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What do the Hubble Telescope, Buffalo Bill, and the Spanish Inquisition have in common, and how is the answer found in a certain fast food chain? How do margarine's strange origins tie in to plankton shells, receding stars, hot chocolate, and the first solo Atlantic flight? Continuing the fascinating journey he began in THE PINBALL EFFECT, James Burke shows how seemingly unrelated ideas and innovations bounce off each other, spinning a vast web of knowledge. Burke explains how the Internet is responsible for bringing these connections to light and claims this new awareness of our interdependence, with each other and with the past, will change our lives. Taking Burke's webbed approach to knowledge is one way that we can manage our information overload as we approach the ever-more-complex world that awaits us in the Twenty-First Century. Only by understanding the interrelated nature of the modern world can we hope to identify complex patterns of change and direct the process of innovation to the common good.

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Book Details

ISBN: 9780684859354
ISBN-10: 0684859351
Format: Paperback
(214mm x 139mm x 17mm)
Pages: 288
Imprint: Touchstone
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Publish Date: 1-Jun-2000
Country of Publication: United States

Other Editions

Reviews

US Kirkus Review » Back playing his theme music - "the process by which new ideas emerge is serendipitous and interactive" - is the hugely entertaining Burke (The Pinball Effect, 1996, etc.). He's off on another of his joyrides, following the often bizarre pathways that lead from one idea to another, following like a bloodhound the threads that link events and notions and personalities. And he doesn't just list the things passing strange before his purview, he stops to examine them and deliver a smart little explication. He's not just amused to learn that the Magnetico-Electrico Celestial Bed, wherein the administrations of shocks to the participants was said to "ensure immediate conception," can be found on the road to the cornflake, he wants readers to know why. And it's pure pleasure to read as he unravels the skein knotting the pugnacious father of cybernetics, Norbert Wiener, to the equally pugnacious antivivisectionists, and "a thirty-three-year-old married Englishwoman with a hidden past and the habit of wearing no underwear" to, 211 pages later, the Elgin marbles. Burke again makes use of "gateways" in his narrative, a system of numeric codes that link distant strands within the text into a literary subspace, allowing readers to skip about throughout the book, as if Burke's caperings aren't entertainment enough, though it does drive home why Burke is so pleased that the word "web" has gained such currency. There are vague rumblings at the beginning of this book about a new system of knowledge gathering, sowing democracy and enfranchising the uneducated in its wake, that Burke will introduce, in which semi-intelligent computer software helps weed through the information glut unleashed by the Internet. That would suggest undermining the very serendipity and interactivity that enthralls him so, and he wisely doesn't mention it again after the introduction. Burke is in a league alone when it comes to freewheeling intellectual curiosity and mapping nature's strange designs. (Kirkus Reviews)


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Author Biography - James Burke

James Burke is the bestselling author of CONNECTIONS, THE DAY THE UNIVERSE CHANGED and THE PINBALL EFFECT, all published by Little Brown.

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