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Follies of Science: 20th Century Visions of Our Fantastic Future Paperback – August 1, 2006


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Follies of Science: 20th Century Visions of Our Fantastic Future + Yesterday's Tomorrows: Past Visions of the American Future + Popular Mechanics The Amazing Weapons That Never Were: Robots, Flying Tanks & Other Machines of War
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 128 pages
  • Publisher: Speck Press; First Edition edition (August 1, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1933108096
  • ISBN-13: 978-1933108094
  • Product Dimensions: 0.6 x 8.9 x 7.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 2.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,053,510 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Eric Dregni lives in Minneapolis, is dean of the Italian Concordia Language Village, and is assistant professor of English and journalism at Concordia University. He is the author of sixteen books, including four other titles from the University of Minnesota Press: Vikings in the Attic, Never Trust a Thin Cook and Other Lessons from Italy's Culinary Capital, Midwest Marvels, and Minnesota Marvels.

Customer Reviews

2.4 out of 5 stars
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Unfortunately, it never rises above the level of eye candy.
Liriodendron
The first is that their approach is very superficial--they touch on each subject quickly and then abandon it, rather than grouping them together in weightier themes.
Dwayne A. Day
At this point, though, upon reading text about which I know some things, I will have to be skeptical about the things I don't know much about.
R. Reese

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

33 of 34 people found the following review helpful By Dwayne A. Day on December 21, 2006
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I'll admit to not having high expectations for this book; after all, it is only 128 pages long. Unfortunately, it was really disappointing. There just simply is not enough insightful information here to make it really interesting.

The goal of the book is to look at some of the more ridiculous predictions of the future made throughout history, from giant "land submarines" to jetpacks. But there are two big problems with how the authors treat this subject. The first is that their approach is very superficial--they touch on each subject quickly and then abandon it, rather than grouping them together in weightier themes. It's like eating finger foods, each bite is unsatisfying. Some of these subjects, like mega-cities or massive vehicles, also deserve a deeper discussion. Instead, the authors assert that (paraphrasing) "things are gigantic when times are good" and mention the dinosaurs and large prehistoric insects. That's a rather odd and imprecise statement to make, and although it might apply to biological entities, it doesn't necessarily apply to manmade objects. What about computers? Why are they getting smaller? And are big things naturally "good"?

The other major problem is a startling lack of dates. Photographs, magazine illustrations and diagrams are frequently presented without _any_ indication of when they were made. Is this illustration from the 1950s or the Depression-era 1930s? Isn't that relevant to why it might have been produced? Many of the pulp magazine covers are cropped in such a way that the dates are cut off, which is incredibly annoying. Thus, the book reads like a haphazzardly arranged scrapbook, without any keen insights about how or why people might make erroneous predictions about the future.
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19 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Kenneth D. West II on April 23, 2007
Format: Paperback
Filled with errors of fact (e.g.,a navy "general", an autogyro described as a combination helicopter and car, etc.)as well as multiple egregious typos. Illustrations (many from old science fiction pulp magazines) lack dates and citations for the most part.
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful By R. B. Cathcart on December 11, 2006
Format: Paperback
FOLLIES OF SCIENCE (2006) follows a line pioneered by, among others, OUT OF TIME (2000)by N. Brosterman and WHERE'S MY SPACE AGE? THE RISE AND FALL OF FUTURISTIC DESIGN (2003) by Sean Topham. FOLLIES is an interesting booklet, but short on incisive historical contextualization. Brosterman was born in 1952 while Eric Dregni, lead author was born in 1968. Perhaps typical of Dregni's generation are whooper mistakes. Two examples: (1) page 20, the Dregni's refer to US Navy "generals" instead of "Admirals" and (2) in describing a rolly-polly car image on page 27--their description appears on page 26--they say "One continuous window domed the car with little explanation of how the passengers would actually sneak inside this beautiful machine." It won't take the reader using a magnifying glass to see that the car, CLEARLY, has a standard door with recessed handle opener visible in the picture! FOLLIES is worth buying, but there's a caveat--not all of what the Dregni's say may be true since they are a bit young.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Liriodendron on December 31, 2009
Format: Paperback
This is a handsome, well-designed book with eye-catching reproductions of popular art, clean layout, and lively graphical accents. It's a pleasure to thumb through it looking at the goofy depictions of robots, aliens, space ships, futuristic cities, medical marvels, and a vast range of unlikely forms of transport. The graphics raise important questions about how cultures view themselves and the potential/dangers of technology in every-day life. There are serious themes here - this could have been a very good book. Unfortunately, it never rises above the level of eye candy. The text is vague and superficial, mentioning important themes in passing but never delving into them. The discussion is disjointed, with no obvious continuity between sections (individual paragraphs seem to be floating free of their neighbors). Little effort is made to link the ideas to other historical trends or events; other writers are rarely mentioned. Illustrations are presented without notation of their sources or dates. As such, they're more suitable as material for adolescent ridicule (abundantly supplied in captions) than as real artifacts of their age worthy of sustained thought.

I bought this book impulsively on the basis of the casual thumb-through described above. In the future, I'll take the trouble to read a few paragraphs before putting my money down. In the meantime, a reader interested in the topic would be much better off with "Yesterday's Tomorrows" produced by the Smithsonian to accompany an exhibit in the 1980s.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By R. Reese on February 19, 2007
Format: Paperback
Lots of nice pictures. Okay for the loo. I'm only on page twenty of the text but have perused the pictures and captions. At this point, though, upon reading text about which I know some things, I will have to be skeptical about the things I don't know much about.

For instance, I don't know what a "cooling rod" is doing in an atomic submarine, but I do know that Admiral Rickover's proposed design for the first nuclear powered sub USS Nautilus had an isolated cooling loop of pH treated nearly pure pressurized water. We've all seen the footage of him pointing out the components in a tabletop mockup with a pretty petty officer at his side.

Also, the washdown systems of US Navy ships (not just aircraft carriers) will indeed be useful in case of nuclear fallout, chemical attack, or biological attack. Why is that a "headscratcher" to the Dregni Brothers?

I, like the Navy "general," would happily keep a nameplate of uranium on my desk. What problem do the authors have with that?

Please, an expedient way to purify water is to dig two dry wells a foot or so apart. Fill one well with contaminated water. The water that seeps into the other well will be significantly decontaminated. (This can also be done at the beach of a contaminated pond.)

Perusing pictures else in the book I find many mistakes about things nuclear/radioactive. Is this advocacy or ignorance? Are the authors Luddites about the other topics in the book? I'll have to keep that in mind as I read the rest (if I can).
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