Critical Mass by Philip Ball
How One Thing Leads to Another

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Are there any "laws of nature" that influence the ways in which humans behave and organize themselves? In the seventeenth century, tired of the civil war ravaging England, Thomas Hobbes decided that he would work out what kind of government was needed for a stable society. His approach was based not on utopian wishful thinking but rather on Galileo's mechanics to construct a theory of government from first principles. His solution is unappealing to today's society, yet Hobbes had sparked a new way of thinking about human behavior in looking for the "scientific" rules of society.

Adam Smith, Immanuel Kant, Auguste Comte, and John Stuart Mill pursued this idea from different political perspectives. Little by little, however, social and political philosophy abandoned a "scientific" approach. Today, physics is enjoying a revival in the social, political and economic sciences. Ball shows how much we can understand of human behavior when we cease to try to predict and analyze the behavior of individuals and instead look to the impact of individual decisions-whether in circumstances of cooperation or conflict-can have on our laws, institutions and customs.

Lively and compelling, Critical Mass is the first book to bring these new ideas together and to show how they fit within the broader historical context of a rational search for better ways to live.


About Philip Ball

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Philip Ball is a freelance writer who lives in London. He worked for over twenty years as an editor for Nature, writes regularly in the scientific and popular media, and has authored many books on the interactions of the sciences, the arts, and the wider culture, including Critical Mass, The Self-Made Tapestry: Pattern Formation in Nature, H2O: A Biography of Water, Bright Earth, Universe of Stone, and The Music Instinct.
Published May 16, 2006 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux. 528 pages
Genres: Political & Social Sciences, Law & Philosophy, Science & Math, Self Help, Health, Fitness & Dieting, Mystery, Thriller & Suspense, Professional & Technical. Non-fiction

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But perhaps, suggests British science writer Ball (The Ingredients, 2003, etc.), the terms haven’t been correctly expressed: human nature is more a collective than an individual matter, so the task is to describe the workings of the crowd, such that “we can make predictions about society even in ...

Apr 01 2004 | Read Full Review of Critical Mass: How One Thing ...

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Critical Mass: How One Thing Leads to Another by Philip Ball 644pp, Heinemann, £25 "The great advantage of the mathematical sciences above the moral," wrote David Hume in 1748, "consists in this, that the ideas of the former are always clear and determinate."

Mar 27 2004 | Read Full Review of Critical Mass: How One Thing ...

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