What We Are Reading Today: The Hard Facts of the Grimms’ Fairy Tales

Updated 05 January 2019
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What We Are Reading Today: The Hard Facts of the Grimms’ Fairy Tales

Author: Maria Tatar

Murder, mutilation, cannibalism, infanticide, and incest: The darker side of classic fairy tales is the subject of this groundbreaking and intriguing study of Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm’s Nursery and Household Tales.
This expanded edition includes a new preface and an appendix featuring translations of six tales with commentary by Maria Tatar, says a review on the Princeton University Press website.
Throughout the book, Tatar draws on the disciplinary tools of psychoanalysis and folklore while also providing historical context to explore the harsher aspects of these stories, presenting new interpretations of tales that engage in a kind of cultural repetition compulsion.
No other book so thoroughly challenges us to rethink the happily-ever-after of these classic stories.
Maria Tatar is the John L. Loeb Professor of Germanic Languages and Literatures at Harvard University. Her many books include Off with Their Heads! Fairy Tales and the Culture of Childhood and Lustmord: Sexual Murder in Weimar Germany.


What We Are Reading Today: The Plaid Model

Updated 16 February 2019
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What We Are Reading Today: The Plaid Model

Author: Richard Evan Schwartz

Outer billiards provides a toy model for planetary motion and exhibits intricate and mysterious behavior even for seemingly simple examples. It is a dynamical system in which a particle in the plane moves around the outside of a convex shape according to a scheme that is reminiscent of ordinary billiards.
The Plaid Model, which is a self-contained sequel to Richard Schwartz’s Outer Billiards on Kites, provides a combinatorial model for orbits of outer billiards on kites, says a review on the Princeton University Press website. Schwartz relates these orbits to such topics as polytope exchange transformations, renormalization, continued fractions, corner percolation, and the Truchet tile system.
The combinatorial model, called “the plaid model,” has a self-similar structure that blends geometry and elementary number theory.
The results were discovered through computer experimentation and it seems that the conclusions would be extremely difficult to reach through traditional mathematics.