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.


What We Are Reading Today: Of Privacy and Power

Updated 19 March 2019
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What We Are Reading Today: Of Privacy and Power

  • The real dispute was between two transnational coalitions — one favoring security, the other liberty

Authors: Henry Farrell and Abraham L. Newman

We live in an interconnected world, where security problems like terrorism are spilling across borders, and globalized data networks and e-commerce platforms are reshaping the world economy. This means that states’ jurisdictions and rule systems clash. How have they negotiated their differences over freedom and security? Of Privacy and Power investigates how the EU and US, the two major regulatory systems in world politics, have regulated privacy and security, and how their agreements and disputes have reshaped the transatlantic relationship.

The transatlantic struggle over freedom and security has usually been depicted as a clash between a peace-loving EU and a belligerent US. Henry Farrell and Abraham Newman demonstrate how this misses the point. The real dispute was between two transnational coalitions — one favoring security, the other liberty — whose struggles have reshaped the politics of surveillance, e-commerce, and privacy rights. The authors examine how the powers of border-spanning coalitions have waxed and waned. Globalization has enabled new strategies of action, which security agencies, interior ministries, privacy NGOs, bureaucrats, and other actors exploit as circumstances dictate.