Author: Philip Ball

Information about the author.


Book:Critical Mass

Critical Mass: How One Thing Leads to Another

Philip Ball

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…[more]

Book:Bright Earth: Art and the Invention of Color

Bright Earth: Art and the Invention of Color

Philip Ball

A fascinating study of the evolution of color in art and science from antiquity to the present.

For art in the twentieth century, medium is the message. Many artists offer works defined by their materials. In no aspect is this more strikingly demonstrated than in the use of color.

Bright Earth is the story of how color evolved and was produced for artistic and commercial use. The modern chemical industry was spawned and nurtured largely by the demand for color as many of today’s major chemical companies began as manufacturers of aniline dye; advances in synthetic chemistry, both organic and inorganic, were stimulated in the nineteenth century by the quest for artificial colors. The future holds still more challenges for the color chemist, not only to provide new coloring materials, but also to replace old ones that will shortly become extinct, as concerns about the use of lead and cadmium pigments…[more]

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