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About Martin H. Krieger
My most recent work has been systematic photographic and aural documentation in Los Angeles and New York City. My Urban Tomographies book says why I do systematic documentation with many photographs of similar phenomena. I have been doing this for almost twenty years, intensively for the last 17 years. My work is archives in the Library of the University of Southern California and on the USC Digital Library home page.
I am a professor of planning in the Sol Price School of Public Policy at the University of Southern California. I received my PhD (in experimental particle physics) from Columbia, and then did research and taught at Berkeley, Minnesota, MIT, USC, and Michigan, and was a Fellow at the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences and at the National Humanities Center. I am a Fellow of the American Physical Society, and have received a number of awards for my mentoring.
I have written my share of scholarly articles in the usual peer reviewed places. "What's Wrong With Plastic Trees?" appeared in Science in 1973, and seems to be well known. I thought that what I was saying, that what we call nature is a wonderfully rich notion in a culture, was straightforward, and that design and planning make nature what we see, was also straightforward. But I was soundly rebuffed, called "homocentric," and otherwise characterized.
My books have two main themes, design and mathematical modeling. The design books are about methods and theories, as well as about documenting the city photographically and aurally. The modeling books come out of my early work on city planning, modeling urban change, and my interest in how models build in ideas.
I plan to work on the issue of uncertainty, perhaps a book of my photographs of industrial Los Angeles, and there is a second volume of my blog book, The Thriving Professor, in the works. I also have a book on analogies which have been applied to the city and their relation to the mathematics and physics and literary study that informs many of them. I wrote a book on Pollution about 40 years ago. It was contracted, but then let go, and I am trying to find a publisher now.
We did a project on rephotographing Paris of 1870 in 2009, the crucial photographer being Charles Marville who was commissioned by Haussmann to document the transformation.
I don't like words such as interdisciplinary. My work cuts across conventional fields, but I like to think that I am faithful to the conventional fields.
Other links to my work: Blog: http://blogs.usc.edu/sppd/krieger; http://martinkriegerthinking.blogspot.com
Doing Physics, 2nd edn., http://www.iupress.indiana.edu/catalog/806495
Industrial LA: USC Digital Library,
Working at the Ports of LA and LB: http://www.metrans.org/research/photo.html (temporarily under construction)
WRITING THE SCHOLAR'S SURVIVAL MANUAL
I started a blog before there were "blogs," in about 1997. I got the idea from John Baez's This Weeks Finds in Mathematical Physics. I thought to focus on cities and planning, but over the years I spent much of my effort writing about academic ethos and practice--mostly because I hated watching people walk in front of oncoming trucks, saying "What, me worry?", as did Alfred E. Newman in Mad magazine. I served on and off on our university's promotion and tenure committee, and for about six of those many years I read all the dossiers, in all fields at all ranks.
The new book has about one-half the posts, edited, with some repetition since I expect people not to read it through but to open it anywhere and read, much as Augustine famously did with the New Testament: tolle lege, take it and read. I don't expect a confessional moment, but I hope it is helpful.
I started a new blog, http://scholarssurvival.blogspot.com, to continue the conversation after I sent the book off to press.
Getting the Physics Right
When I am writing I always have one of my teachers in the back of my mind. My worry will be that they will find out that what I am saying is wrong, or that I made a mistake. Now if this were a matter of mathematical or physics reasoning that would concern me much less than when I am trying to convey in everyday terms: what the physics is about. So if I am analogizing the theory's division between particles and fields and their interaction, the analogy being to Adam Smith's pin factory where there is a division of labor, I have not only to worry about the quantum field theorists but also the economists. When I am analogizing particle interaction to the rules of kinship and marriage, there is the theoretical particle physicist and the anthropologist of kinship who is looking over my shoulder. Doing Physics is meant to be read by high school students on, and I surely don't want to spread nonsense. And I don't want to be unfaithful to the science.
On the other hand, my subsequent books Constitutions of Matter (Chicago, 1996) and Doing Mathematics (World Scientific, 2003), try to make sense of highly technical work in mathematical physics and mathematics, itself. My nightmare would be that specialists would find my account flawed, a mistaken interpretation. I don't expect them to think any of this is physics; rather it is about how work is done, and it had better be true to life. In Doing Mathematics I discern an analogy between an analogy in physics and one in mathematics. Such an analogy of analogies is called a syzygy. The mathematicians have been working in this realm for 150 years, while the physicists are rather latecomers. On the other hand, the physicists have a very clear example of the analogy. I was enormously relieved when one of the experts in the mathematics seemed to have liked my discussion and not found it too wanting.
Why do this sort of book writing? I am not doing a popularization, and my book is not a gee-whiz account. Rather it is an entrée into an esoteric world, much as one might want an everyday account of a sacred text of antiquity. This is what is going on here. These are the moves being made. This is how these people think. This is what they have in mind. This is how the physics is part of the everyday culture you know already. In the case of the more technical books, the idea is to point to the motivating themes and ideas, themes and ideas that are not so technical in fact.
I have one other big goal. I want people to appreciate the physicist's account of the natural world, how that account is not beyond them. In the twentieth century physicists discovered why the sun shines, and they have the most powerful account of creation since Genesis. Just as the first six days of Genesis is also an account of the rules of the Hebrews' world, so the physicist's account of the origin of the universe is also an account of the rules of the physical world.
What's strange to me is that all popular writing about physics and mathematics is in baby terms. Yet in fact a cultured person might be able to see why physicists do what they do and how they account for the world, and what mathematicians do and how they describe the structure of their abstract world. Yes, it's not the same as a PhD in these fields, but it is possible to get close to what is going on. At least as close as it is possible to understand another culture without being of that culture.
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Doing Physics makes concepts of physics easier to grasp by relating them to everyday knowledge. Addressing some of the models and metaphors that physicists use to explain the physical world, Martin H. Krieger describes the conceptual world of physics by means of analogies to economics, anthropology, theater, carpentry, mechanisms such as clockworks, and machine tool design. The interaction of elementary particles or chemical species, for example, can be related to the theory of kinship—who can marry whom is like what can interact with what. Likewise, the description of physical situations in terms of interdependent particles and fields is analogous to the design of a factory with its division of labor among specialists. For the new edition, Krieger has revised the text and added a chapter on the role of mathematics and formal models in physics. Doing Physics will be of special interest to economists, political theorists, anthropologists, and sociologists as well as philosophers of science.
The product of a lifetime of experience in American universities, The Scholar's Survival Manual offers advice for students, professors, and administrators on how to get work done, the path to becoming a professor, getting tenured, and making visible contributions to scholarship, as well as serving on promotion and tenure committees. Martin H. Krieger covers a broad cross section of the academic experience from a graduate student's first foray into the job market through retirement. Because advice is notoriously difficult to take and context matters a great deal, Krieger has allowed his ideas to percolate through dozens of discussions. Some of the advice is instrumental, matters of expediency; some demands our highest aspirations. Readers may open the book at any place and begin reading; for the more systematic there is a detailed table of contents. Krieger's tone is direct, an approach born of the knowledge that students and professors too often ignore suggestions that would have prevented them from becoming academic roadkill. This essential book will help readers sidestep a similar fate.
Tomography is a method of exploring a phenomenon through a large number of examples or perspectives. In medical tomography, such as a CAT scan, two-dimensional slices or images of a three-dimensional organ are used to envision the organ itself. Urban tomography applies the same approach to the study of city life. To appreciate different aspects of a community, from infrastructure to work to worship, urban planning expert Martin H. Krieger scans the myriad sights and sounds of contemporary Los Angeles. He examines these slices of life in Urban Tomographies.
The book begins by introducing tomographic methods and the principles behind them, which are taken from phenomenological philosophy. It draws from the examples of Lee Friedlander and Walker Evans, as well as Denis Diderot, Charles Marville, and Eugène Atget, who documented the many facets of Paris life in three crucial periods. Rather than focus on singular, extraordinary figures and events as do most documentarians, Krieger looks instead at the typical, presenting multiple specific images that call attention to people and activities usually rendered invisible by commonality. He took tens of thousands of photographs of industrial sites, markets, electrical distributing stations, and storefront churches throughout Los Angeles. He also recorded the city's ambient sounds, from the calls of a tamale vendor to the buzz of a workshop saw. Krieger considers these samples from the urban sensorium in this innovative volume, resulting in a thoughtful illumination of the interplay of people with and within the built environment. With numerous maps and photographs, as well as Krieger's unique insights, Urban Tomographies provides an unusually representative and rounded view of the city.