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: The Body Papers by Grace Talusan

Updated 24 May 2019
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What We Are Reading Today: The Body Papers by Grace Talusan

Grace Talusan’s memoir The Body Papers bravely explores her experiences with sexual abuse, depression, cancer, and life as a Filipino immigrant, supplemented with government documents, medical records, and family photos.

“Much of Talusan’s memoir will be familiar to any reader of immigrant narratives. But what renders the book memorable — perhaps what earned it the Restless Books Prize for New Immigrant Writing — is the author’s unstinting self-portrait,” said Luis H. Francia in a review published in The New York Times.

“We see Talusan clearly in the present, warts and all, precisely through the stark, lucid representations of herself in the past. Having moved with her family from the Philippines to suburban America when she was two years old, Talusan recalls complex feelings of loss, displacement and adjustment,” the critic added.

A review published in goodreads.com said: “The generosity of spirit and literary acuity of this debut memoir are a testament to her determination and resilience. In excavating and documenting such abuse and trauma, Talusan gives voice to unspeakable experience, and shines a light of hope into the darkness.”