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There is something important happening in science, but what
am 3. November 1997
In spite of its many faults: failure to acknowledge Prigogine's conclusions that foreshadowed most of Bak's; petty sniping at others, incredibly hit and miss editing, and some outright silly passages (such as the idea that people living somewhere where there haven't been earthquakes for a long time would want to buy earthquake insurance), Bak has something important to say, and at times says it well and eloquently.The fact that he has found a substantial number of natural systems that create a spoor of commmon properties, and has nailed some of them is important. But: he says he insisted on the title of his book, not the editors (permit me to doubt this)and then says not one word about how he came to the conclusion that power curves, fractals, 1/f distributions and Zipf's law apply to ALL of nature. Has he any evidence of natural processes that don't? Is anyone working this side of the problem? He has a refreshing view of what good science consists of, but does not display a scientist's attitude of disinterested pursuit of truth. This may be editorial inspiration to avoid qualifications in order to make stronger statements. I hope so, because I genuinely like the way he thinks, and find his ideas stimulating. But his claim to be the "discoverer" of self-organized criticality is close to fatuous.