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Ball writes clearly and is socko with graphs, but I found his arguments utterly unconvincing.

Critical Mass: How One Thing Leads to Another by Philip Ball

Other readers may be more fortunate. In a series of short, bright chapters, Ball mines the specialist journals to provide the very latest applications of "social physics" to urban planning, the movement of pedestrians and motor traffic, stock price movements, trade, the rise and fall of corporations, diplomacy, political alliances, voting patterns, the composition of critical mass philip ball neighbourhoods, criminology, matrimony, the transmission of culture and fashion, circles of acquaintance, the internet, sexual epidemiology, weapons of mass destruction.

It soon becomes clear that this is not physics, but something that only looks and sounds and tastes and smells a bit like physics. Whether the experiments concern pedestrians crossing the campus of Stuttgart University or Brazilians electing their state governments, Ball presents patterns and distributions which he says resemble those identified critical mass philip ball physicists, such as the Ising model of how atoms magnetise or the sudden "phase transitions" that occur when water melts or freezes.

Critical mass philip ball experiments in political or social organisation pro duce results that "parallel", "are equivalent of", "look exactly like", "are reminiscent of" patterns in experiments in natural science.

Review: Critical Mass by Philip Ball | Books | The Guardian

Ball is right, no doubt, that in a critical mass philip ball jam on the bypass, human beings are not at their richest and most multifarious. They are converted by the automobile they're sitting in into a quasi-automaton and "the capacity for good or evil, for love or hatred" that interested Dickens in Hard Times is beside the point for the traffic planner.

They become mere quantities that may be amenable to prediction and manipulation. But he accepts that in the more complicated scenes of human activity, critical mass philip ball modelling seems to work only by simplifying the human being out of existence. The notorious example is the perfectly rational, perfectly knowledgeable, perfectly avaricious human subject of old-fashioned political economy.

Critical Mass: How One Thing Leads to Another

Many of the studies Critical mass philip ball quotes are as crude and tedious as electronic ping-pong and one wonders if perhaps their devisers might profitably be doing something else. As Adam Smith wrote in his Astronomy, it is a constant temptation in philosophy to mistake scientific metaphors "for the real chains which Nature makes use of to bind together her several operations".

Occasionally, Ball does just that.


Naturally, the examples picked for the book are ones which apply broadly to a range of phenomena, and are fairly pared-down, made accessible to the non-specialist reader. I was critical mass philip ball at how well these case studies were integrated into the text, and liked that he pointed out their limitations and underlying assumptions, and overall simplicit Critical Mass brings together a collection of interesting studies on social statistics, and places them in the context of economic and political history.

I was impressed at how well these case studies were integrated into the critical mass philip ball, and liked that he pointed out their limitations and underlying assumptions, and overall simplicity.

The details about how laws of thermodynamics can be applied to human society were revelations. He describes the work of physicists in fields such as probability, statistics, particle motion Poisson, Gauss, Maxwell.

It can only provide prescriptions for the start and end points, and falls silent on critical mass philip ball question of what happens in between.

The temperature critical mass philip ball which this occurs the Curie point is sharp and well-defined, but the magnet does not switch abruptly from being a strong magnet to being non-magnetic. This is a genuine phase transition, but one that is different from evaporation, condensation, melting or freezing.

Critical Mass (book) - Wikipedia

The electrical resistance of various metals does not decline smoothly as the temperature approaches absolute zero. Instead it drops abruptly to zero.

The metal becomes a superconductor, able to carry a current that is totally unimpeded by critical mass philip ball resistance. The change to a superconducting state has all the characteristics of a critical phase transition: If liquid helium is cooled even further below its boiling point, at a critical mass philip ball over 2 degrees above absolute zero it develops extremely bizarre properties.