Philip Ball



Philip Ball (born 1962) is an English science writer. He holds a degree in chemistry from Oxford and a doctorate in physics from Bristol University. He was an editor for the journal Nature for over 10 years. He now writes a regular column in Chemistry World. Ball's most-popular book is the 2004 Critical Mass: How One Things Leads to Another, winner of the 2005 Aventis Prize for Science Books. It examines a wide range of topics including the business cycle, random walks, phase transitions, bifurcation theory, traffic flow, Zipf's law, Small world phenomenon, catastrophe theory, the Prisoner's dilemma. The overall theme is one of applying modern mathematical models to social and economic phenomena.

Philip Ball isn't a Goodreads Author (yet), but they do have a blog, so here are some recent posts imported from their feed.

The City is the City

My brief from the wonderfully named Dream Adoption Society of the Zbigniew Raszewski Theatre Institute in Warsaw – for their 2019 exhibition The City is the City (the allusion to China Miéville is intended) – was to express a dream of the utopian city of the future. I’m not sure I did that, but here is what I gave them.

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Published on November 07, 2019 11:47
Average rating: 3.88 · 7,576 ratings · 769 reviews · 41 distinct worksSimilar authors
Bright Earth: Art and the I...

4.05 avg rating — 1,044 ratings — published 1999 — 20 editions
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Critical Mass: How One Thin...

3.89 avg rating — 1,181 ratings — published 2003 — 13 editions
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The Music Instinct: How Mus...

3.96 avg rating — 739 ratings — published 2010 — 16 editions
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Beyond Weird

4.15 avg rating — 383 ratings — published 2018 — 10 editions
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The Devil's Doctor: Paracel...

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3.87 avg rating — 231 ratings — published 2006 — 9 editions
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Curiosity: How Science Beca...

3.69 avg rating — 242 ratings — published 2012 — 15 editions
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The Elements: A Very Short ...

3.84 avg rating — 195 ratings — published 2004 — 13 editions
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Universe of Stone: A Biogra...

3.81 avg rating — 189 ratings — published 2008 — 13 editions
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The Self Made Tapestry: Pat...

4.43 avg rating — 138 ratings — published 1999 — 5 editions
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Shapes: Nature's Patterns: ...

4.21 avg rating — 121 ratings — published 2008 — 5 editions
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“It is only rather recently that science has begun to make peace with its magical roots. Until a few decades ago, it was common for histories of science either to commence decorously with Copernicus's heliocentric theory or to laud the rationalism of Aristotelian antiquity and then to leap across the Middle Ages as an age of ignorance and superstition. One could, with care and diligence, find occasional things to praise in the works of Avicenna, William of Ockham, Albertus Magnus, and Roger Bacon, but these sparse gems had to be thoroughly dusted down and scraped clean of unsightly accretions before being inserted into the corners of a frame fashioned in a much later period.”
Philip Ball, The Devil's Doctor: Paracelsus and the World of Renaissance Magic and Science

“No matter who you were in sixteenth-century Europe, you could be sure of two things: you would be lucky to reach fifty years of age, and you could expect a life of discomfort and pain. Old age tires the body by thirty-five, Erasmus lamented, but half the population did not live beyond the age of twenty. There were doctors and there was medicine, but there does not seem to have been a great deal of healing. Anyone who could afford to seek a doctor's aid did so eagerly, but the doctor was as likely to maim or kill as to cure. His potions were usually noxious and sometimes fatal—but they could not have been as terrible and traumatic as the contemporary surgical methods. The surgeon and the Inquisitor differed only in their motivation: otherwise, their batteries of knives, saws, and tongs for slicing, piercing, burning, and amputating were barely distinguishable. Without any anesthetic other than strong liquor, an operation was as bad as the torments of hell.”
Philip Ball, The Devil's Doctor: Paracelsus and the World of Renaissance Magic and Science

Hippocrates can be justifiably regarded as the father of Western medicine, and he stands in relation to this science as Aristotle does to physics. Which is to say, he was almost entirely wrong, but he was at least systematic.”
Philip Ball, The Devil's Doctor: Paracelsus and the World of Renaissance Magic and Science

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