve both real and theoretical problems.

Historical anecdotes woven throughout the book bring alive the circumstances and people involved in some amazing discoveries and achievements.
More than a puzzle book, this work will immerse you in the delights of scientific history while honing your math skills.
Paul J. Nahin is the author of many popular math books, including In Praise of Simple Physics, Dr. Euler’s Fabulous Formula, and An Imaginary Tale (all Princeton).