Science Fact Book Review


What Just Happened

What Just Happened (2002) James Gleick, Abacus, 12.99, pbk, 301pp, ISBN 0-349-11538-9

This is a collection of Gleick's articles from The New York Times Magazine from August 1992 ("Chasing Bugs in the Electronic Village") to April 2001 ("Inescapably Connected"), plus one from The New Yorker ("Flotsam on the Move", May 1999), detailing the rise and rise of the Internet and/or World Wide Web (if you still care to make the distinction). It's a fascinating read, not least because it is all too easy, given the modern pace of change, to forget just how quickly these developments have altered our world. And while in one sense this is not Gleick's thorough overview of a subject, as with his books Chaos, Genius and Faster, it is still a quite complete description of 'what just happened'. Also, while I am already an admirer of Gleick's science writing, it was delightful to read his articles which, on the whole, tend to be more humorous than his 'book' work (including all the pops at MicroSoft and the hysteria surrounding the 'Y2K bug'). Just about any associated subject is covered, from online commerce to e-cash, 'beep' research to sex, identity theft to privacy, and dot com greed to patent madness. All human life is here. And more. Recommended for those who are still a bit bewildered by what their browser brings them...

Tony Chester


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