I first read of Sir Isaac Newton‘s “Waste Book” in James Gleick‘s biography, titled simply Isaac Newton. Fascinating stuff. Of course, once I read this biography – which, by the way, I strongly recommend – I had to read the classic The Principia : Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy, a new translation by the recently deceased I. Bernard Cohen. Very difficult reading at times, but the history and explanation of the Principia is almost as interesting as the book itself.
I’ve always kept notebooks for random thoughts and jottings, writing things down that seemed worth keeping, though in no particular order except chronological. Makes it somewhat difficult to search, but then again the point of the notebooks, as it seems with Newton’s Waste Book, is not so much to be able to go back and find things as it is to write the things down in the first place. Some things are worth going back to, most of it is just a part of a process of figuring things out.
Not sure why, but while reading an interview with Neal Stephenson about how he researched and prepped for his current book, Quicksilver (The Baroque Cycle, Vol. 1), I had what can only be called an epiphany about blogs and blogging – in many ways, basic blogs are nothing more than a modern Waste Book. Sure, you can make a blog much more, with lots of fancy stuff, categories, searches, archives, etc etc etc, but when you get down to it, many blogs are just a way for people to write down the things they have figured out about life.