What We Are Reading Today: The Discrete Charm of the Machine by Ken Steiglitz

Updated 17 January 2019
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What We Are Reading Today: The Discrete Charm of the Machine by Ken Steiglitz

A few short decades ago, we were informed by the smooth signals of analog television and radio; we communicated using our analog telephones; and we even computed with analog computers.

Today our world is digital, built with zeros and ones.

Why did this revolution occur? The Discrete Charm of the Machine explains, in an engaging and accessible manner, the varied physical and logical reasons behind this radical transformation, says a review on the Princeton University Press website.

The spark of individual genius shines through this story of innovation: The stored program of Jacquard’s loom; Charles Babbage’s logical branching; Alan Turing’s brilliant abstraction of the discrete machine; Harry Nyquist’s foundation for digital signal processing; Claude Shannon’s breakthrough insights into the meaning of information and bandwidth; and Richard Feynman’s prescient proposals for nanotechnology and quantum computing. Ken Steiglitz follows the progression of these ideas in the building of our digital world.


What We Are Reading Today: Democracy and Dictatorship in Europe by Sheri Berman

Updated 21 April 2019
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What We Are Reading Today: Democracy and Dictatorship in Europe by Sheri Berman

In Democracy and Dictatorship in Europe, Sheri Berman traces the long history of democracy in its cradle, Europe. 

In her study of European political development over more than 200 years, Berman, a professor of political science at Barnard, shows that the story of democracy in Europe is complicated. 

“The ultimate goal, she believes, is liberal democracy, with elections, respect for the rule of law, individual liberties and minority rights. But that is a rare, and hard-won, achievement. A step forward is often followed by a step back,”  said Max Strasser in a review published in The New York Times.

“This may seem a bit obvious to anyone familiar with the broad outlines of European history, but Berman makes the case clearly and convincingly. Moreover, at a moment when hyperventilating over the decline of democracy has grown into a veritable intellectual industry, her long-view approach comes across as appealingly sober,” Strasser added.