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Follies of Science: 20th Century Visions of Our Fantastic Future Paperback – August 1, 2006
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Top Customer Reviews
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.
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.
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).
Most Recent Customer Reviews
An interesting, though not quite exhaustive, read covering all aspects of "future science," as it was conducted in decades past. Read morePublished 16 months ago by David Salcido
Although a trifle glib, it does provide a good glimpse of the world that almost was. Not the best compendium of such data but certainly a fun read.Published on December 16, 2013 by Don J. Webb
If you have seen some of the other reviews you may know by now that the authors may have wished to do a little more research about the subject matter inside the book. Read morePublished on January 14, 2008 by Michael Valdivielso
I gave up on this one as crap when I read the account of how atomic submarines used to cool their reactors with seawater, which was then exhausted overboard. Read morePublished on February 15, 2007 by Ron N. Butler
Lots of wonderful graphics from the fifties; the old prophetic images are sufficient reason to have this book. Read morePublished on January 11, 2007 by Prof Rich