Non fiction books that give an broad overview of a field of knowledge tend to have an internal structure, beyond chapters and subsections. Little biographies appear of important people and are usually constrained to one chapter. I’m digesting this Chaos book “all at once” in a non-linear way but with patterns that I decide on as I go. I noticed this biography pattern in this book and realized I’d seen this pattern in many many other books in the past. So, I’m following it, reading the end of each chapter starting with the mini biography that seems to appear at the end of each. However, in this one particular chapter, the name of Stephen Smale shows up out of nowhere. I quickly scan right to left the rest of the chapter towards its beginning. No other mention of Stephen Smale. I quickly run my eyes past the precious chapter. No mention of this name. Was this a mistake? So, I give in and go to the index. The name Stephen Smale appears throughout almost the entire book, a bit in the first chapter and a bit in several other of the 10 chapters. So, I’ve learned one thing: this guy must be very important indeed. Off to Wikipedia I go.

Non fiction books that … [read full article]