Critical Mass

How One Thing Leads to Another

Philip Ball

Farrar, Straus and Giroux Paperbacks

Download Image Philip Ball Critical Mass

Available Formats

BookeBook
Are there “natural laws” that govern the ways in which humans behave and organize themselves, just as there are physical laws that govern the motions of atoms and planets? Unlikely as it may seem, such laws now seem to be emerging from attempts to bring the tools and concepts of physics into the social sciences. These new discoveries are part of an old tradition. In the seventeenth century the philosopher Thomas Hobbes, dismayed by the impending civil war in England, decided that he would work out what kind of government was needed for a stable society. His solution 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. But these philosophers lacked the tools that modern physics can now bring to bear on the matter. Philip Ball shows how, by using these tools, we can understand many aspects of mass human behavior. Once we recognize that we do not make most of our decisions in isolation but are affected by what others decide, we can start to discern a surprising and perhaps even disturbing predictability in 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.

Connect with the Author

Sign Up for
Author Updates

Macmillan Newsletter


Sign up to receive information about new books, author events, and special offers.

Sign up now

Book Excerpts

Read an Excerpt

Critical Mass
ONERAISING LEVIATHANTHE BRUTISH WORLD OF THOMAS HOBBES 
 
 
 
 
A work on politics, on morals, a piece of criticism, even a manual on the art of public speaking would, other things being equal, be all the better for having been written by a geometrician.--Bernard Fontenelle, secretary of the Académie Française, late seventeenth century 
"I perceive," says I, "the world has become so mechanical that I fear we shall quickly become ashamed of it; they will have the world be in large what a watch is in small, which is very regular,

Read the full excerpt

Back

Reviews

Praise for Critical Mass

Praise for Critical Mass, Winner of the 2005 Aventis Prize for Science Books:
A wide-ranging and dazzlingly informed book about the science of interactions. I can promise you’ll be amazed.” —Bill Bryson, chair of the 2005 Aventis General Prize Judging Panel

“Philip Ball makes physics sexy again in Critical Mass.”–Elissa Schappel, Vanity Fair

“It’s lively and wonderfully informative.”—George Scialabba, The Boston Globe

“Fascinating. . . impressively clear and breathtaking in scope. . . substantial, impeccably researched . . . persuasive. For anyone who would like to learn about the intellectual ferment at the surprising junction of physics and social science, Critical Mass is the place to start.” – Stephen Strogatz, Nature

Reviews from Goodreads

Back

About the Author

Philip Ball

Philip Ball is the author of Life’s Matrix (FSG, 2000); Bright Earth (FSG, 2002), a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award; and, most recently, The Devil’s Doctor (FSG, 2006). He lives in London with his wife.

Philip Ball

Back

Buy the Book

Available Formats and Book Details

Critical Mass
How One Thing Leads to Another
Philip Ball

Trade Paperback

Trade Paperback
Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Farrar, Straus and Giroux Paperbacks
May 2006
Trade Paperback
ISBN: 9780374530419
ISBN10: 0374530416
5 1/2 x 8 1/4 inches, 528 pages, Includes 90 Black-and-White Illustrations Throughout, Notes, a Bibliography, and an Index
$18.00

e-Book Agency

e-Book Agency
Farrar, Straus and Giroux
May 2006
e-Book Agency
ISBN: 9781466806832
ISBN10: 1466806834
528 pages, 90 Black-and-White Illustrations Throughout/Notes/Bibliography/Index
$9.99
Back

From The Publisher

Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Latest on Facebook

Latest on Twitter

Back