Commentary: Connections - Health Blooms; November 1997; Scientific American Magazine; by Burke; 2 Page(s)
I¿ll risk a bet. You (like me) didn¿t know that the common lilac begins to flower when the sum of the squares of the mean daily temperatures (Celsius) since the end of the previous frost adds up to 4,264. This piece of mind-boggling botanical trivia sprang fully formed from the brain of Belgian astronomer and mathematician Adolphe Quetelet, whose obsession with numbers led him also to invent, in 1835, a concept that I¿ll bet you have heard of: the average joe.
Quetelet gathered data on this individual¿s propensity to commit crimes, get drunk, marry, die, be tall, commit suicide and so on. In the end, he uncovered so many regularities in the figures, he said, as to believe that there could be such a science as "social physics," which would put the analysis of behavior onto a mathematical basis.