THE JAMES BURKE FAN COMPANION NEWSLETTER 09 – SEPTEMBER 2002:
This newsletter and previous ones are available on-line as web pages at:
Please pass this newsletter along to other James Burke enthusiasts you know about, who may be unaware of its existence.
DISCLAIMER: The information contained in this newsletter comes from a wide variety of sources and is selected for publication solely by the newsletter’s editor/creator Tom Palmer. It is the editor’s intent to address the common interests of the individuals who appreciate Mr. Burke’s public offerings and to supply them with information that relates to any topic Mr. Burke has covered. Please be advised that James Burke does NOT necessarily endorse or associate himself with the information or organizations mentioned in the James Burke Fan Companion website and periodic e-mail news updates. Likewise, the information contained in this publication does NOT necessarily represent the views and opinions of Mr. Burke.
Welcome to the 9th issue of the James Burke Fan Companion news update. I suppose you could call this the “back to school” issue. Of course, when it comes to James Burke, every day provides a bit of education.
So, after last month’s brain twisting essays, I am going to give you a break. As promised I am going to concentrate on links and books this time and leave the editorial content to the future.
I’m sure you have enough to think about. Therefore, relax and read on.
SPEAKING ENGAGEMENTS (UPCOMING)
Again, here are the two speaking engagements for late 2002:
10/30/02: Discovery Centre – Halifax, Nova Scotia – i-i-i conference
11/02/02: West Chester University
(still no link on their website calendar)
For information on scheduling James Burke for a future speaking engagement, please contact his lecture agent Royce Carlton.
A PERSONAL REQUEST FROM MR. BURKE
James has a trusted business associate that he would like to call your attention to and recommend.
“I’ve worked on and off for 11 years (on TV shows and books) with Carolyn Doree and she has a fallow period coming up between jobs for a few months from September and could do with some work. — She’s a brilliant researcher, prolific and accurate, has London Univ. Ph D in English, is really great on general academic research, lives in Oxford (and all the libraries there), and is absolutely first class. I can’t recommend her too highly.”
To contact Ms. Doree about potential work, please send a message to her, via me, at: email@example.com
THE KNOWLEDGE WEB PROJECT
The following is a report sent to me by Knowledge Web project leader Patrick McKercher regarding events that recently occured.
James Burke Knowledge Web Update
July was spent in intensive preparation for James’ visit to Washington and California. Gary Kelley did an excellent job organizing an intense effort to upgrade the database with Bruce Lowenthal. The new interface will streamline the importing of new biographies into the database and allow online editing, which is especially critical with our growing and widely distributed content team.
Seattle Teachers’ Workshop:
The Edtech committee did a fine job refining the schedule and suggesting optimum ways of getting feedback for the teachers workshops. The Seattle workshop was the result of the serendipious synchronicity which is becoming a recurring theme. Some Canadian teachers near Seattle had joined the Edtech team, and are creating a yearlong course based on the KWeb. Then a longtime advisor to James on education, Judy Kane, called to say she was working with a great group of teachers in Seattle and suggested we do a workshop.
Still, the experience in Seattle exceeded everyone’s expectations. The highlight of the week was when James arrived on Thursday to work with the teachers and students. Kathleen Ludgate and Bridget Mahoney had 8th to 12th grade students use the KWeb to assess the effect of the banana on US foreign policy. What was astonishing about this was with almost no instruction on the use of the KWeb, or the Inspiration mindmapping software used to create their own KWeb, in less than an hour the students had created a compelling network of ideas encompassing not only economic concepts such as dependency and infrastructure, but also politics, history, and even popular culture (a postage stamp with volcanos convinced people to put the canal in Panama rather than Nicaragua). In short, the students’ enthusiasm and results were a complete validation of the utility of the KWeb in schools.
Thursday afternoon, Steve DiPaola of Simon Fraser University in British Columbia gave a demonstration his amazing 3D avatars and Muse 3D software, which could add very compelling visuals to the Knowledge Web interface — particularly attractive to young people ( see www.dipaola.org/steve and musecorp.com ). The last day of the workshop was an extensive discussion for how to integrate the KWeb into the school.
San Jose Meetings:
Now that the basic foundation for the database has been established, the next step is to create the visualization software that will give the user access to the information in a compelling way. Sunday morning, old and new volunteers interested in the graphical interface gathered at TheTech to talk about the next steps.
Well over three hundred people (team members, teachers, folks from a variety of Silicon Valley companies, as well as organizations such as SETI, NASA, SRI, etc) gathered at TheTech Museum of Innovation in San Jose for an inspiring talk by James which provided the historical and philosophical underpinnings of the Knowledge Web, as well as outlining why it will cultivate the kinds of thinking which can help us solve problems of increasing complexity and urgency.
San Jose Teachers’ Workshop:
The session in San Jose had a different constituency and goal from the one in Seattle. Our diverse group here included teachers from middle school to community college, a librarian, a regional education technologist, and a curriculum developer from SETI. After briefing them on the Seattle session and walking through a demo of the KW, we had two days of valuable discussions. This will provide the basis for recruiting more teachers, and more curriculum development, and a graduate level online course.
Keep an eye on k-web.org for further updates and information on how you can participate.
As always, Mr. Burke would appreciate help from Graduate Students and Academics in researching some of the 2200 biographies for the online Knowledge Web project.
If you know anyone who would like to volunteer their time to this fantastic project, please send an e-mail to the K-Web team leader, Patrick McKercher at:
Mr. Burke does has an informational website in place now that begins to describe the project. You can visit it at:
TV SCHEDULE (UPCOMING)
As often as these run, James Burke should seem like a member of the family by now.
The Connections 2 & 3 series continue to be rebroadcast on The (Discovery) Science Channel through September!
Connections 2 – The Science Channel – Now thru at least Sep. 18, 2002
FYI – series beginning = “Revolutions”, series conclusion = “Flexible Response”
Connections 3 – The Science Channel – Now thru at least Oct. 01, 2002
FYI – series beginning = “Feedback”, series conclusion = “In Touch”
Note: I do not know if either Connections series will be played in proper sequence or if the eventual final episodes scheduled will be the actual final episode for each series. Therefore, if you are planning to videotape these programs, don’t necessarily wait for the beginning episodes to cycle through.
WAYS TO COMMUNICATE
Want to communicate with other Burke fans? Don’t forget about the James Burke newsgroup and Yahoo “group” where you can post messages.
There is a growing list of fans in the Yahoo group and I see that a few messages are appearing from time to time. Great!
MESSAGES FROM READERS AND VISITORS
Below are a couple of messages I have received, which I thought you would enjoy. One is in response to my previous “Burkespace” essay and the other is from an individual wanting to sign up for the newsletter. On occasion, I receive interesting stories about how Mr. Burke has affected people’s lives. I think this is a good example.
Subject: “the fundamental interconnectedness of all things”
Hi. I was impressed with the essay in your latest email newsletter, although I must admit that my eyes glazed over a couple of times. Think nothing of it; that happens a lot when I try to follow something that abstract on 6 hours of sleep.
It did remind me, though, of a couple of related concepts: Douglas Adams’ “fundamental interconnectedness of all things” and what’s commonly called the Kevin Bacon Game. I thought I’d mention these to you in case you haven’t already considered these ideas in light of your Connections model.
First, the Adams bit. From Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency, page 115:
“I’m very glad you asked me that, Mrs Rawlinson. The term ‘holistic’ refers to my conviction that what we are concerned with here is the fundamental interconnectedness of all things. I do not concern myself with such petty things as fingerprint powder, telltale pieces of pocket fluff and inane footprints. I see the solution to each problem as being detectable in the pattern and web of the whole. The connections between causes and effects are often much more subtle and complex than we with our rough and ready understanding of the physical world might naturally suppose, Mrs Rawlinson.
“Let me give you an example. If you go to an acupuncturist with toothache he sticks a needle instead into your thigh. Do you know why he does that, Mrs Rawlinson?
“No, neither do I, Mrs Rawlinson, but we intend to find out. A pleasure talking to you, Mrs Rawlinson. Goodbye.”
Aside from using “the fundamental interconnectedness of all things” as a scam to justify trips to Bermuda in search of a client’s 19-year-old cat, Dirk and his creator get a lot of mileage out of odd connections and apparent coincidences. This is true of the Hitchhiker’s books as well, in which Arthur Dent seems to be somehow connected to everything important that happens in the multiverse.
I suppose you could say something similar about most fiction, though. Fiction is basically the creative rearrangement of human experience into a connected narrative structure of characters and events, conflict and resolution. In my own nearly-completed Mâvarin books, various characters have separate but related storylines, which overlap and break apart, with long stretches of parallel development in which their individual conflicts are connected by theme and/or the mutual source of their difficulties. As Del is being poisoned by his family’s enemies, his twin is escaping from more of those enemies elsewhere. As Rani is discovering his long-lost father and what it means to be a tengrem, Carli is rescuing his long-lost father and discovering what it means to be a prince. As Fabi is suffering from amnesia and a loss of self, Darsuma is suffering from a similar loss of self for entirely different reasons. And so on. It’s all in the connections, between characters, between plot threads, between related explorations of the same themes.
As for the Kevin Bacon/Six Degrees of Separation game, I just read something about this. I think I’ll go see if I can find that and paste it in here.
Well, I couldn’t find it. Basically it was a claim that there are specific actors who are much more connected than Bacon is. I did a Google search, though. You may find the results amusing and/or instructive:
Google Search: Kevin bacon game
I was especially intrigued by this listing:
Kevin Bacon, the Small-World, and Why It All Matters – Volume 14 Number 2 www.santafe.edu/sfi…smallWorld.html
The Kevin Bacon Game is a curious thing to be sure.
The actual article springboards from the game itself to the “small world” phenomenon. What is that if not connections at work?
Dear Mr. Palmer,
I am a huge fan of Mr. Burke, I watch his programs on TV regularly, and program my vtr for when I can’t get in front of the tube. I hold a masters degree, unfortunatley, I suffered a massive heart attack, and have been forced to retire….the upshot is that I have a fair amount of time on my hands, and James Burke helps fill the void of enlightenment I was so used to as a post graduate student. I suspect that Burke and I would have hit of off quite nicely, as “my mental head” has taken him to heart as a kindred spirit. I wish he and I had at some time met and become fast friends.
The doc’s said I should have rightly passed on in ’99 when I had the big one… I’m glad I survived if only to continue on as a fan. I was born and reared in Indiana, not too far from Harmony—- I hope James had a good time in “The Hoosier State” and was well treated during his visit. I think Burke is wonderful….and if you get the chance, please pass along my best wishes for his continued success and that I hope God Blesses him for the wonderful work he does to both entertain and educate… He truely is a gift to us all, and I think it would be “way cool” for him to know how much he is appreciated. I’ll be watching in Sunny Florida….
Sincerely yours, BWA
Hi! I am currently creating a personal on-line art gallery. Why not go have a look-see and tell me what you think. — Tom
LINKS OF INTEREST TO BURKE FANS
Before I go into the links I have uncovered this month, I wanted to call your attention to a facsinating new search engine a friend of mine pointed out to me a couple of days ago. It’s called Kartoo and it’s really cool. Its format is something James Burke fans should really appreciate.
Since James is so into technology, I have been wanting to do a search for links relating to inventions and their patents. Aside from general patent office information, I searched for several modern inventions mentioned in the original Connections series. Here are my current finds.
U.S. Patent & Trademark Office – Patent Full-Text and Full-Page Image Databases
Ibiblio – Index To Manual Of Classification of Patents
Piper’s International Design Classifications
The History Of Patents
A History Of The United States Patent Office
Significant Historical Patents Of The United States
Delphion’s Gallery Of Historic Patents
First US Patent
Google category – Invention and Innovation
Google category – Engineering and Technology
Greatest Engineering Achievements Of The 20th Century
Invent Now – National Inventors Hall Of Fame
History Of Inventions Index
Contemporary Black Inventors
International Black Inventions Museum
Inventor / Invention Index
Enchanted Learning: Inventors & Inventions
Who Invented The … ?
Invention Facts And Myths
Inventions: A Czech Site
Today In Technology History
Today In Science History
Library Of Congress: Today In History Archives
Virtualology – Hall Of History Archives
100 Years Of Design
It’ll Never Work!
It’ll Never Work! – 2
Internet Modern History Sourcebook
The Steam Engine Library
Printing: History & Development
Air Conditioning Anniversary Story
History Of The Elevator
Elevator Museum Timeline
History Of Radar
Re: Bell’s Telephone Patent
Bell Labs Physical Science Timeline
Adventures In Cybersound: Scientists & Engineers
History Of The Telephone
The Steam Loom
The Power Loom
Jacquard’s Punched Card
Recording Devices On Exhibit At The NMAH
Timeline Of Textile Machinery
History Of The Apple Computer
Brief History Of Computing
History of Computers
Who really Invented The Telescope?
Did Galileo Invent The Telescope?
The Men That Made The Water Closet
Bath & Toilet History
History Of Plumbing
History Of The Automobile
Phosphorous: From Urine To Fire
History Of Elastic
Polymers & Serendipity
Mauve: The Color Purple
Patent For The First Synthetic Plastic
History Of Plastics
History Of Plastics
History Of The Can
Milestones In U.S. Food and Drug Law History
Brief History Of Fruit Jars And Preserving
Can Central History Timeline
Historical Brewing Equipment
Media Profiles Timeline
Edison US Patent Collection
Complete History Of The Discovery Of Cinematography
Motion Picture Inventions
Thomas Edison Patents
Edison: Timeline For Inventing Entertainment
History Of The Light Bulb
History Of Television
Invention Of Television
The Birth Of Television
Who Is The Inventor Of Television?
Moog Synthesizer Patents
The Venus Project
A TRIP TO THE BOOKSTORE
Here are the results of yet another exciting trip to the local Barnes & Noble and Discovery Channel Store.
The New York Times Circuits: How Electronic Things Work – Henry Fountain
The Design Of Everyday Things – Donald A. Norman
Wondrous Contrivances: Technology at the Threshold – Merritt Ierley
Of Moths and Men: An Evolutionary Tale – Judith Hooper
Lies My Teacher Told Me: Everything Your American History Textbook Got Wrong – James W. Loewen
The Book: A History of the Bible – Christopher De Hamel
Machine Nature: The Coming Age of Bio-Inspired Computing – Moshe Sipper
Rex Appeal: The Amazing Story of Sue, the Dinosaur That Changed Science, the Law, and My Life – Peter L. Larson
Star Trek: I’m Working on That: A Trek from Science Fiction to Science Fact – William Shatner
World Design: The Best in Classic and Contemporary Furniture, Fashion, Graphics and More – Uta Abendroth
Geographica’s World Reference: Over 1,000 Pages of Global Information
Great Failures Of The Extremely Successful – Steve Young
Learn to Power Think: A Practical Guide to Positive and Effective Decision Making – Caterina Rando
Head First: 10 Ways to Tap into Your Natural Genius – Tony Buzan
EBAY LISTINGS (CURRENTLY UP FOR SALE)
As found on eBay Sep. 03, 2002
The Day The Universe Changed – 1 copy
Connections 1 – 2 copies
Connections – 3 copies
Connections: A Mind Game – 4 copies
DVD, VIDEO, BOOK, AUDIOBOOK LIST (ORDER ON-LINE)
After The Warming
The Axemaker’s Gift: Technology’s Capture and Control of Our Minds and Culture
Circles: Fifty Round-Trips Through History, Technology, Science, Culture
Connections – (out of print)
The Day the Universe Changed
The Knowlegde Web: From Electronic Agents to Stonehenge and Back–And Other Journeys Through Knowledge
The Pinball Effect: How Renaissance Water Gardens Made the Carburetor Possible and Other Journeys Through Knowledge – (paperback)
The Pinball Effect: How Renaissance Water Gardens Made theCarburetor Possible and Other Journeys Through Knowledge – (hardcover)
Twin Tracks: The Unexpected Origins of the Modern World
The Axemaker’s Gift: A Double -Edged History of Human Culture
The Day the Universe Changed
The Pinball Effect: Journeys Through Knowledge – The Extraordinary Patterns of Change That Link Past, Present, and Future
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