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Math is easy, its PI that makes it hard!

Newsletter, March 17th 2023


That quote was by a Generative AI! I'm slowly starting to remember to check in with an AI every time I need inspiration. It's like having a smart assistant tagging along with you all day and helping you out when you're at a loss for words - so fun! I'd be curious to know how you all have started integrating AI into your world. Join us on March 26th to discuss and learn from others what you can do with this amazing technology while recognizing the pitfalls.




It seemed like a Math week:

  • We celebrated Pi-Day - 3/14 - a Mathematical celebration that seems all the world is getting on to. Making it normal to spew out Math puns :)

  • We have a new game at The Spot called “Achi”. Originally from Ghana and featured in the Math Games book by our favorite Local Math Author Ben Orlin, this game is a combination of tic-tac-toe and checkers. Carving and woodwork by Arun. Give it a whirl next time you're at The Spot.

  • Qwirkle and Q-Bitz were the favorites at last night's Game Night - both Math games!

  • Coincidentally(?), there were many Math books in this week's new releases.

UPCOMING EVENTS

  • *NEW* The Reading Circle - Saturday, March 18th, 9-9:45am - Saturday morning quiet reading time! We're ending early this week to set up for Liz Heinecke at 10:00! Bring your own book, pick up your favorite beverage (or use our free options), find a cozy corner at The Spot, and join us in reading for an hour. No discussion, no questions, just reading in the company of other readers! Exercise your brain, get the weekend started right, then off you go, doing things that you have to do.

  • Reading with Getty - Tuesday, March 28th, 4-6 pm - Getty will be back in two weeks! We're starting to see repeat visitors - 10 mins is all it takes and builds a reading habit over time!

  • *NEW* Science Trivia Night - Thursday, March 23rd 6-8pm - Are you into gathering facts? Love science? Come test your knowledge against others in a fun and relaxing environment. Did I mention prizes?

  • Generative AI Workshop - Saturday, March 26th Noon-1:30 pm. These sessions are “generating” a lot of interest and some very insightful discussions! March session is also being live-streamed so please make sure you pick the appropriate ticket when signing up.

  • *NEW* Nerd Nights - Thursday, April 13th, 7 pm - An Evening of Learning and Nerding out! Join us as we hear from 3 members of the community on various STEM topics.

AUTHOR EVENTS

All Author events are FREE. Register early to reserve your spot!

  • Ecology for Kids - Tomorrow - Saturday, March 18th, 10:00 am - Liz Heinecke - Our favorite local scientist is back with another book. Her latest - Ecology for Kids - released on March 7th and this will be our “book launch” party for her. As usual, she will have experiments from her book for the kids (and adults) to watch and perform!

  • How High We Go in the Dark - Sunday, April 16th, 1:00 pm - Sequoia Nagamatsu - Book-signing, reading, and discussion about the national best-selling novel "How high we go in the dark" with Author Sequoia Nagamatsu. A profoundly prescient debut that follows a cast of intricately linked characters over hundreds of years as humanity struggles to rebuild itself in the aftermath of a climate plague—a daring and deeply heartfelt work of mind-bending imagination from a singular new voice. Our Fiction book club is currently reading this book!

  • *NEW* Saving The Planet - Saturday, April 23rd, 2:00 pm - Celebrate Earth Day with Paul Douglas, local meteorologist and Author of climate-related books in conversation with Dr. Rod Fisher - scientist, engineer, and teacher who is now in phase 4 of his professional life focused on understanding and enabling solutions to societal problems - in particular, challenges & opportunities with Climate Change.

KIDS WORKSHOPS

CHESS Workshops with Dr. Fun - If your kid has had some lessons already, has attended a club or generally beats you at the game, these intermediate sessions are for them! Please register early if your child is interested. Minimum 8 needed to hold the sessions.

  • America’s Fun Science presents four classes of fun learning chess basics from a championship chess coach; each class focuses on a different piece. Each 2-session series culminates with a mini-tournament and prizes! And, you can learn to play Four-Way Chess!

  • Intermediate Chess - 2 sessions. 2 hrs each. April 1st and 8th 10:30a-12:30p.

BOOK CLUBS

Our various Book Clubs are listed here.

Business/Tech club - “Artificial Intelligence for Dummies” - Sunday 3/19 at 4p

We now have a private Facebook group for all current and future members of the various book clubs, to exchange book ideas and extend the in-person discussion. If you're interested in joining any of our clubs but not sure yet, this is a great way to dip your toes in.



We had an amazing turnout for Heather Holm's talk on Native Bees last week! Thank you to all who attended and asked interesting questions! She is a wonderful speaker, informative without lecturing! Did you know No-Mow May is not all the good it is made out to be? Apparently, it can encourage non-native species and can actually be damaging to native bees. Also, starting a native garden may be easiest under an existing tree in your yard - in areas called “Soft Landings”. We learned these and lots of other tidbits to get us ready for summer native gardening! We are already cooking up some spring-summer ideas with Heather at the Spot-stay tuned.

SCIENCE NEWS

  • Speaking of the growing season, how about growing Rice on Mars?

  • Looks like we'll soon have a carbonated ocean - thanks to these ingenious scientists who found a way to turn pollution into baking soda. Anyone get visions of a giant soda stream?

  • In local news, it's great to see more Minnesota companies jumping on the plastic film recycling bandwagon - maybe someday all the bubble wrap I get will turn into a giant statue of Paul Bunyan! Until then, if you ever need bubble wrap, you know where to find me.

Happy reading and see you at the Spot soon!


New Releases this week

Too Many Rabbits

By Davide Calì

Ages 4-8

A special offer at the pet store results in an unforeseen rabbit situation for two siblings in this lighthearted cautionary tale with a fun counting twist.

After a month of pleading, Dad finally takes Owen and Zoey to the pet store to adopt a rabbit. Once there, a two-for-one special offer just cannot be ignored; so they take home two rabbits - one male, and one female. Two rabbits make more rabbits, who then make even more rabbits, and soon there are just too many of the sweet little creatures. So begins a hilarious counting adventure as Owen and Zoey find homes for all of the rabbits. Full of little 'easter eggs' hidden in the art, Too Many Rabbits is a mirthful reminder to be careful of what you wish for and a hilarious lesson in chaos control for young readers.

Davide Calì is a Swiss-born Italian writer of children's books and graphic novels. He has published over one hundred books and received numerous awards. He lives in Genoa, Italy. Emanuele Benetti is an educator with a passion for drawing and illustration, for which he has won multiple awards. He lives and works in Trentino, Italy. Translator, Angus Yuen-Killick is the founder and publisher of Red Comet Press. Originally from the UK, he lived in Rome, Italy during the 1980s where he taught English. He now lives and works in brownstone Brooklyn, New York.


The Brilliant Calculator

By Jan Lower

Ages 7-10


Hidden Figures meets Rosie Revere, Engineer in this STEM/STEAM picture book about Edith Clarke, the innovator who solved an electrical mystery and built the first graphing calculator—from paper! Long before calculators were invented, little Edith Clarke devoured numbers, conquered calculations, cracked puzzles, and breezed through brainteasers. Edith wanted to be an engineer—to use the numbers she saw all around her to help build America. When she grew up, no one would hire a woman engineer. But that didn’t stop Edith from following her passion and putting her lightning-quick mind to the problem of electricity. But the calculations took so long! Always curious, Edith couldn’t help thinking of better ways to do things. She constructed a “calculator” from paper that was ten times faster than doing all that math by hand! Her invention won her a job, making her the first woman electrical engineer in America. And because Edith shared her knowledge with others, her calculator helped electrify America, bringing telephones and light across the nation. Jan Lower is the author of several forthcoming nonfiction picture books for children, including A Song for the Cosmos. Before becoming a children’s writer, Jan worked as a lawyer in Washington, DC, for several years. She received an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from the Vermont College of Fine Arts. Susan Reagan earned her degree from the Columbus College of Art and Design. With previous experience in greeting cards, surface designs, and picture books, Susan's titles include You and Me, Lights Out!, and Revolutionary Prudence Wright.


Thirty Trillion Cells

By Isabel Thomas

Ages 7-10


Do you know what you’re made of? The answer is cells—thirty trillion of them—all working together to form one awesome human being: YOU.

'Fun, inspiring, and well researched.' - Kirkus Reviews, starred review of One Million Insects

Did you know that the number of microorganisms in your body outnumber your own cells by 10 to 1? Or that every second, your body produces around 25 million new cells? Or that a human being has fewer chromosomes than, wait for it… a pineapple!

30 Trillion Cells provides a detailed look at the topic of the human body, covering of the body's major systems and organs, as well as looking at the cellular level and at the genetics that play a part in making us who we are. Readers will also explore the human body as a microbiome, discovering the trillions of 'good' microbes that live on and within us, doing their bit to keep us healthy. Features expansive, artistic illustration that is as beautiful to look at as it is educational.

Isabel Thomas is an award-winning science and nature writer. She is the author of more than 150 books for children and a journalist for The Week Junior and Whizz Pop Bang magazines. Her critically acclimated picture book, Moth: An Evolution Story, illustrated by Daniel Egnéus, is nominated for the Kate Greenaway Medal 2019 and was named book of the year by the Financial Times and Books for Keeps in the UK. In the US it was named a book of 2019 by The Horn Book and the National Science Teaching Association, and winner of the AAAS Subaru Prize for Excellence in Science Books. Isabel has also been shortlisted for the Royal Society Young People's Book Prize, the English 4-11 Picture Book Awards, and the Blue Peter Book Awards.

Dawn Cooper graduated from Bath School of Art & Design with a first-class degree in Graphic Communication in 2011, and she has rarely set down her pens and paper since! Her work includes non-fiction children's books, book covers, maps and packaging. Dawn finds great inspiration from the natural world, traditional botanical drawings, animals, works of fiction and illustrated quotations.


Flipflopi

By Linda Ravin Lodding

Ages 4-8


Based on the true story of the Kenyan dhow boat, this inspiring tale explores how creativity can be harnessed to take meaningful steps to save the planet

Juma is excited to go fishing with his grandfather, Babu Ali. But when they get to the beach, they find the sand covered in plastic pollution--flip-flops, plastic straws, toothbrushes, bottles, and shopping bags. One of the flip-flops floating in on a wave looks like a boat. That gives Juma and Babu Ali an idea.

Based on the true story of the Kenyan dhow boat Flipflopi, this inspirational tale demonstrates how innovation, art, and determination can transform plastic pollution into something useful. In 2017, 30,000 flip-flops and other plastic waste items, all collected from the Kenyan coast, were melted, shaped, and carved into the dhow named Flipflopi. Weighing in at 7 tons, this boat is a testament to what can happen when awareness is turned into action.

Linda Ravin Lodding is an award-winning author of eight picture books, including Painting Pepette. When she's not writing, Linda is head of communications for a children's rights organization that focuses on a child's right to a healthy environment. Originally from New York, she now lives in Sweden.

Dipesh Pabari is an eco-leader, educator, waste plastic innovator, and one of the founders of the Flipflopi Expedition. He lives in Kenya.

Michael Machira Mwangi is a self-taught digital artist. He lives in Kenya.


Hidden Systems

By Dan Nott

Ages 12 and up


We use water, electricity, and the internet every day--but how do they actually work? And what’s the plan to keep them running for years to come? This nonfiction science graphic novel takes readers on a journey from how the most essential systems were developed to how they are implemented in our world today and how they will be used in the future. What was the first message sent over the internet? How much water does a single person use every day? How was the electric light invented? For every utility we use each day, there’s a hidden history--a story of intrigue, drama, humor, and inequity. This graphic novel provides a guided tour through the science of the past--and reveals how the decisions people made while inventing and constructing early technology still affect the way people use it today. Full of art, maps, and diagrams, Hidden Systems is a thoughtful, humorous exploration of the history of science and what needs to be done now to change the future.

Dan Nott is a cartoonist, illustrator, and educator living in Vermont. Dan’s short comics and illustrations for investigative journalism have appeared in The Nib and Spotlight PA and in publications for WBUR and NJ Advance Media, among others. Dan graduated from the Center for Cartoon Studies and was the lead writer and cartoonist for its free nationally distributed comic on US government called This Is What Democracy Looks Like. Dan teaches classes on making comics and comics history.


More Numbers Every Day

By Micael Dahlen


How many unread emails are there in your inbox? How many hours of sleep did you get last week? How many steps did you walk today? We’re drowning in digits and immersed in integers, and More Numbers Every Day, by internationally renowned economics professors Micael Dahlen and Helge Thorbjørnsen is a timely and powerful investigation — and warning — about the trouble numbers can bring us. Today we all strive to quantify everything: calories, likes, website traffic, and even friends. And then we rate things, too: movies, restaurants, taxi drivers, experiences, professors, and dates. We measure ourselves against others and compare our real experiences to imagined averages. But in our rush to measure, we can lose sight of what matters.

In this delightful and alarming book, Dahlen and Thorbjørnsen show how we’re exposed and infected by an ever-more contagious pandemic of numbers. With groundbreaking, empowering, sometimes frightening, and sometimes funny research, they help us see how numbers creep into our heads and bodies, affecting how we think and feel. When do numbers make us stronger and when do they make us weaker? When do they mislead us? And when do they turn us into narcissistic idiots? Look at the book as your numerical vaccination, for a happier and more numerically healthy life.

Your personal number detox: learn how numbers have taken control of your life—and how to get it back.

Micael Dahlen is a professor at the Stockholm School of Economics. His research focuses on economics, happiness and welfare. He has written books on topics ranging from happiness and the meaning of life, to evil, tech, and human behaviors. Professor Dahlen is an internationally acclaimed speaker, a podcast host, and a self-proclaimed Asktronaut. He lives in Stockholm, Sweden. Helge Thorbjørnsen is a Professor at the Norwegian School of Economics. He is curious about human behavior and decision-making, especially when technology is involved. His research and teaching span from happiness and well-being to behavioral economics, innovation and advertising. He lives in Bergen, Norway.

More than a Glitch

By Meredith Broussard


When technology reinforces inequality, it’s not just a glitch—it’s a signal that we need to redesign our systems to create a more equitable world. The word “glitch” implies an incidental error, as easy to patch up as it is to identify. But what if racism, sexism, and ableism aren’t just bugs in mostly functional machinery—what if they’re coded into the system itself? In the vein of heavy hitters such as Safiya Umoja Noble, Cathy O’Neil, and Ruha Benjamin, Meredith Broussard demonstrates in More Than a Glitch how neutrality in tech is a myth and why algorithms need to be held accountable. Broussard, a data scientist and one of the few Black female researchers in artificial intelligence, masterfully synthesizes concepts from computer science and sociology. She explores a range of examples: from facial recognition technology trained only to recognize lighter skin tones, to mortgage-approval algorithms that encourage discriminatory lending, to the dangerous feedback loops that arise when medical diagnostic algorithms are trained on insufficiently diverse data. Even when such technologies are designed with good intentions, Broussard shows, fallible humans develop programs that can result in devastating consequences. Broussard argues that the solution isn’t to make omnipresent tech more inclusive, but to root out the algorithms that target certain demographics as “other” to begin with. With sweeping implications for fields ranging from jurisprudence to medicine, the ground-breaking insights of More Than a Glitch are essential reading for anyone invested in building a more equitable future.

Meredith Broussard is Associate Professor at the Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute of New York University and Research Director at the NYU Alliance for Public Interest Technology. She is the author of Artificial Unintelligence: How Computers Misunderstand the World (MIT Press). Her work has been featured in the New Yorker, the New York Times, the Atlantic, BBC, Wired, the Economist, and more. She appears in the 2020 documentary Coded Bias and serves on the advisory board for the Center for Critical Race & Digital Studies.


The Battle for Your Brain

By Nita A. Farahany


A rock star academic explores the final frontier of personal privacy: your mind.

Imagine a world where your brain can be interrogated to learn your political beliefs, thought crimes are punishable by law, and your own feelings can be used against you. Where perfumers create customized fragrances to perfectly suit your emotions, and anyone can peer into their own mind to eliminate painful memories or cure addictions. Neuroscience has already made all of this possible, and neurotechnology will soon become the universal controller for our interactions with technology. This can benefit humanity immensely, but without safeguards, it can severely threaten our fundamental rights to privacy, freedom of thought, and self-determination. Companies, governments, and militaries are all in: there have never been more ways to hack and track our brains. But access is just the beginning. Our brains can be changed with performance-boosting drugs, electrical stimulation, and surgical interventions. Soon neuro-monitoring and even cognitive warfare will be commonplace—the brain is the next battleground for humanity. The Battle for Your Brain by Nita A. Farahany dives deeply into the promises and perils of the coming dawn of brain access and alteration. Written by one of the world's foremost experts on the ethics of neuroscience, this highly original book offers a path forward to navigate the complex dilemmas that will fundamentally impact our freedom to understand, shape, and define ourselves.

Nita A. Farahany is the Robinson O. Everett Distinguished Professor of Law & Philosophy at Duke University, and Founding Director of the Duke Initiative for Science & Society. She is a frequent commentator for national media and radio and keynote speaker at events including TED, the Aspen Ideas Festival, the World Economic Forum, and judicial conferences worldwide. From 2010-2017, she served as a Commissioner on the U.S. Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues. She is also co-editor-in-chief of the Journal of Law and the Biosciences and on the Board of Advisors for Scientific American. Farahany holds an AB (Genetics) from Dartmouth College, an ALM (Biology) from Harvard University, and a JD, MA, and Ph.D. (Philosophy) from Duke University.


New Dark Age

By James Bridle


How the Information Age destroys knowledge We live in times of increasing inscrutability. Our news feeds are filled with unverified, unverifiable speculation, much of it automatically generated by anonymous software. As a result, we no longer understand what is happening around us. Underlying all of these trends is a single idea: the belief that quantitative data can provide a coherent model of the world, and the efficacy of computable information to provide us with ways of acting within it. Yet the sheer volume of information available to us today reveals less than we hope. Rather, it heralds a new Dark Age: a world of ever-increasing incomprehension. In his brilliant new work, leading artist and writer James Bridle offers us a warning against the future in which the contemporary promise of a new technologically assisted Enlightenment may just deliver its opposite: an age of complex uncertainty, predictive algorithms, surveillance, and the hollowing out of empathy. Surveying the history of art, technology and information systems he reveals the dark clouds that gather over discussions of the digital sublime.

James Bridle (b. 1980, London) studied Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence before embarking on a career as literary editor, technologist, writer, journalist, and visual artist. He wrote a column on electronic publishing for the Guardian for three years, and has contributed to the Observer, New Humanist, New Statesman, Wired, Frieze, Cabinet, The Atlantic, Domus, ICON, Vice, and many other publication. His artworks have been exhibited worldwide, including at MOMA New York, and the Hayward Gallery, the Whitechapel Gallery, the Southbank Centre and the Barbican in London.


In Search of Sleep

By Bregje Hofstede


"Bregje Hofstede is an extraordinary writer."—Rutger Bregmans, author of Utopia for Realists and Humankind: A Hopeful History

Jenny Odell’s How to Do Nothing meets Matthew Walker’s Why We Sleep in this fascinating deep-dive into the science and history of sleep.

In Search of Sleep is both a self-help manual for insomniacs, and a sweeping critique of the hustle culture that blinds us to the real reasons we lie awake at night: from politics to pandemics to poverty.

Amsterdam-based writer Bregje Hofstede struggled with insomnia for 10 years, but advice from doctors and books always felt lacking in perspective. Wasn’t insomnia more than just an individual struggle? Might it also be a rational reaction to our increasingly turbulent world?

Unlike the vast majority of books about sleep, In Search of Sleep examines insomnia as both a physical and psychological condition and an early warning sign that something is off in society. As Hofstede points out, studies show that insomnia increased during the pandemic and that people with less money sleep the worst. She also shows that sleeplessness is tied inextricably to loneliness, while meaningful relationships can provide the security we need to slumber.

Interweaving neuroscience, cultural anthropology, history, and interviews with experts, In Search of Sleep invites us to see insomniacs as oracles, not oddballs, and offers a unique way forward for the sleep-deprived and the dreamless. If we are aware of both the small and large forces that keep us awake, then we can begin to take political action, reimagine the role of sleep in our own lives, and rid ourselves of insomnia for good.

Bregje Hofstede is a journalist and author whose books have been nominated for international prizes and translated into multiple languages. She lived with insomnia for over a decade before putting her research on sleep into practice and moving to a small village in France, where she lives frugally, connects with neighbors and the natural world, and sleeps.

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