By Dr Vaidehi Nathan
The Concise Princeton Encyclopedia of American Political History, edited by Michael Kazin; Rebecca Edwards and Adam Rothman Associate Editors, Princeton University Press, Pp 638(PB), $35.00.
The Princeton University has come out with The Concise Princeton Encyclopedia of American Political History in a single handy volume. What is interesting about it is that it is a rich collection of articles by more than 130 leading experts on American politics over the decades. America has witnessed some of the world’s strongest political movements, be it in relation to religion, personal freedom, social issues like gender, race and class economics and party politics.
The entries cover political institutions, major parties, philosophies, abolitionism, the war debate, foreign policy and military operations abroad. America had been gripped by debates and divides over issues relating to foreign and military policies, Vietnam being one such momentous occasion.
Well-indexed, with cross-references, each entry gives a complete picture, supported by expert analysis and bibliography, for further reading. For instance, the index on ‘feminism’ indicates coverage of the issue from the 1920s through the ‘50s, ‘60s and ‘70s and writings of Progressive Era, woman suffrage movement etc, giving a complete picture when one reads these references.
The encyclopaedia has been edited by Michael Kazin, Professor of History at Georgetown University. Rebecca Edwards, Eloise Ellery Professor of History at Vassar College and Adam Rothman, Associate Professor of History at Georgetown University are the Associate Editors.
(Princeton University Press, 41 William Street, Princeton, New Jersey 08540)
Mind power made easy
By Dr Vaidehi Nathan
Super Memory – It Can Be Yours, Shakuntala Devi, Orient Publishing, Pp 238(PB), Rs 295.
Ms Shakuntala Devi is a world-renowned phenomena. Her amazing mind power has impressed and boggled people. And when she says that we all can have a super memory, one has to sit up and take note. Her book Super Memory – It Can be Yours gives clues to ‘Ageless Memory in 12 Practical Lessons.’
Starting from preparing the mind for the ‘Unforgettable Experience’ Shankuntala Devi takes us through a series of seemingly simple, and yet tough routes of the mind. Preparation includes not only of the mind but body too. She talks about diet, posture, understanding the strengths of one’s habits, learning nature etc. She emphasises on developing concentration. “One of the chief things running interference with concentration are those internal pollutants” such as “anger, fear, doubts and distractions. These can replace concentration with restless preoccupation and mental turmoil.” Cultivating positive attitude is a pre requisite to developing concentration. She also discusses the essential vitamins and minerals to develop a sound brain-mind.
There are four primary principles to super learning. They are: Look at learning as fun, learn by repeating, understand what you learn, and take a break while learning to refurbish the mind. To top it all, give rewards to yourself for learning goals achieved.
Shakuntala Devi gives a scientific, broken-down method of learning, remembering and recalling faces, numbers, names, list of tasks and more. She refutes several myths about learning, for instance, she says there is no particular hour of the clock to learn, or that memory fades with age.
This is a handbook to enhance memory, or at least order it in such a way that it is better used. No doubt one cannot be a genius like her. Some are born into it. But one can try and follow her prescription. Pepped up with pen-drawings the book reads interesting, without frills, brimming with hope and ideas.
(Orient Publishing, 5A/8, Ansari Road, New Delhi 110 002,)
Maths invented or discovered?
By Dr Vaidehi Nathan
Meaning in Mathematics, edited by John Polkinghorne, Oxford University Press, Pp 159 (HB) ,
Why does mathematics enjoy such pre-eminent position in the academic world? Probably because it dominates several other streams of science? The book Meaning in Mathematics, a compilation of articles discuses the ‘nature’ of mathematics. These articles are a fallout of an interdisciplinary Symposium composed of mathematicians, physicists and philosophers.
To the first article ‘Is Mathematics discovered or invented’ by Timothy Gowers, a mathematician at Cambridge University, Gideon A. Rosen a philosophy professor at Princeton University replies. While Gowers appears to have sided with ‘discovered’ Rosen says “…unless we are prepared to say that the invented item did not exist prior to its invention, we should regard claim of invention (construction, creation etc.) in mathematics as metaphorical.”
The articles continue along these lines, with such topics as ‘Mathematical Reality,’ ‘Mathematics, the mind, and the physical world,’ ‘Exploring the mathematical library of Babel,’ and ‘Creation and discovery in mathematics.’ The contributors, all learned people in their respective fields, comment, counter argue, react and reply to each other’s position on mathematics. Reading it, one wonders if maths is as contentious a subject and if yes why? That question needs to be answered too. But for the moment read this book to know if maths was invented or discovered and who gets the maximum out of it—the physicists, philosophers or the mathematicians.
(Oxford University Press, Great Clarendon Street, Oxford OX2 6DP)