- Paperback: 336 pages
- Publisher: Back Bay Books; Reprint edition (Aug. 1 1997)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0316116106
- ISBN-13: 978-0316116107
- Product Dimensions: 15.2 x 1.9 x 22.9 cm
- Shipping Weight: 454 g
- Average Customer Review: 19 customer reviews
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #527,760 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
The Pinball Effect: How Renaissance Water Gardens Made Carburetor Possible - and Other Journeys Paperback – Aug 1 1997
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Follow the bouncing ball, James Burke-style: spice trading in the Middle Ages leads to the European tea-drinking craze, which helps instigate the development of the science of natural history, which in turns inspires the creation of the coal miner's safety lamp, which is somehow related to the battle between the Monitor and the Merrimack. From there we go to North Carolina cotton industry, Thomas Edison's very first electric power station, air conditioning, glass manufacturing, and laser beams. The end result? The smart bombs used during the Gulf War. Burke, who wrote Connections (the book and the television show), revels--or better, wallows--in the accidental nature of the march of discovery. Despite a penchant for playing it loose and free with scientific and historical accuracy, Burke has compiled a fascinating look at the great matrix of change and transformation that humans have created for themselves. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Publishers Weekly
Picking up the theme of his bestselling Connections and utilizing cross-chapter margin references that imitate computer hypertext, Burke investigates the dynamic interplay of scientific discovery, technological innovation and social change in a dizzying, mind-expanding adventure that explores the crosscurrents of history. One chapter follows a trail from slavery in America to English Quaker abolitionist Sampson Lloyd's nail-making business to German-American immigrant engineer John Roebling's wire suspension bridges (including the Brooklyn Bridge) to rustproofing with cadmium to nuclear reactors. Accident, luck, greed, ambition and mistakes abound as Scientific American columnist Burke tries to demonstrate the interconnectedness of all things. Another typical chapter unravels the serendipitous interactions among Cyrus Dalkin's invention of carbon paper, Edison's telephone (which used sooty carbon black in the transmitter), the rise of suburbs, X-ray crystallography and DNA. Often as maddening as a pinball game, this nevertheless unique and exciting odyssey may change the way you look at the world. Photos.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Top Customer Reviews
For example, the following sequence of events comes from the first chapter of the book:
Rowland Hill is best known for introducing the idea of postage stamps. The first printer that the British government hired was an American named Jacob Perkins, who later turned his new printing techniques to the problem of mass producing printed cotton cloth. For this he used a special gum imported from West Africa called Senegal gum. This was made possible by the French who had colonized that part of the world. That in turn was made possible by the 17th century statesman called Jean-Baptiste Colbert, who modernized much of France and in particular its navy. He was responsible for the building of the Canal du Midi that cut a swathe in France from the Atlantic to the Med. One of the engineers who worked on this massive undertaking was Sebastien Vauban, a brilliant inventor who also came up with a new method of siege warfare that was used by French and American troops to defeat the British at Yorktown. The American victory led to a huge number of loyalists fleeing to Nova Scotia. One of them was Abraham Kunders, who saw an opportunity in transporting the other group of refugees sweeping into that part of the world, namely Scots who had been kicked off their lands. After some time this transatlantic traffic was beginning to wane. Meanwhile, Hill's Penny Post had just begun, and Kunders was quick to realize that this would mean a huge amount of mail requiring transportation across the Atlantic, and made sure his company was there to ship a good deal of it. This made him rich, and started a successful family business which by the twentieth century and a clerical error was the Cunard shipping company, that built such well known liners as the Lustiania and the Queen Elizabeth II.
And that's just part of the first chapter, remember.
But who has made the next connection, ie that the pinball effect is another manifestation of the Howard Bloom's Global Brain (ISBN: 0471419192)? Once you dispose of the preconception that brains have to be conscious then you can better see that technological development is the learning experience of our collective brain. The balls flying from pin to pin are the interactions of agents in the complex adaptive system that is modern civilisation. Treat the book as fun and you will see connections that you were never aware existed. Treat the book as a guide and you will be lead on a non-linear path through the history of ideas, invention and technology. Treat the book as recipes for invention and you will find there are no rules. Treat the book as mind food and you will realise that the human condition is more interesting and meaningful than any fundamentalist has ever dreamed of... But read it, dip into it, return to it and follow up some of the exciting ideas that may find a new home in the next century.
It wasn't until after I read this book, that I was able realize how much my daily life affects those around me. A great example would be if I didn't even write this review. Now if I didn't write this review, you didn't read this review. Thus you wouldn't be sitting at your desktop glaring at the screen. Though my example seems to take a product in just a few days or hours, the example illustrated by Burke are elapsed over hundreds of years.
Within the first few pages Burke has you thinking about your life and the life around you. Right of the bat he illustrates that life is like a spider web. Everything is connected together. He explains that in order to go from point A to point B, one might have to go to point C, point D, and point E just to get to point B.
Though The Pinball Effect sounds reasonable to consider, there are a few things wrong with the idea. Mr. Burke concludes that if these things are intertwined by the pinball effect then everything else is involved also. With this idea he is committing the fallacy of hasty generalization. Burke assumes that everything is connected on the web of life. But how is that proved.
Overall, the book is very enjoyable and very difficult to put down. It is very exciting to see how irrelevant objects and ideas are connected together, even though his idea does create a fallacy. I personally would read this book again.
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