- Change Rhetoric: Good and Bad
- Three challenges: Engaging, rightscaling and innovating
- Time for a little dissent
- To Be Or Not To Be A Library Director
- How to Answer “So You Need a Degree to Do That?”
- Putting Things in Perspective
- Here’s how Amazon self-destructs
- Amazon vs. your public library
- Small Pieces Loosely Kludged: Peer Review and Publication in Math Scholarly Communication
- The Awesomest 7-Year Postdoc or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Tenure-Track Faculty Life
- If We Share Data, Will Anyone Use Them? Data Sharing and Reuse in the Long Tail of Science and Technology
- Information Consumerism: The Price of Hypocrisy
- Re-thinking Twitter in the Classroom
- Recently published : Incorporating Online Instruction in Academic Libraries
- New Report from EDUCAUSE and Internet2: Understanding What Higher Education Needs From E-Textbooks + Roundup
- Students Prefer Print for Serious Academic Reading (actual study here)
- Jaron Lanier: We’re Being Enslaved by Free Information
- Welcome to the Palace of Ambiguity and Talking About Information Literacy: the Mediating Role of Discourse in a College Writing Classroom
Archive for: July, 2013
A fun little apocalyptic post from everybody's favourite humour site, Cracked. Skynet, anyone?
5. Slot Machines
Slot machines are a diagnostic of everything we still need to fix in the human brain. It's normal to throw a couple of dollars in to try them out, because paying attention to new, loud, and shiny objects used to be good survival instincts before television.
Slot machines are reverse swear jars -- you put money into them and then curse -- and have the same effect on a functional mind: teaching you not to do that again. Homo sapiens is defined by being able to learn from experience and use tools. Slot players do the exact opposite.
Slot machines are the most existentially obvious scam: The fact that they're there proves that they make money for the casino by taking it away from everyone else. Anything the player says after that point isn't an argument, it's an error report from their brain. In fact, they shouldn't be called players, because that word implies skill. They're more involved in "playing" the casino septic system, where at least they affect when things come out the other end. And the fundamental laws of existence prove that they'll always push out less than they fed in. Slot machines have users in the same way drugs do, except even the gummiest crystal meth head isn't being conned into paying for his own body chemistry.
Slot machines are the lint traps of society. There should be slot machines on every street corner, and every cent they collect should be spent on education.
2. QWERTY Keyboards
- How Technology Is Destroying Jobs
- The Fall of the American Worker
- The Internet’s destroying work — and turning the old middle-class into the new proletariat
- Giving Away Our Lunch
- Reminders about the Economics of Becoming an Academic
- Econ 101 is killing America: Forget the dumbed-down garbage most economists spew. Their myths are causing tragic results for everyday Americans
- What Is College For?
- The Great Dereliction
- The Stakes for All of Us (higher education reform must be approached very carefully)
- Cash-Strapped Universities Turn to Corporate-Style Consolidation
- Information Consumerism: The Price of Hypocrisy
Around the Web: Silencing librarians, Waiting for Batgirl, Why information shouldn't be free and more
- Silencing, librarianship, and gender: a preface
- Silencing, librarianship, and gender: what is silencing?
- Gender and Digital Identity
- Does the library world squash public dissent?
- Library Schism: How Do Librarians Define Their Profession?
The Librarian Shortage Myth & Blaming Library School
- Waiting for Batgirl
- The MLS quasar, and Lists for the Perplexed
- New Services, New Skills, and Renewing Staff
- Breaking Up with Libraries
- Hey Libraries: It’s Not Me, It’s You and Part 2: Who Gets to Keep the Couch?
- SUL supports conference anti-harassment policies and My library supports anti-harassment policies (Stanford Library's support of anti-harassment policies)
- ALA 2013: Jaron Lanier Tells Librarians Why Information Shouldn't Be Free
- Game of Papers: eLife, BMC, PLoS and EMBO Announce New Peer Review Consortium
- Laborastories: Sharing the laboratory experience with the world, one story at a time.
- The Library as Copy Machine: Part I : Pirates of the Alexandrian
- Data Curation’s Dirty Little Secret (subject expertise isn't an absolute requirement)
- Monographs and book chapters must become a larger part of the open access landscape
- The Apple Antitrust Case and the Widgetification of Books
- The rise of the evolutionary psychology douchebag
- Pushing Back Against Corporate "Counterfeit Science"
- Open is a state of mind
- Open Source Peer Review And The Future Of Research
Reading Diary: The Boy who Loved Math: The Improbable Life of Paul Erdős by Deborah Heiligman and LeUyen Pham
There are two kinds of children's books: those that are aimed primarily at the kids themselves and those that are aimed at the adults that actually shell out the cash to pay for the books. There's certainly a lot of overlap -- books that kids love but that also catch the eyes, hearts & minds and wallets of the adults doing the shopping. But wander the aisles of your local bookstore and you'll see what I mean. Often beautifully illustrated, with a sophisticated artistic touch and a mature and serious topic, you can tell the books that are aimed at the parents and uncles and cousins and aunts and friends and neighbours and grandparents. Next to them are the fun, silly and truly childish books that appeal to the actual kids themselves. And the reverse, too, silly books that are aimed at what adults thinks of as childish concerns but that miss the mark. There are plenty of serious books that perfectly frame the real issues in kids' lives but are perhaps too "gritty" or "realistic" for adults to think that the kids in their lives would be ready or mature enough to understand them.
And now we come to the notion of a biographical kids book about a mathematician. It seems kind of counter-intuitive, of course, at first glance but then you remember that perhaps there are a few interesting oddballs among the mathematical ranks. Even among the oddballs, perhaps most wouldn't make for great stories for kids -- think Paul Dirac or Grigori Perelman for example. And then you remember Paul Erdős. And yeah, perfect.
And that brings us to the book at hand, The Boy Who Loved Math: The Improbable Life of Paul Erdos by Deborah Heiligman and LeUyen Pham (ages 3-8).
A kids book about Paul Erdős actually kind of makes sense. Certainly he had his quirks and oddities, in fact his whole life was a bit of an oddity. Basically, he spent most of his adult life couch surfing from city to city, from the home of one mathematician to another, sleeping on their beds, eating their food and most of all, collaborating with them and producing scholarly papers by the ream. He's actually kind of famous for that habit of collaboration -- it's even spawned the famous Erdős Number (and variants like the Erdős-Bacon number), which calculates the degrees of collaborative separation between mathematicians and Erdős himself.
But, to once again somehow circle around to the main reason for this review, this bizarre idea of a kid's book about this eccentric mathematician. Does it work? Yes, actually it does. Not surprising, it's quirky and playful and a little nutty, and definitely plays up the more child-like aspects of Erdős's life and personality like his obsession of numbers and his playful disdain for everyday life and habits (and not the more adult sides, like his drug use). The book is actually quite light-hearted. LeUyen Pham's artwork very nicely picks up on the mathematical themes with lots of numbers and equations and visual hat-tips to math embedded in the various scenes. It's also clean and a bit retro even, not distracting at all from story.
The notes at the end explain a lot more about Erdős' life and math, something perhaps for the adults reading the book to pick up a bit more than the kids. Which cycles me even further back (recurses, maybe?) to the beginning of the review. Is this a kids book for kids or a kids book for adults? Eh, a little of both. Definitely not something just anybody would pick up for just any kid -- either the adult will likely have a math connection that they want to infect the kid with or perhaps some adult will recognize a kid with a math bug and research math-related kids books and find this one.
Which is kind of too bad. I think any kid would enjoy this book, as would any math-loving adult. It would make a great present for any family with a young kid or as a fun gift for any sciencey person in your life.
And to cycle even further back in time, I first heard about this book at the end of January, at the Ontatio Library Association SuperConference, in the exhibits room. The distributor for the book had a few copies on display and I tweeted a picture of the cover:
— John Dupuis (@dupuisj) January 31, 2013
Which at one point was the top tweet for the conference! And luckily, while expressing my excitement over the book to the staff at the distributor's both, they were kind enough to give me the copy to take home. A favour I'm returning with this review. Trust me, it was tough waiting until the book was actually released to review it!
Of course, the book is titled The Boy who Loved Math. And we don't all have boys. What about girls that love math? Or who could love math if they had a book with a female role model? What books could we buy for them?
I have some suggestions, although not many that would be for girls in the 3-8 age range that the Erdős appeals to.
- Emmy Noether: The Mother of Modern Algebra
- Math Girls and Math Girls 2: Fermat's Last Theorem by Hiroshi Yuki
- Danica McKellar has a bunch of books on math aimed at girls
- Not quite math, but there are a few books on Grace Hopper aimed at girls.
- Dignifying Science: Stories About Women Scientists, a graphic novel by Jim Ottaviani and others.
- Primates: The Fearless Science of Jane Goodall, Dian Fossey, and Biruté Galdikas by Jim Ottaviani and Maris Wicks (my review)
Further suggestions of books appealing to girls (and boys) are, of course, welcome in the comments.
Heiligman, Deborah and LeUyen Pham. The Boy Who Loved Math: The Improbable Life of Paul Erdos. New York: Roaring Book Press, 2013. 37pp. ISBN-13: 978-1596433076 (for ages 3-8)
(Advanced Reading Copy provided by publisher/distributer)
(A more math-centric review here.)
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