Critical Mass

How One Thing Leads to Another

Philip Ball

Publisher: Arrow, 2005, 644 pages

ISBN: 978-0-09-945786-2

Last modified: Jan. 21, 2014, 4:33 p.m.

According to Donne, 'no man is an islan', but how exactly are we affected by the behaviour of others? Are there 'laws of nature' that guide human affairs? Have we complete freedom in creating our societies, or are we trapped by 'human nature'? And how, in human affairs, does one thing lead to another?

Ranging from Hobbes and Adam Smith to modern work on traffic flow and market trading, and across economics, sociology and psychology, Philip Ball shows how much we can understand of human behaviour when we cease to try to predict and analyse the actions of individuals and look to the impact of hundreds, thousands or millions of individual human decisions.

  • Introduction
    Political Arithmetick
  1. Raising Leviathan
    The brutish world of Thomas Hobbes
  2. Lesser Forces
    The mechanical philisophy of matter
  3. The Law of Large Numbers
    Regularities from randomness
  4. The Grand Ah-Whoom
    Why some things happen all at once
  5. On Growth and Form
    The emergence of shape and organization
  6. The March of Reason
    Chance and necessity in collective motion
  7. On the Road
    The inexorable dynamics of traffic
  8. Rhythms of the Marketplace
    The shaky hidden hand of economics
  9. Agents of Fortune
    Why interaction matters to the economy
  10. Uncommon Proportions
    Critical states and the power of the straight line
  11. The Work of Many Hands
    The growth of firms
  12. Join the Club
    Alliances in business and economics
  13. Multitudes in the Valley of Decision
    Collective influence and social change
  14. The Colonization of Culture
    Globalization, diversity and synthetic societies
  15. Small Worlds
    Networks that bring us together
  16. Weaving the Web
    The shape of cyberspace
  17. Order in Eden
    Learning to cooperate
  18. Pavlov's Victory
    Is reciprocity good for us?
  19. Towards Utopia?
    Heaven, hell and social planning
  • Epilogue
    Curtain Call


Critical Mass

Reviewed by Roland Buresund

Excrement * (1 out of 10)

Last modified: Jan. 21, 2014, 4:33 p.m.

I feel very let-down! I was expecting to read a book about the conjunction and possible cross-fertilization between Physics and Economics. Instead, I get a long lecture of the history of physics, and why it is better than all other sciences as well as an explanation of why economics is not a science. And to top it of, when the author tries to tell me why (on both accounts), he manages to mis-represent both economics and the applicability of physics on it. Maybe the physics part are good (I am not enough of an expert to determine that), but the economics parts are so stupidly expressed, that the author would fail 101 Economics!

Waste of space and time.


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