What We Are Reading Today: Changing Places

Updated 03 November 2019

What We Are Reading Today: Changing Places

Authors: John MacDonald, Charles Branas, and Robert Stokes

The design of every aspect of the urban landscape —from streets and sidewalks to green spaces, mass transit, and housing — fundamentally influences the health and safety of the communities who live there. It can affect people’s stress levels and determine whether they walk or drive, the quality of the air they breathe, and how free they are from crime. Changing Places provides a compelling look at the new science and art of urban planning, showing how scientists, planners, and citizens can work together to reshape city life in measurably positive ways, says a review on the Princeton University Press website.
Drawing on the latest research in city planning, economics, criminology, public health, and other fields, Changing Places demonstrates how well-designed changes to place can significantly improve the well-being of large groups of people.
The book argues that there is a disconnect between those who implement place-based changes, such as planners and developers, and the urban scientists who are now able to rigorously evaluate these changes through testing and experimentation.

What We Are Reading Today: Taming the Unknown

Updated 13 July 2020

What We Are Reading Today: Taming the Unknown

Edited by Victor J.Katz and Karen Hunger Parshall

What is algebra? For some, it is an abstract language of x’s and y’s. For mathematics majors and professional mathematicians, it is a world of axiomatically defined constructs like groups, rings, and fields.

Taming the Unknown considers how these two seemingly different types of algebra evolved and how they relate. Victor Katz and Karen Parshall explore the history of algebra, from its roots in the ancient civilizations of Egypt, Mesopotamia, Greece, China, and India, through its development in the medieval Islamic world and medieval and early modern Europe, to its modern form in the early 20th century.

Defining algebra originally as a collection of techniques for determining unknowns, the authors trace the development of these techniques from geometric beginnings in ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia and classical Greece.

They show how similar problems were tackled in Alexandrian Greece, in China, and in India, then look at how medieval Islamic scholars shifted to an algorithmic stage, which was further developed by medieval and early modern European mathematicians.

With the introduction of a flexible and operative symbolism in the 16th and 17th centuries, algebra entered into a dynamic period characterized by the analytic geometry that could evaluate curves represented by equations in two variables, thereby solving problems in the physics of motion.

This new symbolism freed mathematicians to study equations of degrees higher than two and three, ultimately leading to the present abstract era.