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The Pinball Effect

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  • Peregrine John
    I loved the BBC show Connections back when I was in school. James Burke, its author, turned his wonderful view of history into book form with
    Message 1 of 2 , Feb 1, 2005
      I loved the BBC show <i>Connections</i> back when I was in school.
      James Burke, its author, turned his wonderful view of history into
      book form with <a
      href="http://search.barnesandnoble.com/booksearch/isbnInquiry.asp?isbn=0316116106&itm=1">The
      Pinball Effect</a>.

      You see, far from being a foregone conclusion, the course of
      discovery, history, technology, and so on is built on a tenuous and
      unlikely series of events. One change in a single person's fortunes,
      one scientist's clumsy habits, a monarch's or theologian's opinion, a
      businessman's random decision to go with Choice A or apparently equal
      Choice B, and we would have had an entirely different world than we
      now see. On top of this, the paths of history are interconnected in
      the most amazing ways.

      Burke has created a book that not only describes all this but actually
      represents it. Each chapter is the story of how one particular thing
      led to another, and the end of each chapter leads (often indirectly or
      conceptually rather than overtly) into the beginning of the next.
      Additionally, there are "nodes" throughout which link to each other
      numerically, and if you want, you can jump between the stories and go
      down another path of what happened as a result of what was just read.
      Some of the hundreds of nodes refer to only one other node, and
      others represent a major crossroad in the paths of fate and offer a
      jump to many other stories. It's a sort of hypertext on paper, if you
      will. The entire book ends up as a mobius strip containing a web, and
      while it's a fun, fascinating read when taken from start to finish as
      any other book, you can also follow any story or path you choose. I
      recommend doing so.

      My real recommendation is this: read this book and also watch Bill
      Nye's "<a
      href="http://science.discovery.com/convergence/100discoveries/big100/big100.html">100
      Greatest Discoveries</a>" on the Science Channel and other overviews
      of the interesting bits of history. It's enough to make anyone a
      historian, or at least appreciate the fantastic ways in which what we
      have and know came about. More to the point of our geofictional ways,
      it points out what is required for various advances (say, steel) to
      become possible or commonplace, and also inspires us to say "what if"
      as we create entirely new chains of events for our worlds.
    • Gilly, Tom (GTICCC)
      ... That show was one of the most important things I saw on television when I was growing up. It brilliantly demonstrated how change happens in society, and
      Message 2 of 2 , Feb 2, 2005
        > I loved the BBC show <i>Connections</i> back when I was in school.

        That show was one of the most important things I saw on television when I
        was growing up. It brilliantly demonstrated how change happens in society,
        and how complex such change is. Also, it's worth watching today just to see
        Burke's hip 70's outfits. (His collars were so big, he would sometimes take
        flight in a stiff breeze!)


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