The Pinball Effect: Journeys Through Knowledge: The Extraordinary Patterns of Change That Link Past, Present, and Future

James Lee Burke, Author, Mark Chimsky, Editor Little Brown and Company $23.95 (310p) ISBN 978-0-316-11602-2
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. (Aug.)
Reviewed on: 07/29/1996
Release date: 08/01/1996
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