New Book edited by Karl van Bibber: The Atom of the Universe: The Life and Work of Georges Lemaitre

51LaqGVcIoL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_Congratulations to Senior Fellow Karl van Bibber on the appearance of The Atom of the Universe: The Life and Work of Georges Lemaitre.

Description from Copernicus Center Press:

This biography takes readers from the early childhood to the last days of Georges Lemaitre, the man behind the theory of the primeval atom, now better known as the Big Bang theory. But, who was Georges Lemaitre? He was a clergyman, a genius astronomer, an audacious cosmologist, a computer enthusiast ahead of his time, a professor with his head in the clouds, a bon vivant mathematician, and a gourmand. The book peels away these layers, chapter by chapter, from the adventures of a boy from Charleroi (Belgium), who became Monseigneur Lemaitre and influenced contemporary cosmology. The Atom of the Universe follows Lemaitre’s works through the course of his life, discovering along the way his involvement with the Chinese student community, his complex relationship with the Vatican, his deep devotion to the University of Louvain, his friendship with figures such as Einstein and Eddington, his adventures through both World Wars, his travels in America, his curious interest in Moliere, and his deep faith lived through the ‘Amis de Jesus.’ The resulting picture is of a remarkable figure who was sensitive, creative, meticulous, and, paradoxically, both discreet and exuberant, while also being a man of exceptional integrity who reconciled his science with his faith. More than a book on one person, this biography of Georges Lemaitre offers the key to a better understanding of the profound changes which took place in the fields of science, faith, and academic life in the last century.

New Book by Steven Justice: Adam Usk’s Secret


Congratulations to Senior Fellow and President Steven Justice on the appearance of his new book, Adam Usk’s Secret, from the University of Pennsylvania Press. Adam Usk, a fifteenth-century academic, royal advisor, schismatic, and spy, wrote a peculiar book in a reticent, nervous prose better suited to keeping secrets than setting them in writing. Justice sets out to find what Usk wanted to hide and comes to surprising conclusions about the foundations of literary and historical study.

Description from the University of Pennsylvania Press:

Adam Usk, a Welsh lawyer in England and Rome during the first years of the fifteenth century, lived a peculiar life. He was, by turns, a professor, a royal advisor, a traitor, a schismatic, and a spy. He cultivated and then sabotaged figures of great influence, switching allegiances between kings, upstarts, and popes at an astonishing pace. Usk also wrote a peculiar book: a chronicle of his own times, composed in a strangely anxious and secretive voice that seems better designed to withhold vital facts than to recount them. His bold starts tumble into anticlimax; he interrupts what he starts to tell and omits what he might have told. Yet the kind of secrets a political man might find safer to keep—the schemes and violence of regime change—Usk tells openly.

Steven Justice sets out to find what it was that Adam Usk wanted to hide. His search takes surprising turns through acts of political violence, persecution, censorship, and, ultimately, literary history. Adam Usk’s narrow, eccentric literary genius calls into question some of the most casual and confident assumptions of literary criticism and historiography, making stale rhetorical habits seem new. Adam Usk’s Secret concludes with a sharp challenge to historians over what they think they can know about literature—and to literary scholars over what they think they can know about history.

[Highlight] Lara Buchak’s Risk and Rationality

Congratulations to Sr. Fellow Lara Buchak on the release of her new book, Risk and Rationality!

From the publishers:

Lara Buchak sets out an original account of the principles that govern rational decision-making in the face of risk. A distinctive feature of these decisions is that individuals are forced to consider how their choices will turn out under various circumstances, and decide how to trade off the possibility that a choice will turn out well against the possibility that it will turn out poorly. The orthodox view is that there is only one acceptable way to do this: rational individuals must maximize expected utility. Buchak’s contention, however, is that the orthodox theory (expected utility theory) dictates an overly narrow way in which considerations about risk can play a role in an individual’s choices. Combining research from economics and philosophy, she argues for an alternative, more permissive, theory of decision-making: one that allows individuals to pay special attention to the worst-case or best-case scenario (among other ‘global features’ of gambles). This theory, risk-weighted expected utility theory, better captures the preferences of actual decision-makers. Furthermore, it isolates the distinct roles that beliefs, desires, and risk-attitudes play in decision-making. Finally, contra the orthodox view, Buchak argues that decision-makers whose preferences can be captured by risk-weighted expected utility theory are rational. Thus, Risk and Rationality is in many ways a vindication of the ordinary decision-maker–particularly his or her attitude towards risk–from the point of view of even ideal rationality.

Risk and Rationality is now available from Oxford University Press or on Amazon.