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

Updated 14 November 2018

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).

What We Are Reading Today: Empires of Vice by Diana S. Kim

Updated 20 February 2020

What We Are Reading Today: Empires of Vice by Diana S. Kim

During the late 19th century, opium was integral to European colonial rule in Southeast Asia. 

The taxation of opium was a major source of revenue for British and French colonizers, who also derived moral authority from imposing a tax on a peculiar vice of their non-European subjects. 

Yet between the 1890s and the 1940s, colonial states began to ban opium, upsetting the very foundations of overseas rule — how did this happen? Empires of Vice traces the history of this dramatic reversal, revealing the colonial legacies that set the stage for the region’s drug problems today, says a review on the Princeton University Press website.

Diana Kim challenges the conventional wisdom about opium prohibition — that it came about because doctors awoke to the dangers of drug addiction or that it was a response to moral crusaders — uncovering a more complex story deep within the colonial bureaucracy. 

Drawing on a wealth of archival evidence across Southeast Asia and Europe, she shows how prohibition was made possible by the pivotal contributions of seemingly weak bureaucratic officials.