I write, therefore I am

by admin on March 8, 2011

Some of you might have noticed that I had a short pause in my blog posts (two weeks, to be exact) before yesterday’s post on “The Art of Doing Nothing.” In case you were wondering, the reason is that I was writing the last two chapters of my next book!

As long-time readers of this blog know, I am actually a writer by day and a blogger by night. Or sometimes a blogger by day and a writer by night … Anyway, the point is that I actually try to make a living by putting one word after another into long pretty strings. You can find (or even buy!) some of my work at Amazon.com:

The Big Splat, or How Our Moon Came to Be

Visualizing Geology (a textbook, co-written with Barbara Murck and Brian Skinner)

What’s Happening in the Mathematical Sciences, Vol. 6 (with Barry Cipra)

What’s Happening in the Mathematical Sciences, Vol. 7

What’s Happening in the Mathematical Sciences, Vol. 8.

Sometime toward the end of 2011, or the beginning of 2012, another title will join this legacy. The working title is “The Universe in Zero Words or Less.” It is a history of mathematics through equations, starting with the equation 1+1 = 2 and ending with … well, you’ll just have to wait and see!

My main premise in writing this book is that if you buy a book about art, you expect to see photographs of some paintings or sculptures. Yet most popular books about mathematics do not contain a single equation in them! Honestly, how can we expect the public to appreciate mathematics if we don’t even let them look at it? Are equations some monster that has to be hidden? So in this book I show some of the greatest formulas in mathematical history and explain what they mean, what they are good for, who discovered them and how, etc.

I’ve been working on the book off and on for three years. As I told someone yesterday, that means “Often on, but more often off.” I didn’t even have a publisher until this January, when Princeton University Press finally signed on. I couldn’t have asked for a better publisher. Unlike most university presses, Princeton University Press puts out a lot of books for a general audience, in addition to their more specialized scholarly books. Some previous titles of PUP that you might have heard of are e: The Story of a Number, by Eli Maor; The Calculus of Friendship, by Steven Strogatz; and QED: The Strange Theory of Light and Matter, by Richard Feynman. It will be an honor to join company like that!

Please be aware that the title of my book could change, so don’t go to your bookstore and order a copy yet. I’ll let you know when the title is final and when you can pre-order it.

On a related matter, my wife’s latest book has just come out (publication date was yesterday, March 7). Her book is called Inspired by Tradition: 50 Appliqué Blocks in 5 Sizes, published by Martingale & Company. It’s a gorgeous book, featuring quilt patterns that look traditional but are designed by Kay. (Thus the title, Inspired by Tradition.)

So, the Mackenzie Publishing Empire is alive and well! We write, therefore we are!

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{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Rob March 8, 2011 at 11:15 pm

Hi Dana…

I wonder how many of your blog visitors even read books? (I consider books on chess to be more or less textbooks…something like required reading for a class…not necessary as food for the soul.)



admin March 9, 2011 at 2:00 pm

Hi Rob,

Good question! For fun, I just did a search on Americans’ reading habits on the Internet, and found an interesting Associated Press poll from 2007:
* 73 percent of Americans have read a book in the past year.
* 27 percent have not read a book in the past year.
I have a hunch that Internet users might be slightly more literate than average Americans–even though they may more interested in online content.
* Among the people who had read at least one book, the mean number of books read was 20.4 (!) and the median was 6.5. This is a higher mean than I expected, but it’s obviously affected by the people who read a LOT.
* Finally, the most frequently read TYPE of book is … you guessed it, the Bible (64 percent). Popular fiction and non-fiction history come in a tie for second at 54 percent. Chess and non-fiction science were not given as options. 😎
(However, 2 percent of people mentioned non-fiction science even though it was not on the list of options.)
I’d better get started writing the next Bible. 😎


Rob March 9, 2011 at 9:32 pm

I wonder how many of the 73% have read books other than textbooks (not that reading required books may not be interesting). I suspect if the reading respondents to this survey were broken down by age it would reveal even more interesting facts.

No bible please Dana. Don’t you find it ironic that all the primary texts that are the main support and guides of the world’s biggest religious followers are written by men. Look at the mess in the world due to followers of the content of these books. No. No. No…ask your wife to write this one.


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