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Archive of posts filed under the Literature category.

The Tall T*

Saw The Tall T on video last night. It was ok, but when it comes to movies whose titles begin with that particular character string, I think The Tall Target was much better. I’d say The Tall Target is the best train movie ever, but maybe that title should go to Intolerable Cruelty, which was […]

Why did it take so many decades for the behavioral sciences to develop a sense of crisis around methodology and replication?

“On or about December 1910 human character changed.” — Virginia Woolf (1924). Woolf’s quote about modernism in the arts rings true, in part because we continue to see relatively sudden changes in intellectual life, not merely from technology (email and texting replacing letters and phone calls, streaming replacing record sales, etc.) and power relations (for […]

This one’s for all the Veronica Geng fans out there . . .

I recently read Joseph Lanza’s excellent book from 1994, “Elevator Music: A Surreal History of Musak, Easy-Listening, and Other Moodsong.” I’ll have more to say about this book in a future post, but for now I just had to share this bit I noticed on page 53: Lyndon Baines Johnson owned Muzak franchises in Austin […]

Is he … you know…?

Today I learnt, via Sam Power from Bristol, that the legendary IJ Good and the possibly legendary (I really don’t know) RA Gaskins suggested, in their 1971 paper on density estimation, referring to the roughness penalty from density estimation (or non-linear regression) as the flamboyance1 functional. And it would be a crime if we, as a field, […]

Substack.

I read this interesting article by Anna Wiener about Substack, which is a sort of branded blogging and RSS platform that allows writers to charge subscriptions. The topic was interesting to me in part because I’ve been blogging for a long time and in part because as a citizen and consumer of news I am […]

Richard Hamming’s “The Art of Doing Science and Engineering”

I bought this charming book and started flipping through and reading bits here and there. It has a real mid-twentieth-century feel, reminiscent of Richard Feynman, Martin Gardner, and Hugo Steinhaus. It gives me some nostalgia, thinking about a time when it was expected that students could do all sorts of math—it kinda made me wish […]

Earliest Known Uses of Some of the Words of Mathematics

Aki points us to this fun 1990s-style webpage from Jeff Miller. Last year we featured his page on word oddities and other trivia. You might also enjoy his page, Earliest Uses of Various Mathematical Symbols. Here’s an example: The equal symbol (=) was first used by Robert Recorde (c. 1510-1558) in 1557 in The Whetstone […]

What’s the best novel ever written by an 85-year-old?

I recently read A Legacy of Spies by John Le Carré. It was pretty good. Which is impressive given that the author wrote it when he was 85! OK, I’m not saying it was as good as Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, but I still liked it. It was done well, and if it featured some […]

Here is how you should title the next book you write.

I was talking with someone about book titles. I liked the title Red State Blue State Rich State Poor State when I came up with it, but the book did not sell as well as I hoped (not that I thought it would sell enough to make me lots of money; I’m just using sales […]

Meg Wolitzer and George V. Higgins

Regular readers of this blog will know that I’m a Meg Wolitzer fan (see here and here). During the past year or so I’ve been working my way through her earlier books, and I just finished Surrender, Dorothy, which was a quick and fun and thought-provoking read, maybe not quite as polished as some of […]

Luc Sante reviews books by Nick Hornby and Geoffrey O’Brien on pop music

From 2004. Worth a read, if you like this sort of thing, which I do, but I guess most of you don’t.

Computation+Journalism 2021 this Friday

This post is by Jessica. Last year I was program chair for Computation+Journalism, a conference that brings together computer scientists and other researchers with journalists to brainstorm about the future of journalism. I spent a bunch of time organizing a program around the theme of uncertainty communication and then massive uncertainty due to covid-19 hit […]

Creatures of their time: Shirley Jackson and John Campbell

I recently read two excellent biographies of literary figures: “Shirley Jackson: A Rather Haunted Life,” by Ruth Franklin, “Astounding: John W. Campbell, Isaac Asimov, Robert A. Heinlein, L. Ron Hubbard, and the Golden Age of Science Fiction,” by Alec Nevala-Lee. Franklin’s is a traditional literary biography, going through Jackson’s life in fine detail and focusing […]

What’s your “Mathematical Comfort Food”?

Darren Glass, editor of the book review section of the American Mathematical Monthly, writes, For this month’s column, I [Glass] thought that, rather than provide an in-depth review of a new monograph, I would ask a number of members of our community about some of the “mathematical comfort food” that they have turned to or […]

Reflections on Lakatos’s “Proofs and Refutations”

I wrote this for the book review section of the American Mathematical Monthly. I’ll discuss the other books reviewed in tomorrow’s post, but here I wanted to share what I wrote about Lakatos’s book. And, yeah, yeah, I know from the last time this came up that many of you disagree with me on the […]

I was drunk at the podium, and I knew my results weren’t strong

So I left in mid-lecture tempted by a reform song The plenary hall it shifted as they turned to watch me leave And I pulled a little p-curve from the pocket in my sleeve The variation it was stronger to my dichotomizing eyes Than the light which had blinded me with Fisher’s own half-lies Yes […]

There is only one reality (and we cannot demand consistency from any other)

I bought The Shadow of the Torturer when it came out in paperback, I guess in response to a positive review. I found it kinda difficult to read, but I wanted to know what would happen next, so I bought volumes 2, 3, and 4 when they came out too. By the time I was […]

The norm of entertainment

Someone pointed me to a comment that a psychology researcher wrote that he almost never reads our blog and that it “too quickly bores me.” That’s ok. I’m sure that lots of people have stumbled upon our blog, one way or another, and have been bored by it. We don’t have a niche audience, exactly; […]

Tessa Hadley on John Updike

Lots to think about here. To start with, this is the first New Yorker fiction podcast I’ve heard where they actually criticize the author instead of just celebrating him and saying how perfect the story is. This time, they went right at it, with the interviewer, Deborah Treisman, passing along some criticisms of Updike and […]

Sharon Begley

Science journalism has changed a lot in the past thirty years. In the old days, the top science writers (with the exception of Martin Gardner, I guess), were explainers whose job was to report the breakthroughs or purported breakthroughs by purportedly brilliant scientists. There’s still room for this sort of science writing—for example, we want […]

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