Tuesday, September 9, 2008

James Burke

My partner has been watching this show called Connections, created by James Burke, a historian with a rather unique view of how historical events are all linked to one another. Instead of saying, "Mozart wrote the Magic Flute" and "Edgar Allan Poe wrote horror stories," James Burke will link the two, and then he'll connect them both to the development of the helicopter.

Here's an example from his website (linked above):

Q: How was Napoleon important to the development of the modern computer?

A: Napoleon’s troops in Egypt buy shawls and start a fashion craze.

In Europe the shawls get made on automated, perforated-paper control looms.

This gives an American engineer Herman Hollerith the idea to automate calculation using punch cards.

Which get used to control ENIAC, the first electronic computer.

Fascinating stuff.

The "Connections" shows were done in 3 series: one in the 1970s, one in the late 1980's, and one in the late 1990s. They're all available on Netflix, which you should all have.