ALPHABETICAL BRAIN™ VOCABULARY
OF SECULAR SCIENCE STARS
June 26, 2020
How Renaissance Water Gardens
Made the Carburator Possible: and
Other Journeys through Knowledge.
by James Burke.
Little, Brown Reprint, 1996 (310 pages)
HOW TO USE THIS BOOK (ix-x)
1) MAKING WAVES (7-22)
2) REVOLUTIONS (23-35)
3) PHOTO FINISH (36-48)
4) BETTER THAN THE REAL THING(49-62)
5) HOT PICKLE (63-76)
6) FLEXIBLE RESPONSE (77-90)
7) HIGH TIME (91-102)
8) GETTING IT TOGETHER (103-117)
9) THE BIG SPIN (118-132)
10) SOMETHING FOR NOTHING (133-147)
11) SENTIMENTAL JOURNEY (148-160)
12) DÉJÉ VU (161-175)
13) SEPARATE WAYS (176-188)
14) ROUTES (189-202)
15) NEW HARMONY (203-217)
16) WHODUNIT? (218-230)
17) SIGN HERE (231-244)
18) BRIGHT IDEAS (245-256)
19) ECHOES OF THE PAST (257-270)
20) ONE WORD (271-286)
SELECT BIBLIOGRAPHY (287-292)
Selected Topics Highlighted:
SUMMARY AND BOOK DESCRIPTION
American Civil War
Ancient world and the modern world (pages 3-5)
Banks and banking
Battery, world's first
Brain function (152, 154-155)
Byzantine Empire (64, 207, 208, 271, 272)
Clocks and clockmaking
Origin of the Species
Oxygen, discovery of (128)
Petroleum (130, 131-132); discovery of (26)
Photography (36-37, 152, 155)
Placebo effect (88)
Plantations (167, 177)
Population surge: 1851 (26)
Slaves and slavery
SUMMARY = The book by James Burke views history not as a chain but as a complex web. The "Pinball Effect" is a metaphor for a complex historical web of serendipitous and seemingly unconnected and inconsequential events and people. The book's 20 chapters each chronicle the apparently unrelated events leading to a modern technology. Each chapter relates in some way to the next, until the last leads back to the first. Several hundred hypertext-like margin-notes, connecting topics in one chapter to similar topics in another, encourage the reader to jump between chapters at will, thus creating literally thousands of alternative reading sequences.
BOOK DESCRIPTION = The Pinball Effect takes the reader on many different journeys through the web of knowledge. Knowledge, it turns out, has many unforeseen and surprising effects. The book, for instance, owes its existence to German jeweler Johannes Gutenberg's getting the date wrong one day in the fifteenth century. James Burke, author and host of the highly rated documentary series Connections and Connections 2, draws upon years of research to examine the intrigues and surprises on the journey through knowledge, a trip with all the twists and turns of a detective story.
Ultimately, the larger picture that emerges has far-reaching and important implications for the future, revealing why the fundamental mechanism of change is the way things come together and connect. To add to the excitement, the book has been designed to be read interactively: throughout the book, cross-chapter references mimic computer hypertext "hot links" and allow readers to leap from one chapter to another. The result is a fascinating tour through history's most dramatic innovations.
EDITORIAL BOOK REVIEWS
PUBLISHERS WEEKLY REVIEW = 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 rust-proofing 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.
CHOICE REVIEW = Most historians seek, in G.R. Elton's phrase, "a connecting chain in the seemingly meaningless sequence of events..." Burke (expanding on his classic 1970s television documentary, and book, Connections, December 1979) views history not as a chain but as a complex web of the serendipitous and the seemingly unconnected and inconsequential.
The "Pinball Effect" is a metaphor for this web, deliberately less coherent and less pretentious than the book, Connections. In the past, Burke was criticized for oversimplifying complex interactions to keep his story going, and the same criticism can be made here. His 20 chapters each chronicle the apparently unrelated events leading to a modern technology, each chapter relating in some way to the next, until the last leads back to the first. Several hundred hypertext-like margin-notes, connecting topics in one chapter to similar topics in another, encourage the reader to jump between chapters at will, creating literally thousands of alternative reading sequences.
The value of the book seems proportional to the reader's background knowledge. For the beginner, vignettes tumble past so rapidly that little detail will be retained and the more experienced reader will find it a useful but often provocative source. General; upper-division undergraduates through faculty. G. E. Herrick Maine Maritime Academy.
PROFESSIONAL BOOK REVIEW
 It would be hard to find a more whimsical history of science and technology than The Pinball Effect by James Burke, host of the popular Connections television programs. Through his show, Burke has been doing for technology what Joseph Campell once did for myth, making it a new branch of popular culture. In Burke's view, the factors that lead to discoveries and inventions are so interconnected, unpredictable and often accidental that their history is more like the path of a pinball caroming about its table than a linear chain of events. And he invites us to read this history with a "Look at that!" attitude, jumping from page to page, chapter to chapter, as our interest is caught, following marginal notes that indicate where to pick up the many different threads with which each story is woven. There are at least 447 different ways to read this book, Burke claims. -- Smithsonian Magazine
AMAZON BOOK REVIEWERS
 George Coghill - Interesting facts but forced connections = The concept of this book fascinated me. Unfortunately, the execution left much to be desired. As another reviewer pointed out, by the time you got to the end of each chapter, you forgot where it started! Many of the "connections" throughout the book are also quite forced, often relying on subjective notions of the author. Some of these were quite arbitrary. I was hoping for a much more factual basis for the links, with some insight into history from a different, non-linear perspective. Instead I felt it was much more of an exercise in conjecture. While all of the facts in the book (which I assume to be accurate to some degree) were interesting in themselves, the connections between them were quite tenuous. I read this book as I was recommended "Connections" by a friend (which I have not read), and thought "Pinball" seemed a bit more interesting. I'll be hitting the library for Connections (and give Burke another chance), as "Pinball" will never be read again by myself, and I won't take the chance on filling up valuable shelf space on Burke so easily this time.
 Jennifer B. Barton - Inventive style but Too Much Info = This is an ingenious ways of writing a book but it borders more on a way of storing information. It is not the type of book that you read from cover to cover although you could that if you wanted to. It is essentially cross-referenced with itself. What is does is talk about a particular advancement or invention, providing page numbers in the margins for other advancements or inventions that that one enabled. You can bounce all through the book this way - hence the name of the book. It is very interesting but there is a certain amount of information overload. I kept wondering 'How does he know all of this stuff?'
 Margaret A. Wood - Much like the BBC series called Connections by the same author = Fascinating story about how one discovery somewhere sparks another. Much like the BBC series called Connections by the same author.
 susie m tanner - I love james burke I could hear his voice = I just finished it. I love James Burke. I could hear his voice while I was reading so it was like he was there explaining enjoyed it very much.
 Michael Greer - good book = Great read!
 Laura Magy - Fabulous book! = James Burke has done it again. This is a delightful read! For anyone who thinks history is boring, they need to read The Pinball Effect. James Burke has a wonderful irreverant sense of humor throughout this book, and shows how history happens because of all of us, not just great men of genius.
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