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What am I doing?

I’m not sure yet. Perhaps I’m blogging.

I’ve had a web site here, a “home page,” since the dawn of time. (By “dawn of time” I mean of course the early 1990s. Do I have to defend that? The starting line of history varies for different media. [By “medium” I mean communications channel.] Different media have different event horizons. If one’s sense of the past depends on television, the world barely existed before the 1950s. The genius of Ken Burns was to extend documentary filmmaking further back in time than had seemed possible before: creating the illusion of motion pictures showing the Civil War, the beginning of baseball, the first days of jazz.)

(The medium—the communications channel—on which all others depend is the written word. It embodies the ultimate event horizon. Before the written word, there is no history.)

But I digress.

You will recall that blogs (web logs) were invented c. 1999 (no quibbles, please), and, much as I liked reading them, I didn’t want to write one. My web site was a useful place to post some of my writing that was otherwise wrapping dead fish; occasionally I would update the introductory text to comment on something or other, or to beg help from readers on a research question, but these occasional and transient thoughts were hardly worth saving, as blogs do.

Now that I’ve finished my book about information, hardly a day goes by that I don’t encounter something new that I wish I could have discussed, or that I did discuss in a different light. I hear new news every day, the great proto-blogger Robert Burton wrote nearly four centuries ago. He added,

I did for my recreation now and then walk abroad, look into the world, and could not choose but make some little observation, not so wise an observer as a plain rehearser …

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  1. Well, I for one am delighted that you’re making comments in real time. I will probably check in now and then and see what is going on. And I can make comments, too! Marvelous!

    I have such a response to your online ruminations because I was born with the soul of a poet, or an artist, or a musician, but had to make my living as a technician (But hey, I can at least eat and pay the electric bill).

    Science was never my forte, nor math. You’d try to talk to a scientist, and soon enough equations would pop up, with funny squiggles which were neither letters nor numbers but were supposed to stand for some magical process which only the high priests and their initiates could fathom. I suppose this was the revenge of the nerds. Anyway, science was the province of the pocket protector set, and that’s simply how it was.

    Then I read your book “Chaos: making the new science”, and everything changed. Here I found a narrative, a story (it may even have been a bowdlerization of science – but no matter; it was a story). Suddenly I was engrossed. A whole new world opened for me. I realized that I could look at the world through the eyes of ‘science’, be it old or new, by converting the equations and formulas into a story. Yippee!

    So thanks for your efforts on my behalf. I’m pleased to be able to share a few electrons with you.

    • An couple of additional comments, if you will permit:

      I didn’t mean “bowdlerization of science” to be a gratuitous swipe at you or anyone else who has chronicled, on behalf of we the laypeople, the efforts of scientists. There is a larger issue there, which I meant to suggest, and which probably deserves explanation.

      I think that every narrative involves some truncation of reality in order to present closure for the recipient. The chronicler has to squeeze the data into what he or she feels is a coherent picture, and this is a subjective process which from different angles may look far removed from what actually took place, or what the data signifies.

      I think that it is up to we the readers to marshall as many narratives as we can, and use them as data points to create our own tale. Your book “Chaos” was one of the first that opened the door to me on this journey of discovery, so my gratitude is profound.

      Lastly, I think the idea of a “blog” is nice in that you are not expected to present an exhaustive or definitive account of anything, but rather can present the reader with “snapshots from the trail”, as it were, and let the larger narrative unfold as it wills.

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