The Pinball Effect
- 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
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
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.
> 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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